Ranking Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay

by luke-a-mcgowan | created - 04 Apr 2015 | updated - 29 Mar 2016 | Public

All of the Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay, ranked from Best to Worst. This is based on memorability, quotability, novelty of idea, depth of character, and the satisfaction I felt at the end of the story.

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1. Good Will Hunting (1997)

R | 126 min | Drama, Romance

70 Metascore

Will Hunting, a janitor at M.I.T., has a gift for mathematics, but needs help from a psychologist to find direction in his life.

Director: Gus Van Sant | Stars: Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Stellan Skarsgård

Votes: 830,226 | Gross: $138.43M

Best Line: Well, I got her number. How do you like them apples?

2. The Usual Suspects (1995)

R | 106 min | Crime, Mystery, Thriller

77 Metascore

A sole survivor tells of the twisty events leading up to a horrific gun battle on a boat, which began when five criminals met at a seemingly random police lineup.

Director: Bryan Singer | Stars: Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri, Stephen Baldwin

Votes: 961,885 | Gross: $23.34M

Best Line: The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist. And like that... he is gone.

3. Pulp Fiction (1994)

R | 154 min | Crime, Drama

94 Metascore

The lives of two mob hitmen, a boxer, a gangster and his wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.

Director: Quentin Tarantino | Stars: John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis

Votes: 1,767,599 | Gross: $107.93M

Best Line: Say what again! Say What Again! I dare you, I double-dare you!

4. Annie Hall (1977)

PG | 93 min | Comedy, Romance

92 Metascore

Neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer falls in love with the ditzy Annie Hall.

Director: Woody Allen | Stars: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane

Votes: 246,985 | Gross: $39.20M

Best Line: Don't knock masturbation, its sex with someone I love!

5. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

R | 101 min | Comedy, Drama

80 Metascore

A family determined to get their young daughter into the finals of a beauty pageant take a cross-country trip in their VW bus.

Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris | Stars: Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear, Abigail Breslin

Votes: 429,179 | Gross: $59.89M

Best Line: Losers are people who are so afraid of not winning, they don't even try.

6. Rain Man (1988)

R | 133 min | Drama

65 Metascore

Selfish yuppie Charlie Babbitt's father left a fortune to his savant brother Raymond and a pittance to Charlie; they travel cross-country.

Director: Barry Levinson | Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Valeria Golino, Gerald R. Molen

Votes: 462,343 | Gross: $178.80M

Best Line: Of course, I'm an excellent driver.

7. Almost Famous (2000)

R | 122 min | Adventure, Comedy, Drama

90 Metascore

A high-school boy is given the chance to write a story for Rolling Stone Magazine about an up-and-coming rock band as he accompanies them on their concert tour.

Director: Cameron Crowe | Stars: Billy Crudup, Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson, Frances McDormand

Votes: 245,746 | Gross: $32.53M

Lester Bangs: Aw, man. You made friends with them. See, friendship is the booze they feed you. They want you to get drunk on feeling like you belong. William Miller: Well, it was fun. Lester Bangs: They make you feel cool. And hey. I met you. You are not cool. William Miller: I know. Even when I thought I was, I knew I wasn't. Lester Bangs: That's because we're uncool. And while women will always be a problem for us, most of the great art in the world is about that very same problem. Good-looking people don't have any spine. Their art never lasts. They get the girls, but we're smarter. William Miller: I can really see that now. Lester Bangs: Yeah, great art is about conflict and pain and guilt and longing and love disguised as sex, and sex disguised as love... and let's face it, you got a big head start. William Miller: I'm glad you were home. Lester Bangs: I'm always home. I'm uncool.

8. The King's Speech (2010)

R | 118 min | Biography, Drama, History

88 Metascore

The story of King George VI, his impromptu ascension to the throne of the British Empire in 1936, and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch overcome his stammer.

Director: Tom Hooper | Stars: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Derek Jacobi

Votes: 624,865 | Gross: $138.80M

Best Line: "Logue, however this turns out, I don't know how to thank you... for what you've done." "A knighthood?"

9. Milk (I) (2008)

R | 128 min | Biography, Drama

84 Metascore

The story of Harvey Milk and his struggles as an American gay activist who fought for gay rights and became California's first openly gay elected official.

Director: Gus Van Sant | Stars: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna

Votes: 161,736 | Gross: $31.84M

Best Line: If it were true that children emulate their teachers, we'd have a lot more nuns running around.

10. Crash (I) (2004)

R | 112 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

66 Metascore

Los Angeles citizens with vastly separate lives collide in interweaving stories of race, loss and redemption.

Director: Paul Haggis | Stars: Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, Thandie Newton, Karina Arroyave

Votes: 413,678 | Gross: $54.58M

Best Line: She had these little stubby wings, like she could've glued them on, you know, like I'm gonna believe she's a fairy. So she said, "I'll prove it." So she reaches into her backpack and she pulls out this invisible cloak and she ties it around my neck. And she tells me that it's impenetrable. You know what impenetrable means? It means nothing can go through it. No bullets, nothing. She told me that if I wore it, nothing would hurt me. So I did. And my whole life, I never got shot, stabbed, nothing. I mean, how weird is that?

