Everyone has their favorite performances and their favorite films of the year but no one really gives their proper due to the writers of our beloved films that we’ve seen. In a year where films exceeded many of our expectations, the screenwriters came through in a big way. As AMPAS voters have their ballots and will be sending them in by January 8, the Oscars will be a daunting task have narrowing the Best Original and Adapted screenplays down to five each.
Woody Allen, Charlie Kaufman, and Sofia Coppola are writers that get their proper citations for their originality. This list reflects both original and adapted works. Often times these same writers take a book, novel, or short story and expand on it such a profound manner. This year there were no shortages of compelling works by scribes that continue to elevate their games, even some newcomers join the ranks. Not all of these works were exactly perfect in execution, either due to the directorial choices or just simple missteps that were made along the way, but these are citations of the ones that made an impression from what they did bring to the table.
There are some writers that unfortunately were omitted for either not seeing the film in time or just missing the cut in favor of someone else. There are also one or two occurrences of writers being left off because they’ll show up on my own personal awards and I don’t feel enough people will relish in the joy of those works. Bob Nelson wrote a fabulous script in “Nebraska” and allowed Alexander Payne to explore a side of him he desperately needed to add to his résumé. The father-son relationship between Woody and David, played by Bruce Dern and Will Forte, is an endearing and delightful creation that never once rings false. Scott Z. Burns allowed Steven Soderbergh to go out on a high note with his medical thriller “Side Effects.” Aaron Guzikowski created a taut and detailed mystery story with Denis Villenueve’s “Prisoners” while J.C. Chandor chose to keep the actions front and center in the near-dialogue absent drama “All is Lost.” Documentaries don’t have a real opportunity to be recognized by the writer’s branch but Sarah Polley deserved a big shout out for penning “Stories We Tell,” a beautiful letter to her own life and family. To be honest, comedies were hit and miss this year but Nat Faxon and Jim Rash created a summer to remember in “The Way, Way Back.”
While adapted works felt as scarce as they’ve ever been but if you don’t look outside of the ten or so major Oscar contenders, it’ll always feel that way. Billy Ray commanded a thrilling story filled with moral conflict in “Captain Phillips” while Peter Berg redeemed his career with the emotional war film “Lone Survivor.” Blockbusters showed up for the occasion this year especially Academy Award winners Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt with “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” Daniel Pennac brought a mouse and an elephant to our hearts with the French film “Ernest & Celestine” from GKIDS. Not the only animated film to miss, Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, and Shane Morris‘ profoundly original creation of a new modern-era princess in “Frozen” was quite the achievement. Though problematic in spots, Tracy Letts‘ adaptation of his own play, “August: Osage County” is worthy of a mention.
Click through the slider to see the fifteen writers (in no particular order) that deserve more opportunities to bring their own devices to movie screens across the world. This list isn’t about what the writers do wrong in their films but what they do right. I must reiterate, none of these are perfect, as we’ve yet to see the “perfect” script of film yet but you can sing some of their praises. You can also include your favorite writers and scripts in the comment section.