Best Cosa Nostra Film Scripts

Films set in the organized crime world seem to be really popular among audiences and critics alike, and perhaps even more so in the USA. No other country has produced so many successful movies about the subject, and arguably the explanation for this is found in the very nature of such films and the obscure reality they illustrate.

Good scripts of the crime genre aim to accomplish much more than just showing violence, bribery, corruption and other acts inherent in hoodlum operations. They try to portray a society through characters that went on to create their own code –out of necessity, greed, or both- , and how their paths inevitably collide with those of us who never, ever thought about living in a way that involves breaking the law. Or did we?

Undeniably, there’s an enticing quality in these tales about real individuals who built their own empire through illicit means. Morality is often a concept under debate in screenplays like The Godfather, Goodfellas, or Casino: they don’t condemn nor idolize mobsters, but rather act as impartial observers, and remind us sometimes that our good, lawful side has its share of hidden dark spots as well.

This week’s list is specifically focused in screenplays related to the Cosa Nostra –the original Italian mafia developed in the 19th Century in Sicily- and the families that followed these operations in American territory during the Prohibition Era and afterwards:

 

(1967) The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

(1972) The Godfather

(1974) The Godfater: Part II

(1984) Once Upon a Time in America

(1987) The Untouchables

(1990) Goodfellas

(1990) Miller’s Crossing

(1991) Bugsy

(1993) A Bronx Tale

(1994) Bullets Over Broadway

(1995) Casino

(1997) Donnie Brasco

(2002) Road to Perdition

(2009) Public Enemies

Greatest Biopic Film Scripts

It is said that truth is stranger than fiction, which is why cinema owes a lot of its greatest accomplishments to reality. Biographical films are a special breed among movies based in true events, because they try to portray the evolution of real life characters through the most important events of their lives.

It’s a daunting task for the screenwriter, sometimes hard-pressed to fit decades of life into roughly 100-120 pages. That is probably why biopics often become monumental projects that bring the audience to a fast paced journey across a bunch of dissimilar environments.

But they are often the stories of those who shaped the world- for better or worse. And well written biopics seem to generally succeed in fulfilling the demands of reviewers and audiences alike. They are a challenge for the performer as well, compelled to carry most of the narrative weight through the whole shooting process. However, those efforts are often rewarded with wide recognition, and the Academy seems to have a certain weakness for biographical dramas.

A lot of moviegoers feel an inherent curiosity about watching the tale of a notorious figure in the big screen, and the list of famous –or infamous- individuals whose life has been adapted into a film keeps growing.

Here are some of the most acclaimed biopic film scripts of all time:

(1960) Spartacus

(1962) Lawrence of Arabia

(1967) Bonnie and Clyde

(1972) Lady Sings the Blues

(1980) Raging Bull

(1980) The Elephant Man

(1982) Gandhi

(1984) Amadeus

(1987) The Last Emperor

(1990) Goodfellas

(1992) Malcolm X

(1992) Chaplin

(1994) Ed Wood

(1995) Braveheart

(2001) A Beautiful Mind

(2002) Catch me if you Can

(2005) Walk the Line

(2010) The Social Network

(2014) The Theory of Everything

Top 10 Film Scripts About Vampires

The myth of the vampire has been carving its tooth marks on our nightmares since way before Bram Stoker popularized it, and seems to have permeated into nearly every single culture.

In spite of plagiarism lawsuits that could’ve destroyed it forever, F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu unknowingly started a whole subgenre and became as immortal as Stoker’s creation. The vampire smoothly transitioned to the sound era, and such illustrious names as Béla Lugosi, Lon Chaney and Christopher Lee kept the myth out of the coffin.

And just like good art does, the vampire didn’t keep his original shape but split itself in many different forms. It couldn’t have survived otherwise. Through the perspective of many different artists we have seen the human and the inhuman vampire, the powerful and the tormented, the modern (Only Lovers Left Alive) and the vintage, the dark teenager (The Lost Boys), the western-flavored (Near Dark), the satirized and even the meta-vampire (Shadow of the Vampire).

It’s a global superstition art has been feeding off for centuries. And each generation of filmmakers seems to find new a way to process that inspiring blood and nurture our imagination with it. The vampire has truly crossed oceans of time to find us.

