Theater The Greatest Playwrights in History  

Ranker Books
Originally by
29.8k votes 5.6k voters 267.1k views 188 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.

Ranker may collect a commission from links on this page. Prices & inventory are accurate as of publish date.
list ordered by

1
2,415 511
William Shakespeare is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth

2
983 547
Anton Chekhov is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Three Sisters, The Seagull, A Marriage Proposal

3
1,008 394
Henrik Ibsen is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
A Doll's House, Ghosts, Hedda Gabler

4
696 256
Sophocles is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Oedipus the King, Ajax, Electra

5
584 320
Samuel Beckett is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Waiting for Godot, Endgame, Happy Days

6
419 180
Euripides is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Medea, The Trojan Women, Alcestis

7
453 213
Molière is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
The Miser, The Misanthrope, Dom Juan

8
593 228
Arthur Miller is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
The Crucible, Death of a Salesman

9
707 286
Oscar Wilde is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
The Importance of Being Earnest, An Ideal Husband

10
314 152
Aeschylus is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Oresteia, The Persians, Seven Against Thebes

11
610 204
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
282 141
Aristophanes is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Thesmophoriazusae, The Knights of Aristophanes, The Clouds

13
297 160
Christopher Marlowe is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
The Jew of Malta, Doctor Faustus

14
165 99
Luigi Pirandello is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added Six Characters in Search of an Author, The Rules of the Game, Herbstreise

15
332 137
Eugene O'Neill is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Long Day's Journey into Night, The Iceman Cometh

16
264 104
Victor Hugo is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added Les Misérables, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Odes et Ballades

17
297 160
Bertolt Brecht is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
The Threepenny Opera, Life of Galileo

18
171 94
Eugène Ionesco is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added Rhinoceros, The Seven Deadly Sins, Exit the King

19
251 128
Harold Pinter is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Betrayal, The Birthday Party, The Dumb Waiter

20
351 135
George Bernard Shaw is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Arms and the Man, Pygmalion

21
168 131
August Strindberg is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Miss Julie, The Gather, A Dream Play

22
136 102
Nikolai Gogol is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Dead Souls, Nevsky Prospekt, The gamblers

23
119 110
Pedro Calderón de la Barca is listed (or ranked) 23 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

24
211 121
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Faust: The First Part of the Tragedy, The Sorrows of Young Werther, Elective Affinities

25
218 92
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