101 Greatest Film Screenplays
of All Time
by the Writer's Guild of America

The Writer's Guild of America (WGA) sent out ballots to its members in the summer of 2005, asking them to list up to ten of their favorite produced screenplays (accessible online). This is the result of the polling as voted upon by the organization's professional film and television writers - a list of the 101 Greatest (Film) Screenplays of All-Time, to celebrate the greatest achievements in film writing in cinematic history.

Facts and Commentary About the List:

  • Any film, past or present, English-language or otherwise, was eligible.

  • The 101 notables in the list included the film title, film year, film director, scriptwriter(s), and one memorable line of dialogue (and the performer/film character who spoke the line). The list was also to be showcased in the May 2006 issue of Premiere Magazine.

  • Credit was finally being given to the scriptwriter: "Like a composer of a classic symphony or an author of a beloved novel, the most memorable and moving pictures would not exist without their principal architect: the screenwriter." The description of this definitive list stated: "101 Greatest Screenplays will finally set the record straight by celebrating the best in film writing and bringing recognition to the wizards behind the curtain: the men and women who wrote the greatest films of all time."

  • Writers with multiple films on the list included: Woody Allen (4), Francis Ford Coppola (4), Billy Wilder (4), William Goldman (3), John Huston (3), Charlie Kaufman (3), Ben Hecht (2), Michael Wilson (2), James L. Brooks (2), I.A.L. Diamond (2), Carl Foreman (2), Ernest Lehman (2), Frank Pierson (2), Mario Puzo (2), Paul Schrader (2), and Preston Sturges (2).

  • There are 4 films from the 1930s, 14 from the 1940s, 12 from the 1950s, 14 from the 1960s, 18 from the 1970s, 18 from the 1980s, 17 from the 1990s, and 4 from the 2000s.

  • 45 were original scripts while 56 were adaptations.

  • In terms of genres, there were 60 dramas, 26 comedies, and 15 comedy/dramas.

  • 75 of the 101 films on the list received either an Academy Award for Best Screenplay (39) or an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay (36). See this site's writeup about the Best Screenplay and Writing Academy Awards.
Note: The films that are marked with a yellow star are the films that "The Greatest Films" site has selected as the "100 Greatest Films".


101 Greatest Film Screenplays
of All Time

by the Writer's Guild of America

(part 1, by reverse ranking)

