What are some of the best drama screenplays that screenwriters can learn from?
Reading how-to books and articles about screenwriting can only take you so far.
The best education you can receive to ready yourself for screenwriting greatness is to watch movies and — more importantly — read movie scripts. Our partners at The Script Lab understand the importance of this and you’ll find that many of the scripts available in this list are through them.
As you read more scripts, you’ll quickly see that there’s no single way to write a screenplay. Yes, there’s a general format and structure to follow for most, but the best thing that you can do is read as many screenplays as you can to see what works best for you and your story.
There are many cross-genres when it comes to drama. Crime dramas, war dramas, historical dramas, sports dramas, biographical dramas, dramedies, and so many more.
Here we present ninety-nine drama screenplays that you can use as roadmaps to creating your own dramatic cinematic stories.
Note: Many of the screenplays will differ from the final cut of the movies due to film editing, shooting draft changes, and the fact that some are earlier drafts. Also, some of the scripts don’t adhere to the general contemporary guidelines and expectations that novice screenwriters should abide by. When in doubt, always err on the side of following those guidelines and expectations. Some scripts follow a dated format while others are written by established professionals that have format leeway and are allowed to go beyond the general 90-120 page count guideline.
*Click on each image to read the script!*
In 1947, Jackie Robinson becomes the first African-American to play Major League Baseball in the modern era when he is signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers and faces considerable racism in the process.
12 Years a Slave
In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.
A mountain climber becomes trapped under a boulder while canyoneering alone near Moab, Utah and resorts to desperate measures in order to survive.
The life, success, and troubles of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as told by Antonio Salieri, the contemporaneous composer who was insanely jealous of Mozart’s talent and claimed to have murdered him.
A sexually frustrated suburban father has a mid-life crisis after becoming infatuated with his daughter’s best friend.
A con man, Irving Rosenfeld, along with his seductive partner Sydney Prosser, is forced to work for a wild F.B.I. Agent, Richie DiMaso, who pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and the Mafia.
Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle’s pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and turns him into a legend. Back home with his wife and kids after four tours of duty, Chris finds himself unable to leave the war behind.
Any Given Sunday
A behind-the-scenes look at the life-and-death struggles of modern-day gladiators and those who lead them.
A U.S. Army officer serving in Vietnam is tasked with assassinating a renegade Special Forces Colonel who sees himself as a god.
As Good as It Gets
A single mother and waitress, a misanthropic author, and a gay artist form an unlikely friendship after the artist is assaulted in a robbery.
A Star Is Born
A musician helps a young singer find fame as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral.
The victims of an encephalitis epidemic many years ago have been catatonic ever since, but now a new drug offers the prospect of reviving them.
We meet Jesse and Celine nine years on in Greece. Almost two decades have passed since their first meeting on that train bound for Vienna.
A young man and woman meet on a train in Europe and wind up spending one evening together in Vienna. Unfortunately, both know that this will probably be their only night together.
Nine years after Jesse and Celine first met, they encounter each other again on the French leg of Jesse’s book tour.
Ron Stallworth, an African American police officer from Colorado, successfully manages to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan branch with the help of a Jewish surrogate who eventually becomes its leader. Based on actual events.
Bonnie and Clyde
Bored waitress Bonnie Parker falls in love with an ex-con named Clyde Barrow and together they go on a violent crime spree through the country, stealing cars and robbing banks.
Born on the Fourth of July
Paralyzed in the Vietnam war, Ron Kovic becomes an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist after feeling betrayed by the country he fought for.
The life of Mason, from early childhood to his arrival at college.
When his secret bride is executed for assaulting an English soldier who tried to rape her, William Wallace begins a revolt against King Edward I of England.
A FedEx executive undergoes a physical and emotional transformation after crash-landing on a deserted island.
Chariots of Fire
Two British track athletes, one a determined Jew, and the other a devout Christian, compete in the 1924 Olympics.
A private detective hired to expose an adulterer finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, corruption, and murder.
Courage Under Fire
A U.S. Army officer, despondent about a deadly mistake he made, investigates a female chopper commander’s worthiness for the Medal of Honor.
The former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed.
Dallas Buyers Club
In 1985 Dallas, electrician and hustler Ron Woodroof works around the system to help AIDS patients get the medication they need after he is diagnosed with the disease.
Dances with Wolves
Lieutenant John Dunbar, assigned to a remote western Civil War outpost, befriends wolves and Indians, making him an intolerable aberration in the military.
