Ultimate List of Oscar-Winning Screenplays – In-Depth Analysis & FAQs

The art of screenwriting is the backbone of any great film. A well-crafted screenplay can transport audiences into captivating worlds, ignite their emotions, and leave a lasting impact.

Among the highest honors in the entertainment industry, the Academy Awards (Oscars) have long recognized excellence in screenwriting through its prestigious Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay categories.

Over the decades, these awards have celebrated some of the most brilliant and influential screenplays ever written. From groundbreaking narratives that challenged societal norms to intricate character studies that explored the depths of the human condition, Oscar-winning screenplays have left an indelible mark on cinema history.

In this comprehensive article, we delve into the complete list of Oscar-winning screenplays, analyzing what makes each one a true masterpiece. Prepare to be inspired by the creative genius behind these exceptional works of art.

Best Original Screenplay Winners


Citizen Kane” (1941) – Written by Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles Regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, “Citizen Kane” is a masterclass in nonlinear storytelling and innovative cinematography.

The screenplay, co-written by Mankiewicz and Welles, weaves together multiple narratives to unravel the enigmatic life of Charles Foster Kane, a wealthy newspaper tycoon. With its intricate structure, layered symbolism, and biting social commentary, the screenplay set a new standard for originality and depth in screenwriting.


Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) – Written by William Goldman William Goldman’s Oscar-winning script for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” is a perfect blend of sharp dialogue, character development, and humor.

The screenplay follows the exploits of two notorious outlaws, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as they flee from the law and find themselves in Bolivia. Goldman’s witty banter and ability to humanize the characters made this a beloved classic.


“Annie Hall” (1977) – Written by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” is a true masterpiece of modern romantic comedy. The screenplay, co-written with Marshall Brickman, breaks conventional narrative structures and employs innovative techniques like breaking the fourth wall. Allen’s sharp, neurotic humor and insightful exploration of relationships struck a chord with audiences, cementing the film’s status as a cultural touchstone.

Best Adapted Screenplay Winners


The Maltese Falcon” (1941) – Screenplay by John Huston, based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett John Huston’s adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s hard-boiled novel, “The Maltese Falcon,” is a masterclass in noir storytelling.

The screenplay captures the gritty essence of the source material while introducing memorable characters like Sam Spade, a private detective embroiled in a dangerous quest for a priceless statue. Huston’s tight, suspenseful script set the benchmark for countless crime and mystery films that followed.


“The Godfather” (1972) – Screenplay by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola, based on the novel by Mario Puzo Adapted from Mario Puzo’s bestselling novel, the screenplay for “The Godfather” is a tour de force of character-driven storytelling.

Puzo and Coppola’s script delves deep into the intricate power dynamics of the Corleone crime family, creating iconic characters like Vito Corleone and Michael Corleone. With its rich dialogue, intricate plot, and exploration of themes like loyalty and corruption, the screenplay is a testament to the art of adaptation.


“Schindler’s List” (1993) – Screenplay by Steven Zaillian, based on the novel by Thomas Keneally Steven Zaillian’s adaptation of Thomas Keneally’s “Schindler’s List” is a harrowing and powerful account of the Holocaust.

Zaillian’s screenplay skillfully navigates the complex moral dilemmas faced by Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who saved the lives of over a thousand Polish Jews during World War II. With its unflinching depiction of human suffering and resilience, the script resonates with profound emotional depth.

Notable Trends and Records

Multiple Oscar Winners

  • Woody Allen (3 wins for “Annie Hall,” “Hannah and Her Sisters,” and “Midnight in Paris”)
  • Ethan Coen and Joel Coen (2 wins for “Fargo” and “No Country for Old Men”)
  • Charlie Kaufman (1 win for “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”)

Standout Decades

  • The 1940s saw a golden age of screenwriting, with classics like “Citizen Kane,” “The Maltese Falcon,” and “Casablanca” emerging.
  • The 1970s witnessed a resurgence of bold and unconventional screenplays, such as “Annie Hall,” “The Godfather,” and “Chinatown.”

Studio Dominance

  • In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Warner Bros. dominated the screenplay categories, with films like “The Life of Emile Zola” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
  • From the late 1990s to the early 2000s, Miramax Films enjoyed a successful run with screenplay wins for films like “The Cider House Rules” and “Pulp Fiction.”

Diversity and Representation

  • In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of diverse voices and perspectives in screenwriting, with wins for films like “Moonlight,” “Parasite,” and “CODA.”

What Makes a Screenplay Oscar-Worthy?

