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5 of the Best Movie Scripts to Learn From in Each Genre

Drama, Comedy, Action/Adventure, Thriller and Comedy

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by Script Reader Pro in Best Movie Scripts to Read
November 11, 2015 113 comments
Best Movie Scripts

5 of the Best Movie Scripts to Learn From in Each Major Genre

Professional, produced movie scripts are one of the best tools screenwriters have at their disposal.

There is nothing else that gives you the practical experience of how it all comes together better than reading a film script that has actually been produced. But what are the best movie scripts to read, and why?

In this post we break down five of the best screenplays to read in each major genre—drama, comedy, action/adventure, thriller and horror—and why you need to read them.

It’s by not only reading scripts, but really breaking them down, getting inside them and figuring out why they work, that you’ll get the most out of them as a screenwriter.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the top movie scripts in each genre you should read.

One of the Best Drama Movie Scripts You Should Read: American Beauty

Alan Ball graduated from Florida State University with a degree in theater arts, went on to write for the theater and then television, penning the hit comedies Grace Under Fire and Cybil.

Although there are elements of comedy in American Beauty, for which he won the Oscar for best screenplay in 2000, it is overall a drama, and in our opinion a modern masterpiece of screenwriting.

The script opens with Jane staring into the camera—a handheld device operated by an unseen man—nonchalantly discussing killing her father.

We then cut to said father—a supposed loser named Lester Burnham—and follow him as he begins another miserable day at the office, all the while hearing his voiceover from beyond the grave.

In fact, the opening twenty-five pages are a masterclass in how to establish character, stakes and genre as the screenplay pulls you into a web of lies set in a suburban hell.

There are some truly terrific examples of how to write a scene in this script and one of our favorites is the “cute meet” between Lester and his daughter Jane’s best friend, Angela:

BEST MOVIE SCRIPTS

Ball has a terrific visual style which you’ll pick up and imbibe into your own writing while reading and studying this script.

There are no major formatting quirks in Ball’s writing, but the first thing you may notice when you open the American Beauty screenplay is that he likes to underline his sluglines.

Like we always say, there are no “rules” when it comes to movie script format, but there are differences between spec scripts’ style and a pro scripts’ style.

Overall, it’s best to keep things simple, and this means not underlining sluglines in your spec script, as Ball does here. He can do it because he’s Alan Ball. You’re not, so why give a script reader even the slightest reason to be turned off or distracted while reading your spec?

movie scripts

best movie scripts

One of the Best Comedy Movie Scripts You Should Read: Youth In Revolt

We could’ve picked any number of comedy script classics for this section—Groundhog Day, Annie Hall, Some Like It Hot, etc.—but we thought we’d go with a little underrated comedy gem by the name of Youth In Revolt.

Gustin Nash’s writing in this screenplay is funny as hell. He broke onto the scene after writing nine spec screenplays with a comedy he wrote in four weeks called Charlie Bartlett.

Then, after reading C.D. Payne’s novel, Youth In Revolt, Nash decided to adapt it into a screenplay. He said modestly at the time, “Here was a chance to take credit for writing something that was much better than what I’d come up with on my own.”

But his take on Youth In Revolt is a blast and the movie is every bit as good as the book. If you write comedy movie scripts, you’ve probably already been told to include more jokes, make the reader laugh (preferably out loud) and generally pack in as much humor in every line as you possibly can.

Well, Nash’s script is a perfect of example of how you do just that. Here are the opening few paragraphs:

best movie scripts

Note how from the opening page Nash has us laughing—how he introduces a protagonist in Nick Twisp who’s readily identifiable from his dialogue and actions.

From there on in, the script is a comedy riot of teenage angst and sexual yearning, with a nice side-helping of surrealism thrown in for good measure.

Reading comedy movie scripts like this will also teach how to keep a consistent tone throughout. In this case, it’s funny and absurd, yet with an emotional heart and great characters.

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One of the Best Action Movie Scripts You Should Read: Raiders of the Lost Ark

Lawrence Kasdan was commissioned by George Lucas to write Raiders of the Lost Ark, but how it all came together was very much a group effort between Kasdan, Lucas and Steven Spielberg.

All three worked on fleshing out the script during a series of now infamous story meetings in January 1978, the result of which was one of the best action/adventure movie scripts ever written.

