Ten Screenplays to Read for Inspiration (Whatever Your Genre)

This is by no means a full list, but it’s a start.


If you’re writing Action…


10. Die Hard

A sense of urgency is one of the hardest elements to convey in a screenplay, but Die Hard does it with gusto. It’s also an amazing character piece with elements of drama, family strife, and self sacrifice.




If you’re writing Science Fiction…



9. The Thing

Science Fiction is always an exploration of the unknown so it’s not surprising The Thing has such a vague title. Even if you’ve seen the movie, the words on the page will make you jump.




If you’re writing a Western…


8. Unforgiven

No film better exemplifies that the Western genre isn’t just landscapes and period dress. Unforgiven is a poignant look into the psyche of an aging gunslinger with one last score to settle.



If you’re writing Suspense…


7. Rear Window

Rear Window’s script oozes suspense, giving its pro-active protagonist a broken leg before the story even begins. This is a gamble that might not have paid off, but here it’s done to perfection.



If you’re writing Noir…


6. Chinatown

If you haven’t read this seminal piece of film history, take an hour or two. The script is as good as the movie, and that’s saying something.



If you’re writing Action Adventure…


5. Raiders of The Lost Ark

There are few reading experiences more thrilling than Raiders of The Lost Ark. This exciting revival of pulp serials from the 1930’s is now lauded as perhaps the greatest film of all time.



If you’re writing Adventure Comedy…


4. Back to The Future

Highly original and hilarious, Back to the Future raised the bar for comedies and films about time travel. The screenplay is no less impressive.



If you’re writing Horror…


3. Jaws

Jaws is a slasher movie set in the ocean and it’s written that way. From its haunting first scene to its thrilling climax, Jaws is a screenplay that never lets go.



If you’re writing War…


2. Apocalypse Now

Loved by hawks and doves alike, Apocalypse Now is a must read regardless of your feelings about combat. The screenplay is noticeably different than the final cut (Coppola would write on set), but even the working draft is magnificent.



If you’re writing Romance…


1. Casablanca

There’s no finer screenplay to curl up next to someone and read aloud. The story, the characters, the setting– everything is designed to elicit an emotional response. Amazingly, the original draft had a very different ending, but luckily wiser heads prevailed.