“Drama is life with all the dull bits cut out.” -Alfred Hitchcock
One of the best ways to improve your screenwriting is by reading incredible scripts. Dip your toes into the dramatic with these 10 drama screenplays from the last 10 years.
Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin
Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin were able to combine emotion, baseball, complex statistical concepts, and a true story into an Oscar-nominated script. And hey, it doesn’t hurt when Brad Pitt ends up voicing a line like: “How can anybody not be romantic about baseball?” **Chef’s kiss**Download the script!
Silver Linings Playbook
Screenplay by David O. Russell
For an intricately nuanced, emotional screenplay that deftly combines drama and comedy into an uplifting story, look no further than David O. Russell’s screenplay for Silver Linings Playbook. Russell carefully layers subtext into every line of dialogue and scene, and it’s never too over-the-top or on-the-nose.Download the script!
Screenplay by Emma Donoghue
Adapting a screenplay is hard enough, yet Emma Donoghue took on the daunting task of adapting her own novel. In Room, Donoghue effortlessly taps into the point of view of a child, employing voiceover to help with the overall pacing. The screenplay’s structure is held together by an incredible, gripping sequence in the middle — an interesting and successful deviation from typical three-act structure.Download the script!
Screenplay by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer
Romantic-comedies feature journalists all the time, but they’re rarely doing the job itself — tracking down sources, confirming facts, interviewing witnesses, and writing. Spotlight, on the other hand, magnificently highlights the drama and tension embedded in the journalistic process. Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer skillfully display what it’s like to actually do journalistic work, while also depicting the personal, professional, and societal pressures that existed for everyone working on the Boston Globe’s investigation into the Catholic Church.Download the script!
Screenplay by Eric Heisserer
For an example of how to expertly handle complex timelines, voiceover, and a twist ending, check out Eric Heisserer’s screenplay for Arrival. Most impressive is how Heisserer managed to keep the reveal a secret to the readers and the viewers — making the screenplay just as much of a journey as the final film itself.Download the script!
Manchester by the Sea
Screenplay by Kenneth Lonergan
Kenneth Lonergan’s masterful screenplay for Manchester By the Sea is a perfect example of the old writing adage “show, don’t tell.” Nothing is too blatant in the emotionally rich journeys Lee and Patrick take throughout the story, with Lee’s subtle arc culminating in a shocking and beautifully written reveal.Download the script!
The Shape of Water
Screenplay by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor
Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor were able to pull off several impressive tricks with their screenplay for The Shape of Water. Not only does the main character not speak (a challenge in itself), but the story also combines classical dramatic structure with elements of fairy tale and horror reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast and Creature from the Black Lagoon. It does all this, includes voiceover from a minor character, and manages to be a rich period piece.Download the script!
Screenplay by Damien Chazelle
For a script that relies heavily on music and sound that the reader can’t hear, Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash is riveting. In his story about an aspiring concert drummer straining to impress a maniacal conductor, Chazelle conveys tension, establishes the main character’s goal, presents obstacles, and layers in subtext, all the while providing a compelling read.Download the script!
Screenplay by Noah Oppenheim
Anyone who’s been in a romantic relationship knows how much tension can exist during a conversation between two people. Noah Oppenheim pulled off structuring his entire screenplay for Jackie around a conversation between a journalist and Jackie Kennedy in the aftermath of JFK’s assassination, and the flashbacks to Jackie’s memories only add to the drama.Download the script!
Malcolm & Marie
Screenplay by Sam Levinson
Sometimes constraints lead to our best creative work. Sam Levinson took on the challenge of scripting a story that took place in a single place to deal with the restrictions brought on by the pandemic. The result is Malcolm & Marie, a riveting script about a complicated relationship between a former addict and a newly successful filmmaker.Download the script!
Download these screenplays and hundreds more from TSL’s Screenplay Library!
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