The 100 Greatest Modern Screenwriters

The greatest screenwriters of the big screen, the small screen, and everything in between.  While we fully acknowledge writing a screenplay is a very different act than working in a writer’s room as a showrunner, good writing is good writing, and the truly talented will distinguish themselves no matter the medium.  And in today’s world of ever expanding digital platforms, good writing is in as high demand as ever.  There’s also more and more crossover, as wordsmiths like Aaron Sorkin and Alan Ball nimbly jump from network television to Hollywood films to high concept limited series.  In this list, we’ve done our best to assimilate the greatest voices from across the profession whose careers have predominantly flourished after the year 1990.  (with apologies to John Hughes, James L. Brooks, Harold Ramis, Woody Allen and others)

  1.  Coen Brothers (born 1954, 1957) Co-wrote together Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou?, The Man Who Wasn’t There, No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading, A Serious Man, True Grit, Inside Llewyn Davis, Hail Caesar! and the miniseries The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.  Co-wrote with others Bridge of Spies, Unbroken, and Suburbicon.
  2.  Aaron Sorkin (born 1961)  Creator and principal writer of The West Wing, The Newsroom, Sports Night, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Wrote the screenplays for A Few Good Men (based on his play of the same name), The Social Network, The American President, Charlie Wilson’s War, Steve Jobs, and Molly’s Game. Co-wrote the screenplay for Moneyball.
  3.  David Simon (born 1960)  Creator and co-writer of The Wire, Treme, and The Deuce.  Writer on Homicide Life on the Streets (based on his book).  Co-wrote the miniseries The Corner, Generation Kill, and Show Me a Hero.
  4.  Charlie Kaufman (born 1958)  Wrote the screenplays to Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation, Synecdoche New York, Anomalisa, and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.
  5.  Matthew Weiner (born 1965)  Creator and head writer of Mad Men.  Writer on seasons five and six of The Sopranos.
  6.  Quentin Tarantino (born 1963)  Wrote Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Natural Born Killers, True Romance, From Dusk Til Dawn, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained, and The Hateful Eight.
  7.  David Milch (born 1945)  Co-created NYPD Blue.  Created and wrote for Deadwood.  Created Luck.  Writer on Hill Street Blues.
  8.  Steven Bochco (1943-2018) Co-created and a writer on Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, LA Law, and Doogie Howser MD.
  9.  Paul Thomas Anderson (born 1970)  Wrote Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood, The Master, Inherent Vice (adapted from Thomas Pynchon novel) and Phantom Thread.
  10.  Oliver Stone (born 1946)  Wrote the screenplays to Platoon, Scarface, and Midnight Express.  Co-wrote Wall Street, JFK, Born on the Fourth of July, Salvador, Talk Radio, The Doors, Year of the Dragon, Natural Born Killers, Nixon, Any Given Sunday, Snowden, and the docuseries The Untold History of the United States.
  11.  David Chase (born 1945)  Creator and head writer of The Sopranos.  Wrote for The Rockford Files, I’ll Fly Away, and Northern Exposure.  Wrote the films Not Fade Away and Grave of the Vampire.
  12.  David E. Kelley (born 1956)  Created and wrote for Picket Fences, Chicago Hope, The Practice, Ally McBeal, Boston Public, Boston Legal, Harry’s Law, Big Little Lies, and Mr. Mercedes.  Wrote for L.A. Law.  Co-created Dougie Howser MD and Goliath.
  13.  Nora Ephron (1941-2012) Wrote the screenplays for When Harry Met Sally…, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, Julie and Julia, and Silkwood.
  14.  David Lynch (born 1946)  Wrote Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet, and Eraserhead. Wrote the screenplays to Wild at Heart and Dune.  Co-created and co-wrote Twin Peaks.
  15.  Christopher and Jonathan Nolan (born 1970, 1976)  Co-wrote together The Prestige, Memento, The Dark Knight, and Interstellar.  Christopher Nolan wrote Inception, Dunkirk and Following.  Jonathan co-created Westworld and created and wrote for Person of Interest.
  16.  Michael Schur (born 1975)  Writer on NBC’s The Office.  Co-creater and showrunner of Parks and Rec.  Co-created Brooklyn Nine Nine.  Creator and showrunner of The Good Place.  Writer on Saturday Night Live from 1997-2004.  Co-wrote teleplay of Black Mirror episode “Nosedive”.
