Oscar Nominations for Screenwriting Loom

By Michael Patterson · January 7, 2020

Oscar nominations are set to be announced on January 13th with the awards ceremony itself on Feb. 9th.  With nomination morning bearing down on us, here is a look at the 24 screenplays (a dozen listed for each category) that are the most likely to be nominated next week.  I have also included my best guess at which scripts will be honored with the nominations.


 (in alphabetical order)

1917  – Written by Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns.

A first feature film script for both.  Both Mendes and Wilson-Cairns worked on Showtime’s Penny Dreadful – Mendes producing and Wilson-Cairns writing. Mendes is an Oscar winner for Best Direction for 1999’s American Beauty.  He also directed Road to Perdition, Revolutionary Road and the last two Bond films – Spectre and Skyfall. The script has been WGA nominated.

Bombshell – Written by Charles Randolph.

Randolph comes to Bombshell after winning the Oscar for Adapted Screenplay four years back with The Big Short. Randolph also wrote Love and Other Drugs as well as The Interpreter.

Booksmart – Four writers are credited.

In 2009, the original version of this script was written by Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins and landed on The Black List. Susanna Fogel took a stab at it in 2015 and then, finally, in 2017 the fourth credited writer, Katie Silberman was added. The WGA nominated it for Best Original Screenplay.

Download the screenplay for BOOKSMART here for free.

Dolemite Is My Name – Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski penned this vehicle that has provided a huge comeback for comedic legend Eddie Murphy.

The duo also collaborated on 1996’s The People vs. Larry Flynt which won the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay.  They also wrote Tim Burton’s Ed Wood.

The Farewell – Lulu Wang wrote and directed this reminiscence based on her own family experiences.

Wang’s second feature film was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes.

Download the screenplay for THE FAREWELL here for free.

Ford v. Ferrari – The script for FvF comes from three writers: Brothers Jez and John Henry Butterworth and Jason Keller.

Jez Butterworth has scripted Black Mass and Spectre and along with his brother wrote the Edge of Tomorrow script. Jason Keller, who wrote Machine Gun Preacher and A Good Day to Die Hard, had been working on the FvF script for a decade.

Honey Boy – Actor Shia LaBeouf wrote the script based on his own life and then plays his own father in the film.

It’s LaBeouf’s first produced feature screenplay and played well at Sundance last year.

Knives Out – Writer/director Rian Johnson’s throwback murder mystery has performed well as his interim piece between Star Wars’ assignments.

Johnson also wrote and directed the sci-fi classic Looper. The screenplay has been nominated by the Writers Guild.

Download the screenplay for KNIVES OUT here for free.

Marriage Story – Writer/director Noah Baumbach’s detailing of a couple’s marriage devolving into divorce and what it costs has been widely lauded winning the Los Angeles Film Critics Association’s award for the year’s Best Screenplay as well as earning a Golden Globe nomination.

Baumbach was previously Oscar-nominated for writing The Squid and the Whale. Baumbach was also nominated by the WGA for Best Original Screenplay on Monday.

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood – Quentin Tarantino’s meditation on 60’s Hollywood has been rapturously received since its debut last July. 

The New York Film Critics Circle named the script the best of the year and it won this year’s Golden Globe for Best Screenplay just days ago.  Tarantino is a two-time Oscar winner for Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained. He was also nominated for Inglorious Basterds.

Parasite – Bong Joon-ho’s sensation that casts a keen eye on class distinctions is the faraway leader to win the Best International Film Oscar but additionally, it is a real Best Picture player.

As such, it also is a very serious contender for Best Original Screenplay (for my money, it and Marriage Story are the best-written scripts on this list). Bong is also the creator behind Okja, Memories of Murder and Snowpiercer. Bong’s co-writer is Jin Wan Han who also served as Bong’s assistant director on Okja. The two were nominated for the screenplay Golden Globe as well as by the WGA.

Uncut Gems – Writers/directors Josh and Benny Safdie’s crazed look at a gambling addict played with gusto by Adam Sandler.

 The script was named best of the year by the National Board of Review. The Safdie’s previous work includes Good Time.

Download the screenplay for UNCUT GEMS here for free.

My estimation of the Oscar nomination chances for these 12 scripts:

  1. Marriage Story
  2. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
  3. Parasite
  4. The Farewell
  5. Knives Out
  6. 1917
  7. Uncut Gems
  8. Dolemite Is My Name
  9. Bombshell
  10. Ford v. Ferrari
  11. Booksmart
  12. Honey Boy


A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – Writers Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster’s script based on journalist Tom Junod’s relationship with Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood fame.

The two writers collaborated on the screenplay for Maleficent: Mistress of Evil as well as the Amazon Studios series Transparent for which they were nominated (as producers) for a Primetime Emmy. The script was just nominated as Best Adapted Screenplay by the Writers Guild.

