Top 5 Screenplays of All-Time: Movie Making Recognition

August 24, 2016
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Hollywood is the place where dreams are made (…or crushed, but who wants to think about that!). Our desires and fears leap out at us from the silver screen and we live vicariously through the characters we want to emulate. The film industry has been big business since the 1930’s and continues to grow. Movie-making is magical, films take people away. In a sense, movies are kind of like a drug or addiction where they make us forget about who we are for a while. They fill that need within all of us that makes us yearn for something more. And there are those of us out there (you know who you are) that binge-watch the shit out of Netflix and Amazon Prime! Guilty!

But little do people realize that movies start with a screenplay! Before any of the actors get cast, or the director starts yelling, or the stunts and special effects take shape, a screenplay is written. It’s that script that acts as the starting point for movie-making magic. Look at all the movies out there, thousands of them, each and everyone of them have a screenplay. There are lots of writers in Hollywood and they need some more recognition than just the Best Screenplay Category at the Oscars. Well…I guess there’s the Writers Guild Awards too, but who watches that?

So, in matching fashion along with My Movie List — The Top 5, Honorable Mentions, and The Top T.V. Shows Ever lists, I’ve decided to acknowledge, recognize, and applaud the top 5 screenplays of all-time. As I think they are, obviously!

The Top Screenplays of All-Time…

First, I’m looking for a few things. Here’s my criteria:

  1. A single motive storyline, but with secondary themes and challenges.
  2. Ambition – I want to be taken to the outer boundaries without miserably flying over them.
  3. Strong Characters – Yeah, we need to have reactions to these people (we need to love, like, hate them genuinely).
  4. The Climax / Ending – this needs to be epic. Plain and simple. EPIC.

I’ll go on a 5 star rating for each category:

Strong Characters: 

I didn’t really want to do a countdown, so in no random order, here’s the list:

The Matrix (1999):

I would say I’m not a huge fan of Keanu Reeves’ acting (unless you’re talking about Point Break), but this movie just worked! And it’s because its screenplay was freaking awesome! In the opening scene we’re introduced to Trinity (played by Carrie-Ann Moss), she’s sitting in a dark room and cops come in and “try” to arrest her. This is also when we first meet the cold, calculating Agent Smith (brilliantly The-Matrixplayed by Hugo Weaving). A fight and chase ensues!

We finally meet Neo or “Mr. Anderson” who has a dubious suspicion that the Matrix is real. As the audience, we have no idea what the Matrix is, until Neo takes the red pill and we find out! This twist was incredible, it put the movie into overdrive and brought us to the outer limits. As the movie progresses, we root for Neo to be the “one.” The characters include Morpheus, The Oracle, and Cypher (the bad guy). In addition to the movie being action-packed, there’s also a love story, and a really cool ending with the helicopter and Neo being able to dodge bullets.

Strong Characters: 

If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s a must watch!

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981):

Dr. Indiana “Indy” Jones is the man—seriously! Raiders of the Lost Ark was the original Indiana Jones movie, even though technically, The Temple of Doom was considered a prequel to this, I think. ROTLA was a phenomenal movie! Why, you ask? That’s right, because of the screenplay. The opening scene is intense and adventurous. It’s the one where Harrison Ford swaps a gold treasure that’s booby trapped with a bag of sand in an ancient temple and gets chased down by a huge rolling boulder. Enough said!

Raiders of the Lost Ark: Indiana Jones

The movie takes place in the 1930’s, and we find out this awesome adventurer is a professor and and archeologist. Upon his return, Jones finds out that the Nazi’s (who make perfect villains) are after his old mentor and that they are probably searching for the Ark of the Covenant. Indy is then tasked with finding the Ark before the Nazi’s. And then awesomeness occurs!

Indiana rushes all over the place to find the Ark, find his mentor, save the love of his life who’s bar he accidentally burned down in Cairo, and save the world from an awful fate, it’s just good ole’ plain fun! If you haven’t seen Raiders of the Lost Ark and think that The Temple of Doom or The Last Crusade (or god forbid The Crystal Skull) is the best Indiana Jones movie ever, you are sorely mistaken!