Dead Poets Society
An English teacher inspires his students to look at poetry with authentic knowledge and feelings.
Dog Day Afternoon
A man robs a bank to pay for his lover’s operation, which turns into a hostage situation and a media circus.
An FBI undercover agent infiltrates the mob and finds himself identifying with the mafia life at the expense of his regular one.
Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire, and France are surrounded by the German Army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.
An unemployed single mother becomes a legal assistant and almost single-handedly brings down a California power company accused of polluting a city’s water supply.
The Fabulous Baker Boys
The lives of two struggling musicians, who happen to be brothers, inevitably change when they team up with a beautiful, up-and-coming singer.
Far From Heaven
In 1950s Connecticut, a housewife faces a marital crisis and mounting racial tensions in the outside world.
A look at the life of the astronaut, Neil Armstrong, and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969.
Five Easy Pieces
A dropout from upper-class America picks up work along the way on oil rigs as he makes his way through a squalid succession of bars, motels, and other points of interest.
An airline pilot saves almost all his passengers on his malfunctioning airliner which eventually crashed, but an investigation into the accident reveals something troubling.
The presidencies of Kennedy and Johnson, the events of Vietnam, Watergate, and other history unfold through the perspective of an Alabama man with an IQ of 75.
After a young man is murdered, his spirit stays behind to warn his lover of impending danger, with the help of a reluctant psychic.
A female Senator succeeds in enrolling a woman into Combined Reconnaissance Team training where everyone expects her to fail.
The Godfather Part II
The early life and career of Vito Corleone in 1920s New York City is portrayed, while his son, Michael, expands and tightens his grip on the family crime syndicate in the present-day.
The story of Henry Hill and his life in the mob, covering his relationship with his wife Karen Hill and his mob partners Jimmy Conway and Tommy DeVito in the Italian-American crime syndicate.
Good Will Hunting
Will Hunting, a janitor at M.I.T., has a gift for mathematics but needs help from a psychologist to find direction in his life.
A working-class Italian-American bouncer becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South.
A group of professional bank robbers starts to feel the heat from police when they unknowingly leave a clue at their latest heist.
Into the Wild
Top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandons his possessions, gives his entire savings account to charity and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters that shape his life.
New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison discovers there’s more to the Kennedy assassination than the official story.
When a sports agent has a moral epiphany and is fired for expressing it, he decides to put his new philosophy to the test as an independent agent with the only athlete who stays with him and his former secretary.
In Gotham City, mentally-troubled comedian Arthur Fleck is disregarded and mistreated by society before embarking on a downward spiral of revolution and bloody crime, which brings him face-to-face with his alter-ego: “The Joker”.
The King’s Speech
The story of King George VI, his impromptu ascension to the throne of the British Empire in 1936, and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch overcome his stammer.
Kramer vs. Kramer
Ted Kramer’s wife leaves him, allowing for a lost bond to be rediscovered between Ted and his son, Billy. But a heated custody battle ensues over the divorced couple’s son, deepening the wounds left by the separation.
Leaving Las Vegas
A Hollywood screenwriter who lost everything because of his alcoholism arrives in Las Vegas to drink himself to death. There, he meets and forms an uneasy friendship and non-interference pact with prostitute Sera.
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
As Cecil Gaines serves eight presidents during his tenure as a butler at the White House, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and other major events affect his life, family, and American society.
The lives of two lovelorn spouses from separate marriages, a registered sex offender, and a disgraced ex-police officer intersect as they struggle to resist their vulnerabilities and temptations in suburban Massachusetts.
Lost in Translation
A faded movie star and a neglected young woman form an unlikely bond after crossing paths in Tokyo.
An epic mosaic of interrelated characters in search of love, forgiveness, and meaning in the San Fernando Valley.
Biographical epic of the controversial and influential Black Nationalist leader, from his early life and career as a small-time gangster to his ministry as a member of the Nation of Islam.
Man on the Moon
The life and career of legendary comedian Andy Kaufman.
A small-time hood aspires to work his way up in the ranks of a local mob.
In 1943, the crew of a B-17 based in the UK prepares for its 25th and last bombing mission over Germany before returning home to the USA.
Million Dollar Baby
A determined woman works with a hardened boxing trainer to become a professional.
The story of Harvey Milk, and his struggles as an activist who fought for gay rights and became California’s first openly gay elected official.
Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s successful attempt to assemble a baseball team on a lean budget by employing computer-generated analysis to acquire new players.
A young African-American man grapples with his identity and sexuality while experiencing the everyday struggles of childhood, adolescence, and burgeoning adulthood.
