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Winning an Academy Award for Best Screenplay has been one of the highest honors for writers since 1940. For nearly 80 years, the best and brightest screenwriters have been recognized by the Academy for their craft. And with Oscar season coming up, it’s time to recognize the screenplays that have moved (and will move) audiences, critics, and film festival crowds so far.

Guest writer Sophie Evans takes a look at seven films that at this early stage look to be likely Best Screenplay nominees, either in the “Original” or “Adapted” category. Any aspiring writer, or anyone merely interested in the craft of screenwriting, should make it a priority to see these movies!


A movie about strippers, starring Jennifer Lopez and Cardi B, may not seem to be your typical Oscar bait. That being said, HUSTLERS, based on a real story, is actually riveting and immensely entertaining. And with regard to the Academy, it would actually make perfect sense in the ongoing era of the #MeToo movement to see a film about women’s empowerment being recognized. Lorene Scafaria’s script is whip sharp anyway, and could actually be a dark-horse contender in the Adapted category.


THE LIGHTHOUSE, starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, is in short a gothic horror movie. The artistic black-and-white film, written by THE WITCH‘s Robert Eggers, is said to take audiences on an unsettling yet gripping journey. The writing is supposed to be somewhat breathtaking, and from the look of the film this could be a lesson in how to make a lot happen on screen with minimal characters or setting changes.


Shia LaBeouf’s semi-autobiographical film, HONEY BOY, comes out in November, but is already earning critical acclaim (as is LaBeouf’s other big 2019 project, THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON). In the film, the former Disney Channel star details his rise to fame, his relationship with his father, and his legal troubles, all with what looks to be brutal honesty. It would be odd to see LaBeouf recognized at the Oscars for writing, but for all the odd twists and turns of his career, there’s always been evidence of brilliance.


Noah Baumbach’s MARRIAGE STORY takes a painful but honest look at the end of a relationship. Both Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver are said to do brilliant acting, but it’s the storytelling that’s becoming the story with this one as it speeds through the festival circuit. In fact, of all the films listed here, this may be the one to watch for various big awards. America’s online sportsbooks will soon drift away from their primary focus to start projecting the Oscar races, and we expect to see MARRIAGE STORY with some of the strongest betting odds in numerous categories – including Best Original Screenplay.


At the surface level, BOOKSMART seems to be a genderbent version of the legendary low-budget comedy SUPERBAD (right down to the fact that it stars Jonah Hill’s sister, Beanie Feldstein). However, it’s much more than a raunchy teen comedy. The film is already being considered as a coming-of-age classic. It gracefully mediates between outlandish humor and the poignancy of growing up. Not many films can say the same, at least to this degree.


JOJO RABBIT has a very good chance of taking home the Best Adapted Screenplay award, from what we’re hearing out of film festivals. Taika Waititi adapted the script from Christine Leunens’s novel CAGING SKIE. The movie, distributed by Disney, details the life of a child living in Nazi Germany with unexpected warmth and wit.


It actually looks somewhat unsettling, given that the still and trailers showcase people in Nazi attire smiling and having fun – but we’re keeping an open mind, and if anything the script could provide an example of how to make a delightful story out of unlikely subject matter.


While Jordan Peele’s US isn’t quite as popular as his Academy Award-winning film GET OUT was, it still has plenty of merit. The story is gripping, the turns of events are completely unexpected, and it’s both genuinely terrifying and, at times, uncomfortably funny. Peele has some clout following GET OUT, so a nomination here wouldn’t be too surprising, even if it might not have terrific odds.