Strong Characters: 

Pulp Fiction (1994):

The non-linear, soft, wet mass of material that might be referred to as the best screenplay of all time — Pulp Fiction. Don’t get me wrong, I love this film, in fact I wrote a blog post on Tarantino Films. But the “greatest screenplay of all time” — maybe! It’s pretty intense, and the flow of the movie hops around a bit. So we forget that Vincent Vega (portrayed by John Travolta, and the role that revived his career) gets gunned down after using the bathroom.

A dissecting movie that takes place in Los Angeles revolving around 3 (or 4) main groups of people. There’s the gun-wielding, lovestruck couple in the opening scene that stick up the restaurant they’re eating at. There’s Vincent Vega (recently back from hiatus in Amsterdam) and Jules, both of which are hitmen for the iconic LA gangster, Marsellus Wallace. And then there’s Butch (played by Bruce Willis), who’s a boxer and supposed to take a dive in the 5th (“you’re ass goes down in the fifth. Say it.”) in compliance with Marsellus Wallace’s wishes (or commands), but then kills the guy in the ring (which we don’t see as the audience).

Vincent Vega and Jules in Pulp Fiction

There’s some really awesome, intense (and pretty sick) scenes in this movie. The most memorable (and I’m not gonna say the gimp) to me, is the scene where Vincent and Jules recover Wallace’s briefcase. It’s Samuel L. Jackson’s famous scene where he recites Ezekiel 25:17 (“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides…”) – it’s a killer scene, literally. But there are also some really cool themes in this movie; the briefcase (we have no idea what’s in it, but everyone speculates that it’s Marsellus Wallace’s soul—not confirmed), the Bible verse, the bathroom scenes, the overdose scene (that was cool!), then there was the gimp scene (which was just awful!), and a really great scene starring Christopher Walken (“3 long years, I stuck this uncomfortable hunk of metal up my ass…”).

Strong Characters:  

So, if you haven’t watch Pulp Fiction, you’re doing yourself a big disservice!

Chinatown (1974):

Hands down the best gumshoe film ever made, Jack Nicholson is the bomb in this movie! Jake Gettis is a private eye in Los Angeles (think Sam Spade) and he’s hired by a woman to track her husband (infidelities and all..). The target is an engineer, Mulray, for the LA Department of Water & Power, and as Jake (Jack) follows him he begins to unravel a conspiracy plot.

Jack and Faye in Chinatown

The film uncovers a number of brutal truths; the water department is drying the land in the Northwest Valley so it can be bought at a reduced price, Noah Cross (the main antogonist) is a horrible father/husband/person-in-general, Mulray is murdered because he gets too close, dead senior citizen residents are purchasing land (conspiracy), and then there’s rape and incest. It’s pretty bad.

But the movie itself is so film-noir that it’s enthralling to watch. And that’s because of the screenplay. Jack Nicholson is phenomenal. Faye Dunaway plays the damsel in distress that Jake gets to save (but doesn’t), so it’s kind of a bad ending, which makes it pretty epic because we weren’t expecting it as the audience. John Huston plays the devilishly old villain that you want to strangle. And Roman Polanski directs this slick, perplexing, sleuthy mystery! It’s an older movie, but still stands the test of time, thanks to a unique, original screenplay. Check it out!

Strong Characters:  

Back to the Future (1985):

Back to the Future

“When this baby hits 88 miles per hour…you’re gonna see some serious shit!”

I know I said this was in random order, but this has got to be my favorite screenplay of all time! It’s got everything. The storyline is original and different. The ambition is oh so there (especially for 1985!!)! The development of good characters was strong and fluid, not forced. There was a happy ending, but left the door open for more sequels to come and they did, although, nothing will beat this original.

