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.
Dazed and Confused (1993), Before Sunset (2004), Before Midnight (2013), Boyhood (2014)
Won 1 screenwriting Oscar for The Usual Suspects (1995).
Other titles: Jack Reacher (2012), Edge of Tomorrow (2014), Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015).
Won 1 screenwriting Oscar for The Piano (1993).
Other titles: Sweetie (1989), Holy Smoke (1999), Bright Star (2009).
Won 1 screenwriting Oscar for Talk to Her (2002).
Other titles: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), All About My Mother (1999), Volver (2006).
Rushmore (1998), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Moonrise Kingdom (2012), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
High Anxiety (1977), ...and Justice for All (1979), Diner (1982), Sleepers (1996), Avalon (1990)
Blade Runner (1982), Unforgiven (1992), Twelve Monkeys (1995)
Get Shorty (1995), Out of Sight (1998), Minority Report (2002), Logan (2017)
1941 (1979), Used Cars (1980), Back to the Future (1985), Back to the Future Part II (1989), Back to the Future Part III (1990)
The Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2000), Signs (2002), Split (2016), Glass (2019)
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).
Silkwood (1983), When Harry Met Sally (1989), Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Won 1 screenwriting Oscar for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004).
Other titles: Being John Malkovich (1999), Adaptation (2002).
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).
Won 1 screenwriting Oscar for Chinatown (1974).
Other titles: The Last Detail (1973), Shampoo (1975), Days of Thunder (1990), Mission: Impossible (1996)
Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), First Reformed (2017)
Splash (1984), Parenthood (1989), City Slickers (1991), A League of Their Own (1992)
The Brothers McMullen (1995), She's the One (1996), Sidewalks of New York (2001), The Fitzgerald Family Christmas (2012)
Won 3 screenwriting Oscars for Patton (1970), The Godfather (1972), and The Godfather: Part II (1974).
Other titles: The Conversation (1974), Apocalypse Now (1979).
Boogie Nights (1997), Magnolia (1999), Punch-Drunk Love (2002), There Will Be Blood (2007), The Master (2012), Phantom Thread (2017)
Sabrina (1954), North by Northwest (1959), West Side Story (1961), The Sound of Music (1965), Who's Afraid of Virginal Wolff? (1966)
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)