Top 5 Screenplays of 2020

Verging from the normal films and performances, etc, I wanted to pick out some of my favorite screenplays of 2020.

I haven’t been able to read all of these just yet, so I am just taking in what I was able to see and hear on screen.

I will be mixing in all screenplays together, adapted and original, to provide my top 5 Screenplays of 2020.

Honorable Mention:

  • Promising Young Woman
    • This is one film that thematically is one of the strongest screenplays of the entire year. An attack on some pretty strong subjects that is engaging and important.
  • Nomadland
    • This was a conversation with real people that told some of the most heartbreaking stories of the entire year.
  • Mank
    • How Jack Fincher wrote this over 20 years ago, and it still fits in just as perfectly in today’s society blows me away. The callbacks and references pretty much all work.

5. Kemp Powers, One Night in Miami…

  • Spoiler, this won’t be the last time Kemp Powers is on this list. I mean, where to even start with this screenplay. There were a lot of films that felt like a conversation. Whether it was because this country was in dire need of more conversations, or the fact that face to face conversation has been few and far in between, there were a lot of movies that felt like they were just trying to talk. Of the few where I felt that was prevalent, this one stands out most of all. Now, of course, the acting across the board was phenomenal, but the way their dialogue was written was so natural and so personable that it almost is hard not to like. I think what drew me in so much with this film was the way that all of these conversations felt like how I would talk to my friends. Being a white male in 2020 I wasn’t having these exact conversations thematically, but structurally they were designed perfectly. The quartet of actors laughed, fought, yelled, and discussed how close friends would do. It felt human and real and everything they said didn’t seem fluffed up for show, but felt that is how they would have actually spoken these powerful words. Added in with the absolutely engrossing message and layers to the film, this screenplay really stood out as a powerful conversation between characters and audience.

4. Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7

  • Aaron Sorkin is one of those people who, when you are witnessing them at their best, you almost get angry at how good they are at what they do. That is how I felt watching Aaron Sorkin’s words fly off the screen here. I knew a lot about the 1968 DNC and the riots and protests that happened during the Convention, but I didn’t know a lot about the trial itself. What I love about the way Sorkin writes, is he never feels like he is teaching you anything. You don’t feel lectured or talked down to, you are simply just shown information that has happened. That’s what he did here, and not only did I learn a bunch, I was truly given a show watching some of these wonderful actors bring to life these extremely colorful characters. Sorkin is dialogue-heavy in his writings, and here was no different, but he hits absolutely every beat he could and was able to deliver just such a superior piece of writing. From a structure standpoint, this is the best of the entire year.

3. Andy Siara, Palm Springs

  • It is one thing to redo something that has already been done time and time again. It is another to completely change the landscape of an idea and reenvision the concept into what feels like an original idea. The repeating days and time travel stories have been overdone and overused so many different ways in history, that it almost seems like there is nothing new you can do. SO, what made Palm Springs so different? Well, for me, what I loved so much about this film is the realization of the situation they are in and the lack of trying to figure out how they got in and how they get out of the loop. Of course, there are moments of this, but this movie is more about living rather than be stuck. It is about learning to find the best in every moment and loving where you are at. There is a crisis about mortality and what happens when you know you can’t die, and instead of worrying about not being able to move to the next day, you embrace where you are. Now, the film isn’t all happy-go-lucky, but there is definitely a beautiful story about life and the need to keep living. I talk about this better in my review (which you can find above), but there was something charmingly poignant about the film.

2. Pete Docter, Kemp Powers, Mike Jones, Soul

  • No film this year hit me harder than this one. My #1 gets the nod because of how incredibly well put together it is, but my gosh this film really spoke to me. Soul was unlike any Pixar movie I have ever seen. It attacked some pretty powerful subjects and thematically hit some pretty tough subjects for me. I felt myself all too much in this film, and it was a painfully beautiful experience. This film, like Palm Springs, tackles mortality and the fear of death and dying. It also tackles so many personal issues like self-loathing, depression, insecurities, and so much more. This film went to a place where I don’t think any Pixar film has ever gone, as this feels like a film that was geared more for adults to connect with it rather than kids. It was a beautiful story about life, death, and everything in between, and as someone who battles anxiety and insecurities, this film perfectly spoke to me.

1. Charlie Kaufman, i’m thinking of ending things

  • Charlie Kaufman, to me, is very similar to what I said about Aaron Sorkin earlier. This man is so great at what he does and how he is able to relay a certain, usually existential, message. Kaufman pulls from the deepest and wildest depths of his mind, that at times how great he is at writing makes me question if I am any decent at writing. The difference between him and Sorkin is, where I can recognize how good Sorkin is, Kaufman encapsulates me within the film in such a weird and oddball way where it takes me a few viewings of his films to even fully grasp the concepts that he is trying to produce. It’s a talent that truly makes him one of the best screenwriters who ever lived. Here, he is adapting a work, and a difficult one at that, and manages to make the kookiest and strangest film, but also one of the more deeply poetic and heartbreaking films of the entire year. There is so much depth and nuance and ambiguity and eccentricity, that it makes you wonder how he was able to fit everything into a just over 2-hour film. This film touches on mortality, death, life, longing, and self-loathing in such a real and powerful way. Long conversations of killer dialogue, callbacks, easter eggs, and constant changes make me wonder how long it took the actors to fully understand what he was trying to get across. His mind works in a way that is so insanely brilliant and this film is no exception. There are so many different variations and ways that people can, and have, interpreted this movie (including my own), and for all of this I have to name it my top screenplay of 2020.

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