Top 5 Scripts Every Screenwriter Has to Read

By May 19, 2021Blogs, Free Download

Aside from writing, reading scripts is one of the quickest ways that a screenwriter can improve their craft.

A great exercise that screenwriters can try is getting their hands on some great screenplays, then watching the films afterward to get an idea of what to write and how it translates on screen. (Sometimes watching the film alone can be too immersive to analyze!)

We have put together a list of 5 screenplays that we believe are most likely to teach you the most about what great scripts consist of, such as a solid, engaging story, natural dialogue, and multi-dimensional characters. Enjoy!

Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction

‘Pulp Fiction’

Synopsis

Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) are hitmen with a penchant for philosophical discussions. In this ultra-hip, multi-strand crime movie, their storyline is interwoven with those of their boss, gangster Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) ; his actress wife, Mia (Uma Thurman) ; struggling boxer Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) ; master fixer Winston Wolfe (Harvey Keitel) and a nervous pair of armed robbers, “Pumpkin” (Tim Roth) and “Honey Bunny” (Amanda Plummer).

Script Strengths

  • Great characters.
  • Good dialogue.
  • Unique structure.
  • Multi-narrative.
  • Great contrast and mix of genres.
Download the script!

The Godfather

The Godfather

‘The Godfather’

Synopsis

The compelling sequel to “The Godfather,” contrasting the life of Corleone father and son. Traces the problems of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in 1958 and that of a young immigrant Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) in 1917’s Hell’s Kitchen. Michael survives many misfortunes and Vito is introduced to a life of crime.

Script Strengths

  • Great setting.
  • Strong themes.
  • Strong characters.
  • Strong story.
Download the script!

American Beauty

American Beauty

‘American Beauty’

Synopsis

A telesales operative becomes disillusioned with his existence and begins to hunger for fresh excitement in his life. As he experiences a new awakening of the senses, his wife and daughter also undergo changes that seriously affect their family. Critically acclaimed, this film won Oscars for Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Film.

Script Strengths

  • Well-developed lead protagonist.
  • Strong theme.
  • Great contrast of humor and tragedy.
Download the script!

Whiplash

Whiplash

‘Whiplash’

Synopsis

Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is an ambitious young jazz drummer, in pursuit of rising to the top of his elite music conservatory. Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), an instructor known for his terrifying teaching methods, discovers Andrew and transfers the aspiring drummer into the top jazz ensemble, forever changing the young man’s life. But Andrew’s passion to achieve perfection quickly spirals into obsession, as his ruthless teacher pushes him to the brink of his ability and his sanity.

Script Strengths

  • Strong character desire.
  • Good use of visual storytelling (minimal dialogue).
  • Great contrast and mix of genres.
Download the script!

Chinatown

Chinatown

‘Chinatown’

Synopsis

When Los Angeles private eye J.J. “Jake” Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is hired by Evelyn Mulwray to investigate her husband’s activities, he believes it’s a routine infidelity case. Jake’s investigation soon becomes anything but routine when he meets the real Mrs. Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) and realizes he was hired by an imposter. Mr. Mulwray’s sudden death sets Gittes on a tangled trail of corruption, deceit and sinister family secrets as Evelyn’s father (John Huston) becomes a suspect in the case.

Script Strengths

  • Great story.
  • Good dialogue.
Download the script!

What to Look Out for When Reading Screenplays

There are many facets to a great script which screenwriters should always be cognizant of when reading. A lot of the time, great screenplays have many common traits that can set it apart from the others, most notably being; characters, character desire, story, theme, dialogue, conflict and the antagonistic force.

Applying This Knowledge in Your Screenplays

After analyzing other scripts, it’s important to implement certain traits in your own script that you enjoyed reading/watching. This isn’t copying either, structure and techniques are solidified into history and have been used since Aristotle wrote Poetics (in 330BC)!

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after reading these scripts:

The Script Lab 2021 Screenplay Contest is now open and 100% FREE TO ENTER! Regular Deadline ends May 31st.


Alex Edge has worked for companies such as MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central. His roles and specialties in these companies lie in production and script consultancy. He currently works at Screenwriters Network as a director. Reading and writing scripts whenever he can!

Alex Edge

Author Alex Edge

Alex has worked for companies such as MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central. His roles and specialties in these companies lie in production and script consultancy. He has also had his scripts produced, including a feature-length; Fear of Fear.

More posts by Alex Edge