Dark Waters – Matthew Michael Carnahan and Mario Correa adapt Nathaniel Rich’s New York Times Magazine article about a corporate defense attorney who switches to arguing for the plaintiffs in a case against DuPont.

Carnahan’s previous feature scripts include 21 Bridges, State of Play and Lions for Lambs. Dark Waters is Correa’s first feature script. Dark Waters has been nominated for the USC Scripter Award for Best Adapted Screenplay of the Year.

Hustlers – Director Lorene Scafaria adapts Jessica Pressler’s New York Magazine article “The Hustlers at Scores”. 

The article details the story of a group of strippers who join forces to get back at their Wall Street clients. Scarfaria’s previous credits include Seeking a Friend for the End of the World – which she also directed – and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.

Download the screenplay for HUSTLERS here for free.

The Irishman – Steven Zaillian’s adaptation of the Charles Brandt’s I Hear You Paint Houses.

It’s the biography of mob button man Frank Sheeran. Zaillian is among the most successful screenwriters on the planet with an Oscar win for Schindler’s List. Zaillian was also nominated for Awakenings, Gangs of New York and Moneyball. The Irishman’s script was Golden Globe-nominated, WGA-nominated as well being a USC Scripter nominee and was named the Best Adapted Screenplay of the Year by the National Board of Review.

Jojo Rabbit – Adapted by its director Taika Waititi who may be the hottest commodity in Hollywood these days.

Waititi describes the film as an “anti-hate satire”. Jojo is a USC Scripter finalist as well as a WGA Best Adapted Screenplay nominee. Waititi has an Oscar nomination to his credit for his short Two Cars, One Night.

Download the screenplay for JOJO RABBIT here for free.

Joker – Director Todd Phillips co-wrote this screenplay with Scott Silver with their own spin on the origin story of the classic comic villain the Joker.

Phillips was Oscar-nominated back in 2006 for the script to Borat: Cultural Learnings of America to Make Benefit the Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.  Silver was Oscar-nominated for his writer on David O. Russell’s The Fighter.  The script earned a nod from the WGA earlier this week.

Download the screenplay for JOKER here for free.

Judy – Written by Tom Edge is a look at the life and times of Hollywood legend Judy Garfield and features Renee Zellweger in the title role.

Zellweger just won a Golden Globe for her performance and is widely regarded as the Oscar frontrunner for Best Actress. Edge is best known as a television writer with great success writing for The Crown for which he was WGA-nominated.

Just Mercy – Written by Andrew Lanham and director Destin Daniel Cretton.

The film focuses on the true story of a wrongly convicted death row inmate and the attorney who strives to free him. Cretton is perhaps best known for his work on Short Term 12. Lanham has previously collaborated with Cretton on the features The Glass Castle and The Shack.

Little Women – Greta Gerwig wrote and directed this latest take on the Louisa May Alcott classic.

Gerwig was previously Oscar-nominated for writing and directing Lady Bird.  Little Women’s script has been nominated for the USC Scripter Award as well as the Writers Guild Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Download the screenplay for LITTLE WOMEN here for free.

Motherless Brooklyn – Three-time Oscar-nominated actor Edward Norton (Primal Fear, American History X and Birdman) takes his first stab as a screenwriter

He adapts the novel by Jonathan Lethem that centers on power and corruption in New York City.

Richard Jewell – Billy Ray writes the script about the life of the security guard who was wrongly accused of the Atlanta Olympic bombing in 1996.

Ray was previously Oscar-nominated for the writing of Captain Phillips. Ray’s credits also include Shattered Glass, Breach and State of Play.

The Two Popes – Writer Anthony McCarten has become red hot as a result of penning the screenplays for The Theory of Everything, Darkest Hour and Bohemian Rhapsody which resulted in Best Actor Oscar wins for each film.

McCarten himself was an Oscar nominee as a producer for Best Film for The Theory of Everything. The Two Popes is a USC Scripter nominee and was a Golden Globe nominee.

My assessment of this field for Oscar nominations:

  1. The Irishman
  2. Jojo Rabbit
  3. The Two Popes
  4. Little Women
  5. Joker
  6. Hustlers
  7. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  8. Just Mercy
  9. Richard Jewell
  10. Dark Waters
  11. Judy
  12. Motherless Brooklyn

We’ll see how this all plays out when Oscar nominations are announced on the morning of Jan. 13th.

Michael Patterson has published Michael’s Telluride Film Blog since 2008.  He has also previously written for this ScreenCraft/ScriptLab as well as The Playlist.  Again this year, he is acting as one of The Gurus of Gold, the Oscar experts group published by The Movie City News. He is currently working on his third screenplay.

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