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The Best Screenplays In Film 
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Post The Best Screenplays In Film
Of course, people, love to lay down credit for the directors, actors, and even producers of great films, but rarely do screenwriters receive the same recognition. "Chinatown" threads could go for pages without the mention of Robert Towne. Similarly, nobody cares to note just how perfectly tailored 'The Departed' screenplay is (in fact, Jonathan Rosenbaum once said Scorsese largely thrived on screenplay quality - and it's difficult to argue with that, given the evidence).


What are some of the best, tightest, and plain meanest (with 'mean' substituting for 'awesome') screenplays ever written? Who are the best scribes of cinema? And should directors write their own screenplays?


Sat Nov 21, 2009 2:15 pm
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Post Re: The Best Screenplays In Film
From Russia With Love (1963) The best Bond script that depends on the methodical writing and the acting complimented it.


Sat Nov 21, 2009 2:48 pm
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Post Re: The Best Screenplays In Film
Evenflow8112 wrote:
And should directors write their own screenplays?


Well, M. Night Shymalan shouldn't...

That said, in general, I think there are very, very few directors who can write or act in their own stuff and do so well. They tend to be too tied to their idea of the story and sometimes the cinematic element suffers.

So while obviously many have done it well at times, in general I'm not a fan of the writer-director.


Sat Nov 21, 2009 3:24 pm
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Post Re: The Best Screenplays In Film
I fucking *hate* when directors get all the credit for when films are very good and writers get the blame for "bad dialogue" when things don't work out so well. So yeah, I certainly feel that it's preferable when directors pen their own scripts, and a part of me will only elevate directors to the highest pedestal if they're also writers. That's not to say that Kurt Wimmer is a great director because he wrote AND directed Ultraviolet and Equilibrium. But a part of me also holds back on the love for Scorsese (look at Taxi Driver--that's got Paul Schrader's fingerprints all over it) and other such directors because they didn't contribute to a fundamental part of the moviemaking process. But then, Hitchcock is my favorite director...

But as to the best screenplays, I'll trot out two off the top of my head. I'm only considering original work. Chinatown is not included because I can't tell how much of the brilliance is Towne's and how much Polanski's.

Match Point. Woody Allen is a hell of a writer, and upon multiple viewings I'm convinced Match Point is his finest hour. The way the script suggests Chris's utter venality without spelling it out on screen is fantastic, as is the way the movie inexorably moves from drama to thriller. Add in a brilliant meditation on the nature of luck and a "fake-out" moment that's exquisitely presented, and it's truly a magnificent screenplay.
Pulp Fiction Sorry to be cliched, but the way it winds back on itself and its skill in building character through seemingly irrelevant conversations is something to be treasured. It's guilty of spawning a million cheap knockoffs that diminish its cleverness and originality, but it's still a great script, and one I would happily listen to on an Ipod.

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Sat Nov 21, 2009 6:35 pm
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I'm just going to throw out that the best writer of non-screenplays, now and forever will be, is Mike Leigh.

Inglourious Basterds is amazingly well-written movie, regardless of how you feel about it. The dialogue is a combination of French New Wave, classic sparkling Tarantino, and well-written exchanges that ground the realism it's going for. It actually earns its structure (unlike Jackie Brown), a yummy add-on to an already interesting retelling of World War II. Although I think Pulp Fiction is a better film, Inglourious Basterds may edge it out for best writing.

Woody Allen's a fantastic writer of dramedy, which is why Manhattan and Annie Hall work on so many levels. His dramas occasionally break the suspension of disbelief (Math Point, for all of its positives, had this problem) and his comedies occasionally don't make me laugh, to the point of being dreadfully unfunny. Bottom line: his filmography is never anything but consistent.

I've only seen one of his films, but Ramin Bahrani has shown a lot of promise with Goodbye Solo. He writes very interesting characters, puts them in very realistic scenarios, and has them act naturally and never forced. Man Push Cart and Chop Shop seem to exemplify this, too, but I have not seen them so I cannot say.

Wow, so many to choose from. I'll post here again, mark my words!


Sun Nov 22, 2009 1:57 am
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Post Re: The Best Screenplays In Film
Man Push Cart shows a lot of promise, but for much of its length seems pointless. Nothing particularly wrong with the dialogue, though. Chop Shop is an excellent film at all levels, as is Goodbye Solo. Bahrani is very good at developing characters, and his writing's a major reason.

