Best Screenplays To Read

Best Screenplays To Read

Best Screenplays To Read

Jun 29, 2022

Must-Read Screenplays for Aspiring Screenwriters

Embarking on the journey of screenwriting is akin to navigating a vast, uncharted ocean.

Every script you read is a lighthouse, guiding you toward understanding the craft's intricacies.

From the brilliant twists of "Chinatown" by Robert Towne to the raw emotional depth in "Manchester by the Sea" by Kenneth Lonergan, diving into celebrated screenplays offers invaluable lessons.

Whether you're penning your first script or your fiftieth, the wisdom contained in these pages can elevate your storytelling skills.

Keep reading to uncover the key scripts that should be on every writer's study list.

Aspiring Screenwriters and Seasoned Writers Alike Can Benefit Greatly From Studying Successful Screenplays


Embarking on the journey of screenwriting is both thrilling and daunting. As an aspiring screenwriter myself, I've discovered that delving into the pages of successful screenplays offers invaluable lessons. From the sharp dialogue of Quentin Tarantino’s "Pulp Fiction" to the intricate plot structure of "The Godfather," scripted by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola, each screenplay serves as a masterclass in crafting compelling narratives.

One aspect that always stands out is the unique voice and style that each writer brings to their work. Studying screenplays has taught me the importance of finding my own voice. For example, the whimsical touch of Wes Anderson in "The Grand Budapest Hotel" contrasts sharply with the gritty reality depicted by Aaron Sorkin in "The Social Network." It's fascinating to see how different genres and storytelling techniques can shape a screenplay's impact on its audience.

Another invaluable lesson comes from analyzing the structure and pacing of renowned films. Examining the unconventional narrative of "Memento," written by Christopher Nolan, alongside the classic structure of "Casablanca," penned by Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, and Howard Koch, showcases the diverse approaches to storytelling. This has encouraged me to experiment with different narrative techniques in my own scripts.

Lastly, the journey through these screenplays emphasizes the critical role of revisions. Learning that William Goldman’s iconic "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" underwent numerous drafts before reaching its final form inspires persistence in the face of challenges. It's a powerful reminder that behind every great film lies a process of relentless refinement and creativity. As I continue to explore the world of screenwriting, these scripts not only provide a blueprint for success but also kindle the passion that drives my aspiration to write compelling stories for the screen.

What Are Some Must-Read Screenplays for Any Writer?

a stack of screenplay manuscripts on an old wooden desk, illuminated by a soft lamp light, with a vintage typewriter and scattered coffee cups nearby.

Embarking on a journey through must-read screenplays has been an eye-opener for me, offering a treasure trove of storytelling wisdom. For anyone looking to refine their craft, "Chinatown" by Robert Towne stands as a pinnacle of screenplay writing, deftly weaving intricate plot twists with richly drawn characters. The beauty of this screenplay not only lies in its celebrated dialogue but also in its ability to teach the importance of embedding profundity within a seemingly straightforward narrative.

Diving into the visceral and haunting world of "The Silence of the Lambs," penned by Ted Tally, was another transformative experience. This screenplay does more than just tell a gripping horror story; it masterfully explores the psychological depth of its characters, serving as a prime example of how to maintain suspense while developing a strong emotional connection with the audience. The balance between empathy and fear it demands from its readers is a lesson in fine-tuning the emotional impact of a script.

My exploration took a turn towards the fictional landscape of Middle-earth with "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson. What this adaptation teaches is the art of transforming a beloved novel into a screenplay that stands on its own while remaining true to the source material. The skill in threading narrative fidelity with cinematic innovation here is something I aspire to embody in my own adaptations.

Last but not least, Aaron Sorkin's "The Social Network" redefined my understanding of character-driven narratives. This screenplay is a masterclass in infusing dialogue with sharp wit and rapid pace, without losing sight of the story’s emotional core. It highlights the importance of developing compelling characters whose motivations are as nuanced as their conversations, demonstrating how dialogue serves as the backbone of a dynamic script.

Summing Up Some Must-Read Screenplays for Any Writer

a stack of screenplays on a vintage wooden desk, illuminated by the soft glow of a desk lamp.

Navigating the labyrinth of screenwriting often leads me back to the classics and modern masterpieces alike, each screenplay a beacon for honing my craft. Robert Towne's "Chinatown," with its compelling narrative and unforgettable characters, has become a personal scriptwriting bible. Its lessons in dialogue and plot development remind me daily of the power inherent in well-crafted words and story arcs.

My foray into the psychologically charged universe of "The Silence of the Lambs" by Ted Tally broadened my understanding of character depth and the delicate balance between suspense and empathy. This screenplay illustrates how to weave tension through dialogue and action, maintaining a grip on the audience's emotions from start to finish. It has taught me to appreciate the intricate dance between horror and human connection.

"The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," adapted by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson, sparked my fascination with adapting rich, complex worlds for the screen. Their screenplay stands as a testament to creativity, showcasing how to remain true to a beloved novel while carving out a unique cinematic experience. It inspires me to dream big and challenge the boundaries of my own storytelling.

Finally, Aaron Sorkin's script for "The Social Network" reshaped my approach to character-driven narratives. The rapid-fire dialogue and profound character motivations have influenced me to aim for a similar dynamism in my own work, striving for a script where every word propels the story forward. It's a masterclass in using dialogue as the driving force of a screenplay, a technique I aim to emulate in my future projects.

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