Watchworthy

The Best Oscar-Winning Screenplays 

Ranker Film
Updated September 23, 2019 5.7k votes 416 voters 21.9k views 76 items

List Rules Vote up the best screenplays that have won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay

What is best Oscar-winning screenplay? This list includes every film that has won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, with titles such as “Her,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Annie Hall,” and “Good Will Hunting.” The Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay was created in 1940, first presented at the thirteenth Academy Awards.

Movies have the ability to make us feel. They make us want to believe, be inspired, and live vicariously through the stories we see on screen. It all begins with the words written on the page. Without dialogue that grabs us and an enchanting story, movies fall flat, even with the best actors and directors. The best of these screenplays are often bestowed with an Academy Award nomination, and those that are truly the best take home the Oscar.

Screenplays have the ability to take us places, into the lives of those we’ve never imagined. Screenplays give directors and the actors the framework in which to work. These best Oscar-winning screenplays provide the kind of emotional connection that filmmakers hope people seek in entertainment. They are moving, saddening, and romantic. These screenplays vary in their genre but they all equally fascinating.

Vote up the best Academy Award-winning screenplays below and see how these Oscar winning scripts rank.
Data-driven recommendations based on voting from over 40 million monthly visits to Ranker. Try the free app
list ordered by
1
Ranker Video
1994

Actors: John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Walken, + more

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino, Roger Avary Pulp Fiction is a 1994 American crime film directed by Quentin Tarantino. The lives of two mob hitmen (Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta), a boxer (Bruce Willis), a gangster's wife (Uma ...more

More Pulp Fiction 

Genius Fan Theories About What's In The Briefcase In 'Pulp Fiction' #67 of 120 Movies That Need Sequelslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

2
Ranker Video
1997

Actors: Ben Affleck, Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Minnie Driver, Casey Affleck, + more

Directed by: Gus Van Sant

Ben Affleck, Matt Damon Good Will Hunting is a 1997 American drama film directed by Gus Van Sant, and starring Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Ben Affleck, Minnie Driver and Stellan Skarsgård. Written by Affleck and ...more

More Good Will Hunting 

#139 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #57 of 363 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetimelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

3
Ranker Video
1994

Actors: Kevin Spacey, Benicio del Toro, Gabriel Byrne, Stephen Baldwin, Giancarlo Esposito, + more

Directed by: Bryan Singer

Christopher McQuarrie The Usual Suspects is a 1995 German-American neo-noir crime thriller film directed by Bryan Singer and written by Christopher McQuarrie. It stars Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio del ...more

More The Usual Suspects 

#10 of 241 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #107 of 120 Movies That Need Sequelslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

4
Ranker Video
2017

Actors: Daniel Kaluuya, Catherine Keener, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, + more

Directed by: Jordan Peele

Jordan Peele 

Get Out is a 2017 American horror film directed by Jordan Peele. A young African-American (Daniel Kaluuya) visits his white girlfriend's parents for the weekend, where his simmering uneasiness ...more

More Get Out 

17 Small But Poignant Details That Fans Noticed In 'Get Out' #197 of 241 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

5
Ranker Video
1996

Actors: Steve Buscemi, William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Bruce Campbell, Peter Stormare, + more

Directed by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Joel Coen, Ethan Coen Fargo is a 1996 American neo-noir dark comedy crime film written, produced, edited, and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. It stars Frances McDormand as a pregnant Minnesota police chief who ...more

More Fargo 

Theories About Why The Coen Bros. Had Marge Gunderson Go On A Date In Fargo #296 of 399 The Best Western Movies Ever Madelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

6
Ranker Video
1941

Actors: Orson Welles, Alan Ladd, Agnes Moorehead, Joseph Cotten, Arthur O'Connell, + more

Directed by: Orson Welles

Herbert J. Mankiewicz, Orson Welles Citizen Kane is a 1941 American drama film produced by, co-written by, directed by and starring Orson Welles. The picture was Welles's first feature film. The film was nominated for Academy ...more

