20 Best Action Scripts to Download and Read for Free.

Learn how to write an action/adventure script by reading the best scripts in the genre, from Avengers: Endgame to Black Panther

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by Script Reader Pro in Best Screenplays to Read
March 22, 2022 12 comments
Best Action Scripts

Download the 20 best action scripts for free and learn from the pros. 

If you are a budding action/adventure writer, you’ve picked a great genre and should be reading as many of the best action scripts and adventure scripts as possible. Study them. Break them down. Note how the action scenes are handled on the page, etc.

Action and adventure are hands-down the most popular and highest-grossing genres in cinema. If this graph were to combine its “action” and “adventure” categories the genre would outstrip every other in terms of box office revenue by an even bigger margin than they already do.

We’re not saying you should write an action/adventure script just because they’re hot property, though. If your heart’s not in it, it’ll come across on the page.

But if you’re an action/adventure fanatic, start with the twenty below and then check out our post 50 Best Screenplays to Read where you’ll find another ten of the best action scripts to download. So let’s dive on in!

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1. Avengers: Endgame

While they may not be familiar names to the average movie-goer (or aspiring screenwriter for that matter), Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely are the screenwriters with the highest grossing worldwide box office ($9.3 billion)—thanks to Marvel action/adventure scripts like Avengers: Endgame.

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A huge part of their writing success is also down to the fact that they prioritize character and human emotion at the heart of their stories, rather than just elaborate action sequences and set-pieces. As McFeely says:

“We don’t write for superheroes. If you look at one of our scripts it doesn’t say Captain America, it doesn’t say Iron Man, it says Steve, it says Tony…We’re only interested in these stories because of the people inside them.” That’s great advice right there for any aspiring action/adventure writer.

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2. Back to the Future.

With its perfect blend of comedy, science-fiction and, of course, action/adventure, Back to the Future, has a classic high concept: What if a high-school student is accidentally sent thirty years into the past where he gets hit on by his mom?

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This aspect of Marty’s time travel being accidental is key to the movie’s success. Screenwriters Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis knew that if Marty had decided to go back in time, then it’d appear that he was doing so for personal gain—which would have removed much of our empathy for him.

The two writers had collaborated on many projects before Back to the Future (and also with Zemeckis’ mentor Steven Spielberg) but this one would prove to be their biggest success.

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3. Black Panther.

The development process for Black Panther was a long one. Work on the project was begun way back in 1992 by Wesley Snipes, but it wasn’t until 2018 that the movie was finally released.

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The script was penned by Joe Robert Cole and director Ryan Coogler. Cole was an alumni of the Marvel Studios writer program, where writers develop the lesser well-known characters in the Marvel universe from their best action scripts.

Coogler was confirmed as director in 2016 thanks to the success of his movie, Creed, and helped write what was to become a $1.3 billion hit.

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4. Dunkirk

Interestingly, writer/director Christopher Nolan had to be talked out of shooting the film without a script. Instead, he went away and wrote one that came in at a brisk seventy-six pages—roughly half the length of his previous scripts.

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The brevity of the screenplay is due to the fact that it’s extremely light on backstory and dialogue—another first for a Nolan script which usually contain long scenes of characters standing around talking.

However, it does contain his trademark intricate structure, as the narrative consists of three interconnected segments told from three different characters’ perspectives over three different time periods—one on land (one week of action), one on the sea (one day), and one in the air (one hour).

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5. First Blood

When Sylvester Stallone agreed to come on board to rewrite the First Blood script after ten years in development, he made a number of changes that seem obvious to us now, but weren’t at the time.

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First, he cut out all of Rambo’s dialogue, letting the other characters fill in the audience on the details of his backstory. Second, and crucially, he made Rambo a much more sympathetic and likable protagonist. This was achieved by removing the crazed PTSD-fueled killing spree the character initially went on, to have him kill exactly zero people.

Finally, Stallone let Rambo live at the end. Every other draft of the script killed him off at the climax (probably because he’d killed so many people), but this is yet another change that helped the movie gross in excess of $125 million worldwide.

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6. Gladiator

The script development process for Gladiator was tortuous, with multiple writers being brought in and discarded, multiple rewrites, actors complaining about the writing and Russell Crowe walking off set in frustration.

best action scripts

As he says of the experience, “I read the script and it was substantially underdone. Even the character didn’t exist on the pages. And that set about a long process, that’s probably the first time that I’ve been in a situation where the script wasn’t a complete done deal.”

Like with the First Blood script, however, the eventual changes that made it work were predominately character-based: making Maximus a more sympathetic character rather than just wanting to kill somebody, developing his friendship with Juba and killing off his family in order to increase his motivation.

best action script examples

7. The Hunger Games

If you’re adapting a novel into a screenplay, there’s an important lesson to be learned from studying the Hunger Games script. In the original book we hear Katniss speculate on the evil plans of the Gamemakers via internal monologues. In the film these are removed and replaced with visuals—actually showing the Gamemakers hatch their evil plans in front of our eyes.

best action scripts

To facilitate this, the writers Suzanne Collins, Billy Ray and Gary Ross expanded the Head Gamemaker, Seneca Crane’s, character to allow him to reveal key plot developments directly to the audience without the need for Katniss’ thoughts.