  17.  Larry David (born 1947)  Creator and head writer of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
  18.  Vince Gilligan (born 1967)  Creator and head writer of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.  Writer for The X-Files.
  19.  Spike Lee (born 1957)  Wrote the films Do the Right Thing, He Got Game, She’s Gotta Have It, Jungle Fever, and Mo Better Blues.  Co-wrote the screenplays to Malcolm X, Clockers and Chi-Raq.  Created the Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It.
  20.  JJ Abrams (born 1966)  Co-created and wrote for Lost, Felicity and Fringe.  Created and wrote for Alias.  Co-wrote Armageddon, The Force Awakens, Mission: Impossible III and Joy Ride.  Wrote Super 8 and Regarding Henry.
  21.  John Ridley (born 1965)  Wrote the screenplay to 12 Years a Slave and the story to Three Kings.  Wrote Cold Around the Heart and Jimi: All is By My Side.  Created and wrote for ABC series American Crime, the miniseries Guerrilla and the documentary Let it Fall.   Wrote episodes of Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Third Watch.
  22.  Judd Apatow (born 1967)  Wrote Knocked Up, Funny People, and This is 40.  Co-wrote The 40-Year-Old-Virgin, Heavyweights, Happy Gilmore and The Cable Guy.  Wrote for The Larry Sanders Show, Freaks and Geeks, Girls, The Critic and The Ben Stiller Show.  Created and wrote for Undeclared.  Co-created and wrote for Love.
  23.  Alan Ball (born 1957)  Creator and showrunner of HBO series Six Feet Under, True Blood and Here and Now.  Wrote the 1999 film American Beauty.
  24.  Tom Fontana (born 1951)  Creator and head writer of Oz and Homicide: Life on the Streets.  Writer on St. Elsewhere.  Created or co-created Copper, The Jury, The Beat, The Bedford Diaries and The Philanthropist.
  25.  David Mamet (born 1947)  Wrote the screenplays to Glengarry Glen Ross, The Verdict, The Untouchables, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Hoffa, State and Main, The Spanish Prisoner, American Buffalo, House of Games and Homicide.  Co-wrote the screenplays to Hannibal, Wag the Dog and Ronin.
  26.  Scott Frank (born 1960)  Wrote the screenplays to Out of Sight, Get Shorty, Dead Again, The Lookout and A Walk Among the Tombstones.  Co-wrote the screenplays to Minority Report and Logan.  Creator and writer of the miniseries Godless.
  27.  Steven Zaillian (born 1953)  Wrote the screenplays for Schindler’s List, American Gangster, Awakenings, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Falcon and the Snowman, and Searching for Bobby Fischer.  Co-wrote the screenplays for Moneyball, Gangs of New York, Clear and Present Danger, Hannibal and the HBO miniseries The Night Of.
  28.  Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (1927-2013)  Wrote the screenplays to The Remains of the Day, Howard’s End, A Room With a View, Surviving Picasso, The Golden Bowl, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, Heat and Dust, and Roseland.
  29.  David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (born 1970, 1971) Co-creaters and show runners of Game of Thrones.  Benioff wrote the screenplays to 25th Hour, The Kite Runner, Troy, and Brothers.
  30.  Eric Roth (born 1945)  Wrote the screenplay to Forrest Gump.  Co-wrote the screenplays for The Insider, Munich, Ali, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.
  31.  Wes Anderson (born 1969)  Co-wrote The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore, Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Bottle Rocket, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Isle of Dogs.
  32.  Garry Shandling (1949-2016)  Created and wrote The Larry Sanders Show and It’s Garry Shandling’s Show.  Wrote episodes of Sanford and Son and Welcome Back Kotter.
  33.  Cameron Crowe (born 1957)  Wrote Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire, Say Anything…, Singles, and Vanilla Sky.
  34.  Damon Lindelof (born 1973)  Co-creator and showrunner for Lost and The Leftovers.  Co-wrote screenplays for Prometheus, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Tomorrowland.  Wrote on Crossing Jordan and Nash Bridges.
  35.  Tina Fey (born 1970)  Creator and writer of 30 Rock.  Head writer at Saturday Night Live from 1999-2006.  Co-creator and writer of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.  Wrote the screenplay to Mean Girls.
  36.  Frank Darabont (born 1959).  Wrote the screenplays for The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and The Mist.  Developed and wrote early seasons of  The Walking Dead.  Created and wrote Mob City.