11. American Beauty (1999)

R | 122 min | Drama

84 Metascore

A sexually frustrated suburban father has a mid-life crisis after becoming infatuated with his daughter's best friend.

Director: Sam Mendes | Stars: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley

Votes: 1,043,161 | Gross: $130.10M

Best Line: This isn't life! This is just stuff! And it's become more important to you than living!

12. Spotlight (I) (2015)

R | 129 min | Biography, Crime, Drama

93 Metascore

The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.

Director: Tom McCarthy | Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber

Votes: 401,984 | Gross: $45.06M

Best Line: "They knew and they did nothing! To kids!"

13. Thelma & Louise (1991)

R | 130 min | Adventure, Crime, Drama

88 Metascore

Two best friends set out on an adventure, but it soon turns around to a terrifying escape from being hunted by the police, as these two girls escape for the crimes they committed.

Director: Ridley Scott | Stars: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen

Votes: 131,522 | Gross: $45.36M

Best Line:

Louise: Remember when we first met? Jimmy: Yeah. Louise: What happened? Tell me what you said. Jimmy: I said you had a nice pair of eyes. Louise: And what did I say? You remember? Jimmy: Yeah, you shut 'em. Asked me if I knew what color they were? Louise: And what's you say? Jimmy: I didn't know. Louise: [She covers his eyes] Jimmy, what color are my eyes? Jimmy: They're brown.

14. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

R | 119 min | Comedy, Drama

87 Metascore

A washed-up superhero actor attempts to revive his fading career by writing, directing, and starring in a Broadway production.

Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu | Stars: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough

Votes: 561,852 | Gross: $42.34M

Best Line: "Is this real or are you shooting a film?" "A FILM!" "You people are full of s***"

15. Juno (2007)

PG-13 | 96 min | Comedy, Drama

81 Metascore

Faced with an unplanned pregnancy, an offbeat young woman makes an unusual decision regarding her unborn child.

Director: Jason Reitman | Stars: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman

Votes: 481,723 | Gross: $143.50M

Best Line: Someday, you’ll be back here, honey. On your terms.

16. Her (2013)

R | 126 min | Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi

90 Metascore

In a near future, a lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with an operating system designed to meet his every need.

Director: Spike Jonze | Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson, Rooney Mara

Votes: 518,346 | Gross: $25.57M

Best Line: It's how we spend a third of our lives asleep, and maybe that's the time when we feel the most free.

17. Django Unchained (2012)

R | 165 min | Drama, Western

81 Metascore

With the help of a German bounty hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.

Director: Quentin Tarantino | Stars: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington

Votes: 1,307,166 | Gross: $162.81M

Best Line: The 'D' is silent, hillbilly.

18. Midnight in Paris (2011)

PG-13 | 94 min | Comedy, Fantasy, Romance

81 Metascore

While on a trip to Paris with his fiancée's family, a nostalgic screenwriter finds himself mysteriously going back to the 1920s every day at midnight.

Director: Woody Allen | Stars: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates, Kurt Fuller

Votes: 376,630 | Gross: $56.82M

Best Line: I see...rhinoceros

19. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

R | 108 min | Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi

89 Metascore

When their relationship turns sour, a couple undergoes a medical procedure to have each other erased from their memories.

Director: Michel Gondry | Stars: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkinson, Gerry Robert Byrne

Votes: 882,588 | Gross: $34.40M

20. Witness (1985)

R | 112 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

76 Metascore

When a young Amish boy is sole witness to a murder, policeman John Book goes into hiding in Amish country to protect him until the trial.

Director: Peter Weir | Stars: Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis, Lukas Haas, Josef Sommer

Votes: 83,701 | Gross: $68.71M

Should've won: Back to the Future

21. Ghost (1990)

PG-13 | 127 min | Drama, Fantasy, Romance

52 Metascore

After a young man is murdered, his spirit stays behind to warn his lover of impending danger, with the help of a reluctant psychic.

Director: Jerry Zucker | Stars: Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Tony Goldwyn

Votes: 190,724 | Gross: $217.63M

22. Fargo (1996)

R | 98 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

85 Metascore

Jerry Lundegaard's inept crime falls apart due to his and his henchmen's bungling and the persistent police work of the quite pregnant Marge Gunderson.

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen | Stars: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare

Votes: 596,660 | Gross: $24.61M

Should've won: Jerry Maguire

23. Dead Poets Society (1989)

PG | 128 min | Comedy, Drama

79 Metascore

Maverick teacher John Keating uses poetry to embolden his boarding school students to new heights of self-expression.

Director: Peter Weir | Stars: Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke, Josh Charles

Votes: 406,957 | Gross: $95.86M

24. Shakespeare in Love (1998)

R | 123 min | Comedy, Drama, History

87 Metascore

The world's greatest ever playwright, William Shakespeare, is young, out of ideas and short of cash, but meets his ideal woman and is inspired to write one of his most famous plays.

Director: John Madden | Stars: Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Tom Wilkinson

Votes: 209,992 | Gross: $100.32M

Should've won: The Truman Show



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