I don’t know how many times I watched this when I was a kid, lots, that’s for sure! It starts with the audience being introduces to Marty McFly (Hello, McFly!), a teenager and aspiring musician who likes to turn up the volume (he gets blown away by his guitar amp, lol). But Marty’s friend, Emmet “Doc” Brown meets up with him in the mall parking lot where Doc is eager to show off his new invention – a time machine! That’s right, time travel in a DeLorean. But Doc stole plutonium from some Libyan terrorists, and ends up getting gunned down in the beginning of the movie. Marty hops in DeLorean in Back to the Futurethe DeLorean and accidentally sets the time machine to 1955.

Basically, he travels back in time, inadvertently runs into his parents when they were his age, and hilarity ensues. He has to race against time to save his parent’s first kiss, help his father humiliate the obnoxious Biff, jam out at the Enchantment Under the Sea, and get back to the future, haha! He also needs to save Doc from getting shot by crazy, RPG-carrying Libyans, and that’s all dependent on a single bolt of lightning striking the clock tower, which is the “only power source capable of generating the necessary 1.21 gigawatts of electricity to power the DeLorean.”  Damn, that’s a lot to do!

The Back to the Future franchise is so popular that they ended up making a theme ride of off it, and I think there was even a Back to the Future day. The ending of the first Back to the Future was great; everything worked out, well, everything was better than just worked out. Doc doesn’t die, he puts on a bullet proof vest, the McFly’s are rich and Biff works for them now (not the other way around like in the beginning of the movie), and Marty ends up with his girlfriend, Jennifer (who is played by Elisabeth Shue in Back to the Future 2, not the first one).

Back to the Future Ending

“But, Doc, you have to back up, we don’t have enough road to get up to 88 mph.” – Marty McFly

“Roads….where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” – Doc

I swear, if you haven’t watched this movie, then we’re probably not friends! Do it, today! Watch Back to the Future, you’ll thank me.

Strong Characters: 

Alright, there you have it, my top 5 screenplays of all-time. You know, I just realized something. There’s not a single screenplay on here that’s written after the year 2000. Hmmm….well, I do feel as time goes on that movies tend to not be as good as they once were. I think the heyday of great screenplays were between 1970 — 2000, as seen on my list! Ok, hope you enjoyed!

My Movie List – The Top 5!

September 4, 2015
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I was coming in from New York last week with two of my co-workers when, unfortunately, the train we were on lost all electricity. We slowly glided into a small outdoor station somewhere in the middle of the Connecticut coastline and we had several hours to kill. So, what did we do? We decided to look at all these top movie lists – Top 100 Movies of All Time, Top 250 Movies, 100 Year List, and so on.

All the classics were up there like Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane, The Godfather, Casablanca, Gone with the Wind. And those are all fine, I mean, they are great cinematic period pieces that will forever be loved and admired. There were other ones like E.T. The Extra-TerrestrialBack to the FutureJawsRaiders of the Lost Ark. And those are also very fine movies too! But I have a top 5 list of movies that I absolutely love. You might say that at the time I watched these following films I was either going through a certain phase, maybe feeling nostalgic, or just liked the story line, but I’ll explain my love for each of these movies and hopefully you’ll understand why they are my top 5. My co-workers did not agree with all of these films.


1. Big Trouble in Little China

This movie is awesomeness wrapped up in 1 hour and 39 minutes


It starts with a truck driver named Jack Burton (good ole Jack Burton always says….) who is in San Francisco with his big rig. He’s playing dominoes (or the Chinese version of it) with a friend (Wang) of his who ends up losing and owing Jack a lot of money. But the friend has to pick up his fiancee at the airport and Jack, not trusting his friend, decides to go with him. Then chaos ensues.

It’s a great story about mystery, intrigue, black magic, good magic, good vs. evil, love, romance, and adventure.
Goons ThugsAfter Jack’s friend’s fiancee gets kidnapped at the airport by some hard looking (geeky looking) Asian gang member thugs, Jack and his friend run all over San Fran’s Chinatown looking for her.

They end up face to face with Lo Pan (that scary looking character above) and basically have a good vs. evil showdown with him, but in the end… SPOILER ALERT …they end up kicking his ass, getting the girls (there’s another one that comes into the picture) and surviving the mean streets (and underground) of Chinatown. In short, this movie is amazing.