  37.  Tony Gilroy (born 1956)  Wrote Michael Clayton, Duplicity, Proof of Life, and Beirut.  Wrote the screenplays to the first four Bourne films.  Co-wrote the screenplays to The Devil’s Advocate, Armageddon, and Rogue One.
  38.  Dick Wolf (born 1946)  Created and wrote for Law and Order.  Co-created the Chicago franchise and New York Undercover.  Wrote on Hill Street Blues and Miami Vice.
  39.  Amy Sherman-Palladino (born 1966)  Creator and showrunner of Gilmore Girls and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
  40.  Shonda Rhimes (born 1970)  Creator and showrunner for Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and Private Practice.
  41.  Charlie Brooker (born 1971)  Creator and co-showrunner of Black Mirror. Created horror series Dead Set.
  42.  Terence Winter (born 1960)  Writer on The Sopranos.  Created and showrunner of Boardwalk Empire.  Wrote the screenplay for The Wolf of Wall Street, Brooklyn Rules, and Get Rich or Die Tryin.
  43.  Adam McKay (born 1968)  Co-wrote The Big Short, Anchorman, Step Brothers, Talladega Nights, The Other Guys, The Campaign, Backseat and Get Hard.  Head writer at Saturday Night Live for two seasons.
  44.  Nicole Holofcener (born 1960)  Wrote the films Friends with Money, Enough Said, Lovely and Amazing, Please Give, Walking and Talking, Every Secret Thing and The Land of Steady Habits.  Wrote episodes of Sex in the City, Parks and Rec, Six Feet Under, and Enlightened.
  45.  James Cameron (born 1954)  Wrote Titanic, The Abyss and Avatar.  Co-wrote The Terminator, Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Rambo: First Blood Part II, True Lies and Strange Days.
  46.  Peter Morgan (born 1963)  Creator and head writer of Netflix series The Crown.  Wrote the films Frost/Nixon, The Queen, Rush, The Damned United, and The Other Boleyn Girl.  Co-wrote The Last King of Scotland.
  47.  Kenneth Lonnergan (born 1962)  Wrote the screenplays to Manchester by the Sea, You Can Count on Me, Margaret, and the miniseries Howard’s End.  Co-wrote the screenplays to Gangs of New York and Analyze This.
  48.  Joss Whedon (born 1964)  Creator and writer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Agents of SHIELD.  Co-wrote the screenplay for Toy Story and co-wrote The Cabin in the Woods and Speed (uncredited).  Wrote the screenplays for The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron.
  49.  Richard Linklater (born 1960)  Wrote Dazed and Confused, Boyhood, Everybody Wants Some!!, Waking Life,  Slacker and A Scanner Darkly.  Co-wrote Before Sunrise trilogy, Last Flag Flying, Fast Food Nation and Bernie.
  50.  Guillermo Arriaga (born 1958)  Wrote the films 21 Grams, Amores Perros, Babel, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada and The Burning Plain.
  51.  Richard Curtis (born 1956)  Wrote Love Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, About Time, and The Girl in the Cafe.  Co-wrote the screenplays to Bridget Jones’ Diary and War Horse.  Co-wrote the BBC sitcoms Blackadder, Mr. Bean, and The Vicar of Dibley.
  52.  Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi  Co-wrote together the screenplays to Goodfellas and Casino.
  53.  Graham Yost (born 1959)  Developed the series Justified.  Co-wrote the screenplay to Speed.  Wrote the screenplays to Broken Arrow and Hard Rain.  Wrote for the miniseries Band of Brothers and The Pacific and the sitcom Herman’s Head.  Head writer for Amazon series Sneaky Pete.
  54.  David O Russell (born 1958)  Co-wrote American Hustle and I Heart Huckabeees.  Wrote the screenplays to Three Kings, Silver Linings Playbook and Joy.  Wrote Flirting With Disaster and Spanking the Monkey.
  55.  Jane Campion (born 1954)  Wrote The Piano, Bright Star, and Sweetie.  Co-created and co-wrote Top of the Lake.
  56.  Lars von Trier (born 1956)  Wrote the films Melancholia, Dogville, Dancer in the Dark, Nymphomaniac, The Idiots, The House That Jack Built, Antichrist, and Manderlay.  Co-wrote The Five Obstructions, Breaking the Waves, Europa, and The Element of Crime.  Created the miniseries The Kingdom.
  57.  Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor (born 1961, 1962)  Co-wrote together Election, Sideways, About Schmidt, Downsizing, Citizen Ruth and Jurassic Park III.  Payne co-wrote the screenplay to The Descendants.
