Science fiction and fantasy
Great Scriptwriters: Sometimes Overlooked, Always Vital
3rd July 2012
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Scriptwriters make about as much contribution to a film's overall success as the leading actors or the director, but fewer people know who Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens are than Orlando Bloom or Liv Tyler.
I'm a fan of good scripts, for me they're an essential part of any good movie. But it occurred to me that I didn't have a very clear idea of whose writing I rated the highest because a lot of scriptwriters are hidden in the credits, in tiny font sizes that scroll past too quickly to read. So I did an audit of my favourite movies, and came up with this list.
Christopher NolanAlthough he's best known as a director, Christopher Nolan pens many of his own screenplays. They include those for Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Knight and Inception. 'Nuff said.
Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens and Peter JacksonThis is the team behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong, and The Lovely Bones. In my view their adaptation of the Lord of the Rings improved on the original considerably, particularly when it comes to pacing.
Andy and Lana WachowskiLana was formerly Larry Wachowski. This is another family team (Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson are husband and wife, whereas the Wachowskis are siblings). They have written scripts for The Matrix series, and V for Vendetta. Yes, Alan Moore disowned that film and had his name taken off the credits, but that doesn't stop it being a more than decent story.
Steve KlovesThis is the scriptwriter behind all of the Harry Potter movies excepting The Order of the Phoenix, which was the most disappointing adaptation anyway.
James CameronAgain Cameron is best known as a director, but his writing credentials are impressive. Aliens, Terminator 2, Dark Angel, and Avatar are some of his best creations.
Joe StillmanJoe Stillman has been involved in scripts for Shrek, Shrek 2 and Planet 51, and although they're for kids these are also movies with plenty of warm, witty dialogue.
Andrew AdamsonThis writer was involved in Shrek 2, Shrek the Third, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in 2005 and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. The Narnia films aren't my favourites, but I think the scripts do improve on the source material.
Joss WhedonI think Joss Whedon's scripts can be varied, and I didn't rate Avengers Assemble very highly. However Whedon has produced a lot of great SFF over the years, and the good far outweighs the bad.
Jonathan NolanChristopher Nolan's brother. He's credited on The Prestige and The Dark Knight, although he has some way to go to catch up with his sibling's output.
Ted Elliott and Terry RossioThis is another team who have worked together for a long time on various projects. Their best work includes the Pirates of the Caribbean series and Shrek. Roland Emmerich 's 1998 version of Godzilla is a blot on an otherwise solid record, however.
Neil GaimanIt's almost as though scriptwriting is done as an afterthought in Hollywood. Neil Gaiman is yet another of my favourites who is actually best known for doing something else. In Neil Gaiman's case that means writing comics, novels, Tweets, and just about everything really. But as well as seeing his novels adapted by other people he's written scripts for Babylon 5, Doctor Who, the 2007 film version of Beowulf, Mirrormask, and Neverwhere.
© Ros Jackson