It’s a combination of the great one-liners Kurt Russell’s character (Jack Burton) says, the seedy streets of San Francisco, and the fact that good over powers the evil (and unbeatable-but-actually-beatable) Lo Pan is just great. There’s also a scene where one of Lo Pan’s foot soldiers (aka one of the Three Storms) gets soooo angry, his head actually explodes, it’s awesome!

Two thumbs up, I’d give it three if I could!


2. The Goonies

Hey youu-ooh, guy-eyess!! Sloth was the man, Chunk was the man, Data was the man, Mouth – the man! Mikey and company brought us on a spectacular journey filled with pirate fights and adventurous nights.  Hands down one of the best PG movies of all time, The Goonies had it all.


Mikey is an asthmatic kid who uses his inhaler all the time and can’t speak the right words (“I’m dictating myself…..You mean, dilute yourself, dummy. Yeah, that’s what I said”), but this was one hell of a cinematic experience. The Fratellis are a family of criminals and they own a small restaurant on the coast in a town called Astoria (maybe somewhere in Oregon). Mikey and his older brother, Brand, along with all of Mikey’s sidekicks (see above) are messing around in their attic when they find a treasure map. Mikey and friends tie Brand up while he’s working out (exercising) and take off in search of buried treasure. Goonies Fratellis

The Fratellis come in when the kids find their restaurant as the starting point for their adventure. In the basement they also find something else – Sloth, the horribly disfigured mammoth with a heart of gold! Yes sir, it’s a movie for all ages and all kinds! But the kids go on the hunt and they are also running away from the Fratellis, they need to find the treasure to save their neighborhood from being turned into a golf course and escape the clutches of the evil Fratelli family!

My love for this movie is twofold. One, it reminds me of my childhood. I used to play in the woods next to my house and I was always looking for adventures and buried treasure. Two, it’s a super feel good movie. It’s suspenseful, but it ends up just fine. People get what they deserve in this film and it’s just such a happy movie to watch. Well done Richard Donner, well done, sir!


3. The Last of the Mohicans

More on the dramatic side than the humorous, The Last of the Mohicans is a story about Nathaniel (aka Hawkeye) who’s the adopted son of Chingachgook, a Mohican Indian. Along with his son, Uncas, the trio roam the countryside hunting for food and living off the land. They are real men, with real survival skills, and they can fight!

But this movie is set around the French-Indian war of the 1750’s, and Hawkeye along with his adopted family get tangled up in Britain occupied New York, where the French were trying to reign in on the Brits’ territory (or tear-eh-tree, said really fast).



What I can say about this movie is that Daniel Day-Lewis is phenomenal as Hawkeye, he gives an awesome portrayal of a man torn between his love for this new woman in his life and his life as a frontiersman (and also someone who doesn’t get involved with wars, especially other’s). As the story progresses, we realize that the trio has a huge bond between them, but Hawkeye finds true love with a colonel’s daughter and that women gets taken by bad Indians, the Mohawks – the mortal enemy of the Mohicans (I’m not sure if that last part is true). The Mohawks take the kidnapped girls (the one that Hawkeye fell in love with and her sister – who Uncas ends up falling for), and brings them to the sachem. The sachem is a very wise tribal member and tells the Mohawks what to do with the girls. Needless to say, Hawkeye and his band of brothers is not a fan of the outcome and goes out to rescue one sister.

There is this awesome fight scene with Magwa (a Mohawk Indian leader) killing Uncas. Chingachgook gives a serious ass-whooping and kills Magwa ever so splendidly. But not before one sister jumps off a cliff to her death. It’s a super sad movie, but well worth the watch if you have not seen it! Mohicans Running

I like this movie for a few different reasons. One is the cinematography, it’s awesome, these sweeping shots of the Black Mountains (I believe it was filmed in North Carolina, but I could be wrong), the cool forest shots and lake scenes. Two, is the music! This movies has got one of the awesomest scores I’ve ever heard. It’s theme music is really cool to listen to – violin and then symphony!! Three, is the chase scene when Hawkeye is running up the face of a steep rock – it’s just a really cool scene and any time I’m in the woods I look for a rock like this and run up it humming the theme song.


