Celebrate Five People Who Know How to Make a Story Engaging
Screenwriters. One of the most essential people when making a story. A simple outline can lead to so many possibilities. The words they write can be powerful. They can make us laugh, cry, or think about issues going on in the world. With dozens of screenwriters out there, here are five of the best in Hollywood.
5. Lawrence Kasdan
Here is a writer that many pop culture fans owe a huge debt of gratitude. Whether working on the screenplay for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) or being co-writer on four Star Wars films, including fan-favorite The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Kasdan excels at his craft. His writing style involves him starting with the characters first and the plot second. This is demonstrated brilliantly through Return of the Jedi (1983). In that movie, several different kinds of character relationships are focused on, and each is given time to be explored. One of which is Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamil) and Darth Vader’s (James Earl Jones) father-son dynamic. Kasdan does a great job at showing the complications the two have since, while one is evil and the other is good, they both still care for each other and ultimately help each other out in the end.
Another positive aspect of Kasdan’s writing is how he makes even minor supporting characters engaging. With something like Raiders of the Lost Ark, there are a decent amount of supporting characters, including Satipo (Alfred Molina) and Simon Katanga (George Harris). Despite both of them barely being in the movie, they still leave a memorable impact. Then, of course, there is how Kasdan can balance writing light-hearted moments with much darker scenes. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back has multiple instances of characters being tortured quite painfully, and yet there are still plenty of other moments where the heroes have witty banter. Lawrence Kasdan will go down in history as one of the most iconic screenwriters of all time, and it’s not hard to see why.
4. Greta Gerwig
Although she is arguably more known for her directing, that doesn’t change the fact that Greta Gerwig is a talented screenwriter. Her style partly involves taking inspiration from her own life, much like other writers. This is evident in films like Lady Bird (2017), where the story works as a relatable coming-of-age-movie. The dialogue involves characters talking about college and relationships, and it feels organic. She knows how to make teenage characters feel like teenage characters, which is more than could be said for a lot of Hollywood coming-of-age-films in the past few years. Gerwig knows how to connect to her audience, and another way she archives this through her writing is with her movies’ themes.
With something like this year’s Barbie (2023), she touches upon both feminism and masculinity in ways that everyone can get behind. She cleverly shows why all of them need to be better treated. Gerwig can also touch upon more philosophical elements. Again with Barbie, the movie tackles things like existentialism. This is effectively demonstrated through the main character, Barbie, or “Stereotypical Barbie” (Margot Robbie). Her character struggles with her own identity and even mortality. It is done in a way that makes the audience think. The fact that Gerwig is not afraid to handle these more intense subject matters is truly commendable. Greta Gerwig is one the best modern writers in Hollywood. Her characters have identifiable problems, she creates themes that everyone can get into, and she gets philosophical with her writing. She has a long road ahead of her and it is exciting to see where she goes from here.
3. Jordan Peele
Like Gerwig, although he is more known for his directing and even his longtime acting career, Jordan Peele is still an amazing screenwriter. Again, like Gerwig, Peele is not scared of themes that might be considered “uncomfortable” to some. With something like Get Out (2017), he can craft a story that talks about issues such as “color blindness”. Another great element of Peele’s writing abilities is that he is great at creating suspenseful moments. Whether it is the climax of Nope (2022) or the home invasion from Us (2019), he can write scenes that have audience members on the edge of their seats. They feel meticulously planned out, and that is not to be overlooked.
Of course, one cannot talk about Peele’s writing without mentioning his comedy. Peele does a great job of adding humor in his horror films that helps flesh out the characters and add levity to an otherwise serious film. Then there is the sketch-comedy series that he not only wrote but co-starred with actor and comedian Keegan Micheal Key, Key & Peele (2012-2015). The show has gotten much acclaim for being one of the funniest sketch-comedy series of all time. While Peele wasn’t the only writer for that show, his contribution could certainly be felt, especially in sketches where he plays himself. In the end, Jordan Peele is someone of many talents with his writing. He can do horror, comedy, or even sci-fi, such as with Nope. Either way, it’s always something special.
2. Tony Gilroy
This is a writer who does not get as much recognition as he deserves. Through the Bourne series, Gilroy writes captivating spy-thrillers that have audiences glued to the screen. He will keep everyone guessing with many unpredictable moments, such as the opening to The Bourne Supremacy (2004). It never gets dull, but rather continuously gets more engaging as the story goes on.
Similar to Lawrence Kasdan, Gilroy is more recently known for his contributions to the Star Wars franchise. Whether it is Rogue One (2016) or the series Andor (2022-present) that he is also the showrunner of, Gilroy has been considered to be a “saving grace” in the Disney-era of Star Wars. His writing brings a down-to-earth element that the franchise never really had before, or at least, not in this capacity. He shows off a darker side of the good guys in Rogue One and Andor by committing horrific acts as a “means to an end.” He elevates the series by having the characters speak more like people in the real world, just with a Star Wars skin, which allows for viewers to connect with them more. Gilroy is also good at juggling multiple plotlines, which isn’t easy for a writer, yet he does it in a way that feels smooth. All in all, if someone needs a writer to make well-grounded thrillers with intriguing characters, Tony Gilroy is the screenwriter that they are looking for. He always continues to do excellent work with whatever he is attached to.
1. Aaron Sorkin
It wouldn’t be a list of Hollywood screenwriters without mentioning the one and only, Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin is a writer that many have strived to be. His style comes from a theater background, much like other screenwriters, including Lawrence Kasdan, and involves a lot of monologues done at a much quicker pace, which many have described as the “walk and talk.” This is perfectly depicted in shows like The West Wing (1999-2007), or even 30 Rock (2006-2013) where he appeared in a cameo role as himself explaining the process. He can have dialogue that practically has 1000 words a minute, and yet audiences are hanging on to every single one of those words.
Another example of Sorkin’s brilliant writing is the film The Social Network (2010). The movie, which follows the story of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and the founding of Facebook, is incredibly engaging. His writing has many compelling scenes of the character discussing the site and all of the various legal troubles that follow. Even if someone might not be able to understand everything that is going on, it will still stay with them, since the dialogue is very mesmerizing. That is the best way to describe Sorkin’s writing: mesmerizing. Whether or not people like his work, it still leaves an impact on them. No other person writes the way he does, and that is the best thing a writer can achieve: not necessarily being the best, but having a voice unlike any other. Ultimately, Aaron Sorkin is one of the reasons why screenwriters need to be treated with more respect.
Movies and shows by these writers can be found on Amazon Prime Video.
The Social Network (2010) Official Sony Pictures Trailer