I’m sure that you were thrilled to hear about the release of the Black List – a veritable Christmas list of all the not-quite-produced-yet screenplays that Hollywood just can’t get enough of. Depending on how much you love a selection, you may or may not have been crazy about the list being 70 titles strong. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great thing: the fact that more and more screenplays are being appreciated for their potential before a director is even attached is nothing short of a miracle in our time.
Still, not sure I wana look through all 70. Can’t you give me a sample of the best ideas so I can see what kind of stuff is in there. Of course I can you silly thing.
After scouring the Black List for the last couple of days we have come up with our Top 10 best screenplays. Now this isn’t necessarily the most Oscar-worthy or list or the most-likely-to-get-made list, it’s more a list of the most unique, the most out there ideas that would be fantastic to see on screen. Interested? I don’t blame you! So here’s our list, counting down from number 10:
10. Catherine the Great
You’ll recognise this one, especially since it was the first one on the list. That’s because it got the most votes out of the entire Black List, and for good reason. Catherine, as one of the most famous monarchs in all of Russian history, has a goldmine of history from which to cobble together a very intense, emotional screenplay. The script comes from Christina Lauren Anderson, and is connected to Chuck Roven’s Atlas Entertainment. If he sounds familiar, it’s because he’s been connected to the Dark Knight Trilogy, Twelve Monkeys and Three Kings. Eclectic much?
9. Situation Comedy
Cat Vasko is the next scribe on the list with Situation Comedy. With a surreal take on films like Magic in the Moonlight, Vasko tells the tale of a woman who wanders into a courtyard and finds herself in a sitcom-universe, of which she is the star. Jason Reitman’s Right Of Way Films is attached to the project, which sounds like it could be heart-warming-ly mad or madly heart-warming. Take your pick.
8. On the Basis of Sex
There is no shortage of unique, female-lead stories in this year’s Black List. One of the more intriguing biopics is that of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Gisberg, in Danel Stiepelman‘s On the Basis of Sex. The plot focuses on Ginsberg’s fight against gender inequality, which in the Supreme Court is no small feat. Could she rival Catherine the Great for best biopic on the list?
No, it’s not a Bond film! This screenplay is as much on the list for its lack of detail as its enticing plot line of a murder that takes place on a moon colony. Could it be set in the future? Is it more sci-fi or drama? Doesn’t blood float all over the place if you murder someone in zero gravity? Murders in a remote place can be very good or very bad (think The Thing and White-Out) so I’d love to see how David Weil‘s script would play out.
6. The Munchkin
Come on, all you really need is the name right? Will Widger brings us the story of a little person private eye who investigates the murder of a Hollywood starlet. Not interested yet? What if it was set in the 1930’s and a Wizard of Oz conspiracy? Now you’re interested! This sounds like a film that could have some gorgeous cinematography to go alongside its gorgeous plot.
5. Cartoon Girl
I do enjoy a love story that turns a boy’s love on its head, be it Ruby Sparks, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Scott Pilgrim vs The World. I think I might have a new favourite in Cartoon Girl, written by Randall Green, which follows a boy who discovers the cartoon character he’s in love with is based on a real girl. Throw in his Dad as a companion for some male heart-to-hearts and this could be beautiful.
4. Road to Oz
Another biopic? Sorry, this list is too biopic-rich to ignore. Josh Golden’s focuses on the early life of L. Frank Baum, who you may know or have guessed from the title wrote The Wizard of Oz. The only question is whether or not he becomes implicated in the plot of The Munchkin.
Hernany Perla’s screenplay sounds more like an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents than a feature film. But in any case, the story sounds utterly maddening: a former bank robber who is completely paralysed is kidnapped for his secrets, but the only way he can communicate is by blinking. Somehow I can’t imagine his captors will be keeping their cool for very long – I know I wouldn’t.
2. Everyone Wants Everything
With his track record of sitcoms including Will and Grace, Arrested Development and most recently Modern Family, Abraham Higginbotham is an interesting fella. Mainly because his screenplay sounds a lot more profound and introspective than your common or garden comedy. A man is faced with the question everyone has but no one wants to answer – “Am I living the life I want to be living, or do I need to start over before its too late?”.
Despite the fact that we deliberately weren’t looking for Oscar-magnets in this list, the screenplay by Tom Flynn is definitely Award-friendly, if not Award-adjacent. Gifted is the story of a man raising his dead sister’s genius daughter while he fights his mother for custody of the child. There’s a hint of Kramer vs Kramer in the mix and that’s never a bad thing, and there’s enough that’s domestically familiar in this story to make it one of the greats.
These weren’t in any particular order, because they’re all special in their own way – just like my mum used to say about the kids next door. It would be a real treat to see any of these films being made over the coming year, so fingers crossed for the whole list.
Did we miss out your favourite?