4. The Crow

Now this was a cool movie. Granted, it may have been better had Brandon Lee not been killed while filming this movie, but none-the-less, it was still superb! But the fact that he died was kind of odd because the movie is about a guy who dies then comes back to life as a crow. Hence, The Crow. Now, what made this movie really good are a few key scenes, they are pretty much all the revenge scenes.

Eric Draven - The Crow

To give you a little back story, Eric Draven (Brandon Lee’s character) was engaged to his very beautiful fiancee, but because they lived in an almost condemned apartment building and complained to management, they got “taught a lesson” by some Detroit thugs. “Does it get you sweaty” said by T-Bird, the leader of the gang, who rapes and beats Eric’s fiancee and kills Eric by throwing him out a window. This sets the scene for Eric Draven’s awesome revenge scenes.

AGAIN, SPOILER ALERT …The first to go is Tin-tin, a knife wielding maniac, who has a knife fight with Eric and comes out on the losing end, big time! “He put his knife’s in all his major organs in alphabetical order, man” another line said by T-Bird. Then comes Funboy, and Funboy likes to play with needles. Draven shoots him full of morphine and all Funboy can say as he slowly dies is “stop, you’re wasting it.” – Seriously!?! Then comes the best scene of all with the revenge on T-Bird. There’s a nice long intro to T-Bird flying off a dock into Lake Michigan in his T-Bird car. There’s a point where he realizes who Draven is and his acting is pure genius. “No, man, it’s you. It can’t be you. We put you threw a window, man. This is the really real world. There ain’t no coming back. THERE AIN’T NO COMING BACK. Abash the devil stood and felt how awful goodness is. How awful goodness is.” Check out this awesome seen here on YouTube. And then Eric lights the sketch of a crow on fire!!

I would have to say that I would watch this movie over and over again for this one scene, it’s that fantastic!

5. The Shawshank Redemption

And last, but certainly not least – The Shawshank Redemption. Originally, a short story by Stephen King called Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, because Andy Dufrane used Rita as his coverup to a long tunnel through the prison. This movie starts off with a falsely convicted man who ends up in prison being accused of murdering his wife and her lover. He did not do it, he was going to do it, but decided not to. He goes to prison and doesn’t make friends right away. The prison guards are tough, the warden is even tougher, not to mention “the sisters”, but Andy manages to find a friend in Red, one of the wise ones of the prison and a guy who knows how to get things.

Andy and Red

This is a story of redemption, obviously! But it’s also the story of one man’s struggle to make it and survive in an unlikely place and one that he never should have been privy to. It’s got some great scenes from Andy getting 3 beers a piece for everyone tarring the hot roof of a new prison building, to Andy getting a month in the hole for playing an Italian opera on the loud speaker to everyone in the yard. It’s a story of friendship and perseverance, survival and hope, and finally escape and peace!

I could sit and watch this movie over and over again too just for that one scene at the end where we realize he’s not dead in his cell, but that’s he’s actually escaped! I remember the feeling of adrenaline I had when the warden’s finger went through that poster of Rita Hayworth and he ripped it down with the pull of his arm. Thus exposing the tunnel and the secret Andy had been keeping from his prison buddies. A great feeling of pride and relief swept over me when I saw that scene.

Then the end of this movie made it the perfect ending. Red skips out on bail, finds a tin can in a hayfield and takes a bus to Mexico where he finds Andy working on a boat. I imagine the two best buds living out their glory days on the Pacific ocean and it’s magnificent! “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

Honorable Mentions…

There were many films I did not include in this list but will say their names briefly. Glengarry Glen Ross, Goodfellas, PeeWee’s Big Adventure, In the Name of the Father, The Neverending Story, Office Space, The Town, Flatliners, Young Guns I & II, Real Genius, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, L.A. Confidential, Aliens, The Matrix, Carlito’s Way, Groundhog Day, man, I could go on and on!


I hope you enjoyed the breakdown of my top 5 movies list, feel free to give me a shout and let me know if there is anything I missed!!