10 Years, 10 Great Screenplays.

Update: Yeah, I know, there's technically 11 years/11 screenplays. I wrote this near the beginning of my blogging career... it's a big rough, and there's been controversy around it. But... whatever.


In light of the Writer’s Strike having just ended, I thought it might be a fun idea to write an article based around 10 really great movies within the last 10 years (1 movie per year) that were just incredibly smartly written. Whether it be dialogue, scenario, or just brilliance all around, something about each of these screenplays turned out 10 magnificent movies. Each of these descriptions isn’t overly long, and they say roughly the same thing. I just felt it was important to at least state some reasons why I thought these movies were chosen for their specific year. So let’s get started.

1997 – Chasing Amy.

Written by: Kevin Smith

Arguably one of Kevin Smith’s best movies (though maybe not his wittiest, which would go to Clerks), Chasing Amy is a story about a lesbian and the man in love with her. Whether you are straight, gay, or bi, you can’t deny that Chasing Amy has heart. And its script is really well done, at that. My personal favorite scene would be when Jason Lee is trying to explain to Ben Affleck why the relationship can’t work, using examples with Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, and the Man-Hating Dyke. It’s just classic Smith dialogue.

1998 – The Big Lebowski.

Written by: Joel and Ethan Coen

Very quick, smart, and hilarious. It’s a movie full of memorable characters and scenarios. And when the main character is known as The Dude, you know you have a classic (in one form or another) on your hands. Fuck it, let’s go bowling.

1999 – Fight Club.

Written by: Jim Uhls (based on the book by Chuck Palahniuk)

This was the hardest year to choose from. Do you have any idea how many great movies came out in 1999? A large chunk of them, actually. It was almost like everybody was afraid the world was going to end with Y2K and decided to get all their best movies out all at once. From movies such as The Matrix, The Sixth Sense, and American Beauty, it was incredibly hard to pick just one. But I finally decided to stick with Fight Club. Yes, it’s based on a book, but it was just so smart and witty that it was hard not to choose it. There’s so many scenes in this movie that are memorable, dialogue-wise, it’s hard to even pick one thing. And to top that off, you even have that narration about the ‘I am Jack’s’ such-and-such. At the very least, it was intelligent adaptation.

2000 – Requiem for a Dream.

Written by: Hubert Selby Jr.

On the other hand, 2000 was the year of a lot of crap, with such gems as Battlefield Earth. It seems that in getting out all their best ideas in 1999, and upon realizing the world didn’t end come 2000, they realized “Well hell, we still have movies to make… um…” I’ll be honest, I haven’t completely watched this movie all the way through because I didn’t care for it while I was watching it. It’s possible that it was because I was watching it after midnight, but still… this was one of the only highly acclaimed movies of the year, so I chose it.

2001 – Memento.

Written by: Christopher Nolan (based on a short story by Jonathan Nolan)

(See what I did there?). And that scene where he’s running from somebody thinking he’s chasing somebody and realizes he’s being chased instead is classic. The idea behind this movie was brilliant in and of itself. This movie can’t get enough recognition. So what can I say about Memento?

2002 – Donnie Darko.

Written by: Richard Kelly

This movie is such a mind-freak (sans Chris Angel). It still boggles the minds of us years later. It’s twisted, dark, and smart. Time travel is tricky business, and this movie handles in a great way.

2003 – Adaptation.

Written by: Charlie and ‘Donald’ Kaufman (based… around?... a book by Susan Orlean)

After the first time I saw this movie, I couldn’t watch another movie without it messing with my brain. This is the movie about movies that will forever alter the way you see movies. Love or hate Nicolas Cage, this is one of his best flicks. Not to mention it was written by Charlie and Donald Kaufman about Charlie and Donald Kaufman… and Donald Kaufman doesn’t even exist. Seriously… a movie about adapting a book that cannot be adapted so he adapts his own life and merges it with the story of the book he can’t adapt… all of this being based on the true story of how Charlie Kaufman being unable to adapt a book that cannot be adapted so he adapts his… yeah, you get it. My brain hurts, too.

2004 – Shaun of the Dead.

Written by: Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg

This movie has one of my favorite scripts in existence. I continue my claim that this movie was one of the most brilliant things ever written. Everything in this movie is either said or done at least twice in two different circumstances. And everything that happens in the latter half of the movie is foreshadowed in the first half. It had to have taken ages to plan this movie out to the degree it was. I still catch stuff in this movie after countless times of seeing it. It’s a hoot.

2005 – Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

Written by: Shane Black (based on a book by Brett Halliday)

Regardless of the entirely overcomplicated and confusing ending, this movie was insanely quick-witted and smart. The story is tight and the characters are vibrant. It’s funny and it’s just good all around.

2006 – Brick.

Written by: Rian Johnson

Originally, this year had gone to Stranger than Fiction. But then I realized that Brick came out the same year, and I already had one movie that was somewhat similar to Fiction in premise (Adaptation). So Brick it is. It has a great idea: Take a classic Noir Film with your basic 20s detective or whatnot… and set it in a present-day high school with the same type of dialogue and everything. You have to know what you’re in for before watching the movie or you’ll be utterly lost and confused, but once you get into it you realize how well and smartly written this movie really was.

2007 – Juno.

Written by: Diablo Cody

Possibly not the best film of 2007, but it was certainly one of the most original and funny. The characters are round (in the literature sense), the dialogue was fast and snappy, and everything about this movie screamed “love me, I’m brilliant.” You can’t help but love the character of Juno and her quick wit.

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