Action/adventure movie scripts are notorious for having great concepts but thin characters. This screenplay, however, is a wonderful example of how to elevate the protagonist’s personality above the paper thin cut-outs found in many action movie screenplays.

In fact, making Indiana Jones a compelling hero, was the first thing Lucas concentrated on in those early story meetings, and by reading the script you get a great sense of how it was achieved.

For example, see how the writers partly achieve this by giving Indy a personal motivation to his quest in the shape of Marion.

The Raiders of the Lost Ark screenplay is also a fantastic tool for learning how to create all those twists and turns required in any action/adventure movie script.

Kasdan achieves this by utilizing a script stucture composed of seven specific sequences, each one taking Indy alternately closer and further away from his goal—the Ark of the Covenant.

(You can read more about how Kasdan achieves this in our Raiders of the Lost Ark breakdown in our screenwriting book Master Screenplay Sequences.)

And reading the script will also give you the opportunity to check out one of the best exposition scenes in history—Indy’s explanation of the Ark at a blackboard for Brody and the army intelligence guys:

best movie scripts
Just studying this scene alone will tell you all you need to know about hiding on-the-nose dialogue. In short, this is one of the most essential movie scripts to study for all those wishing to write action/adventure.

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One of the Best Thriller Movie Scripts You Should Read: Fargo

The other Best Screenplay Oscar winner on our list is the Coens’ crime thriller masterpiece, Fargo. In 2006, the film was preserved by the Library of Congress as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” You won’t go far wrong by studying movie scripts of this caliber.

Much of the Coens’ work is described as “genre-bending” and the film script for Fargo is no exception, mixing elements of thriller and comedy to wonderful effect.

From Jerry’s magnificent bumbling, to Marge’s ho-hum police procedural work, to Carl and Gaear’s squabbling, the characterizations all make superb use of humor to elevate the screenplay above the average thriller.

Another factor that helps with this is the screenplay theme, which shines through just as well in the screenplay as in the movie. And like in all the Coens’ scripts, the writing is terse but incredibly evocative.

Check this description of Gaear’s execution of some innocent motorists, for how to convey so much with so few words:

best movie scripts

Like Alan Ball, the Coens like to mess around with sluglines, and in this case by almost dispensing with them entirely.

Again, we recommend you stick to the convention of including properly formatted sluglines, but other than that, soak up as much as you can from two masters of modern cinema.

“movie

One of the Best Horror Movie Scripts You Should Read: The Conjuring

The Conjuring, written by Chad and Carey Hayes, was something of a sleeper hit when it was released in 2013. This specific horror screenplay is great because of the way the Hayes brothers make us feel the tension, mood, dread and the pacing throughout.

By the end we’re gripping the edge of our seats and don’t even realize it—something that’s particularly hard to do with today’s seen-it-all-before horror audiences.

The Conjuring also makes use of some interesting formatting, using CAPS, bold and underlining in ways that are so subtle, and yet so manipulative to our reading experience, it’s like a visceral punch in the gut.

You feel the visuals in this screenplay. You feel the air move as hands come out from the darkness and clamp around your throat. You feel the dread in your chest with whatever’s standing behind the door telling the young girl it’s going to kill her family.

This is one of the best horror movie scripts around when it comes to delivering a screenplay a director can cinematically see, because it is all there on the page. Here’s an example:

best movie scripts

(Read more in this post on how to leverage suspense in your script writing style.)

The best thing about movie screenplays like this is that they put obstacle after obstacle in the protagonist’s path—especially just when they feel that they finally have the upper hand.

It also plays on the deepest fears of each character. And the writing style pulls our eyes along at such a frantic pace that you can’t look away.

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best movie scripts

Reading These Movie Scripts Is Just the Beginning…

Once you’ve read our selection of the best movies scripts, you should then go watch the movies. Then, the most important thing to do is to actually study the movie screenplays.

Take a detective at a crime scene… He doesn’t just take a cursory look around, make a few notes and go back to the station. No, they dig in deep, analyze the scene with a fine tooth comb and go over every possible angle.

This is what you should be doing with movie scripts.

Yes there are many screenwriting books out there on the craft which can add layers of knowledge onto your mastery of screenwriting. But the best movie scripts themselves have everything right there on the page.

Taking a screenplay, studying it, breaking it down, seeing how you add tension in a way that is real and smart, is such a powerful learning experience.