Apart from this change, and the creation of the game center, the majority of the script remained very close to the original source material.

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8. Jack Reacher.

While not recognized by many as one of Christopher McQuarrie’s best action scripts, such as The Usual Suspects or the Mission Impossible franchise, his rewrite work on Jack Reacher helped elevate it into an underrated gem of an action/adventure movie.

best action scripts

This powerful opening scene sets the tone of the whole screenplay: a sniper taking out innocent passers-by in a nondescript Midwestern city: “KA-CRACK – the scope jumps, settling on pink mist as the Businessman crumbles out of frame. Half a second later his coffee cup lands behind the bench.” Truly exceptional writing.

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9. John Wick

John Wick was written by Derek Kolstad and he has a story many of us can relate to: “I’ve been writing since the age of thirteen, but having grown up in the midwest, I never really saw it as a career. I went to school, started a career in business, but over time grew desperate to take a leap at this, which I did at the age of twenty-six. Fourteen years later, I get my first theatrical, thus making me, as many would argue, an ‘overnight success.’ It’s been a rough ride, but a good one.”

best action scripts

What’s the moral of this story? Even if you’ve been trying to break in since your mid-twenties and are now in your forties, fifties or beyond, don’t give up. If Derek can make it in this industry, so can you. You’ll just need the same mix of talent, dedication and a little luck. (By the way, we have a post on breaking in over forty here: Ageism in Hollywood and How to Break In Over 40.)

best action screenplays

10. Jurassic Park

David Koepp, who was brought in to do a page-one rewrite on novelist Michael Crichton’s draft, remembers, “I wrote a line in one of my first drafts that said ‘The T-Rex bursts out of the trees, chases down the Gallimimus, and devours it in a cloud of dust and blood.’ I asked Steven [Spielberg], ‘This seems impossible to me, should I take it out? Should I do it another way? What are my limitations?’ and he said, ‘Your imagination, that’s the only limit you have. We’ll figure it out.’”

best action scripts

This is a great piece of advice to remember when writing action scenes. We often get asked by writers, “How crazy am I allowed to go?” And we always say, “As crazy as possible.”Don’t worry about the production angle of things while writing a spec action/adventure screenplay. If your script’s purchased, they’ll work it out.

best action script examples
best screenplays to read

11. Kill Bill Vol.1

What comes first—character or story? While there is no right or wrong answer here—every writer has their own way of working—Kill Bill definitely falls in the former camp. Famously, Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman came up with the character of the Bride while on the set of Pulp Fiction.

best action scripts

From there, Tarantino went away to write the script, which took about a year and a half. He kept in close contact with Thurman and her newborn daughter, though, which influenced the development of the Bride’s character, for example, realizing at the end of the writing process that her child could still be alive.

best action screenplays

12. Lethal Weapon.

Is it worth studying for an MFA in screenwriting? Maybe. Shortly after graduating from UCLA in 1985, Shane Black penned his breakthrough script—Lethal Weapon. Before starting on the script, he made the smart decision to take a formulaic genre—the buddy cop action movie—and reinvent it by adding much more emotional character work than the norm.

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In this regard, Black’s Lethal Weapon script went through a similar rewrite process to Stallone’s First Blood. Both harnessed PTSD as a narrative device to give their protagonist more emotional depth. Both started out with much longer drafts than the final versions. And both originally had their protagonist die at the end.

Black’s script also underwent rewrites by other writers that lightened the tone and added more humor—something that probably helped elevate it to the status of one of the best action scripts ever written.

best adventure script examples

13. No Time to Die

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have co-written every Bond movie since 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, and on this twenty-fifth installment of the franchise were joined by screenwriting veterans John Hodge, Scott Z. Burns and Paul Haggis.

adventure screenplays

Interestingly, despite the top level work already done on the script, Daniel Craig also insisted that Phoebe Waller-Bridge (creator of a BBC sitcom called Fleabag), come in to perform extra script doctor work punching up the dialogue and adding more humor.

best action adventure script examples

14. Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Raiders of the Lost Ark was a collaborative group writing effort between three movie greats—Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg—who hammered out the story during a series of infamous meetings in the winter of 1978.

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In those meetings one of their primary objectives was to avoid the “paper-thin protagonist” pitfall of many action/adventure screenplays by making sure Indy was a three-dimensional, compelling hero. (There could be a theme here!)

It’s his personal motivation to rescue the stakes character—his ex, Marion— that achieves. Also, Indy’s character arc, going from selfish to selfless, helps make this not just one of the best action scripts of all time, but one of the best scripts of all time in any genre.

best action script examples

15. Ratatouille. 

While Pixar screenplays like Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Up are usually considered among their best, this 2007 effort often gets overlooked as the classic action/adventure script that it is.

adventure screenplays

A big part of its success is due to the conflict and irony inherent in the high concept of a rat—perhaps thought of as the dirtiest and nastiest of animals—reworked here as a loveable and brilliant chef in a top Parisian restaurant.

