5. The Cider House Rules
Though not remembered as one of the best movies ever made, the screenplay of The Cider House Rules is remarkable because it actually improves on the source material – and since that it’s one of my favorite books, that’s saying something! The screenplay cuts out 15 years of plot and still delivers the book’s moving, brave, powerful message.
4. No Country for Old Men
Like The Cider House Rules, this is a masterful adaptation that perfectly blends Cormac McCarthy’s dark and biting worldview with the Cohen brothers’ witty and layered dialogue. It’s an incredibly tense thriller that’s also thought-provoking and meaningful.
3. Thelma and Louise
I actually read the script before I saw the film, and though the acting and production values are great (including Brad Pitt’s naked chest), the script is by far the strongest element. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, filled with dynamic characters, and leaves the audience with an unconventional but incredibly satisfying ending.
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
This script is undeniably brilliant, not only for its unique and engaging subject matter but because it is actually a perfect example of three-act structure. Though it feels like the film jumps around in time, the character arcs are all well-developed, the story is impeccably plotted, and the emotions ring true without being manipulative.
There could be any number of films in this spot, but no Oscar-winning screenplay has this flawless blend of romance, comedy, intrigue, and action. There’s a myriad of memorable and oft-quoted one-liners, and the despite the very-World-War-Two message of putting country before self-interest, the story stands the test of time.