The best movie scripts flow with such fierce speed that you can’t flip the page soon enough to see what happens next. This is what your screenplays should do too.

So read all of these film scripts, reverse engineer them, break them down, and then use what you learned and apply it in your own writing.

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How many movie scripts do you read a week? Is it part of your writing routine, or is it something you keep meaning to do? What have you learned from reading movie screenplays? Let us know in the comments below!

Best Screenplays To Read

113 Comments
  1. Dianna Sandora says:

    What would you say is the best script to read for Fantasy. (Tolkien and CS Lewis type)

    1. Julian Boyance says:

      I constantly recommended Silence of the Lambs as a go to great script to read.

      1. Script Reader Pro says:

        Good call, Julian.

      2. jared says:

        i acn’t reed

  2. Gussie Parker says:

    Hello can you help me with my screenplay?

    1. SRP says:

      Hi Gussie, feel free to drop me a line with your questions to info [at] scriptreaderpro.com

  3. Mabel Charles says:

    Thanks. Those scripts has given me a great insight.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You’re welcome Mabel.

  4. Richard says:

    Thanks for sharing these brilliant screenplays with us. I’m an action writer and Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of my all time favourites.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You’re welcome Richard!

  5. Scott Smith says:

    Hi there, what would you say are the 3 top scifi scripts I should read?

    Thank you for this wonderful website.

    1. SRP says:

      Hi Scott, thanks for your kind words.

      There are so many to choose from and I guess it depends what kind of sci-fi you’re aiming to write, but I would say (in no particular order):

      10 Cloverfield Lane
      The Matrix
      Children Of Men

      You can find some great screenplay resources here: https://www.scriptreaderpro.com/screenplays-online/

  6. Scott Smith says:

    Thank you very much for the suggestions. I just watched 10 cloverfield. I’ve had trouble finding it either in it’s current form or when it was “The Cellar”. I love the Matrix but never thought of reading it for some reason and Children of men, very good call.

    I found your resources outstanding. What a collection of scripts. Thank you again for taking the time to respond to my post. I have just recently found your website and it has really elevated my writing. I’m working on a very high concept idea with a director for a team of sci-fi producers and your site has helped immeasurably. Really, thank you for this gem of a site. I’m drawn to selfless resources and this site is bookmarked for me.

    Cheers!!

    1. SRP says:

      You’re welcome Scott. Feel free to drop us a line if you have any screenwriting questions and best of luck with the script.

      1. daniyel says:

        can you help me l realy need your help any one his help to write my screenplay and sell iy

  7. Rod says:

    Some great movies thanks! How about animated films? Are the scripts any different?

  8. Nik says:

    `Top script how bout GONE WITH THE WIND”!!!!

  9. Shaggy Bear says:

    Fargo is so overrated. As is American Beauty.

    1. mahey says:

      When i read fargo.i found very difficult to read coen terese writing..but american beauty was phenominal and for me one of the best

  10. Toby Hart says:

    Forget the overrated Big Lebowski, this is THE BEST FRIGGING COEN BROTHERS MOVIE EVER.

  11. Leonard says:

    American Beauty is my favorite film of all time.

  12. Pranay patel says:

    Sir in hindi langauge style

  13. Paul says:

    Superbad is beter than crappy Youth in Revolt.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Each to their own!

  14. Tucker says:

    Hi I love Michael Cera but not seen this one. Thanks for the heads up.

  15. David Frazier says:

    Top horror scripts to read besides the conjuring. Thank you very much, that is my genre of choice.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You’re welcome, David.

  16. Paul Rose Jr says:

    I would recommend Scott Derricksen & C Robert Cargill’s “Deliver Us From Evil”

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Good suggestion, Paul.

  17. 94Chr says:

    Hi there, this is quality stuff. Keep it coming!

  18. Drew says:

    Uѕually I do not read article on screenwriting, however I wish to say that this write-up very impressed me. Keep up the good work.

  19. Sheila E says:

    Great post! 🙂

  20. Dianna says:

    Thanks I really learned a lot about genre from this.

  21. Diggy says:

    Thx 🙂

  22. Tommy Guerro says:

    Raiders > Romancing The Stone

  23. Laura Hudson says:

    I feel like re-watching American Beauty now *sigh*

  24. Sarah Carlson says:

    I discovered your 5 Of The Best Movie Scripts To Learn From In Each Genre page and noticed wish you could’ve done more. Great work.

