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The Scripts that Shook Theaters: Oscars 2023 Nominees

By David Young · March 13, 2023

The Scripts that Shook Theaters — Oscar 2023 Nominees_featured

Every year, we take a moment to think about the movies that truly moved us — and some of them are big players in the game. With the Oscars 2023 officially in the books, we have many major films to discuss.

Even though these movies often are nominated for categories like best acting, best score, best editing, and so on, it all starts with the script. The best screenplays of 2023, the stories that shook theaters to their core all year, are listed here. See the Oscars 2023 nominees for best adapted and original screenplays, and read them to learn a little bit more about how each one resonated with the audiences of today.

Scripts from this Article


Best Adapted Screenplay (Kazuo Ishiguro, Akira Kurosawa)

It takes a lot out of you to do the same thing every day and live a lonely life. It takes even more out of you when you learn you’ve got terminal cancer — but if you’re Mr. Rodney Williams, you take it as a license to shrug off certain burdens or take matters into your own hands. That course of action starts to look different to him as he spends more time with others, and soon, he makes an impact through his remaining days that he would never have imagined.

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Everything​​ Everywhere All At Once

Best Original Screenplay (Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert)

The sands of time, the struggle of taxes, and the possibilities that could have been all surround a Chinese immigrant woman who grapples with her own reality. Evelyn, the owner of a laundromat and dealing with the stressors of life in full swing, encounters an IRS inspector. She is then flung unexpectedly into a conflict across alternate universes, brought into several alternate lives of her own in an attempt to stop her reality-bending daughter from another universe. Only through her absurdist journey — into other realities, into other selves, and inward — can Evelyn stop the end of everything as she knows it.

As many anticipated (and really, really hoped), the Daniels ended up taking home the gold for their script at Oscars 2023.

Read More: 8 Lessons the Daniels Can Teach You about Writing Absurd and Moving Stories

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Top Gun: Maverick

Best Adapted Screenplay (Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, Christopher McQuarrie)

Maverick has kept himself at the top of his game long enough, but his bad behavior catches up with him. His skill as a Navy fighter pilot goes to use training at the Top Gun school, and his goal is to prepare them for a mission that could spell the end of them. Maverick’s life begins to take on a lot more than reckless rushes into danger and debonair, though — especially with his past starting to chase him and the lives of his students at stake.

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The Banshees of Inisherin

Best Original Screenplay (Martin McDonagh)

The drastic measures people take to change their lives can take many forms. In the case of Colm, he’s ready to end a lifelong friendship for good, all because he wants a more exciting life on the little island of Inisherin. He’s so ready to cut ties with Pádraic that he insists the two can’t speak, or he’ll cut off his own fingers. As life gets in the way, though, both Colm and Pádraic realize cutting each other out of their lives isn’t as simple as it sounds.

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Women Talking

Best Adapted Screenplay (Sarah Polley, Miriam Toews)

Polley and Toews script won Best Adapted Screenplay at Oscars 2023, and for good reason!

After discovering themselves victims of a violent tradition in their isolated community, eleven Mennonite women vote about what to do with their new knowledge. When the group comes to an impasse about whether to leave or to stay and fight the powers that be, it comes down to choices that challenge their values as a society — forgiving and forgetting the sedation and rape that’s been or taking action, so it never happens again.

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Triangle of Sadness

Best Original Screenplay (Ruben Östlund)

When an influencer and a fashion model get together, it’s not love at first sight — but they try to make sparks fly with a luxury cruise. Unfortunately, the rich and famous make for bad company, especially when pirates attack and leave everyone to fend for themselves. As society takes on a whole new meaning, the dynamics between the few people left on an island become murkier and murkier.

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Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Best Adapted Screenplay (Rian Johnson)

A billionaire hosts a game at his opulent, isolated home in Greece, where detective Benoit Blanc and several other guests discover that murder is actually afoot, and some fall victim soon after the game is solved. As everyone starts to fear for their lives, Benoit is certain that death may threaten the host himself and perhaps even his greatest innovation yet.

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The Fabelmans

Best Original Screenplay (Steven Spielberg, Tony Kushner)

Sammy Fabelman discovers his love of film, and his family entertains his hobby until it becomes a huge part of him. He soon must juggle this life with growing pains, family turmoil, and even secrets that could ruin his world. As he takes to filmmaking, it becomes his ground to reality in many ways — far exceeding the expectation of a mere hobby and blossoming as a real skill set with experiences he gains through his youth.

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Read More: Close Encounters with Greatness: Steven Spielberg’s Lifetime of Achievements

All Quiet on the Western Front

Best Adapted Screenplay (Ian Stokell, Lesley Paterson, Edward Berger)

The dangers of war became a romantic calling card to many soldiers in World War I, and Paul is no different. Motivated by ideas of honor, courage, and German messaging, he and his compatriots witness the loss of their comrade and find themselves thrust into a bleak reality as they gear up to battle the French prior to any chance of Armistice negotiations. This imbues certain choices with an indelible gravity.

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Best Original Screenplay (Todd Field)

As she prepares to make more waves in classical music with a recording of her own, Lydia Tár starts to feel strain everywhere. Her relationships soon suffer, and suddenly factors like reputation, identity, sex, and death all seem to unwind her in a way. Lydia’s actions distance her further from others — and from reality — until the resounding impacts crash all around her, and she’s forced to pick up the pieces.

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Film is meant to change us, and it can do exactly that — but it needs the right story first. That’s where the best screenplays come in. It’s time to recognize what stories have really impacted our year. By revisiting each of the films above, you can start to learn what makes those screenplays stand out from the rest. And if you want to stand out, too, that’s a fantastic place to start. Which screenplay from our roundup do you think will win an award at the Oscars 2023?

Read More: And the Oscar Winners Were…

Scripts from this Article