It was this that initially attracted Brad Bird to the project, who was able to fully deliver on this high concept “promise of the premise” as Blake Snyder calls it in his influential screenwriting book, Save the Cat.

best action adventure script examples

16. Sicario

If you’re struggling to write an action/adventure screenplay, one way to fix it could be to make your protagonist more obsessive. For example in Ratatouille, Remy isn’t just casually interested in become a top chef, it’s his all-consuming passion. The Bride doesn’t have a “take it or leave it” attitude to killing Bill. It’s her life’s mission.

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Likewise, in Sicario, screenwriter Taylor Sheridan made his FBI special agent Kate Macer divorced, living in a crappy apartment and “a little thin” to convey the idea that she’s achieved her position through determination rather than natural talent.

As Sheridan explains, “Why is she so rigid? Well, she is so rigid because she has dedicated and sacrificed her entire personal life and everything she has to do things this way, the right way.” Is the protagonist in your action script consumed by a similarly overwhelming desire?

best action adventure script examples

17. Spiderman: No Way Home

Spiderman: No Way Home is another action script on this list to be written by a stellar writing team. In this case, Erik Sommers and Chris McKenna, who made their mark in Hollywood by churning out a series of tentpole superhero and animation screenplays.

action adventure script example

These include The Lego Batman Movie, Ant-Man and the Wasp and a trilogy of Spiderman movies, of which No Way Home is the final installment. Yes, there are a few plot holes that we won’t get into here as we don’t want to let any spoilers out the bag.

But if you’re working on an action/adventure screenplay involving superheroes, timelines and intricate plotting, you’d do worse than to spend a couple of hours studying this script.

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18. Star Wars

What list of the best action scripts or best adventure scripts to read would be complete without Star Wars? (If you’re wondering where Die Hard and The Matrix are, you’ll find them on our 50 Best Screenplays to Read post!)

action adventure script example

In January 1973, George Lucas began writing a synopsis that was to become the first Star Wars movie. Writing “eight hours a day, five days a week,” he famously completed an outline titled Journal of the Whills, about an apprentice named CJ Thorpe training to become a “Jedi-Bendu” space commando.

By April had morphed into a thirteen-page treatment called The Star Wars. Filming for perhaps the best sci-fi action/adventure movie of all time began three years later.

best action script examples

19. Super 8

Yes, you may be writing an action/adventure script with exotic locations, out-of-this-world characters and fantastical worlds, but don’t forget that you can always reach into your own life experiences to help add an extra level of emotion to the story.

action adventure script example

The more personal a story is to you, the more likely it is that it’s going to resonate with everyone. This is exactly what JJ Abrams did while writing Super 8 as he drew heavily on his own childhood experiences growing up and on his childhood love of directors such as Steven Spielberg, George A. Romero and John Carpenter. The end result was a movie that’s his most personal to date and also one of his best.

best action/adventure script examples

20. Thelma and Louise

Is it worth moving to Los Angeles to start a career as a screenwriter? First-time writer Callie Khouri’s career may not have happened had she not done so. After studying acting in Nashville, she decided it wasn’t for her, packed up and moved to LA to where she hit gold with this, her first script, Thelma and Louise.

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As well as having a first-rate script, breaking into the industry can often come down to who you know. The script’s journey from spec status to purchase was enviably easy in Khouri’s case. She handed it to a friend, who handed it to another friend who worked as the executive VP of Ridley Scott’s production company. And the rest is history.

best action/adventure script examples

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20 best action scripts: conclusion. 

What do you think of our list of best action scripts and adventure scripts to read? Which ones would you have included that you think we criminally missed out?

Don’t forget to download even more of the best action scripts out there that every aspiring writer should read, by checking out the links below.

best drama script examples

Enjoyed this post? Read more of the best action scripts…

50 Best Screenplays To Read And Download In Every Genre

15 Screenplay Examples From Each Genre to Download for Free

50 Best TV Scripts to Read and Download for Free

[© Photo credits: NMEUnsplash]

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  2. Boniface Masengesho says:

    Your scripts are very super so that are helpful for us inorder to make other scripts

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Glad you found them helpful, Boniface!


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  4. Don says:

    Awesome list thanks for taking teh time guys.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You’re welcome – thanks, Don!

  5. Ayobami Fasusi says:

    Thank you so much for these resources. They are really helpful.

    Thank you.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for reading, Ayobami! Dunkirk’s opening fine this end, maybe try another browser?

  6. Rich Turgeon says:

    Great list and I enjoyed the informative context for each script. Keep up the awesome work on these posts! The best out there.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Rich 🙂

  7. Gemma says:

    Thank you so much for this, can’t wait to get reading!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Happy reading, Gemma!

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