Plays The Greatest Playwrights in History  

Ranker Books
Originally by
26.9k votes 5k voters 249.4k views 187 items

List Rules Top writers of theatre and stage plays, including musicals

List of the best playwrights ever that span all time periods and issues in the plays that they wrote. Well known playwrights such as William Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, and Arthur Miller are included on this list along with more modern playwrights that have yet to have the same kind of recognition as these big names and their classic plays.

A playwright writes dramatic literature or a drama and can be used as performance pieces or as closet dramas that are not performed and only read as literary works. Recognizable titles are listed with the author’s name, like “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare or “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller. You may even recognize there are some popular movies based on plays from this list.

This list of the best playwrights asks the question, "Who is the best playwright ever?" and can be voted on by readers to change the order of who is on top. Each playwright is listed with a picture of themselves and have some of their most famous works listed next to their name to be identified easier. If you do not see a popular or your favorite playwright on the list, be sure to add them to have others be able to vote on them, as well.

list ordered by

1
2,122 459
William Shakespeare is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth

2
869 485
Anton Chekhov is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Three Sisters, The Seagull, A Marriage Proposal

3
880 357
Henrik Ibsen is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
A Doll's House, Ghosts, Hedda Gabler

4
619 223
Sophocles is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Oedipus the King, Ajax, Electra

5
378 158
Euripides is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Medea, The Trojan Women, Alcestis

6
526 294
Samuel Beckett is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Waiting for Godot, Endgame, Happy Days

7
412 193
Molière is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
The Miser, The Misanthrope, Dom Juan

8
648 267
Oscar Wilde is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
The Importance of Being Earnest, An Ideal Husband

9
282 133
Aeschylus is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Oresteia, The Persians, Seven Against Thebes

10
528 213
Arthur Miller is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
The Crucible, Death of a Salesman

11
557 189
Tennessee Williams is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

12
252 123
Aristophanes is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Thesmophoriazusae, The Knights of Aristophanes, The Clouds

13
274 141
Christopher Marlowe is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
The Jew of Malta, Doctor Faustus

14
296 121
Eugene O'Neill is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Long Day's Journey into Night, The Iceman Cometh

15
138 89
Luigi Pirandello is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added Six Characters in Search of an Author, The Rules of the Game, Herbstreise

16
267 146
Bertolt Brecht is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
The Threepenny Opera, Life of Galileo

17
221 88
Victor Hugo is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added Les Misérables, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Odes et Ballades

18
318 125
George Bernard Shaw is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Arms and the Man, Pygmalion

19
142 81
Eugène Ionesco is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added Rhinoceros, The Seven Deadly Sins, Exit the King

20
219 120
Harold Pinter is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Betrayal, The Birthday Party, The Dumb Waiter

21
120 90
Nikolai Gogol is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Dead Souls, Nevsky Prospekt, The gamblers

22
106 98
Pedro Calderón de la Barca is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
anamaria added Andrómeda y Perseo, Fieras Afemina Amor, La nave del mercader - La vida es sueño,El alcalde de Zalamea,El médico de su honra

23
192 113
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Faust: The First Part of the Tragedy, The Sorrows of Young Werther, Elective Affinities

24
144 121
August Strindberg is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Miss Julie, The Gather, A Dream Play

25
196 83
Edward Albee is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Zoo Story, A Delicate Balance

26
149 97
Neil Simon is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
The Odd Couple, Murder by Death, The Goodbye Girl

27
106 68
Miguel de Cervantes is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added Don Quijote de la Mancha, Ḍāna Kvigjoṭa, El gallardo español

28
120 83
Voltaire is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Candide, Zaïre, The age of Louis XIV

29
74 61
Plautus is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added Epidicus, The birds, by Aristophanes

30
119 112
Jean Racine is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Phedre, Berenice

31
83 75
Aleksandr Pushkin is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added Eugene Onegin, The Captain's Daughter, The Tale of the Priest and of His Workman Balda

32
148 108
Tom Stoppard is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Arcadia, The Real Thing, Jumpers

33
95 55
Albert Camus is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added The Stranger, The Plague, The Fall

34
70 51
Tony Kushner is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Linn Bartel added Lincoln, Munich, Caroline - Angels in America Part 1 and 2

35
128 75
August Wilson is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Fences, The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars

36
185 125
T. S. Eliot is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
The Waste Land, The Hollow Men, Four Quartets

37
86 57
Thornton Wilder is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Countermoon added Shadow of a Doubt, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, We Live Again

38
106 80
Lope de Vega is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Fuenteovejuna, Viuda, Casada Y Doncella - La dama boba, E perro del hortelano, Fuenteovejuna, Perbáñez y el comendador de Ocaña, El mejor alcalde, el rey.
 

39
72 63
Friedrich Schiller is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added Intrigue and Love, Ode to Joy, On Naive and Sentimental Poetry

40
124 99
Jean-Paul Sartre is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
No Exit, Les Mains Sales, Les jeux sont faits

41
95 54
Ben Jonson is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
The Alchemist, Volpone, Every Man in His Humour

42
58 51
Alexander Ostrovsky is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added The Storm, Enough Stupidity in Every Wise Man, The Forest

43
96 77
Sarah Kane is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Blasted, Crave, Cleansed

44
88 65
Martin McDonagh is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
PeteBoyle added Seven Psychopaths, In Bruges, The Pillowman

45
59 75
Pierre Corneille is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Corneille – Brecht, Le Cid, The Liar

46
90 50
Jean Cocteau is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added Beauty and the Beast, Orpheus, The Testament of Orpheus

47
59 54
Dario Fo is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Master Breasts: Objectified, Aesthetisized, Fantasized

48
45 38
Jean Anouilh is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Mary Kate Pagano added Monsieur Vincent, Circle of Love, Anna Karenina

49
67 64
James Joyce is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added Ulysses, Finnegans Wake, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

50
107 71
Noël Coward is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Private Lives, Hay Fever, Tonight at 8:30