Plays The Greatest Playwrights in History  

Ranker Books
Originally by
26.1k votes 4.8k voters 242.4k 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
2,032 443
William Shakespeare is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth

2
830 464
Anton Chekhov is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Three Sisters, The Seagull, A Marriage Proposal

3
833 346
Henrik Ibsen is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
A Doll's House, Ghosts, Hedda Gabler

4
589 211
Sophocles is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Oedipus the King, Ajax, Electra

5
363 149
Euripides is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Medea, The Trojan Women, Alcestis

6
508 289
Samuel Beckett is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Waiting for Godot, Endgame, Happy Days

7
398 188
Molière is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
The Miser, The Misanthrope, Dom Juan

8
276 125
Aeschylus is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Oresteia, The Persians, Seven Against Thebes

9
631 259
Oscar Wilde is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
The Importance of Being Earnest, An Ideal Husband

10
543 181
Tennessee Williams is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

11
513 206
Arthur Miller is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
The Crucible, Death of a Salesman

12
240 117
Aristophanes is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Thesmophoriazusae, The Knights of Aristophanes, The Clouds

13
262 136
Christopher Marlowe is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
The Jew of Malta, Doctor Faustus

14
287 114
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
133 83
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
257 138
Bertolt Brecht is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
The Threepenny Opera, Life of Galileo

17
210 81
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
305 119
George Bernard Shaw is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Arms and the Man, Pygmalion

19
215 114
Harold Pinter is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Betrayal, The Birthday Party, The Dumb Waiter

20
133 78
Eugène Ionesco is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added Rhinoceros, The Seven Deadly Sins, Exit the King

21
116 85
Nikolai Gogol is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Dead Souls, Nevsky Prospekt, The gamblers

22
102 94
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
186 108
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
139 117
August Strindberg is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Miss Julie, The Gather, A Dream Play

25
188 81
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
142 93
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
102 65
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
114 80
Voltaire is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Candide, Zaïre, The age of Louis XIV

29
117 109
Jean Racine is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Phedre, Berenice

30
70 58
Plautus is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added Epidicus, The birds, by Aristophanes

31
81 73
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
145 104
Tom Stoppard is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Arcadia, The Real Thing, Jumpers

33
91 54
Albert Camus is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added The Stranger, The Plague, The Fall

34
67 50
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
180 123
T. S. Eliot is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
The Waste Land, The Hollow Men, Four Quartets

36
85 56
Thornton Wilder is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Countermoon added Shadow of a Doubt, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, We Live Again

37
119 74
August Wilson is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Fences, The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars

38
104 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
70 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
120 98
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
59 73
Pierre Corneille is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Corneille – Brecht, Le Cid, The Liar

42
95 76
Sarah Kane is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Blasted, Crave, Cleansed

43
90 53
Ben Jonson is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
The Alchemist, Volpone, Every Man in His Humour

44
86 64
Martin McDonagh is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
PeteBoyle added Seven Psychopaths, In Bruges, The Pillowman

45
57 51
Alexander Ostrovsky is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added The Storm, Enough Stupidity in Every Wise Man, The Forest

46
45 38
Jean Anouilh is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Mary Kate Pagano added Monsieur Vincent, Circle of Love, Anna Karenina

47
58 53
Dario Fo is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Master Breasts: Objectified, Aesthetisized, Fantasized

48
137 101
Stephen Sondheim is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Into the Woods, Company

49
87 50
Jean Cocteau is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added Beauty and the Beast, Orpheus, The Testament of Orpheus

50
103 69
Noël Coward is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Private Lives, Hay Fever, Tonight at 8:30