The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All Time, Ranked

Over 400 Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All Time, Ranked
Latest additions: Martin McDonagh
Most divisive: Taika Waititi

Who are the best screenwriters of all time? That's a question you get to answer. Without great screenwriters, there wouldn't be great movies. They're the ones who not only write the dialogue but also devise the story and structure the plot so that it has maximum impact for the audience. It has often been said that writers get the least amount of glory when a film becomes a hit, even the most famous screenwriters. That may or may not be true. What's certain is that the best screenwriters become recognizable "names" to the public. Diablo Cody, Charlie Kaufman, and William Goldman are just three examples of writers who are widely known for their work.

The following list contains screenwriters from every era. Writers from the earliest days of cinema share space with writers who are in the prime of their careers today. We've also included writers from every genre. Horror and sci fi screenwriters are right next to those who write comedy and drama. Many of the individuals here are writers only. Others -- like Quentin Tarantino, Judd Apatow, Nora Ephron and Orson Welles -- also directed some or all of the films they wrote. 

Vote up your top choices for the best screenwriters in Hollywood, regardless of when they worked or what genre they are most noted for.

Looking to catch your big break, check out this list of the top screenwriting competitions.

Ranked by
  • Billy Wilder
    113 votes

    Billy Wilder, an Austrian-born American filmmaker, earned both commercial success and critical acclaim for his exceptional screenwriting abilities. He is best known for crafting stories with scintillating dialogue, quick wit, and finely drawn characters, exemplified in beloved classics like Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, and Sunset Boulevard.

  • Quentin Tarantino is renowned for his unique storytelling techniques and incorporation of pop culture references into his work. His screenplays often feature nonlinear narratives, stylized dialogue, and characters who are unapologetically violent. Some of his most notable films include Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, and Reservoir Dogs.

  • Ethan Coen

    Ethan Coen

    120 votes

    Ethan Coen, one half of the acclaimed Coen Brothers duo, has co-written and directed several critically acclaimed films alongside his brother Joel. With a penchant for dark humor, their screenplays often examine the human condition through eccentric characters and dramatic twists. Films such as Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and No Country for Old Men demonstrate Ethan’s exceptional talent as a screenwriter.

  • Stanley Kubrick

    Stanley Kubrick was not only a legendary director but also a skilled screenwriter who contributed significantly to the many groundbreaking films he made. A perfectionist and auteur, Kubrick's work ranged from historical dramas like Barry Lyndon to dystopian classics like A Clockwork Orange, each featuring intricate storylines and thought-provoking themes.

  • Francis Ford Coppola is a celebrated writer and director whose screenplay credits include some of the most iconic films in cinema history. Besides directing masterpieces like Apocalypse Now and The Godfather trilogy, Coppola also co-wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for Patton, brilliantly blending artistry and commercial appeal.

  • John Hughes
    125 votes

    The vivid portraits of adolescence by John Hughes have had an enduring influence on coming-of-age films. His screenplays, which include Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, capture authentic teen voices while exploring universal themes of growing up and navigating life’s challenges.