Who Are the Best Screenwriters Working Today?

By January 11, 2014 2 Comments

Because the due date for Screencraft’s Screenwriting Fellowship is almost upon us, there’s a competitive mood in the air.  Why not throw down a list of the best screenwriters working today?

This Quora thread got us started.  If you haven’t already signed up for Quora, we highly recommend you take a look–it’s like the love child of Wikipedia and Reddit, and it can be a great resource for screenwriters researching anything. Or you can use it for story inspiration.

Here’s the list,  in no particular order.

  • The Coen Brothers:  Of course we have to consider them as one unit, as people who know them often describe them as one person with two heads. In a career spanning 30 years, the Coen Brothers have written themselves an impressive variety of films. From absurd comedies (The Big Lebowski) to dark comedies (Fargo) to dark westerns (No Country for Old Men) to quasi-musicals (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Inside Llewyn Davis), they seem to be able to do anything. The only genre they seem to have left out is science fiction, which I would love to see them try one day.

  • Charlie Kaufman:  All of his films are based on original, zany concepts, yet all of them are driven by human characters and emotions. Always funny and surprising, his films also delve deep into the human condition.

  • Claire Denis:  A writer who deals in the textures of everyday life. She also wrote the AMAZING, out-of-nowhere breakdance ending to Beau Travail, which would almost be reason enough to put her on the list.

  • Quentin Tarantino:  What more could be said about him? He’s one of the most influential writers around. His dialogue and characters are always full of energy, and his non-linear storytelling methods have earned him countless imitators.

  • Paul Thomas Anderson:  It’s hard to believe that Anderson has only made six films in almost 20 years. From his early dramedy days (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love) to his later dramas (There Will Be Blood, The Master), he has created iconic characters and situations. Who could forget Dirk Diggler, Frank TJ Mackie, and Daniel Plainview?

  • Tina Fey:  One of the funniest people alive right now, Tina Fey was executive producer of 30 Rock for an impressive seven seasons. She also wrote Mean Girls, a modern classic.

  • Asgar Farhadi:  When was the last time a film as well-written as A Separation came along? It got Farhadi a nomination for best original screenplay–a rarity for a foreign film–and in my opinion it should have won. Creating real drama out of a simple situations, Farhadi is sometimes considered the modern Chekhov.

So who did we leave out? Admittedly, a lot! Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!

Audience Additions:

  • Dean:  Scott Frank, Steve Zaillian, Akiva Goldsman, Mark Boal, and Woody Allen


  • Dean says:

    Scott Frank, Steve Zaillian, Akiva Goldsman, Mark Boal, Woody Allen… come to mind.

  • Joe says:

    I’d put David O Russell, Christopher/Jonah Nolan, Alexander Payne, Richard Linklater and Woody Allen above at least half of these. And I’m missing a lot. Tina Fey only wrote one movie that was produced.

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