More Citizen Kane 

#575 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #57 of 133 Movies That Should Never Be Remadelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

7
Ranker Video
1974

Actors: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, Roman Polanski, John Huston, Diane Ladd, + more

Directed by: Roman Polanski

Robert Towne Chinatown is a 1974 American neo-noir mystery film, directed by Roman Polanski from a screenplay by Robert Towne, starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway. The film was inspired by the ...more

More Chinatown 

#89 of 241 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #1,129 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

8
Ranker Video
2012

Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Foxx, Quentin Tarantino, + more

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino Django Unchained is a 2012 American revisionist Western film directed by Quentin Tarantino. With the help of a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz), a freed slave (Jamie Foxx) sets out to ...more

More Django Unchained 

#71 of 399 The Best Western Movies Ever Made #52 of 629 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #30 of 69 The Best Movies That Are Super Long

9
Ranker Video
1969

Actors: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Cloris Leachman, Sam Elliott, Katharine Ross, + more

Directed by: George Roy Hill

William Goldman Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a 1969 American Western film directed by George Roy Hill and written by William Goldman. Based loosely on fact, the film tells the story of Wild West ...more

More Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 

#10 of 399 The Best Western Movies Ever Made #940 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

10
Ranker Video
1988

Actors: Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman, Valeria Golino, Bonnie Hunt, Barry Levinson, + more

Directed by: Barry Levinson

Ronald Bass, Barry Morrow Rain Man is a 1988 American drama film directed by Barry Levinson and written by Barry Morrow and Ronald Bass. It tells the story of an abrasive and selfish yuppie, Charlie Babbitt, who ...more

More Rain Man 

#57 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #258 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

11
Ranker Video
1976

Actors: Robert Duvall, Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Ned Beatty, Lance Henriksen, + more

Directed by: Sidney Lumet

Paddy Chayefsky Network is a 1976 American satirical film written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet, about a fictional television network, UBS, and its struggle with poor ratings. The film stars ...more

More Network 

#847 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #766 of 1,138 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

12
Ranker Video
1989

Actors: Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke, Lara Flynn Boyle, Jamie Kennedy, Josh Charles, + more

Directed by: Peter Weir

Tom Schulman Dead Poets Society is a 1989 American drama film written by Tom Schulman, directed by Peter Weir and starring Robin Williams. Set at the conservative and aristocratic Welton Academy in the ...more

More Dead Poets Society 

#63 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #159 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

13
Ranker Video
2004

Actors: Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Carrey, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, + more

Directed by: Michel Gondry

Charlie Kaufman, Pierre Bismuth, Michel Gondry Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a 2004 American romantic science-fiction comedy-drama film about an estranged couple who have each other erased from their memories, written by Charlie ...more

More Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 

The Most Memorable 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' Quotes #51 of 241 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

14
Ranker Video
2006

Actors: Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Toni Collette, Abigail Breslin, Alan Arkin, + more

Directed by: Valerie Faris, Jonathan Dayton

Michael Arndt Little Miss Sunshine is a 2006 American comedy-drama road film and the directorial film debut of the husband-wife team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. The screenplay was written by ...more

More Little Miss Sunshine 

#707 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #173 of 1,138 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

15
Ranker Video
1991

Actors: Brad Pitt, Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, + more

Directed by: Ridley Scott

Callie Khouri Thelma & Louise is a 1991 American film, written by Callie Khouri and directed by Ridley Scott. It stars Geena Davis as Thelma and Susan Sarandon as Louise, two friends who embark on a road ...more

More Thelma & Louise 

Behind-The-Scenes Stories From The Making Of 'Thelma & Louise' #458 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

16
Ranker Video
1973

Actors: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw, Charles Durning, Eileen Brennan, + more

Directed by: George Roy Hill

David S. Ward The Sting is a 1973 American caper film set in September 1936, involving a complicated plot by two professional grifters to con a mob boss. The film was directed by George Roy Hill, who had ...more

More The Sting 

#592 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #247 of 1,138 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