  25. Thomas Sanderson says:

    Great post! Have nice day ! 🙂

  26. Sal Barbier says:

    Great examples.

  27. Robert Moore says:

    Hey there, I haven’t seen Youth In Revolt but will do.

  28. Cleaver says:

    Thinking about getting into writing again… It was too hard before but reading things like this motivates me again. Thanks.

  29. Tim says:

    Very well put together post and scripts, my hat goes off to you all.

  30. Shoshana says:

    American Beuaty is sooooo boring. I fell asleep when my friend tried to show it to me. 🙂

  31. Kirby says:

    Where’s THE BIG LEBOWSKI dudes?!?!?! THE GREATEST screenplay of ALL TIME!!!

  32. Thomas says:

    Great post! Have nice day ! 🙂

  33. Graham says:

    I just rewatched The Third Man.. what a movie.. Know it’s not on the list but does anyone know where I can get the screenplay?

    1. Clint says:

      Graham, reading scripts for classic movies can tell you a lot about how to tell a great story, but the formatting is vastly different from the way it’s done in modern scripts. If you ever see this post and you’re still interested in the script, send me an e-mail at texvanwinkle(at)gmail(dot)com.

      Clint

  34. Anita says:

    Awesome scripts. Very much enjoyed reading.:)

  35. Charlotte says:

    Greetings from Erbach, Germany. I wish to come one day to Los Angeles and learn how to write scripts properly.

  36. Jim says:

    Reading Raiders right now. The beginning’s soo different from the movie.

  37. Ned says:

    Love this post guys. I’m looking for the screenplay to This Is 40 if anyone knows where I can get it.

  38. Park says:

    Awesome guys.

  39. Stu says:

    Not been writing much recently but am looking to get back into it. This site is really inspiring, thanks to you all.

  40. Maddie says:

    I really need to read more scripts. This has given me the kick up the ass I needed. Thx!

  41. Sal says:

    Excellent post. I am going to read all these.

  42. Julian says:

    I’ve not seen Youth in revolt, looks interesting. Thanks for the heads up .

  43. Sara says:

    I’m looking to get a fifth draft of my script ready to send to you guys soon. Thanks for the info!

  44. Guy says:

    American Beauty, what a film! Is it just me or were movies better back in the 1990s?

  45. Bettina says:

    Does anyone know where I can get the Easy A screenplay?

  46. Jasper says:

    I’m going to read all of these – thanks for posting.

  47. Peter says:

    Thanks for this guys. I love Youth In Revolt, great choice.

  48. Tony X says:

    I love all these movies. Good job.

  49. Montel says:

    Excellent thank to you for sharing these screenplays.

  50. Neva A says:

    Thanks for excellent screenplays, I was looking for this ..

  51. Troy Berkow says:

    Youth In Revolt LOL.

    1. Mahey says:

      Real movie misses most of the scenes and essence in script

  52. Omar Melik says:

    I think your scripts you chosen are very interesting. Thank you.

  53. Riley Veitenheimer says:

    Great scripts, thanks for the share.

  54. Brian says:

    My story is based on real life about a kidnapping in 1993. Lot’s of excitement, strong characters and moving story. Looking for buyers.

  55. daniyel says:

    l have a many storys tollking the real live and the fantasy world but screen plAys or script are reAly hard so pleas l need some advise to write my screenplay

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You can check out our services here: https://www.scriptreaderpro.com/our-script-coverage-services/

  56. Toby Reynolds says:

    We’re missing something here..

  57. Polly Barnes says:

    Were can I find the script to Inception?

    1. David J says:

      Inception screenplay can be found here:
      http://www.raindance.co.uk/site/scripts/Inception.pdf

      1. Script Reader Pro says:

        Thanks David!

  58. Lex Luther says:

    I will start reading now.. Let’s see how it helps my writing…

  59. Dead Wood says:

    Nice job. I’m so glad i found you guyz.

  60. Ralph Richards says:

    Nice post but no films by women of color??

  61. Joel Gunderssen says:

    We know reading scripts are really good to help your writing but we don’t do enough of it. Nice kick up the butt this post.

  62. Ray Ford says:

    These scripts rock, thanks for sharing script writer :->

  63. Brian P says:

    K, nice post.

