20 Best Drama Script Examples to Download and Read for Free.

Learn how to write a drama movie by reading some of the best drama scripts of all time, from Titanic to La La Land.

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by Script Reader Pro in Best Screenplays to Read
July 22, 2020 38 comments
drama script

20 best drama script examples to download and read for free.

Writing a drama script is a great way to showcase your character development skills—and, notoriously, practically all Oscar and Nicholl contest winners are drama screenplays.

But in order to reach that level, it’s super important to read as many drama scripts as you can.

With that in mind, here are twenty of the best drama script examples that you can download and read for free. Enjoy!

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1. 1917.

1917 was praised not only for its incredible cinematography but for its real-time filmmaking technique. Director Sam Mendes had the ambitious idea to make the film appear as a “one-shot,” putting even more pressure on co-writer, Krysty Wilson-Cairns, to create seamless transitioning in the screenplay.

best drama script examples

While there are technically 61 scenes in the screenplay, almost every heading is listed as CONTINUOUS. When reading, pay attention to how the ending of each moment directly connects to the next, and notice the urgency of the tone as we follow the lead characters every step of the way.

best drama script examples

2. Arrival.

Arrival may be a science fiction story, but as far as the big five genres go, it’s essentially a drama. The screenplay plays against the traditional tropes of an action-packed alien blockbuster, and instead screenwriter Eric Heisserer focused more on character and mood.

best drama script examples

There is a clear connection between the mysterious creatures and the humans who are studying them, both intellectually and emotionally. When reading the screenplay, observe the arc of each lead character, including the aliens.

Best Drama Script Examples

3. Before Sunrise.

Before Sunrise, with its simple, yet highly effective premise, is one of the best drama script examples you’ll find. The entire story takes place over the course of one night, yet this night is so impactful on the characters’ lives that it wound up spawning a trilogy.

best drama screenplay

What screenwriter Kim Krizan and writer/director Richard Linklater capture perfectly is the idea of zero expectations. These two strangers do not believe that they will ever see each other again and, as a result, they open up to one another—increasing their vulnerability and feelings of romance.

best drama script examples

4. Call Me By Your Name.

While the ultimate premise in this drama script is about a 17-year-old Italian boy who falls in love with the older male graduate student living with his family, screenwriter James Ivory doesn’t reveal their sexual relationship right away.

best drama script examples

Rather, Ivory builds up the environment. Notice how the detail of the beautiful Italian landscape, the sensual nature of the dialogue and the romantic background increasingly draws the two men together, from simple admiration to deeper desires.

Best Drama Script Examples

5. Casablanca.

The fifth of our free drama scripts is this inevitable Bogart/Bergman classic from 1942. This script needs no introduction and is a perfect example of how to combine multiple genres—in this case, romance, war and drama.

best drama screenplay

Rick, the protagonist faces a difficult and ironic predicament—to rekindle a romance with a past love or help her and her refugee husband escape. While the dialogue in Casablanca is dazzling, pay particular attention to how the drama is driven by the moral choices these characters are forced to make.

Best Drama Script Examples

6. Dead Poets Society.

Dead Poets Society is a wonderful drama script sample, especially when it comes to how to show the overall transformation of a collective by the influence of a single outsider. While the script is primarily serious, like all great drama scripts there are moments of humor and levity.

best drama scripts

Observe how the tone of the environment shifts from conventional and callous to whimsical and free as the story progresses. Also, if you’re writing a screenplay that quotes literature and are unsure of the correct drama script format, look no further than Dead Poets Society.

Best Drama Script Examples

7. The Godfather.

When The Godfather was first released in 1972, the concept of the “mafia family” wasn’t quite as familiar as it is today. Screenwriter Mario Puzo and director Francis Ford Coppola introduce this criminal world to a wider audience by first giving them something to identify with: the plight of immigrant Italian families in America in the 1940s.

best drama scripts

Study the screenplay and see how the tone shifts over time. You’ll note that the core themes of family and honor always remain, but the stakes raise as the tone turns darker and darker…

Best Drama Script Examples

8. Green Book.

If you’re writing a buddy movie, look no further than this drama script for a modern masterclass on how to create conflict through two leads’ opposing personalities. In this case, a posh, black concert pianist and his white working-class driver.

drama script example

While the social issues of the 1960s hang heavy in this drama screenplay, the tone is not as serious as you might expect. Probably because Peter Farrelly is one of the co-writers, but also because the heart of the script is the men’s “odd couple”-style friendship.

Best Drama Script Examples

9. Hidden Figures.

Screenwriter Allison Schroeder was inspired to adapt the book of the same name from her experience growing up near the Kennedy Space Center. In addition, both of her grandparents were NASA engineers.

drama script examples

Schroeder’s exquisite detail in this drama script comes from her knowledge and familiarity of this world, proving that sometimes it pays to mine your personal experiences for material and “write what you know.”

Best Drama Script Examples

10. It’s a Wonderful Life.

Like A Christmas Carol, the script to It’s A Wonderful Life revolves around a man who’s shown his life through another lens during a major holiday. Although the context and characters are completely different, this drama script sample teaches a valuable screenwriting lesson for anyone writing a story based on pre-existing material.

drama script examplesTaking an old story and putting a unique and updated modern spin on it can be a very useful screenwriting tool to have in your arsenal. For another example, look no further than the great 2008 movie—Two Lovers, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Joaquin Phoenix—that was based on a short story by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Best Drama Script Examples
best screenplays to read

11. Lady Bird.

Lady Bird explores the life of a strong-willed high school senior of the same name. However, instead of telling a classic first-love romance, writer/director Greta Gerwig focuses on a different relationship: between a mother and daughter.

drama script examples

The screenplay is also one of the best drama script examples to study character. Note how Gerwig makes a rebellious character like Lady Bird more likable by revealing some of her more compelling moments through her untraditional friendships.

