Entertainment

The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked  

Ranker Film
961 votes 32 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. 

1
Richard Linklater is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

Dazed and Confused (1993), Before Sunset (2004), Before Midnight (2013), Boyhood (2014)

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

Won 1 screenwriting Oscar for The Usual Suspects (1995).

Other titles: Jack Reacher (2012), Edge of Tomorrow (2014), Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015).

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

Won 1 screenwriting Oscar for The Piano (1993).

Other titles: Sweetie (1989), Holy Smoke (1999), Bright Star (2009).

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

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).

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

Won 1 screenwriting Oscar for In the Heat of the Night (1967).

Other titles: Village of the Damned (1960), The Poseidon Adventure (1972). The Towering Inferno (1974).

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

Rushmore (1998), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Moonrise Kingdom (2012), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

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

High Anxiety (1977), ...and Justice for All (1979), Diner (1982), Sleepers (1996), Avalon (1990)

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

Blade Runner (1982), Unforgiven (1992), Twelve Monkeys (1995)

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

Get Shorty (1995), Out of Sight (1998), Minority Report (2002), Logan (2017)

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

1941 (1979), Used Cars (1980), Back to the Future (1985), Back to the Future Part II (1989), Back to the Future Part III (1990)

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

Scooby Doo (2002), Dawn of the Dead (2004), Slither (2006), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

12
M. Night Shyamalan is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Screenwriters Of All-Time, Ranked

The Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2000), Signs (2002), Split (2016), Glass (2019)

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

Won 2 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)

14
Quentin Tarantino is listed (or ranked) 14 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).

 

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

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

16
Charlie Kaufman is listed (or ranked) 16 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). 

17
Woody Allen is listed (or ranked) 17 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).

18
Robert Towne is listed (or ranked) 18 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)

19
Paul Schrader is listed (or ranked) 19 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)

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

Splash (1984), Parenthood (1989), City Slickers (1991), A League of Their Own (1992)

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

The Brothers McMullen (1995), She's the One (1996), Sidewalks of New York (2001), The Fitzgerald Family Christmas (2012)

22
Francis Ford Coppola is listed (or ranked) 22 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). 

23
Paul Thomas Anderson is listed (or ranked) 23 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)

24
Ernest Lehman is listed (or ranked) 24 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)

25
Aaron Sorkin is listed (or ranked) 25 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)