Read These 10 Scripts and Become a Better Writer!

Screenwriters Network, January 30, 2021

Reading great screenplays is one of the quickest ways for screenwriters to improve their craft.

Often watching films becomes too immersive at times, that you forget to fully analyse them.

This list is intended to expand your creative scope, consisting of unique films that you can read to increase the breadth of your knowledge.

Each script on this list is entirely different from the next as to give you an idea of what can be done and how it can be done. Creativity is boundless and innovation is what you should aim for. If you can bring a new and fresh perspective to cinema as these films did, you’ll go down as a living legend (there’s nothing stopping you)!

I have included the short synopsis’ of each film so if you don’t read the full scripts, you can get a feel for the themes, concepts and messages that are being conveyed (if any). Some films are less concept based but are still great, relying mainly on characters, conflict and dialogue; you’ll have to read them to learn this however.

1) American Beauty (IMDb)

Photograph: Allstar/DREAMWORKS/Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar

A sexually frustrated suburban father has a mid-life crisis after becoming infatuated with his daughter’s best friend.

GENRE: COMEDY/DRAMA

Script/Film strengths:

  • Characters
  • Acting: Translation to Screen
  • Comedic Relief
  • Socially Relatable
  • Theme
  • Controversy

 

American Beauty

2) Pulp Fiction (IMDb)

(Photo: Miramax)

The lives of two mob hitmen, a boxer, a gangster and his wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.

GENRE: COMEDY/CRIME

Script strengths:

  • Characters
  • Dialogue
  • Comedic Relief
  • Scene Conflict
  • Multi-Narrative Story
Pulp Fiction

3) Snatch (IMDb)

Unscrupulous boxing promoters, violent bookmakers, a Russian gangster, incompetent amateur robbers and supposedly Jewish jewellers fight to track down a priceless stolen diamond.

GENRE: COMEDY/CRIME

Script strengths:

  • Characters
  • Dialogue
  • Comedic Relief
  • Scene Conflict
  • Multi-Narrative Story
  • Setting
Snatch.pdf

4) The Godfather (IMDb)

Photo: Paramount/Getty Images
The ageing patriarch of an organised crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.

GENRE: GENRE: CRIME/DRAMA

Script strengths:

  • Setting
  • Theme
  • Scene Conflict
  • Characters
The Godfather.pdf

5) Rocky (IMDb)

United Artists/Photofest
A small-time boxer gets a supremely rare chance to fight a heavy-weight champion in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect.

GENRE: SPORT/DRAMA

Script strengths:

  • Character Empathy
  • Theme
  • Motivational
  • Character Transformation
Rocky.pdf

6) Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid (IMDb)

20TH CENTURY FOX

Wyoming, early 1900s. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid are the leaders of a band of outlaws. After a train robbery goes wrong they find themselves on the run with a posse hard on their heels. Their solution – escape to Bolivia.

GENRE: GENRE: WESTERN/DRAMA

Script strengths:

  • Characters
  • Scene Conflict
  • Comedic Relief
  • Climax
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.pdf

7) Django: Unchained (IMDb)

With the help of a German bounty hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.

GENRE: WESTERN/DRAMA

Script strengths:

  • Characters
  • Scene Conflict
  • Dialogue
  • Comedic Relief
  • Historically Relevant
Django Unchained.pdf

8) The Graduate (IMDb)

A disillusioned college graduate finds himself torn between his older lover and her daughter.

GENRE: GENRE: COMEDY/DRAMA

Script strengths:

  • Characters
  • Inner Character Conflict
  • Humour
The Graduate.pdf

9) Annie Hall (IMDb)

UNITED ARTISTS
Neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer falls in love with the ditzy Annie Hall.

GENRE: COMEDY/ROMANCE

Script strengths:

  • Characters
  • Humour
  • Dialogue
  • Socially Relatable
Annie Hall.pdf

10) The Social Network (IMDb)

As Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg creates the social networking site that would become known as Facebook, he is sued by the twins who claimed he stole their idea, and by the co-founder who was later squeezed out of the business.

GENRE: DRAMA/HISTORY

Script strengths:

  • Dialogue
  • High Conflict Scenes
The Social Network.pdf

I can guarantee you, you will become a better writer if you finish reading all of these screenplays. But just to make sure you really get the most out of your learning, you can do the following….

TIP:

Read the whole script and ask yourself what you thought was good about it, and what was not so good? Which scenes stood out to you and why? What bits of dialogue resonated with you? Which characters did you connect with? What did you laugh at?

After you answer these questions, watch the film and enjoy it as an audience member (don’t analyse it too much) and see where your expectation are with the finished piece. One aspect of being a great writer is being able to see in advance what will work on screen and what doesn’t; this exercise will refine and calibrate that skill.

Screenwriting isn’t what works best on paper, it’s just blueprinting for visuals and that should never be forgotten. With this simple technique you can fine-tune your writing – then there’s no stopping you!

What if I haven’t seen the film before? Should I watch it before I read it?

For me, yes and no. I do think it’s important to read a script before you watch a film for the first time as your expectations are COMPLETELY different – it’s fascinating and highly educating. But I would perhaps do it on films you’re less bothered about seeing if you’re a big film fan!

Good luck, and enjoy. If you wish to read more scripts online:

Daily Script – Movie Scripts and Movie Screenplays in proper screen writing format. The Ultimate Screenwriters Resource.

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