  64. Indra Ishmael says:

    My story i want to sell now, but can you help me?

  65. Paul Maguire says:

    I want to know why you chose these five movies and not much better ones. Boyhood, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Moonlight, Tangerine, I Daniel Blake, The Tree of Life, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close… The list is ENDLESS and you choose old crap like American Bueaty.

  66. Raymond Nef says:

    5 phenomenal elements from ‘Disney on the topic of its polar environment remembers 100 numerous Magic’

    inside party 100 a great deal of disney pleasure, over 50 that is fun-filled cartoon figures generally wearing snow skates as well as,while going through in “disney to do with its polar environment celebrates 100 time spent sorcery” every water wells Fargo station around Philadelphia within jan. 3.

  67. Nat Willis says:

    Thanks you scripts writer pro!!

  68. Mahey says:

    I had Read Youth in Revolt script..I rolled out loudly when i read the script, but when i watched the film most of the scenes are cut out(obviously the best ones)and few of chracters are tweaked, and end it was not acheived half of the laughter it provoked in script..Can i know whats is the peculiar reason for script modification??

  69. Cal Parsons says:

    I had forgotten how good youth in revolt was.

  70. Gandianarta says:

    I like this article something very inspiring thanks.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Glad you found it helpful.

  71. Joel Abraham says:

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful script with us

  72. Becky says:

    “In America” (Jim Sheridan) is one of my favorite films. I have tried to find the screenplay but without success.

    Any suggestions? Thank you for the list and your site.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks Becky – sorry can’t find In America.

  73. Bessong Gladys Agbor says:

    i have a movie in my head but i don’t know how to start writing it.

  74. Bessong Gladys Agbor says:

    i have a movie in my head but i don’t know how to start writing it.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Have you seen our post on writing concepts/loglines? https://www.scriptreaderpro.com/movie-ideas/

  75. Sadick Appiah Adams says:

    Good Script.
    I am having a good Script but don’t have good manager to manage it.
    I am Script writer for Ghanaian directors and other foreign countries directors.
    Thanks for this information

  76. Alex Ampomah says:

    Contact me on now 0209392478 @ SADICK i want you to write a script for me asap.

  77. Obey Mauzinyu says:

    don’t worry,firstly you must draft your points ,summarize the script then start.It’s easy

  78. Ronnie Robinson says:

    The thing about screenwriting is everyone believes they can just pick up a pen and write a great one without studying the craft. Or even a poor one that works. Some say there’re no rules to writing a screenplay, however, one must know the rules in order to break them properly. Very, very complex, multi faceted and difficult critters to write, screenplays.

  79. Ronnie Shantz/Robinson says:

    The thing about screenplays is everyone believe they can simply pick up a pen and write a great screenplay. Or even a poor one that works. They believe if they have an idea, that’s all it takes without studying the craft in any way, shape or form. Very, very complex, multi faceted and difficult critters to write affectively, screenplays.

  80. Mark Melzack says:

    Great advice. What would you say is the best example to read for Survial genre please. Are you aware of any resources that can help me compare structure and pacing of my own script to these examples?

  81. Peggy says:

    Best children’s movie script?
    Thanks!

  82. Morayo says:

    This news you shared has been of great help to me. Amazing screenplays to digest.

  83. Jason says:

    Amazing movies, have got some to sell. [email protected]

  84. Rod Mac says:

    What are some great scripts or treatments for television shows. I have an idea for a show but need some research read on how I should write one?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      We have a post on Treatments here you may find useful. Also, John August has a good library of treatments and outlines which you can find here.

  85. Che Bernard says:

    Waoo I love this thanks for the education,I want to be a script writer this has given me an inside of script writing

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for reaching out, Che!

  86. Laura says:

    Do you have any recommendations for high concept screenplays that can be shot on low budget?

  87. Ingrid says:

    Hi,

    I am in the middle of writing a script with the feel of Something about Mary and The Birdcage. Do you have links to either of these scripts? I would love to read them! Thanks for your posts and access to read other scripts! Thank you so much!

  88. Sweety Akter says:

    I found a great movie script on CodeCanyon.Really amazing cause all of the features available on this script including one-click movie import and; scrapper.

  89. Daniel Fulthorp says:

    You are part of my storey

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