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Sun Nov 22, 2009 1:51 pm
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Post Re: The Best Screenplays In Film
Taxi Driver is 35% the incredible filmmaking of Scorsese and his crew, 35% De Niro's powerhouse performance, and 35% Paul Schrader's script, which--in my humble opinion--might just be the finest screenplay ever written.

Yes, I'm aware that this adds up to 105%. Taxi Driver is too good for arithmetic.


Sun Nov 22, 2009 3:02 pm
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Post Re: The Best Screenplays In Film
Ken--I don't think you can discount Michael Chapman's cinematography. New York *feels* grimy on screen and he deserves some credit.

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Sun Nov 22, 2009 7:13 pm
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Post Re: The Best Screenplays In Film
I have a serious fetish for good dialogue. It's just so damn sexy to the ears. So...virtually anything written by Tarantino, Woody Allen and Billy Wilder immediately comes to mind. Kevin Smith is to me the reverse-Shymalan. Excellent writer (at least he used to be), but not so good as a director. Outside of those I'll nominate:

The Wizard of Oz - I only noticed how good the script really is on a recent re-watch. Superb dialogue, especially from the Wicked Witch.

Casablanca - one of the most quotable movies of all time.

More to follow...


Sun Nov 22, 2009 10:01 pm
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Post Re: The Best Screenplays In Film
corpen11 wrote:
From Russia With Love (1963) The best Bond script that depends on the methodical writing and the acting complimented it.


Watch this movie and tellme the writing wasn't the key for this to be the best Bond films and possibly one of the best movies ever made!!!! :D


Mon Nov 23, 2009 1:04 am
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Post Re: The Best Screenplays In Film
JamesKunz wrote:
I fucking *hate* when directors get all the credit for when films are very good and writers get the blame for "bad dialogue" when things don't work out so well. So yeah, I certainly feel that it's preferable when directors pen their own scripts, and a part of me will only elevate directors to the highest pedestal if they're also writers. That's not to say that Kurt Wimmer is a great director because he wrote AND directed Ultraviolet and Equilibrium. But a part of me also holds back on the love for Scorsese (look at Taxi Driver--that's got Paul Schrader's fingerprints all over it) and other such directors because they didn't contribute to a fundamental part of the moviemaking process. But then, Hitchcock is my favorite director...

But as to the best screenplays, I'll trot out two off the top of my head. I'm only considering original work. Chinatown is not included because I can't tell how much of the brilliance is Towne's and how much Polanski's.

Match Point. Woody Allen is a hell of a writer, and upon multiple viewings I'm convinced Match Point is his finest hour. The way the script suggests Chris's utter venality without spelling it out on screen is fantastic, as is the way the movie inexorably moves from drama to thriller. Add in a brilliant meditation on the nature of luck and a "fake-out" moment that's exquisitely presented, and it's truly a magnificent screenplay.
Pulp Fiction Sorry to be cliched, but the way it winds back on itself and its skill in building character through seemingly irrelevant conversations is something to be treasured. It's guilty of spawning a million cheap knockoffs that diminish its cleverness and originality, but it's still a great script, and one I would happily listen to on an Ipod.


I definitely second Pulp Fiction. That, coupled with Reservoir Dogs, made me realize the impact that a truly well-written script can have on a film. I credit both of these films with breaking my movie cherry (so to speak). L.A Confidential is another film that I consider to have a flawless script. That movie needed every single scene and every single line of dialogue in order to spin it's tale. Even the seemingly inconsequential scenes such as the "Bloody Christmas" one and the aftermath scene gave the audience insight into the psyches of the main characters and how they react in certain situations. And this movie had just about everything you could want in a film of this sort: Atmosphere, mystery, suspense, tension, action, character development, great acting, and even a tender romance. None of it was added in to pad the length or keep the more restless audience members entertained. These were all crucial to the final resolution of the film and it all worked beautifully, especially when one considers how tough it must have been to adapt that novel!!!!


Mon Nov 23, 2009 1:51 am
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Post Re: The Best Screenplays In Film
corpen11 wrote:
corpen11 wrote:
From Russia With Love (1963) The best Bond script that depends on the methodical writing and the acting complimented it.


Watch this movie and tell me the writing wasn't the key for this to be the best Bond films and possibly one of the best movies ever made!!!! :D


It had to be considering the over-the-top Bond stunts and the like hadn't arrived yet. The acting, especially Robert Shaw and Pedro Armendariz, was fantastic.

My two cents for the topis: The Maltese Falcon. The conversations between Sydney Greenstreet and Humphrey Bogart? Utter genius.