#
Film Title
(Year and Director)
Scriptwriter(s) and Original or Adapted Source Material Memorable Line of Dialogue
(Performer/Film Character)
101
Notorious
(1946; dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
Written by Ben Hecht "I'm a fatheaded guy, full of pain. It tore me up not having you."
— Cary Grant as T. R. Devlin
100
Memento
(2000; dir. Christopher Nolan)
Screenplay by Christopher Nolan, based on the short story "Memento Mori" by Jonathan Nolan
"Just because there are things I don't remember, doesn't mean my actions are meaningless. The whole world doesn't just disappear when you close your eyes, does it?"
— Guy Pearce as Leonard
99
The Wild Bunch
(1969; dir. Sam Peckinpah)
Screenplay by Walon Green and Sam Peckinpah, story by Walon Green and Roy Sickner "When you side with a man, you stay with him. And if you can't do that, you're like some animal. You're finished. We're finished. All of us."
— William Holden as Pike Bishop
98
The Grapes of Wrath
(1940; dir. John Ford)
Screenplay by Nunnally Johnson, based on the novel by John Steinbeck "We are the people that live."
— Jane Darwell as Ma Joad
97
The Searchers
(1956; dir. John Ford)
Screenplay by Frank S. Nugent, based on the novel by Alan Le May "That'll be the day."
— John Wayne as Ethan Edwards
96
The Hustler
(1961; dir. Robert Rossen)
Screenplay by Sidney Carroll & Robert Rossen, based on the novel by Walter Tevis "Admit it. I'm the best you ever seen, Fats. I'm the best there is. And even if you beat me, I'm still the best."
— Paul Newman as Fast Eddie Felson
95
Hannah and Her Sisters
(1986; dir. Woody Allen)
Written by Woody Allen "I had a great evening; it was like the Nuremberg Trials."
— Woody Allen as Mickey Sachs
94
Patton
(1970; dir. Franklin J. Schaffner)
Screen Story and Screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North, based on "A Soldier's Story" by Omar H. Bradley and "Patton: Ordeal and Triumph" by Ladislas Farago "We're not just going to shoot the bastards. We're going to cut out their living guts and use them to grease the treads on our tanks."
— George C. Scott as General George S. Patton
93
Do The Right Thing
(1989; dir. Spike Lee)
Written by Spike Lee "Who told you to step on my sneakers? Who told you to walk on my side of the block? Who told you to be in my neighborhood?"
— Giancarlo Esposito as Buggin' Out
92
Psycho
(1960; dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
Screenplay by Joseph Stefano, based on the novel by Robert Bloch "Mother… What is the phrase? She isn't herself today."
— Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates
91
The Verdict
(1982; dir. Sidney Lumet)
Screenplay by David Mamet, based on the novel by Barry Reed "I changed my life today. What did you do?"
— Paul Newman as Frank Galvin
90
Sideways
(2004; dir. Alexander Payne)
Screenplay by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor, based on the novel by Rex Pickett "Come on, man…. Hemingway, Sexton, Plath, Woolf. You can't kill yourself before you're even published."
— Paul Giamatti as Miles Raymond
89
Forrest Gump
(1994; dir. Robert Zemeckis)
Screenplay by Eric Roth, based on the novel by Winston Groom "Mama always said, 'Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get.'"
— Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump
88
Field of Dreams
(1988; dir. Phil Alden Robinson)
Screenplay by Phil Alden Robinson, based on the book by W.P. Kinsella "Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta): "Is this heaven?" Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner): "No, it's Iowa."
87
8 1/2
(1963; dir. Federico Fellini)
Screenplay by Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Flaiano, Brunello Rondi. Story by Fellini, Flaiano "Happiness consists of being able to tell the truth without hurting anyone."
— Marcello Mastroianni as Guido Anselmi
86
Harold and Maude
(1971; dir. Hal Ashby)
Written by Colin Higgins
"I haven't lived… But I've died a few times."
— Bud Cort as Harold Chasen
85
La Grande Illusion
(1937; dir. Jean Renoir)
Written by Jean Renoir and Charles Spaak "The theater is too deep for me. I prefer bicycling."
— Jean Gabin as Lieutenant Maréchal
84
The Princess Bride
(1987; dir. Rob Reiner)
Screenplay by William Goldman, based on his novel "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!"
— Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya
83
Rear Window
(1954; dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
Screenplay by John Michael Hayes, based on the short story by Cornell Woolrich
"She's too perfect, she's too talented, she's too beautiful, she's too sophisticated, she's too everything but what I want."
— James Stewart as L.B. "Jeff" Jefferies
82
Cool Hand Luke
(1967; dir. Stuart Rosenberg)
Screenplay by Donn Pearce and Frank Pierson, based on the novel by Donn Pearce "I can eat fifty eggs."
— Paul Newman as Luke Jackson
81
Being There
(1979; dir. Hal Ashby)
Screenplay by Jerzy Kosinski, inspired by the novel by Jerzy Kosinski "There will be growth in the spring."
— Peter Sellers as Chance
80
Witness
(1985; dir. Peter Weir)
Screenplay by Earl W. Wallace & William Kelley, story by William Kelley and Pamela Wallace & Earl W. Wallace
"Listen, lady, you take my picture and I'm going to rip off your brassiere and strangle you with it."
— Harrison Ford as John Book
79
The Producers
(1968; dir. Mel Brooks)
Written by Mel Brooks "How could this happen? I was so careful. I picked the wrong play, the wrong director, the wrong cast. Where did I go right?"
— Zero Mostel as Max Bialystock
78
Rocky
(1976; dir. John G. Avildsen)
Written by Sylvester Stallone "Adrian!"
—Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa
77
Adaptation
(2002; dir. Spike Jonze)
Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman, based on the book "The Orchid Thief" by Susan Orlean "Coffee would help me think…. Coffee and a muffin."
— Nicolas Cage as Charlie Kaufman
76
Raging Bull
(1980; dir. Martin Scorsese)
Screenplay by Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin, based on the book by Jake La Motta with Joseph Carter and Peter Savage "You win, you win. You lose, you still win."
— Joe Pesci as Joey La Motta

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