Entertainment

The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked  

Ranker Film
1.1k votes 53 voters 100 items

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. 

list ordered by
1
Billy Wilder is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

Won 3 screenwriting Oscars for The Lost Weekend (1945), Sunset Blvd. (1950), and The Apartment (1960).

Other titles: Double Indemnity (1944), A Foreign Affair (1948), Ace in the Hole (1951), Sabrina (1954), Some Like It Hot (1959)

2
Paul Schrader is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), First Reformed (2017)

3
Paul Thomas Anderson is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

Boogie Nights (1997), Magnolia (1999), Punch-Drunk Love (2002), There Will Be Blood (2007), The Master (2012), Phantom Thread (2017)

4
Quentin Tarantino is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

Won 2 screenwriting Oscars for Pulp Fiction (1994) and Django Unchained (2012).

Other titles: Jackie Brown (1997), Inglourious Basterds (2009), Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood (2019).

 

5
Francis Ford Coppola is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

Won 3 screenwriting Oscars for Patton (1970), The Godfather (1972), and The Godfather: Part II (1974).

Other titles: The Conversation (1974), Apocalypse Now (1979). 

6
Nora Ephron is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

Silkwood (1983), When Harry Met Sally (1989), Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

7
Charlie Kaufman is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

Won 1 screenwriting Oscar for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004).

Other titles: Being John Malkovich (1999), Adaptation (2002). 

8
Ernest Lehman is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

Sabrina (1954), North by Northwest (1959), West Side Story (1961), The Sound of Music (1965), Who's Afraid of Virginal Wolff? (1966)

9
Woody Allen is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

Won 3 screenwriting Oscars for Annie Hall (1977), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), and Midnight in Paris (2011). 

Other titles: Manhattan (1979), Broadway Danny Rose (1984), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Radio Days (1987).

10
Ethan Coen is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

Won 2 screenwriting Oscars for Fargo (1996) and No Country for Old Men (2007).

Other titles: O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), True Grit (2010), Bridge of Spies (2015).

11
Robert Towne is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

Won 1 screenwriting Oscar for Chinatown (1974).

Other titles: The Last Detail (1973), Shampoo (1975), Days of Thunder (1990), Mission: Impossible (1996)

12
Orson Welles is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

Won 1 screenwriting Oscar for Citizen Kane (1942).

Other titles: The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), The Lady from Shanghai (1947), Touch of Evil (1958).

13
Stanley Kubrick is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Shining (1980), Full Metal Jacket (1987)

14
Ingmar Bergman is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

The Seventh Seal (1957), Wild Strawberries (1957), Persona (1966), Cries & Whispers (1972), Scenes from a Marriage (1974)

15
Aaron Sorkin is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

Won 1 screenwriting Oscar for The Social Network (2010).

Other titles: A Few Good Men (1991), The American President (1995), Moneyball (2011), Steve Jobs (2015), Molly's Game (2017)

16
Ben Hecht is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

Won 2 screenwriting Oscars for Underworld (1927) and The Scoundrel (1935).

Other titles: Wuthering Heights (1939), Notorious (1946).

17
William Goldman is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

Won 2 screenwriting Oscars for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and All the President's Men (1976).

Other titles: The Princess Bride (1987), Misery (1990), The Stepford Wives (1975), Marathon Man (1976)

18
Paddy Chayefsky is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

Won 3 screenwriting Oscars for Marty (1955), The Hospital (1971), and Network (1974).

Other titles: The Americanization of Emily (1964), Paint Your Wagon (1969).

19
Alfonso Cuarón is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001), Children of Men (2006), Gravity (2013)

20
Spike Lee is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

Won 1 screenwriting Oscar for BlacKkKlansman (2018).

Other titles: She's Gotta Have It (1986), Do the Right Thing (1989), Jungle Fever (1991), Clockers (1995), He Got Game (1998).

21
Robert Benton is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

Won 2 screenwriting Oscars for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and Places in the Heart (1984).

Other titles: Bonnie and Clyde (1967), What's Up, Doc? (1972), Superman (1978), Nobody's Fool (1994).

22
Albert Brooks is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

Real Life (1979), Modern Romance (1981), Lost in America (1985), Defending Your Life (1991)

23
Lawrence Kasdan is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Body Heat (1981), The Big Chill (1983), The Bodyguard (1992)

24
Preston Sturges is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

Won 1 screenwriting Oscar for The Great McGinty (1940).

Other titles: The Lady Eve (1941), Sullivan’s Travels (1941), The Palm Beach Story (1942), The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944).

25
John Hughes is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), Sixteen Candles (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985), Pretty in Pink (1986), Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1987), Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987), Home Alone (1990)