  58.  Nancy Meyers (born 1949)  Wrote Something’s Gotta Give, The Holiday, The Intern and It’s Complicated.  Co-wrote Private Benjamin, The Parent Trap, Baby Boom and Father of the Bride.
  59.  Brian Helgeland (born 1961)  Co-wrote the screenplay to LA Confidential. Wrote the screenplays to Mystic River, Man on Fire, 42, Legend, and Green Zone.
  60.  Louie C.K. (born 1967)  Created and wrote the series Louie, Horace and Pete, and Lucky Louie.  Co-created and wrote for Better Things and Baskets.  Wrote for The Chris Rock Show and Late Night with Conan O’Brien.
  61.  Callie Khouri (born 1957)  Wrote Thelma & Louise, Something to Talk About, and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.  Created the series Nashville.
  62.  John Logan (born 1961)  Wrote the screenplays to The Aviator, Sweeney Todd, Hugo, Rango, and Coriolanus.  Co-wrote the screenplays to Gladiator, Any Given Sunday, The Last Samurai, Skyfall, Spectre, and Alien: Covenant.  Creator and writer of the series Penny Dreadful.
  63.  Pedro Almodóvar (born 1949)  Wrote Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, All About My Mother, Talk to Her, Bad Education, Volver, Broken Embraces, The Skin I Live In, I’m So Excited and Julieta.
  64.  Darren Star (born 1961)  Created and wrote for Sex in the City and Melrose Place.  Co-created and wrote for Beverly Hills 90210.
  65.  Chris Carter (born 1956)  Created and wrote The X-Files and subsequent spin-offs.
  66.  Sofia Coppola (born 1971)  Wrote Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides and Somewhere. Wrote the screenplays to Marie Antoinette, The Beguiled and The Bling Ring.
  67.  Mike Judge (born 1962)  Wrote Office Space.  Co-wrote Idiocracy and Beavis and Butthead Do America.  Created and wrote for MTV series Beavis and Butthead.  Co-created Silicon Valley and King of the Hill.
  68.  Noah Hawley (born 1967)  Creator and show runner of FX series Fargo and Legion.  Wrote on Bones, The Unusuals, and My Generation.
  69.  Ryan Murphy (born 1965)  Created and wrote for Nip/Tuck.  Co-created American Horror Story, Glee, Feud 9-1-1, Popular and Scream Queens.  Co-wrote screenplay to Eat Pray Love.
  70.  Carlton Cuse (born 1959) Co-showrunner of Lost.  Created and wrote for Nash Bridges and Martial Law. Creator, writer and showrunner of Bates Motel.  Showrunner and writer of The Strain and The Returned.
  71. Alfonso Cuarón (born 1961)  Co-wrote Children of Men, Gravity and Y Tu Mamá También. Wrote Roma.
  72.  Christopher McQuarrie (born 1968)  Wrote the screenplays to The Usual Suspects, The Way of the Gun, Jack Reacher, and Mission Impossible Rogue Nation. Co-wrote Valkyrie, Edge of Tomorrow and Public Access.  Created NBC series Persons Unknown.
  73.  Kevin Smith (born 1970)  Wrote Dogma, Clerks, Chasing Amy, Mallrats, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Red State and Tusk.
  74.  Edgar Wright (born 1974)  Wrote Baby Driver and A Fistful of Fingers.  Co-wrote (with Simon Pegg) Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End.  Co-wrote the screenplays to Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Ant Man and The Adventures of Tin Tin.
  75.  Greg Daniels (born 1963)  Co-created Parks and Recreation and King of the Hill.  Developed and showran The Office (US series).  Writer for The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live.
  76.  Martin McDonagh (born 1970)  Wrote In Bruges, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Seven Psychopaths and Six Shooter.
  77.  Gary Ross (born 1956) Wrote Seabiscuit, Pleasantville, and Dave.  Co-wrote Big, The Hunger Games screenplay, and Mr. Baseball.
  78.  Lana and Lilly Wachowski (born 1965, 1967)  Co-wrote together The Matrix franchise, V for Vendetta, Bound, and Speed Racer.  Co-created and wrote Netflix series Sense8.
  79.   Andrew Niccol (born 1964)  Wrote The Truman Show, Gattaca, Lord of War,  Simone, In Time, and Good Kill.
  80.  Peter Berg (born 1964)  Co-wrote the screenplay to the film Friday Night Lights and developed the subsequent television adaptation.  Wrote the screenplays to Lone Survivor and Very Bad Things.
