Mental Floss
ENTERTAINMENT

The 50 Best Screenplays of the 21st Century, According to the WGA

Ellen Gutoskey
Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out (2017).
Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out (2017). / Universal Pictures
facebooktwitterreddit

Whether it’s sowing suspense, eliciting laughter, or causing you to contemplate life’s big questions, a great screenplay is often the key to a great movie. Over the last two decades, film buffs have been blessed with more than a few unforgettable ones.

As Deadline reports, members of the Writers Guild of America—both West and East—recently voted for their favorite scripts from the 21st century so far and compiled the top 101 entries into one mammoth list.

The blue ribbon went to Jordan Peele for his twisty allegorical horror movie Get Out (2017). Peele also earned the 2018 Best Original Screenplay Oscar for his work, making him the first Black screenwriter ever to win the award. Rounding out the top three were Charlie Kaufman for 2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Aaron Sorkin for 2010’s The Social Network—just edging out 2019’s Parasite, written by Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won, which made all sorts of Oscar history in 2020.

A cursory glance at the top 50 reveals many of Hollywood’s most famous auteur, including Paul Thomas Anderson, the Coen brothers, Sofia Coppola, Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, Greta Gerwig, David Lynch, etc. Christopher Nolan’s penchant for creating especially confusing movies didn’t hold him back from praise at all; three of his screenplays made the top 50, including 2000’s Memento (based on his brother Jonathan Nolan’s short story), 2008’s The Dark Knight (co-written with Jonathan), and 2010’s Inception (which, each month, prompts an average of 80,090 people to ask the internet to explain the movie to them).

The list also reveals that Pixar isn’t just an industry leader in animation—it produces first-rate screenplays, too. An impressive five Pixar flicks made the top 50: The Incredibles (2004), WALL-E (2008), Up (2009), Toy Story 3 (2010), and Inside Out (2015).

A couple notable Saturday Night Live alums also got their due. Kristen Wiig’s Bridesmaids (2010), co-written with Annie Mumolo, took the 12th spot; and Tina Fey’s 2004 teen classic Mean Girls came in 34th place.

See the top 50 below, and check out the WGA’s full list of 101 screenplays here.

  1. Get Out (2017) // Jordan Peele
  2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) // Charlie Kaufman
  3. The Social Network (2010) // Aaron Sorkin
  4. Parasite (2019) // Bong Joon Ho, Han Jin Won
  5. No Country for Old Men (2007) // Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  6. Moonlight (2016) // Barry Jenkins
  7. There Will Be Blood (2007) // Paul Thomas Anderson
  8. Inglourious Basterds (2009) // Quentin Tarantino
  9. Almost Famous (2000) // Cameron Crowe
  10. Memento (2000) // Christopher Nolan
  11. Adaptation (2002) // Charlie Kaufman, Donald Kaufman
  12. Bridesmaids (2011) // Annie Mumolo, Kristen Wiig
  13. Brokeback Mountain (2005) // Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana
  14. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) // Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson
  15. Sideways (2004) // Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
  16. Lady Bird (2017) // Greta Gerwig
  17. Her (2013) // Spike Jonze
  18. Children of Men (2006) // Alfonso Cuarón, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby
  19. Lost in Translation (2003) // Sofia Coppola
  20. Michael Clayton (2007) // Tony Gilroy
  21. Little Miss Sunshine (2006) // Michael Arndt
  22. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) // Quentin Tarantino
  23. Promising Young Woman (2019) // Emerald Fennell
  24. Juno (2007) // Diablo Cody
  25. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) // Wes Anderson
  26. The Dark Knight (2008) // Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
  27. Arrival (2016) // Eric Heisserer
  28. Jojo Rabbit (2019) // Taika Waititi
  29. Inside Out (2015) // Meg LeFauve
  30. The Departed (2006) // William Monahan
  31. Spotlight (2015) // Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy
  32. Whiplash (2014) // Damien Chazelle
  33. Up (2009) // Bob Peterson, Pete Docter
  34. Mean Girls (2004) // Tina Fey
  35. WALL-E (2008) // Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon
  36. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) // Guillermo del Toro
  37. Inception (2010) // Christopher Nolan
  38. Slumdog Millionaire (2008) // Simon Beaufoy
  39. Before Sunset (2004) // Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
  40. In Bruges (2008) // Martin McDonagh
  41. Mulholland Dr. (2001) // David Lynch
  42. A Serious Man (2009) // Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  43. Amélie (2001) // Guillaume Laurant, Jean-Pierre Jeunet
  44. Toy Story 3 (2010) // Michael Arndt
  45. The Favourite (2018) // Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara
  46. Zodiac (2007) // James Vanderbilt
  47. Gladiator (2000) // David Franzoni, John Logan, William Nicholson
  48. The Incredibles (2004) // Brad Bird
  49. Knives Out (2019) // Rian Johnson
  50. Ex Machina (2015) // Alex Garland
facebooktwitterreddit