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The Best Oscar-Winning Screenplays

Updated September 23, 2019 5.4k votes 417 voters 22.0k views76 items

List RulesVote 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.
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  • 1
    Dog Day Afternoon

    ActorsAl Pacino, Carol Kane, Charles Durning, Lance Henriksen, John Cazale

    Directed bySidney Lumet

    Frank Pierson
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  • 2
    Juno
    123
    37

    Juno

    2007

    ActorsJennifer Garner, Ellen Page, Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, J.K. Simmons

    Directed byJason Reitman

    Diablo Cody

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    #328 of 1,189 Every Oscar Winning Film Ever#427 of 1,647 The Most Rewatchable Movies

  • 3
    Pulp Fiction
    129
    57

    ActorsJohn Travolta, Bruce Willis, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Walken

    Directed byQuentin Tarantino

    Quentin Tarantino, Roger Avary

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    Genius Fan Theories About What's In The Briefcase In 'Pulp Fiction'#73 of 863 The Best Albums of the 1990s

  • 4
    Splendor in the Grass

    ActorsNatalie Wood, Warren Beatty, Pat Hingle, Sandy Dennis, Gary Lockwood

    Directed byElia Kazan

    William Inge

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    #98 of 161 The Best Movies of the '60s#71 of 160 The Most Utterly Depressing Movies Ever Made

  • 5
    Chariots of Fire

    ActorsStephen Fry, Kenneth Branagh, Ian Holm, John Gielgud, Richard Griffiths

    Directed byHugh Hudson

    Colin Welland

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    #75 of 236 The Best Movies Based On True Stories#20 of 86 The Best Movies With Christian Themes

  • 6
    The Usual Suspects

    ActorsKevin Spacey, Benicio del Toro, Gabriel Byrne, Stephen Baldwin, Giancarlo Esposito

    Directed byBryan Singer

    Christopher McQuarrie
  • 7
    Good Will Hunting

    ActorsBen Affleck, Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Minnie Driver, Casey Affleck

    Directed byGus Van Sant

    Ben Affleck, Matt Damon
  • 8
    Fargo
    83
    32

    Fargo

    1996

    ActorsSteve Buscemi, William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Bruce Campbell, Peter Stormare

    Directed byEthan Coen, Joel Coen

    Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

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  • 9
    Get Out
    128
    70

    ActorsDaniel Kaluuya, Catherine Keener, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones

    Directed byJordan Peele

    Jordan Peele 

    Amazon_watch buy button

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  • 10
    Citizen Kane
    82
    33

    ActorsOrson Welles, Alan Ladd, Agnes Moorehead, Joseph Cotten, Arthur O'Connell

    Directed byOrson Welles

    Herbert J. Mankiewicz, Orson Welles
  • 11
    Chinatown
    72
    25

    ActorsJack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, Roman Polanski, John Huston, Diane Ladd

    Directed byRoman Polanski

    Robert Towne
  • 12
    Hannah and Her Sisters

    ActorsJulia Louis-Dreyfus, Woody Allen, Carrie Fisher, Michael Caine, Mia Farrow

    Directed byWoody Allen

    Woody Allen

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    #428 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked#78 of 84 Great Movies That Take Place in Autumn

  • 13
    The Crying Game

    ActorsForest Whitaker, Jim Broadbent, Miranda Richardson, Stephen Rea, Ralph Brown

    Directed byNeil Jordan

    Neil Jordan

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    #114 of 315 The Best Political Films Ever Made#316 of 366 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime

  • 14
    The Piano
    55
    20

    ActorsAnna Paquin, Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Sam Neill, Cliff Curtis

    Directed byJane Campion

    Jane Campion

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    #13 of 50 The Best Oscar-Nominated Movies of the '90s#390 of 557 The Greatest Film Scores of All Time

  • 15
    Woman of the Year

    ActorsKatharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, William Bendix, Fay Bainter, Reginald Owen

    Directed byGeorge Stevens

    Michael Kanin, Ring Lardner Jr.
    Amazon_watch buy button

    More Woman of the Year 

    #759 of 836 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Made#548 of 1,137 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time

  • 16
    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

    ActorsKate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Carrey, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood

    Directed byMichel Gondry

    Charlie Kaufman, Pierre Bismuth, Michel Gondry
  • 17
    Sunset Boulevard

    ActorsWilliam Holden, Buster Keaton, Gloria Swanson, Yvette Vickers, Cecil B. DeMille

    Directed byBilly Wilder

    Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett, D.M. Marshman, Jr.

    More Sunset Boulevard 

    #131 of 149 Movies That Should Never Be Remade#17 of 224 The Best Black and White Movies Ever Made

  • 18
    The Candidate

    ActorsRobert Redford, Natalie Wood, Peter Boyle, Melvyn Douglas, Michael Lerner

    Directed byMichael Ritchie

    Jeremy Larner

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    #26 of 55 The Funniest Movies About Politics#162 of 553 The Best '70s Movies

  • 19
    Django Unchained

    ActorsLeonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Foxx, Quentin Tarantino

    Directed byQuentin Tarantino

    Quentin Tarantino

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    #73 of 399 The Best Western Movies Ever Made#96 of 629 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked

  • 20
    Rain Man
    61
    34

    ActorsTom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman, Valeria Golino, Bonnie Hunt, Barry Levinson

    Directed byBarry Levinson

    Ronald Bass, Barry Morrow
  • 21
    Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

    ActorsPaul Newman, Robert Redford, Cloris Leachman, Sam Elliott, Katharine Ross

    Directed byGeorge Roy Hill

    William Goldman
  • 22
    Dead Poets Society

    ActorsRobin Williams, Ethan Hawke, Lara Flynn Boyle, Jamie Kennedy, Josh Charles

    Directed byPeter Weir

    Tom Schulman
  • 23
    Gosford Park
    45
    19

    ActorsHelen Mirren, Clive Owen, Maggie Smith, Ryan Phillippe, Stephen Fry

    Directed byRobert Altman

    Julian Fellowes
  • 24
    Little Miss Sunshine

    ActorsSteve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Toni Collette, Abigail Breslin, Alan Arkin

    Directed byValerie Faris, Jonathan Dayton

    Michael Arndt

    More Little Miss Sunshine 

    #162 of 276 The Top Tearjerker Movies That Make Men Cry#204 of 922 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films

  • 25
    American Beauty

    ActorsKevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Mena Suvari, Allison Janney, Chris Cooper

    Directed bySam Mendes

    Alan Ball