Since the emergence of cinema, it has captivated audiences in every way, amidst people filling up lines at the theatre in the past to people browsing streaming platforms for the next best film in the modern era. Although the way to consume film has changed drastically, the art-form still remains stronger than ever, with more films being made today than ever before.
Still, as great as the modern era of film is, there are plenty of excellent films throughout history that many people will forever analyze. More specifically, the original screenplay world is an immaculate one, where a story came to life in complete originality to the big screen for people to consume.
Thus, we’re going to discuss the top ten original screenplays of all time (in the past, we've covered the TOP 10 original screenplays from the last decade). Keep in mind, these aren’t the only great screenplays, since there are thousands of incredible screenplays over the years that could make this list. This is just a solid list of what many experts agree are ten of the best original screenplays every script writer should check out. Let’s get started!
10. Fargo (1996)
If you have any interest in the world of cinema, then you more than likely have heard of the Coen brothers, with their 1996 film Fargo is arguably their most significant. Fargo tells the story of Jerry Lundegaard and his incompetent crime, which falls apart due to his and his associates’ errors and the persistent police work of the quite pregnant Marge Gunderson.
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9. Good Will Hunting (1997)
Good Will Hunting was the jumping-off point for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck who wrote the script together and landed Robin Williams to put on a performance of a lifetime. The film is about Will Hunting, a janitor at M.I.T., who has a gift for mathematics but needs help from a psychologist to find direction in his life.
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8. Do The Right Thing (1989)
Spike Lee is one of the most iconic filmmakers of all time and his 1989 film, Do The Right Thing continues to be celebrated as one of his best. The film sets on the hottest day of the year on a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, where everyone's hate and bigotry smolders and builds until it explodes into violence.
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7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Although Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has a modern hipster following to it, it’s still a fine piece of cinema that every scriptwriter should admire. Starring Jim Carrey as Joel and Kate Winslet as Clementine, the story centers around their relationship turning sour, and how the two undergo a medical procedure to have each other erased from their memories.
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6. Rocky (1976)
Is there a more iconic sports film than Rocky? Starring Sylvester Stallone, who also wrote the screenplay, Rocky tells the story of Rocky Balboa, A small-time boxer who gets a supremely rare chance to fight a heavyweight champion in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect.
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5. Chinatown (1974)
With a cast like Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, you’re bound to get an immaculate film. Chinatown centers around J.J. Gittes, played by Nicholson who is a private detective that’s hired to expose an adulterer but finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, corruption, and murder.
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4. Being John Malkovich (1999)
Although not as known as some of the others on this list, Being John Malkovich is one of the most unique scripts ever written. Starring John Malkovich, Cameron Diaz, and John Malkovich, this extraordinarily bizarre film tells the story of a puppeteer who discovers a portal that literally leads into the head of movie star John Malkovich.
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3. Taxi Driver (1976)
Taxi Driver is arguably Martin Scorsese’s greatest work, and it wouldn’t have been done without Paul Schrader, the man behind the script. Taxi Driver stars Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, and Harvey Keitel, and focuses on the life of Taxi Driver Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro).
The story itself is about a mentally unstable veteran who works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City, where the perceived deterioration and sleaze fuels his urge for violent action by attempting to liberate a presidential campaign worker and an underage prostitute.
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2. Star Wars (1977)
Although some film elitists may look at Star Wars and question why it’s on a top ten film list, but it’s no question that Star Wars is one of the greatest original screenplays ever.
Although it needs no introduction, George Lucas’ Star Wars tells the story of Luke Skywalker who joins forces with a Jedi Knight, a cocky pilot, a Wookiee, and two droids to save the galaxy from the Empire's world-destroying battle station, while also attempting to rescue Princess Leia from Darth Vader.
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1. Citizen Kane (1941)
It wouldn’t be a top film list without Citizen Kane, would it? So many experts agree that Citizen Kane is one of the greatest films in history, and rightfully so. This highly influential film from Orson Welles is about the death of publishing tycoon Charles Foster Kane, in which reporters scramble to uncover the meaning of his final utterance; 'Rosebud'.
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