There’s a good chance you saw a lot of traffic about the latest black list, and you thought to yourself “Wow, I guess James Spader is doing better than I thought. Maybe I should watch that show, it could be better than Boston Legal!” Well you’re wrong on two counts: one, nothing is better than Boston Legal; and two, you’re thinking of the wrong black list.
The Black List is a Hollywood tradition of sorts, compiling all of most tantalising un-produced screenplays floating through the studio system. The tradition was begun by an associate at Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company in 2005 and the list has snowballed in both popularity and volume since then. What started as a top 10 has now expanded to 70 favourite scripts, and it’s not just up-and-comers that appear on the list: Aaron Sorkin and Quentin Tarantino have been included on past lists.
It’s also something of a success magnet if you play your cards right. Black List scripts have won 37 Oscars from 196 nominations. Of the last 6 Best Picture winners, 3 were Black List scripts (Argo, The King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire), and 7 of the last 14 Best Screenplay Oscars went to Black Listers too.
The scripts on the list are ranked by how many votes they received, so have a good look: you’ll almost definitely be hearing about a few of them in the coming year. Here’s this year’s Black List, courtesy of THR:
Catherine the Great by Kristina Lauren Anderson (51)
Rockingham by Adam Morrison (38)
The Swimsuit Issue by Randall Green (35)
The Babysitter by Brian Duffield (34)
Rothchild by John Patton Ford (32)
The Wall by Dwain A Worrell (30)
Cascade by Kieran Fitzgerald (25)
Aether by Krysty Wilson-Cairns (24)
Situation Comedy by Cat Vasko (24)
Tau by Noga Landau (23)
Echo by Chris MacBride (18)
Mena by Gary Spinelli (18)
Dodge by Scott Wascha (17)
North of Reno by Banipal Ablakhad, Benhur Ablakhad (17)
On the Basis of Sex by Daniel Stiepleman (17)
Moonfall by David Weil (16)
The Munchkin by Will Widger (16)
Matriarch by Eric Koenig (15)
The Defection by Ken Nolan (15)
The Long Haul by Dan Stoller (15)
Berliner by F Scott Frazier (14)
One Fell Swoop by Greg Scharpf (14)
Bird Box by Eric Heisserer (13)
Huntsville by Anthony Ragnone (13)
In the Deep by Anthony Jaswinski (13)
The Search by Spencer Mondshein (13)
Yellowstone Falls by Daniel Kunka (13)
Syndrome (E) by Mark Heyman (12)
Beef by Jeff Lock (11)
Black Winter by Jonathan Stewart and Jake Crane (11)
Cartoon Girl by Randall Green (11)
Road to Oz by Josh Golden (11)
Big Time Adolescence by Jason Orley (10)
LBJ by Joey Hartstone (10)
Possession: A Love Story by Jack Stanley (10)
The Secret Ingredients of Rockey Cola by Mike Vukadinovich (10)
The Shower by Jac Schaeffer (10)
Celeritas by Kimberly Barrante (9)
I am Ryan Reynolds by Billy Goulston (9)
Jackpot by Dave Callaham (9)
Plus One by April Prosser (9)
Wonka by Jason Micallef (9)
Beauty Pageant by Shea Mirzai and Evan Mirzai (8)
Bismarck by Jared Cowie (8)
Morgan by Seth W. Owen (8)
Shadow Run by Joe Gazzam (8)
The Bringing by Brandon Murphey and Philip Murphey (8)
The Takeway by Julia Cox (8)
Blink by Hernany Perla (7)
Boston Strangler by Chuck Maclean (7)
Everyone Wants Everything by Abraham Higginbotham (7)
Gifted by Tom Flynn (7)
Manchester by the Sea by Kenneth Lonergan (7)
Merc by Andrew Bozalis and Derek Mether (7)
Professor Pasghetti by Jeff Feuerstein (7)
Erin’s Voice by Greg Sullivan (7)
The Eden Project by Christina Hodson (7)
A Garden at the End of the World by Gary Graham (7)
Uncle Shelby by Brian Brown and Elliott DiGuiseppi (7)
Coffee & Kareem by Shane McCarthy (6)
Forgive Me by Max Hurwitz (6)
In Real Time by Chai Hecht (6)
In This, My Darkest Hour by Bryan McMullin (6)
Money Monster by Alan DiFiore, Alan Rauf and Jamie Linden (6)
My Friend Dahmer by Marc Meyers (6)
Seducing Ingrid Bergman by Arash Amel (6)
The Beautiful Game by Zander Lehmann (6)
The Founder by Rob Siegel (6)
The Man in the Rockefeller Suit by David Bar Katz (6)
The Wilde Ones by Tyler Shields (6)
So there we are. We’ll be having a look through over the next few days and picking out what we think are the most interesting scripts in the bunch. What do you think should make the Best of Black List…List?