17
Ranker Video
1999

Actors: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Mena Suvari, Allison Janney, Chris Cooper, + more

Directed by: Sam Mendes

Alan Ball American Beauty is a 1999 American drama film directed by Sam Mendes. An advertising executive (Kevin Spacey) has a midlife crisis when he becomes infatuated with his teenage daughter's best ...more

More American Beauty 

#605 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #253 of 693 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Madelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

18
Ranker Video
1950

Actors: William Holden, Buster Keaton, Gloria Swanson, Yvette Vickers, Cecil B. DeMille, + more

Directed by: Billy Wilder

Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett, D.M. Marshman, Jr. Sunset Boulevard—stylized onscreen as SUNSET BLVD.—is a 1950 American film noir directed and co-written by Billy Wilder, and produced and co-written by Charles Brackett. It was named after the ...more

More Sunset Boulevard 

#114 of 133 Movies That Should Never Be Remade #9 of 232 The Best Black and White Movies Ever Madelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

19
Ranker Video
1960

Actors: Shirley MacLaine, Jack Lemmon, Fred MacMurray, David White, Edie Adams, + more

Directed by: Billy Wilder

I.A.L. Diamond, Billy Wilder The Apartment is a 1960 American comedy-drama film produced and directed by Billy Wilder, which stars Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Fred MacMurray. It was Wilder's next movie after Some ...more

More The Apartment 

#447 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #293 of 1,138 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

20
Ranker Video
1977

Actors: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Sigourney Weaver, Christopher Walken, Paul Simon, + more

Directed by: Woody Allen

Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman Annie Hall is a 1977 American romantic comedy film directed by Woody Allen. Neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer (Allen) falls in love with the ditzy Annie Hall (Diane Keaton).

More Annie Hall 

#1,076 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #379 of 1,138 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

21
Ranker Video
1970

Actors: George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Paul Frees, Lowell Thomas, Alan MacNaughtan, + more

Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner

Francis Ford Coppola, Edmund H. North Patton is a 1970 American epic biographical film about U.S. General George S. Patton during WWII. It stars George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Michael Bates and Karl Michael Vogler. It was directed by ...more

More Patton 

#3 of 378 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #5 of 214 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

22
Ranker Video
1982

Actors: Daniel Day-Lewis, Ben Kingsley, Martin Sheen, Candice Bergen, John Gielgud, + more

Directed by: Richard Attenborough

John Briley Gandhi is a 1982 epic biographical film which dramatises the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the leader of India's non-violent, non-cooperative independence movement against the United ...more

More Gandhi 

#373 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #211 of 553 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Madelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

23
Ranker Video
2010

Actors: Helena Bonham Carter, Colin Firth, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, Geoffrey Rush, + more

Directed by: Tom Hooper

David Seidler The King's Speech is a 2010 British historical drama film directed by Tom Hooper and written by David Seidler. Colin Firth plays King George VI who, to cope with a stammer, sees Lionel Logue, an ...more

More The King's Speech 

#1,050 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #80 of 214 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time #283 of 553 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made

24
Ranker Video
1967

Actors: Gene Wilder, Kenneth Mars, Zero Mostel, Dick Shawn, William Hickey, + more

Directed by: Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks The Producers is a 1968 American satirical dark comedy film written and directed by Mel Brooks. The film is set in the late 1960s and it tells the story of a theatrical producer and an ...more

More The Producers 

Every Song in The Producers, Ranked by Singability #524 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

25
Ranker Video
2014

Actors: Scarlett Johansson, Olivia Wilde, Amy Adams, Joaquin Phoenix, Kristen Wiig, + more

Directed by: Spike Jonze

Spike Jonze Her is a 2013 American romantic science fiction comedy-drama film written, directed, and produced by Spike Jonze. The film's musical score was composed by Arcade Fire, with the cinematography ...more

More Her 

#12 of 51 Great Quirky Movies for Grown-Ups #65 of 106 The Funniest Movies Starring SNL Cast Memberslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever