While You Enjoy Thanksgiving…
Let us give thanks to the writers and filmmakers who have entertained us and expanded our minds. Here are some of my favorite films!
Jaden’s Top 13 Best Movie Scripts
CLICK on any TITLE below to read the script. They are in alphabetical order. For multiple viewing and DVD extras, I highly recommend purchasing these movies.
Written by Guillaume Laurant and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (director)
FRENCH COMEDY ROMANCE Audrey Tautou stars as yummy sweet Amélie. Due to a misunderstanding of health as a child, Amélie becomes a sheltered lonely girl who creates a fantasy world in her mind. When she grows up and moves out into the real world, she hankers to do good deeds and watch people from afar as they illuminate with joy. A photo-booth mystery leads her to her own happy ending. The rich colors, storybook narration, and bitter sweet music of Amélie inspires the best of pianists, artists, and dreamers.
Written by Robert Towne and Roman Polanski (director)
RETRO CRIME MYSTERY that takes place in 1937 Los Angeles, Chinatown is by far and away one of the THE BEST scripts of all time. Chinatown is an elusive detective story with no dead ends, only dead people. The script leads you down one logical path to the next and when you think you are almost out of the labyrinth, you find yourself deeper in the convoluted black heart of Chinatown. Starring wacky Jack Nicholson and stunner Faye Dunaway, these amazing actors with director Roman Polanski transport the script into the land of legends. If you want to be a great writer (or actor), study every back alley and sidewalk of this script.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Written by Anthony Burgess (novel) and Stanley Kubrick (director)
FUTURISTIC CRIME SHENANIGANS, A Clockwork Orange stars goofy weird Malcolm McDowell as the funny freak hooligan. Even though this story is over 40 years old, its future, which is our now, still holds plausible as it explores the psychology of crime and punishment on youth. Milk Bar? What a thing, a Milk Bar. The language of the book is unique and hilarious, using Russian words like Droogs for his gang of friends. Shocking and disturbing, A Clockwork Orange scrutinizes society and scoffs at its procedures in a most visually dramatic Kubrickian way.
Donnie Darko (2001)
Written by Richard Kelly (director)
PSYCHOLOGICAL DRAMA MYSTERY, Donnie Darko is a nightmarish movie in the vein of David Lynch movies. We don’t know if Jake Gyllenhaal’s character Donnie is supernatural or super crazy. I like movies that leave you guessing, movies with powerful surreal dreamlike images that give you space to interpret your own story. The story ambiguity makes Donnie Darko art.
Written by Ethan Coen & Joel Coen (directors)
CRIME DRAMA COMEDY, Frances McDormand plays small town police woman detective Marge Gunderson. A murder crime spree happens to fall in her jurisdiction, which sets her on a dangerous trail of violent criminals. The Fargo script, in a delicate manner, reflects on the absurdity of our regular lives as we interact with our loved ones and strangers. One funny contrast is made when the humble pregnant fearless Marge comes home to her self-absorbed husband who talks of his own achievements, that although impressive, seem silly in comparison to her day.
Written by Nicholas Pileggi (book Wiseguy) and Martin Scorsese (director)
GANGSTER MOBSTER MOVIE Goodfellas is lead by tough sexy actor Ray Liotta and stars other classic gangster actors Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Paul Sorvino. Goodfellas is my favorite gangster movie because it feels the most personal and real. There’s a great love story and telling of the rise in the ranks. I love the dialog, the delivery, the story arch, the fear and the fun; all of it really works for me.
Groundhog Day (1993)
Written by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis (director)
FANTASY ROMANTIC COMEDY, Bill Murray plays Phil the weatherman who can’t escape this day. Everyday he wakes up, he is back in the same day as yesterday. When you hear people say “It’s like Groundhog Day,” they are referencing this movie. This is the kind of story meant to teach you about changing your negative attitude into a positive one, otherwise, you and your bad attitude may be stuck in a worst case scenario forever! Once you change your attitude, you can start to enjoy life again, even if it is the same day over and over again.
Written by Mike Judge (director) & E. Cohen
COMEDY SCIENCE FICTION Luke Wilson’s military character Joe is wholly average when he is frozen and forgotten. When he reemerges in the future, by chance, he is the smartest person on earth. The Idiocracy script takes us down the path of a dumbed-down civilization. As each year goes by since 2006, this fiction movie creeps closer and closer to our frightening reality. When the movie came out less than a decade ago, certain things were totally absurd, and now they are real and commonplace. Mike Judge saw where society was and is heading, and folks, it is scary! This is one of my top 5 favorite scripts of all time for its comic clairvoyance into our potentially bleak future. As this movie had no marketing, it made very little money and not too many people have seen it. For being one of the best movies of all time, it is never too late to show your support and buy it!