While there is no definitive formula for an Oscar-winning screenplay, certain elements tend to set them apart from the rest:

  1. Compelling Characters: Memorable characters with depth, complexity, and relatable humanity are at the heart of great screenwriting. From Vito Corleone to Forrest Gump, these characters resonate long after the final credits roll.
  2. Innovative Storytelling: Oscar-winning screenplays often push the boundaries of traditional narrative structures, employing techniques like non-linear timelines, unreliable narrators, or genre-blending to create a unique and engaging experience for the audience.
  3. Thematic Resonance: The best screenplays explore universal themes and ideas that strike a chord with audiences, whether it’s the pursuit of the American Dream, the complexities of human relationships, or the resilience of the human spirit.
  4. Memorable Dialogue: Iconic lines and exchanges of dialogue can elevate a screenplay to iconic status. From the witty repartee of “Annie Hall” to the chilling monologues of “No Country for Old Men,” great dialogue leaves a lasting impression.
  5. Cultural Impact: Many Oscar-winning screenplays have transcended the realm of cinema and left an indelible mark on popular culture, influencing everything from language and fashion to societal attitudes and perspectives.


As we’ve explored, Oscar-winning screenplays are not just words on a page; they are works of art that have the power to captivate audiences, shape cultural conversations, and leave an indelible mark on the art of filmmaking.

From groundbreaking narratives like “Citizen Kane” to poignant character studies like “Schindler’s List,” these screenplays have stood the test of time, inspiring generations of filmmakers and writers.

Whether you’re a film enthusiast, an aspiring screenwriter, or simply someone who appreciates great storytelling, delving into the world of Oscar-winning screenplays is a journey of discovery and inspiration.

Each script offers a unique glimpse into the creative genius of its writers, inviting us to peel back the layers and uncover the secrets that make these works truly unforgettable.

So, let this comprehensive list be your guide as you embark on an exploration of cinematic excellence. Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of narratives, characters, and themes that have left an indelible mark on the art of screenwriting.

Who knows? Perhaps your own screenplay will one day join the ranks of these legendary works, inspiring and captivating audiences for generations to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who has won the most Oscars for screenwriting?

The screenwriter who has won the most Academy Awards for writing is Woody Allen. He has won 3 Oscars for Best Original Screenplay for “Annie Hall” (1977), “Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986), and “Midnight in Paris” (2011).

Who is the youngest screenplay writer to win an Oscar?

Ben Affleck is the youngest person to win an Oscar for screenwriting. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay at the age of 25 for the film “Good Will Hunting” (1997), which he co-wrote with Matt Damon.

How many female screenwriters have won an Academy Award for writing?

Since the Academy Awards began, a total of 20 women have won competitive Oscars for screenwriting (as of 2022). This includes writers like Diablo Cody, Sofia Coppola, Callie Khouri, and Emerald Fennell.

Who has won an Oscar for acting and writing?

Only a few people have achieved the rare feat of winning Oscars for both acting and writing. They include:

  • Ben Affleck (Best Original Screenplay for “Good Will Hunting”, Best Picture for “Argo”)
  • Emma Thompson (Best Actress for “Howards End”, Best Adapted Screenplay for “Sense and Sensibility”)
  • Billy Bob Thornton (Best Adapted Screenplay for “Sling Blade”, Best Actor in a Leading Role for the same film)

Who is the richest screenwriter?

According to various reports, Akiva Goldsman is considered the richest screenwriter in the world, with an estimated net worth of around $300 million. He has written blockbuster films like “A Beautiful Mind”, “Cinderella Man”, and “The Da Vinci Code”.

Has a woman ever won the best screenplay Oscar?

Yes, several women have won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay over the years. Some notable winners include:

  • Diablo Cody (Best Original Screenplay for “Juno” in 2007)
  • Sofia Coppola (Best Original Screenplay for “Lost in Translation” in 2003)
  • Callie Khouri (Best Original Screenplay for “Thelma & Louise” in 1991)

Who is the youngest screenwriter ever recorded?

The youngest professional screenwriter on record is Emily Perl Kingsley. She wrote her first television script at age 7 in 1964 for the show “Sesame Street”. She has continued to work as a screenwriter and author.

Who is the oldest Oscar winner?

The oldest person to win an Academy Award is James Ivory, who won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for “Call Me by Your Name” in 2018 at the age of 89.

Who is the youngest Hollywood screenwriter?

One of the youngest Hollywood screenwriters is Ariana Galen Berlin. She wrote the screenplay for the film “Blame” when she was just 12 years old in 2017. The movie premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.

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