Best Drama Script Examples

12. La La Land.

La La Land tells an age-old tale of the Hollywood Dream—both the highs of success and the lows of rejection. Study how writer Damien Chazelle takes the premise of a potentially mundane idea and transforms it into a compelling and flashy musical drama.

best drama screenplay

Perhaps the best way to learn from this drama script PDF, however, is by considering the true star of the story: Los Angeles. Chazelle excels in highlighting this setting as a character—through subtle detail and the link between the characters’ emotions and experiences with the city.

Best Drama Script Examples

13. Magnolia.

The genesis of this drama script was unusual in that writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson came up with the title before he even knew what the story was going to be about. After doing some research on the magnolia tree, he found that its bark could serve as a potential cure for cancer, which sparked his core idea.

best drama screenplay

Magnolia is now viewed as a classic example of how to interweave a number of storylines with a common thread. When reading the script, notice how the setting, specifically the San Fernando Valley, plays a part in each character’s life too.

Best Drama Script Examples

14. Manchester by the Sea.

Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan’s drama screenplay for Manchester by the Sea is a great example of how to write a story in media res—where we meet the protagonist, Lee, in the height of the drama.

best drama screenplays

Not only does this maximize the tension at the start of the film by introducing the “problem” right away, but the flashbacks reveal aspects of Lee’s character that change the audience’s perspective on him as we progress through the story.

Best Drama Script Examples

15. Moon.

While maybe not one of the best-known drama script examples on this list, Moon was widely praised upon its release on the 2009 film festival circuit and was even well-received by the scientific community!

best drama screenplays

The screenplay by Nathan Parker was specifically written for Sam Rockwell to star in the lead (and only) role. It’s worth noting that writing a drama script with a cast of real actors in mind for each character can really help bring more authenticity to them.

Best Drama Script Examples

16. The Shawshank Redemption.

This drama script which, was adapted from Stephen King’s novel of the same name, stirs debate just from the title alone. While the protagonist receives life in prison for a crime he claims to have not committed, the “redemption” element comes from his changed viewpoint and internal transformation.

best drama screenplays

Although a prison drama, the plot has been studied from a theological perspective and The Shawshank Redemption is a great example for those interested in incorporating symbolism into a screenplay. In particular, note the subtext behind the dialogue and ask yourself, What is the deeper meaning behind these words?

Best Drama Script Examples

17. The Social Network.

Writer Aaron Sorkin doesn’t focus on telling “the truth” in this drama script—rather, he explores three different conflicting versions of it. Note how he inserts tension into each one by revealing its battle between intention vs. obstacle.

best drama screenplays

Some aspiring screenwriters like to use this script’s use of lengthy dialogue monologues as a green light to do the same in their own. To that, all we can say is: proceed with caution. It’s a risky game if your dialogue’s not absolutely smoking hot.

Best Drama Script Examples

18. A Star Is Born.

This 2018 drama screenplay co-written by Bradley Cooper, is the fourth rendition of this classic tale. Like the versions before it, the story contains the same themes of triumph and tragedy following the rise and fall of a star singer.

best drama scripts

However, this version of A Star is Born is unique in that it contains dual protagonists rather than a single one. Furthermore, the script takes a deeper look at Jack and Ally’s personal lives, creating a more intimate tone.

Best Drama Script Examples

19. There Will Be Blood.

There Will Be Blood is the second of our drama script examples penned by Paul Thomas Anderson. It earned Daniel Day-Lewis the Best Actor Oscar at the 2008 Academy Awards but, in order for him to receive that honor, he had to have a great character to portray. And it’s all right here on the page.

best drama scripts

Daniel Plainview arguably has a hero’s journey with a lethal twist: a poor man becomes rich, but now he wants it all. As you follow his progression, note how Anderson uses his obsessive drive to make him engaging, despite his obvious unlikability.

Best Drama Script Examples

20. Titanic.

Titanic swept the 1997 Academy Awards and has been rightfully deemed as a cinematic phenomenon. And it’s easy to see why from reading the script that’s probably one of the best drama scripts of all time.

best drama scripts

While James Cameron is mostly praised for his work as a director, there is plenty to learn from this original script—in particular from the way he seamlessly interweaves a powerful love story with a true-life tragedy.

Best Drama Script Examples

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Best drama script examples: conclusion. 

What do you think of our list of best drama scripts to read? Any glaring omissions you think we’ve left out?

Don’t forget you can also find more free drama scripts to download as PDFs, such as American Beauty and Good Will Hunting, by following the links below.

If you want to start writing great drama movie scripts, reading great drama screenplays should be an essential part of your weekly writing routine.

Absorb as much as you can from them, and put the knowledge to use in your own drama script. Good luck!

best drama script examples

Enjoyed this post? Read more drama script examples…

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: FlickrUnsplash]

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      Glad it was of help. All the best with your writing.

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  16. Christina Cruise says:

    Hi there!
    Is it possible to download the TV series Script for “Stranger Things” and Whiplash? Or any other scripts?

  17. akanksha says:

    Thank you. Can you post some kdrama scripts?

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      Thank you. We’ll see what we can do.

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  22. Sarah says:

    This is a great list, but I’d add Moonlight. Simply incredible.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Sarah!

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