  81.  Mike Leigh (born 1943)  Wrote Secrets & Lies, Topsy-Turvy, Naked, Life is Sweet, Career Girls, High Hopes, All or Nothing, Vera Drake, Happy Go Lucky, and Mr. Turner.
  82.  David Webb Peoples (born 1940)  Wrote Unforgiven and Hero.  Co-wrote the screenplays to Blade Runner and 12 Monkeys.
  83.  M. Knight Shyamalan (born 1970)  Wrote The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Village, The Visit, and Split.
  84.  Alex Garland (born 1970)  Wrote Ex Machina, 28 Days Later…,  Sunshine and Never Let Me Go.  Wrote the screenplays to Annihilation and Dredd.
  85.  Simon Beaufoy (born 1967)  Wrote The Full Monty, Battle of the Sexes, the screenplay to Slumdog Millionaire, and Among Giants.  Co-wrote the screenplay to 127 Hours.  Created and co-wrote FX series Trust.
  86.  Jordan Peele (born 1979)  Wrote Get Out.  Co-created and wrote Key and Peele.  Co-wrote Keanu.
  87.  Diablo Cody (born 1978)  Wrote Juno, Jennifer’s Boy, Young Adult, Paradise, Ricki and the Flash and Tully.  Created and wrote Showtime series The United States of Tara. Co-created One Mississippi.
  88.  Tom McCarthy (born 1966) Co-wrote Spotlight, Up and Christopher Robin.  Wrote The Station Agent, Win Win, The Visitor, and Million Dollar Arm.
  89.  Ronald D. Moore (born 1964)  Developed and showran the series Battlestar Gallactica and Outlander.  Wrote for several iterations of the Star Trek television series.
  90.  Taylor Sheridan (born 1970) Wrote Sicario, Hell or High Water, and Wind River.  Created and wrote the miniseries Yellowstone.
  91.  Steven Knight (born 1959)  Creator and principal writer of Peaky Blinders and Taboo.  Wrote Eastern Promises, Locke, Dirty Pretty Things, Closed Circuit, Amazing Grace, Hummingbird, and Serenity.
  92.  Guillermo del Toro (born 1964)  Wrote Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water, and the screenplay to Hellboy.  Co-wrote The Devils Backbone.  Co-created The Strain.
  93.  Alejandro González Iñárritu (born 1963)   Co-wrote Birdman, The Revenant and Biutiful.
  94.  Donald Glover (born 1983)  Creator and writer of Atlanta.  Wrote episodes of 30 Rock.
  95.  Brian Koppelman (born 1966)  Co-creater and showrunner of Showtime series Billions.  Co-wrote Rounders, Ocean’s 13, Knockaround Guys, Runaway Jury.  Wrote Solitary Man.
  96.  Spike Jonze (born 1969)  Wrote Her.  Co-wrote Where the Wild Things Are and Jackass.
  97.  Ryan Coogler (born 1986)  Wrote Fruitvale Station.  Co-wrote Creed and Black Panther.
  98.  Kurt Sutter (born 1960)  Creator and showrunner of Sons of Anarchy.  Writer for The Shield.  Wrote the film Southpaw.
  99.  Jill Soloway (born 1965)  Created and wrote for Amazon series Transparent.  Wrote for Six Feet Under.  Co-created I Love Dick.  Wrote Afternoon Delight.
  100.  Matt Stone and Trey Parker (born 1971, 1969) Creators and principal writers of South Park.  Wrote Team America: World Police and South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut.

Honorable Mentions:
David Shore, Julian Fellowes, Ben Affleck, Anthony Minghella, Larry Wilmore, Fran Walsh Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson, Dan Gilroy, Mike White, Ricky Gervais and Steven Merchant, Michael Mann, Shane Black, Shawn Ryan, Luc Besson, Armando Ianucci, Dan Harmon, Paul Haggis, Seth MacFarlane, David Mills, Tom Perotta, Chuck Lorre, Sam Esmail, Mark Boal, Farrelly Brothers, Seth Rogan, John Singleton, Bryan Fuller, Damien Chazelle, Scott Cooper, The Hughes Brothers, Robert Rodriguez, Neil Jordan, Kenya Barris, Joe Weisberg, Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, Darren Aronofsky, Kevin Williamson, Aziz Ansari, Jack Amiel and Michael Begler, Matt Groening, Jenji Kohan, David Ayer, Ted Griffin, David Franzoni, John Hodge, David Hare

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