Read The 2024 Oscar-Nominated Scripts
January 26, 2024
Every great screenwriter knows the importance of taking the time to read screenplays. It takes a lot of focus and numerous rewrites to create a well-constructed screenplay that can be considered a work of literature. The ink on the page is the thing everyone–from the actors to the designers–uses for inspiration and direction for how they should do their job and to help discover the deeper meaning behind all those words.
Between our favorite streaming services and all the films released in theaters, 2023 was a great year for movies about big ideas, frightening true events, and complicated characters. Some films were crafted from original ideas, while others were adaptations from books, inspired by the lives of real people, or, in the case of Barbie, a plastic doll.
Luckily, The Script Lab screenplay library has made many of these scripts available to read. These are seven favorite Oscar-nominated scripts we think you should read.
Written by David Hemingson
The story behind The Holdovers is almost as quirky as the cranky high school professor Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) in the film. Screenwriter David Hemingson had written a TV pilot about a group of high school students set in the 1980s. The pilot landed on director Alexander Payne’s desk. After reading it, Payne knew Hemingson was the perfect guy to write his passion project about an anxious but tenderhearted teacher at an all-boys private school in the 1970s. Payne called Hemingson on the phone, but Hemingson thought it was one of his friends pranking him!
After a few minutes of talking, Hemingson realized it was the Oscar-winning writer/director on the line. What Hemingson likely didn’t realize was how big a deal The Holdovers would be for his writing career.
Written by Justine Triet and Arthur Harari
This fascinating psychological thriller zigzags between two languages, two points of view, and, what some might say, two separate truths. It is interesting to read the screenplay for Anatomy of a Fall because of how different it looks from the standard Hollywood screenplay.
The formatting isn’t configured the way you’re used to seeing it in software like Final Draft 13: the margins in this 144-page script are wider, most of the dialogue is in English while the screen directions are in French, and the writers have inserted diagrams to help the reader understand the actual fatal fall the movie happens.
This script is a must-read if you’ve ever wanted to know how to insert important images into a screenplay.
Written by Bradley Cooper and Josh Singer
Biopics are always popular in awards season, and Maestro delivers on telling the story of a brilliant yet flawed artist. The film tells the story of the great conductor-composer Leonard Bernstein (Bradley Cooper) while exploring his complicated relationship with his wife, Felicia (Carey Mulligan).
You could even call this film “Anatomy of a Marriage” because it dissects the breakdown of the fabric holding the Berstein Family together. Read this screenplay if you’re writing a biopic and want to see how the narrative is structured. It is also a great script to learn why Bernstein’s dramatic operatic music is the perfect metaphor for love.
4. Poor Things
Written by Tony McNamara, Adapted From the Book Poor Things by Alasdair Gray
In this screenplay, screenwriter Tony McNamara expertly uses a metaphor in the form of Frankenstein’s monster. Surprisingly, this "monster" comes in the rebellious form of the beautiful Bella Baxter (Emma Stone) as she "comes of age" in the late Victorian era.
McNamara is arguably one of the best screenwriters working today for his ability to write intriguing and brave female characters that manipulate the world around them physically and psychologically. Known for writing the TV show The Great and for writing The Favourite (2019), McNamara knows how to use humor, history, and sexual repression to tell a powerful story.
Written by Cord Jefferson, Adapted From Erasure by Percival Everett
American Fiction is an exploration of race in America and delves into how people often get reduced to outrageous stereotypes. Screenwriter Cord Jefferson, known for writing the TV shows The Watchmen and Succession, carefully balances the tone throughout the screenplay, keeping it in the range of satire and never taking the comedy into the realm of farce.
If you are interested in grounding your comedic screenplay in a painful reality without losing the wit and irony, this screenplay is a must-read.
Written by Christopher Nolan, Adapted From American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin
Writer/director Christopher Nolan is a seriously cerebral guy. His films (like Inception and Memento) often confuse viewers as much as they entertain them. But this biopic about nuclear physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) is probably Nolan’s most straightforward storytelling effort to date.
Oppenheimer examines some of the most complicated ideas ever explored in a film, from creating technology that might destroy the human race to his fraught female relationships, including troubled psychologist Jean Tatlock (Florence Pugh) and his wife, Kitty (Emily Blunt).
Read this screenplay to see how Nolan weaves back and forth between the mysteries of the universe and the mysteries of relationships.
Written by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, Adapted From the Barbie Doll From Mattel
The Barbie screenplay has everything to dazzle a movie audience: Busby Berkeley-style musical numbers, a beautiful female character facing an existential crisis, and even the most humorous homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey ever imagined.
While it is easy to call this story an adult fairy tale, it is a satire on how women are perceived in the world and how they perceive themselves. After 60 years of little girls playing with the iconic and absurdly proportioned Barbie doll, Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach have finally ventured into the comedy and tragedy of what Barbie represents to women and girls.
Read this screenplay if you are dealing with themes of femininity, social constructs of gender, and the male/female power dynamic.
Written by: Shanee EdwardsShanee Edwards is an L.A.-based screenwriter, journalist and novelist who recently won The Next MacGyver television writing competition to create a TV show about a female engineer and was honored to be mentored by actress/producers America Ferrera. Shanee's first novel, Ada Lovelace: The Countess Who Dreamed in Numbers was published by Conrad Press in 2019. Currently, she is working on a biopic of controversial nurse Florence Nightingale. Shanee’s ultimate goal is to tell stories about strong, spirited women whose passion, humor and courage inspire us all.