The 100 Best Screenplays
The Writers' Guild of America is currently surveying its membership to determine the 100 Best Screenplays, as agreed upon by working screenwriters. The tricky thing is, as an individual member, I don't get to cast 100 votes--I only get 10.
After some reflection, here are the movies I ended up voting for:
I left films like Star Wars, Chinatown, The Godfather, and Casablanca off the list because I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they'll make the top 100 without my help, and I figured I'd save my votes for films that needed them--because (like Sunshine) they are underappreciate masterpieces, or (like Citizen Kane or Lawrence of Arabia) their direction is thought of so highly that the screenplays don't get the credit they deserve.
Other scripts that I could just as easily have put in my top 10 (and, in fact, if you had asked me on a different day, I might have):
12 Angry Men
The Sixth Sense
State & Main
On The Waterfront
The Lion in Winter
Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid
Some Like It Hot
Toy Story 2
Do The Right Thing
...and probably a dozen others that I am going to think of at 3AM and hate myself for not including.
The other tricky part here is that, in a number of the above cases, I haven't sat down and read the script; I'm judging it purely by the finished movie. This is a risky business, I know. However, my general assumption is that if a film is bad, you can't assume the script was bad--but for a film to be great, all the elements, from script to direction to cast to editing, must be great as well.
I did restrict myself to English-language films, since I don't think it would be fair to judge foreign scripts based on their subtitles.