The Jerk (1979)
Written by Steve Martin, Carl Gottlieb & Michael Elias; Directed by Carl Reiner
RAGS TO RICHES COMEDY Steve Martin is one of the funniest comedians of all time and this is one of his funniest movies. Using naivety, the script explores many facets of humanity and society in a laughable and poignant way. Steve as Navin the idiot is adopted and raised by a Black family who treat him kindly with respect and prepare him for the cold cruel world where nothing is too absurd to happen. With dumb luck, he strikes it rich and falls in love, but riches and love of course come with downfalls.
Mad Max (1979)
Written by James McCausland, George Miller (director), & Byron Kennedy (uncredited)
DYSTOPIC ACTION SUSPENSE The dark rough and tumble rusty style of Mad Max has influenced fashion, motorcycle, and car cultures around the world. In his most beloved role, Mel Gibson plays vengeful Mad Max, a cop whose wife and child are murdered by outlaws. A movie like this could be cheesy after all these years, but not only is it still cool, it still influences modern trends, novels, and movies. It is a powerful simple script of action and revenge on the move. The conflict between good and evil provides a strong base for this movie. The serious acting, wardrobe, and set production choices enable Mad Max to endure the rapid fire of cultural change. The Mad Max sequels are fun, but this first film is the favorite among fans. We are all looking forward to George Miller’s new Mad Max Fury Road coming out 2013, 34 years later! Max will be played by Tom Hardy.
The Matrix (1999)
Written by Andy & L. Wachowski (directors)
MINDCRACKING SCIENCE FICTION More movie clichés have been born out of The Matrix than any other movie ever, that’s how unique it was when it came out. There is the multi-camera slow-mo shot. The bullet dodge. There is the signature jump-landing with one hand on the ground that is used in pretty much every sci-fi action fantasy movie to follow. Green dripping computer code. Plugging into your brain. Downloading languages or skills to your brain. Humans harvested and kept appeased in a dream state. People so believe in The Matrix, that trench-coat gun-wielding copycats set out to massacre in our real world. The Matrix changed everything! The Matrix draws into question reality itself. What is real? Are we just food? A power source? What are we? What is reality? The many questions put forth by The Matrix are now a part of our culture, but at the time this movie came out, every thought and action was shocking. Everyone who left the theater that year was a changed person. The Matrix script changed the world and changed our perception of it. Action packed, laden with deep thoughts, and exploding with new motion picture technology, you couldn’t ask for more out of a movie. No script has changed cinema and philosophy as much as The Matrix did.
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Written by Waldo Salt (screenplay) & James Leo Herlihy (novel); Directed by John Schlesinger
HUSTLER BUDDY DRAMA Hick Joe Buck, played by Mr.Papa Jolie Jon Voight, leaves his small town to be a gigolo in New York City. He thinks he is all that and then some. Come to find out, the big city ladies think he is rather ridiculous, but sort of cute. Making money is not as easy as he thought it would be. Ratso (Dustin Hoffman) is a dirty metropolitan varmint trying to survive. Through their struggles, they grow a bond out of need. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there were a lot of interesting and odd scripts that explored sexuality. This one is sad and funny. A touching movie, in more ways than one, Midnight Cowboy makes you have sympathy for those you may otherwise loathe. With intense moments throughout, the ending gets me every time.
The Shining (1980)
Written by Stephen King (novel), Stanley Kubrick (screenplay/director) & Diane Johnson (screenplay)
SUPERNATURAL HORROR SUSPENSE Writer/Director Stanley Kubrick is my favorite filmmaker. I first saw The Shining when I was 9 years old (way too young — yes). At that age, I was really into being scared and watched lots of horror movies. Like many kids, I loved campfire ghost stories, and The Shining is a great one. It starts out with an arial view of the gorgeous mountains and winding road. Ominous music sets the tone. Creepy dad Jack Nicholson tells the Donner Party cannibalism story. Being a kid myself, I identified with this poor kid being dragged out to a freaky old hotel with his parents for the winter, which alone is enough to terrify any child. Then there are ghosts and horrific visions and Mom and Dad are going crazy. As an adult and a writer, I later related to different aspects of the story. A multi-layered script, The Shining touches upon many things adults and children go through. The book is said to be inspired by Stephen King’s own family and writing problems. The hint of reincarnation or possession when Jack goes to the bar to chitchat with some ghosts is my favorite part. The movie feels slow moving, but a lot happens without words, and that my friends is The Shining.
Click on the TITLES above to see the movie script. Please let me know if any links do not work.
This list of Best Scripts here will give you a healthy start to learning about excellent screenwriting.
What are your favorite scripts and why?
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