Two young boys encounter a fugitive and form a pact to help him evade the vigilantes that are on his trail and to reunite him with his true love.
Mr. Holland’s Opus
A frustrated composer finds fulfillment as a high school music teacher.
After a family tragedy, a racist prison guard reexamines his attitudes while falling in love with the African American wife of the last prisoner he executed.
My Week With Marilyn
An employee of Sir Laurence Olivier documents the tense interaction between Olivier and Marilyn Monroe during the production of The Prince and the Showgirl.
My Own Private Idaho
Two best friends living on the streets of Portland as hustlers embark on a journey of self-discovery and find their relationship stumbling along the way.
The lives of three men who were childhood friends are shattered when one of them has a family tragedy.
A television network cynically exploits a deranged former anchor’s ravings and revelations about the news media for its own profit.
On the Waterfront
An ex-prize fighter turned longshoreman struggles to stand up to his corrupt union bosses.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
A criminal pleads insanity and is admitted to a mental institution, where he rebels against an oppressive nurse and rallies the scared patients.
The accidental death of the older son of an affluent family deeply strains the relationships among the bitter mother, the good-natured father, and the guilt-ridden younger son.
A Polish Jewish musician struggles to survive the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto in World War II.
A young soldier in Vietnam faces a moral crisis when confronted with the horrors of war and the duality of man.
The lives of two mob hitmen, a boxer, a gangster and his wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.
The life of boxer Jake LaMotta, whose violence and temper that led him to the top in the ring destroyed his life outside of it.
Selfish yuppie Charlie Babbitt’s father left a fortune to his savant brother Raymond and a pittance to Charlie; they travel cross-country.
When a simple jewelry heist goes horribly wrong, the surviving criminals begin to suspect that one of them is a police informant.
A small-time boxer gets a supremely rare chance to fight a heavy-weight champion in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect.
A year in the life of a middle-class family’s maid in Mexico City in the early 1970s.
Held captive for 7 years in an enclosed space, a woman and her young son finally gain their freedom, allowing the boy to experience the outside world for the first time.
Saving Private Ryan
Following the Normandy Landings, a group of U.S. soldiers goes behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.
In German-occupied Poland during World War II, industrialist Oskar Schindler gradually becomes concerned for his Jewish workforce after witnessing their persecution by the Nazis.
The Shawshank Redemption
Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.
A simple man hospitalized since his childhood murder of his mother and her lover is released to start a new life in a small town.
A Mumbai teenager reflects on his life after being accused of cheating on the Indian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”
The Social Network
As Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg creates the social networking site that would become known as Facebook, he is sued by the twins who claim he stole their idea and by the co-founder who was later squeezed out of the business.
Stan and Ollie
Laurel and Hardy, the world’s most famous comedy duo, attempt to reignite their film careers as they embark on what becomes their swan song – a grueling theatre tour of post-war Britain.
Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter. The story unfolds backstage at three iconic product launches, ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac.
Terms of Endearment
Follows hard-to-please Aurora looking for love, and her daughter’s family problems.
There Will Be Blood
A story of family, religion, hatred, oil, and madness, focusing on a turn-of-the-century prospector in the early days of the business.
A seventeen-year-old aristocrat falls in love with a kind but poor artist aboard the luxurious, ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic.
A conservative judge is appointed by the President to spearhead America’s escalating war against drugs, only to discover that his teenage daughter is a crack addict. Two DEA agents protect an informant. A jailed drug baron’s wife attempts to carry on the family business.
A young and impatient stockbroker is willing to do anything to get to the top, including trading on illegal inside information acquired through a ruthless and greedy corporate raider who takes the youth under his wing.
A promising young drummer enrolls at a cutthroat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise as a wealthy stock-broker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government.
A faded professional wrestler must retire, but finds his quest for a new life outside the ring a dispiriting struggle.
Ken Miyamoto has worked in the film industry for nearly two decades, most notably as a studio liaison for Sony Studios and then as a script reader and story analyst for Sony Pictures. He has many studio meetings under his belt as a produced screenwriter, meeting with the likes of Sony, Dreamworks, Universal, Disney, Warner Brothers, as well as many production and management companies. He has had a previous development deal with Lionsgate, as well as multiple writing assignments, including the produced miniseries Blackout, starring Anne Heche, Sean Patrick Flanery, Billy Zane, James Brolin, Haylie Duff, Brian Bloom, Eric La Salle, and Bruce Boxleitner. Follow Ken on Twitter @KenMovies