Mon Nov 23, 2009 1:55 am
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Post Re: The Best Screenplays In Film
I definitely second Pulp Fiction. That, coupled with Reservoir Dogs, made me realize the impact that a truly well-written script can have on a film. I credit both of these films with breaking my movie cherry (so to speak). L.A Confidential is another film that I consider to have a flawless script. That movie needed every single scene and every single line of dialogue in order to spin it's tale. Even the seemingly inconsequential scenes such as the "Bloody Christmas" one and the aftermath scene gave the audience insight into the psyches of the main characters and how they react in certain situations. And this movie had just about everything you could want in a film of this sort: Atmosphere, mystery, suspense, tension, action, character development, great acting, and even a tender romance. None of it was added in to pad the length or keep the more restless audience members entertained. These were all crucial to the final resolution of the film and it all worked beautifully, especially when one considers how tough it must have been to adapt that novel!!!![/quote]

That's what I love about L.A. Confidental. You have to pay attention and challenge yourself to follow the film to the very end. How the murder breaks down and it's reveals is just beautiful and the characters fit the story perfectly. How Titantic won best picture is a mystery beyond me.


Mon Nov 23, 2009 10:59 am
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Post Re: The Best Screenplays In Film
sry - just a bit out of the topic, but...
ed_metal_head wrote:
I have a serious fetish for good dialogue. It's just so damn sexy to the ears.

Oh James, when can we start giving stars to the comments? :):)
and then somebody can start a topic with question if stars are precise enough to value ;)


Mon Dec 07, 2009 3:52 pm
Post Re: The Best Screenplays In Film
A couple that no one has brought up yet:

In the Heat of the Night
Twelve Angry Men
Double Indemnity
The Sweet Hereafter
Unforgiven


Mon Dec 07, 2009 6:13 pm
Post Re: The Best Screenplays In Film
I'll expand later, not much time...but just had to throw the Coen Brothers into the thread.


Mon Dec 07, 2009 6:56 pm
Post Re: The Best Screenplays In Film
It seems that time and time again the Coen Brothers manage to write remarkably tight screenplays where every scene, every line is necessary. Many times, what seems on the surface as a pretty straightforward film, carries many layers. They cross genres effortlessly, many times within the same movie. Their characters, whether lead or smaller roles, are very colorful and memorable. I really, really enjoy their work, both on the script and on the screen.

Some of my favorite screenplays of their's include Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink, Fargo, The Big Lebowski and No Country For Old Men (adapted, I know, but still extremely well written.)


Tue Dec 08, 2009 5:26 pm
Post Re: The Best Screenplays In Film
sinipiiga wrote:
sry - just a bit out of the topic, but...
ed_metal_head wrote:
I have a serious fetish for good dialogue. It's just so damn sexy to the ears.

Oh James, when can we start giving stars to the comments? :):)
and then somebody can start a topic with question if stars are precise enough to value ;)


Such flattery, I thank you. But there's no need to say sorry when you're complimenting my vocab. James abides.


Wed Dec 09, 2009 8:09 pm
Post Re: The Best Screenplays In Film
Waterworld!

...I'm just kidding :D


Thu Dec 17, 2009 7:38 pm
Post Re: The Best Screenplays In Film
Arise, Best Screenplays thread! Arise! You are BUMPed!

And I offer you this one: Nurse Betty

Wait! Hear me out.

I, too, wasn't excited to the very peak of religious fervor by Nurse Betty but I'm going to throw it all on the line and say, with a screenplay as interesting as it is, this could have been a great film if the execution hadn't been so... so... Labute-ish. He was, at the time of this picture, a fine writer. He'd written the horrifying/hilarious/exciting/depressing In The Company of Men and the slight comedown of Your Friends and Neighbors. Nurse Betty was the best raw material for what could have been a legendary film. But, as it turned out, Labute the mediocre director couldn't find the savage humor in Labute the great writer's screenplay. The film was played too straight; the situations, as presented, called for muted comedy with a strong dose of creepiness. Labute failed himself by making the film as straight a comedy as could be wrung from the material. Wrong play, Neil.

Still, the screenplay does a lot of little wonderful things and a lot of great big spectacular things. If it had been played more as an out-of-control drama the material could have breathed a little better and the film would be in my DVD collection. So, in short, I think a second shot at this idea is in order. There are some directors that could bring this story home.


Wed Jan 20, 2010 1:39 am
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