These are notable film scripts about Vampires:

(1922) Nosferatu

(1958) Horror of Dracula

(1987) Near Dark

(1992) Bram Stoker’s Dracula

(1994) Interview with the Vampire

(1996) From Dusk Till Dawn

(1998) Vampires

(2000) Shadow of the Vampire

(2007) 30 Days of Night

(2008) Let the Right One In

Tom Stoppard

A truly gifted author who has achieved success on TV, film and stage, Tom Stoppard had to survive a tragic background before even having the chance of developing an interest in writing. After fleeing from the Nazi invasion in Czechoslovakia, he grew up in India and Singapore, where he lost his father. He would later become a journalist in England and began writing radio and television plays. Eventually he would become an acclaimed playwright with numerous Broadway performances and several Tony awards.

His first works for the big screen came in the mid-70s, with Terry Gilliam’s Brazil granting him his first Academy Award nomination. A highly intellectual writer with extensive knowledge in classic literature, he has proven his mastery outside drama in titles such as The Russia House and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, for which he rewrote the final draft.

Stoppard has been commended for his methodical research when writing historical scripts and his witty command of language, which results in a certain ideological playfulness that often shapes his characters and dialogues. He was knighted in 1997 and currently lives in London.

List of Tom Stoppard Scripts:

(1985) Brazil

(1987) Empire of the Sun

(1989) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Final Rewrite)

(1990) The Russia House

(1991) Billy Bathgate

(1998) Shakespeare in Love

(2001) Enigma

(2012) Anna Karenina

 

 

 

 

The Plot Twist Gamble

Nothing like a sudden turn of the wheel that leaves the audience in disbelief. But what happens when the audience actually disbelieves? Screenwriters are aware of the double edged sword quality of plot twists: they can make a story successful almost by themselves, but can also turn against it if they come off as predictable or implausible.

In some genres (horror, thriller) they have become an expected, almost mandatory device. Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) set the foundations for the use of narrative unreliability in films. And it’s already a great example of a twist that didn’t only aim for shock- it also tried to provide a solid justification for the visual and narrative styles of the film.

Night Shyamalan’s irregular career illustrates both the rewards and the risks of subjecting the story to a plot twist. The recent success of Split may have brought him to a second youth, but for many years, the ‘Shyamalan twists” served more as a burden than a perk, becoming the smoking gun that proves and defines the film’s failure.

So what makes a good plot twist? If Aristotle stated that good art should be both unexpected and inevitable, contemporary screenwriters like William Goldman have pinpointed a reality that Hollywood has exploited well: that a controversial ending may still work effectively if it’s at least satisfying.

Some examples of films with memorable plot twists are:

(1941) The Maltese Falcon

(1958) Vertigo

(1960) Psycho

(1968) Planet of the Apes

(1973) The Sting

(1973) Soylent Green

(1973) The Wicker Man

(1980) The Empire Strikes Back

(1987) Angel Heart

(1992) The Crying Game

(1995) The Usual Suspects

(1995) 12 Monkeys

(1996) Primal Fear

(1999) The Sixth Sense

(1999) Fight Club

(2000) Memento

(2004) Saw

(2006) The Prestige

(2016) Arrival

Film Scripts with Great Dialogue

Dialogues are just one of the many mechanisms that can move the plot forward. For some screenwriters though, it doesn’t seem to be a resource, but their chief weapon. While Quentin Tarantino may have become the ultimate modern reference, many other authors have also forged a reputation as masters of dialogue.

Aaron Sorkin has compared dialogue to music. There is indeed a rhythmic nature in the way his characters interact: from courtroom battles to rapid-fire Harvard computing chatter, Sorkin enjoys taking his characters to the limit not by physical, but argumentative exhaustion.

Always proud of his origins, Kevin Smith often uses real life friends as direct models for his characters. The Star Wars exchange in Clerks is both hilarious and genuine: Smith wasn’t afraid of driving the plot with the same kind of conversations he’d have with his own buddies- expletives and pop culture references included.

Which brings us to Richard Linklater, who inspired Smith to start his career. Watching Slacker or the Before trilogy, one might feel that those conversations are going nowhere. But they’re slowly, cleverly taking us to the next point.

