Tag

Screenplays

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:

Storyline: 
Ambition: 
Strong Characters: 
Ending: 

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.

Storyline: 
Ambition: 
Strong Characters: 
Ending: 

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!

Storyline: 
Ambition: 
Strong Characters: 
Ending: 

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…”).

Storyline: 
Ambition: 
Strong Characters:  
Ending: 

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!

Storyline: 
Ambition: 
Strong Characters:  
Ending: 

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.

Storyline: 
Ambition: 
Strong Characters: 
Ending: 

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!