30 screenplays you should read

30 screenplays you should read


This is a list of screenplays, not films. If you are a budding screenwriter, then don’t for a moment think that you can just watch the film and learn screenwriting from it. You can’t! You must read the screenplay itself. Watch the film too if you will, but the screenplay is the thing. Read it. Learn the rhythms. Start to see films as scripts unfolding. I’ve noted a few places where you can get scripts online below, but the web is a rich resource. You can find most things if you poke around.

1. Some Like It Hot
Just a wonderful and deft blend of comedy and drama that you do care about. Given that there are two romances which matter, plus the little matter of whether our two ‘ladies’ are going to get executed by the Mob, there’s a lot of plot to deal with and it’s done with wonderful grace and wit. A wonderful film. (Read the script.)

2. Casablanca
Is this really as good as everyone says it is? Casablanca appears here because it tops most lists most of the time. But read the darn thing as a script and it feels nicely done, very clean, very satisfying – but little more than a piece of excellent craft. For me, the film is in the acting. The script itself plays little more than a supporting role. (Read the script.)

3. Psycho
I’m not, however, similarly negative about Psycho, which fully deserves its reputation as a landmark in film-making – and scriptwriting. To kill the heroine midway is a terrifically bold and (still) shocking decision, yet one that does not derail the film. If you tried the same manoeuvre in a novel, you’d kill the novel. But here it works, and works wonderfully. (Read the script.)

5. Chinatown
Another familiar favourite from these Top 20 type lists, but Towne’s Chinatown is magnificently deft, packing a ceaselessly interesting plot and yet combining two stories of real human weight (a corruption tale, and an incest one.) Even decades after its making, the film packs real emotional clout. Oh, and though Chinatown is often held up as a perfect example of the three-act drama, I do question that. Isn’t it, in fact, a film that brings plot twists steadily and unexpectedly throughout the film? I mean, yes, the start sets things up a bit and the end resolves them, but the ‘three act structure’ is normally taken to be more than just that. But read the script and see what you think. (Read the script.)

6. The Godfather
A film whose power comes from the emotional force of seeing a decent man corrupted by his family and his circumstances. The gangstery stuff is all great, but the central story is that emotional destruction – and one which is handled so unflinchingly. The script also details the Italian-American mafia life in such rich texture that the feel of the film go well beyond simply its (stunning) visuals. (Read the script.)

7. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
I just love the sunshine in this film: the wit, the friendship, the lightness of touch. It’s a film willing to linger in places where the plot isn’t being driven forward – a risky ploy in movie-making but one that, in this instance, goes to create a film that is far greater than a mere bank-heist Western. Oh – and the young Paul Newman? He looks kind of like me, no? I get told that all the time anyway … (Read the script.)

8. Bringing Up Baby
Rom-coms tend to come out of these lists (and the Oscars) rather poorly, as though gentle films about love can’t compete with bruising ones about violence. Well, hey ho, I like rom-coms and this one is a jewel. The mismatched lovers falling in love despite their apparent unsuitability have never been better handled than in this one. Yes, the acting is spot on, but forget about that. The script itself has a wonderfully light and attractive touch, and one that’s quite happy to get ever crazier as the long night draws on. And that final dinosaur scene? Lovely. (Read the script.)

9. American Beauty
A deeply impressive film at every level – but one which starts with an astonishing script. Each character is beautifully formed. They all have a convincing personality, even before the actor comes to fill it. That’s far too rare in movie scripts, but American Beauty shows how well it can be done. Plus, on top of that, the drama is wonderful, the twists are unexpected – and that paper bag in the wind scene is just amazingly bold and contemplative and beautiful for what is still very mainstream Hollywood. (Read the script.)

10. Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind
And finally for my top ten, this jewel. Not sci-fi really, more a philosophical exploration of identity and love. It’s a fantastic demonstration of thought-provoking cinema that delivers fully on the entertainment front as well. Contrast this film with one of those depressing X-Men Transformers vs Batman Gozilla movies: this one entertains you as much and doesn’t just pour highly coloured sludge into your brain in doing so. (Read the script.)

Read the full article on WritersWorkshop.co.uk

Subscribe
British vs. American Comedy: What's the Difference?

British vs. American Comedy: What's the Difference?

Is there a big difference in comedic style across the Atlantic? Let's see.

Read more
Vancouver Never Plays Itself

Vancouver Never Plays Itself

Perhaps no other city has been as thoroughly hidden from modern filmmaking as Vancouver, my hometown. Today, it’s the third biggest film production city in North America, behind Los Angeles and New York. And yet for all the movies and TV shows that are shot there, we hardly ever see the city itself. So today, let’s focus less on the movies and more on the city in the background. Press the CC button to see movie names and locations.

Read more
The Silence of the Lambs - Who Wins the Scene?

The Silence of the Lambs - Who Wins the Scene?

In drama, two characters walk into a room. Each wants something from the other. The question of the scene is: who gets what they want?

Read more
FilmFTW Logo FilmFTW.com is all about empowering, educating and entertaining screenwriters. Every day we publish new screenwriting tips to help you become a successful screenwriter. We also opened an online store specifically for passionate screenwriters. You can find all sorts of great products from t-shirts to coffee mugs. Take a look at our writers store here.

RECOMMENDED PRODUCTS:

(0) Items
Items 0
Subtotal $0.00
To Top