plays The Greatest Playwrights in History  

Ranker Books
Originally by
20.3k votes 3.4k voters 207k views 181 items Embed

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.

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
1,456 299
William Shakespeare is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
William Shakespeare Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth

The Greatest Musicals Ever Performed on Broadway, Ranked The Top Must-Read Books of All-Time

2
590 321
Anton Chekhov is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Anton Chekhov Three Sisters, The Seagull, A Marriage Proposal

3
590 233
Henrik Ibsen is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Henrik Ibsen A Doll's House, Ghosts, Hedda Gabler

4
381 213
Samuel Beckett is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Samuel Beckett Waiting for Godot, Endgame, Happy Days

5
450 151
Sophocles is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Sophocles Oedipus the King, Ajax, Electra

6
305 137
Molière is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Molière The Miser, The Misanthrope, Dom Juan

7
274 100
Euripides is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Euripides Medea, The Trojan Women, Alcestis

8
492 208
Oscar Wilde is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Oscar Wilde The Importance of Being Earnest, An Ideal Husband

9
207 81
Aeschylus is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Aeschylus Oresteia, The Persians, Seven Against Thebes

10
185 91
Aristophanes is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Aristophanes Thesmophoriazusae, The Knights of Aristophanes, The Clouds

11
394 167
Arthur Miller is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Arthur Miller The Crucible, Death of a Salesman

12
424 153
Tennessee Williams is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

13
100 55
Luigi Pirandello is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added Luigi Pirandello Six Characters in Search of an Author, The Rules of the Game, Herbstreise

14
219 87
Eugene O'Neill is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Eugene O'Neill Long Day's Journey into Night, The Iceman Cometh

15
146 50
Victor Hugo is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added Victor Hugo Les Misérables, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Odes et Ballades

10 Graphic and Twisted Stage Plays Sure to Disturb Your Sleep The Most Overrated Books of All Time

16
195 103
Christopher Marlowe is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Christopher Marlowe The Jew of Malta, Doctor Faustus

17
204 111
Bertolt Brecht is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Bertolt Brecht The Threepenny Opera, Life of Galileo

18
240 91
George Bernard Shaw is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
George Bernard Shaw Arms and the Man, Pygmalion

19
104 57
Eugène Ionesco is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added Eugène Ionesco Rhinoceros, The Seven Deadly Sins, Exit the King

20
164 88
Harold Pinter is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Harold Pinter Betrayal, The Birthday Party, The Dumb Waiter

21
89 62
Nikolai Gogol is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Nikolai Gogol Dead Souls, Nevsky Prospekt, The gamblers

22
84 75
Pedro Calderón de la Barca is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
anamaria added Pedro Calderón de la Barca Andrómeda y Perseo, Fieras Afemina Amor, La nave del mercader - La vida es sueño,El alcalde de Zalamea,El médico de su honra

23
115 92
August Strindberg is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
August Strindberg Miss Julie, The Gather, A Dream Play

24
154 90
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Faust: The First Part of the Tragedy, The Sorrows of Young Werther, Elective Affinities

25
81 47
Miguel de Cervantes is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added Miguel de Cervantes Don Quijote de la Mancha, Ḍāna Kvigjoṭa, El gallardo español

26
108 91
Jean Racine is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Jean Racine Phedre, Berenice

27
144 67
Edward Albee is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Edward Albee Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Zoo Story, A Delicate Balance

28
101 71
Neil Simon is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Neil Simon The Odd Couple, Murder by Death, The Goodbye Girl

29
54 45
Plautus is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added Plautus Epidicus, The birds, by Aristophanes

Celebrities Who Never Had Kids 39 Ways to Repel a Potential Girlfriend

30
86 67
Voltaire is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Voltaire Candide, Zaïre, The age of Louis XIV

31
121 91
Tom Stoppard is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Tom Stoppard Arcasia, The Real Thing, Jumpers

32
92 64
Lope de Vega is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Lope de Vega Fuenteovejuna, Viuda, Casada Y Doncella - La dama boba, E perro del hortelano, Fuenteovejuna, Perbáñez y el comendador de Ocaña, El mejor alcalde, el rey.  

33
68 41
Albert Camus is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added Albert Camus The Stranger, The Plague, The Fall

34
58 63
Aleksandr Pushkin is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added Aleksandr Pushkin Eugene Onegin, The Captain's Daughter, The Tale of the Priest and of His Workman Balda

35
157 110
T. S. Eliot is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
T. S. Eliot The Waste Land, The Hollow Men, Four Quartets

36
66 44
Thornton Wilder is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Countermoon added Thornton Wilder Shadow of a Doubt, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, We Live Again

37
59 52
Friedrich Schiller is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added Friedrich Schiller Intrigue and Love, Ode to Joy, On Naive and Sentimental Poetry

38
52 62
Pierre Corneille is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Pierre Corneille Corneille – Brecht, Le Cid, The Liar

39
37 28
Jean Anouilh is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Mary Kate Pagano added Jean Anouilh Monsieur Vincent, Circle of Love, Anna Karenina

40
40 33
Tony Kushner is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Linn Bartel added Tony Kushner Lincoln, Munich, Caroline - Angels in America Part 1 and 2

41
101 85
Jean-Paul Sartre is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Jean-Paul Sartre No Exit, Les Mains Sales, Les jeux sont faits

42
52 49
James Joyce is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added James Joyce Ulysses, Finnegans Wake, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

43
92 63
August Wilson is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
August Wilson Fences, The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars

The Best Books Written Under Pen Names The Best Comedian Biopics

44
70 44
Ben Jonson is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Ben Jonson The Alchemist, Volpone, Every Man in His Humour

45
85 59
Noël Coward is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Noël Coward Private Lives, Hay Fever, Tonight at 8:30

46
68 42
Jean Cocteau is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
RazvanPop added Jean Cocteau Beauty and the Beast, Orpheus, The Testament of Orpheus

47
41 42
Alexander Ostrovsky is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Alexander Ostrovsky The Storm, Enough Stupidity in Every Wise Man, The Forest

48
111 90
Stephen Sondheim is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
Stephen Sondheim Into the Woods, Company

49
59 49
Martin McDonagh is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
PeteBoyle added Martin McDonagh Seven Psychopaths, In Bruges, The Pillowman

50
42 46
Dario Fo is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Playwrights in History
ElijahKaganer added Dario Fo Master Breasts: Objectified, Aesthetisized, Fantasized