Conversations are dynamic, and so are film dialogues, which are as diverse as the minds that crafted them. They can introduce us to the main conflict (Glengarry Glenn Ross), read a character’s thoughts for us (Juno, Fight Club), make outlaws be likable (Point Break, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) or just captivate us through absency (enjoy The Artist and There Will Be Blood’s brilliant opening!).

Some other examples of films with great dialogues are:

(1942) Casablanca 

(1949) The Third Man

(1972) The Godfather

(1974) Chinatown

(1976) Taxi Driver

(1979) Manhattan 

(1985) The Breakfast Club 

(1989) Do The Right Thing

(1991) The Silence of the Lambs

(1994) Pulp Fiction

(1996) Fargo  

(1997) Chasing Amy

(1997) As Good as it Gets  

(1999) American Beauty

(2006) Little Miss Sunshine

(2011) Moneyball 

2017 Award Season Scripts

It’s award season again. The studios publish screenplays of  films they are hoping will garner award nominations. Here they are:

2016 Award Season Scripts

It’s that time of year again. The studios publish  screenplays of  films they are hoping will garner award nominations. Here they are:

2015 Oscar Nominee Scripts

This year’s scripts for your perusal:

Original Screenplay

  • Birdman (PDF) written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo  — Winner
  • Boyhood (PDF) written by Richard Linklater
  • Foxcatcher (PDF) written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel (PDF) written by Wes Anderson,  story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness
  • Nightcrawler (PDF) written by Dan Gilroy

Adapted Screenplay

First Timers

For most, the dream of being a screenwriter is never fulfilled. A quick search for tips on how to be a screenwriter will yield one consistent piece of advice, “Finish what you started writing,” a piece of advice that is tragically seldom practiced. The truth is, it’s hard to be a screenwriter, because it’s hard to milk a satisfying story out of the marrow of life. Even if a burgeoning writer manages to craft a decent script, it’s far less likely that an unknown writer will be able to attract enough attention to his script to get it produced, or even read by a meaningful party. However, there have been just enough exceptions to the heartbreaking gauntlet of Hollywood failure to give those who dream of telling their tales on the silver screen a sliver of hope.

Most people think of Sylvester Stallone as a guy that punches and/or shoots people while slurring lines out of his trademark sneer. The reality is that the Italian Stallion wrote Rocky, allegedly in one continuous sitting, and went on to win 3 of the 10 Academy Awards he was nominated for including best picture. 

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are two other shining exceptions to the rule. Their 1997 screenwriting debut, Good Will Hunting, remains critically beloved and managed to win the Academy Award for Best Screenplay. The popular internet rumor that the script originally called for an invasion of space aliens remains unconfirmed.

There are other notable exceptions too. When Diablo Cody wrote Juno, she had just wrapped up her career as a stripper. Blood Simple was penned by a couple of Jewish brothers, who had clawed their way up through meager production roles like assistant editor for Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead. Wes
Anderson and Owen Wilson were just some heady film dorks from Texas until a series of benefactors championed their first film, Bottle Rocket. Tarantino worked in a video store watched every movie ever made, and then wrote True Romance.  Shane Black wrote Lethal Weapon, and depending on who you ask, changed the studio process forever. Aaron Sorkin wrote A Few Good Men, just as his career as a singing telegraph man was winding down. Cameron Crowe was a freelance writer for Rolling Stone before posing as a highschool student and writing both a novel, and a film adaptation about his exploits called Fast Times At Ridgemont High

So for all the naysayers that claim that a first time screenwriter has no chance of getting published aren’t wrong, but there are exceptions. Of course, posing as a high school student, memorizing ten years worth of VHS films, and working your way through the soft core porn industry may be the price success.

Here are some great films by first-timers.

(1976) Rocky   

Written, directed by, and starring Sylvester Stallone

(1997) Good Will Hunting 

Written, directed by, and starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck

(2007) Juno 

Written by Diablo Cody

(1996) Bottle Rocket

Written and directed by Wes Anderson and written by and starring Owen Wilson

(1984) Blood Simple

Written, directed, Produced and edited by Joel and Ethan Coen

(1982) Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Written and Directed by Cameron Crowe

(1992) A Few Good Men

Written by Aaron Sorkin

(1987) Lethal Weapon

Written by Shane Black