9 Top Hollywood Writers of All Time

Dream of seeing your work acted out on the silver screen? Discover the top Hollywood writers to boost your inspiration and motivation in our guide. 

Many writers share the desire to one day see their writing made into a major motion picture, and countless Hollywood writers have made this dream a reality. So whether you’re writing a book with a screen adaptation in mind, you’re thinking about the idea of having one of your novels get picked up for a screenplay one day, or you’re writing a screenplay already, it’s exciting to think about how your story would appear on the big screen.

Here, we’ll look at twenty of the most famous Hollywood writers of all time–you’ll likely recognize some of the quotes below and may even be able to imagine your name on a list like this one day.

1. Nora Ephron

Top Hollywood Writers: Nora Ephron
During her career, Ephron won a BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1989 for When Harry Met Sally

Rom-com phenomenon Nora Ephron left a legacy as one of the best screenwriters of all time. Her lighthearted takes on life and romance kept audiences smiling and rooting for love to prevail. During her career, Ephron won a BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1989 for When Harry Met Sally. In addition, Ephron directed many of the films she wrote, including You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle.

“Kevin, this woman is the most adorable creature I’ve ever been in contact with, and if she turns out even to be as good-looking as a mailbox, I’d be crazy not to turn my life upside down and marry her.”

You’ve Got Mail
Sleepless in Seattle
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Bill Pullman (Actors)
  • Nora Ephron (Director) - Nora Ephron (Writer) - Gary Foster (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

2. Waldo Salt

Chicago native Waldo Salt was an Academy Award-winning screenwriter who wrote or co-wrote 19 films throughout his celebrated career. However, like many mid-century writers, Salt was blacklisted in Hollywood in 1951 after he refused to testify for the House Committee on Un-American Activities. As a result, he became an expat and continued his work in Britain, eventually returning to the United States in later years.

You might also find our round-up of the best screenwriting books helpful.

“I have killed for my country, or whatever, and I don’t feel good about it. Because there’s not enough reason, man, to feel a person die in your hands, or to see your best buddy get blown away.”

Coming Home
Midnight Cowboy
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Brenda Vaccaro (Actors)
  • John Schlesinger (Director) - Waldo Salt (Writer) - Jerome Hellman (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

3. Callie Khouri

Academy Award-winning producer, director, and screenwriter Callie Khoui is known for her many films with strong female leads. She got her start in screenwriting with 1991’s Thelma & Louise (which created a pretty controversial stir in the film world at the time). Khouri said of her decision to transition into screenwriting, “I was struggling so hard to figure out what I was supposed to be doing. I kept thinking I’m supposed to be doing something creative. I can’t believe I have such a knack for the vernacular and I don’t have anywhere to apply it.”

“I feel really awake. I don’t recall ever feeling this awake. You know? Everything looks different now. You feel like that? You feel like you got something to live for now?”

Thelma & Louise
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Sandra Bullock, Ellen McRae, Fionnula Flanagan (Actors)
  • Callie Khouri (Director) - Mark Andrus (Writer) - Bonnie Bruckheimer (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

4. Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is best known for writing, directing, and producing the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit trilogy. The New Zealand native got his start in the mainstream film industry with Heavenly Creatures, for which he and his partner Fran Walsh were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. In total, the Lord of the Rings series made $897.7 million.

“You are a ring-bearer, Frodo. To bear a ring of power is to be alone. This is Nenya, the ring of Adamant, and I am its keeper. This task was appointed to you, and if you do not find a way, no one will.”

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler (Actors)
  • Peter Jackson (Director) - Fran Walsh (Writer) - Barrie M. Osborne (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

5. Charlie Kaufman

Critically acclaimed director and writer Charlie Kaufman is an award-winning screenwriter, novelist, producer, and director and is widely regarded as one of the best screenwriters of the 20th and 21st centuries. Kaufman received three BAFTA awards: one in 2000 for Being John Malkovich, one in 2002 for Adaptation, and one in 2004 for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

“Sometimes I think people don’t understand how lonely it is to be a kid, like you don’t matter. So, I’m eight, and I have these toys, these dolls. My favorite is this ugly girl doll who I call Clementine, and I keep yelling at her, “You can’t be ugly! Be pretty!” It’s weird, like if I can transform her, I would magically change, too.”

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

6. Stanley Kubrick

His name is synonymous with cinematic excellence, and for a good reason. Director, photographer, screenwriter, and producer Stanley Kubrick is known for his realistic movies infused with dark humor. After spending the start of his career in the United States, Kubrick began to dislike the film industry in Hollywood and moved to the United Kingdom, where he spent his life from 1961 to his death in 1999.

“Choice! The boy has not a real choice, has he? Self-interest, the fear of physical pain drove him to that grotesque act of self-abasement. The insincerity was clear to be seen. He ceases to be a wrongdoer. He ceases also to be a creature capable of moral choice.”

A Clockwork Orange
2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester (Actors)
  • Stanley Kubrick (Director) - Arthur Clarke (Writer) - Stanley Kubrick (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

7. Paddy Chayefsky

Paddy Chayefsky was a novelist, playwright, and screenwriter who is known for his accomplishment of being the only person ever to win three solo Academy Awards. He was known for his contributions to the Golden Age of Television and had an uncanny ability to make the ups and downs of day-to-day American life fascinating. Chayefsky’s Academy Awards include Best Adapted Screenplay for Marty in 1955, Best Original Screenplay for The Hospital in 1971, and Best Original Screenplay for Network in 1976.

“All right, so I’ll go to the Stardust Ballroom. I’ll put on a blue suit, and I’ll go. And you know what I’m gonna get for my trouble? Heartache. A big night of heartache.”

Marty
Marty
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Ernest Borgnine, Betsy Blair, Esther Minciotti (Actors)
  • Delbert Mann (Director) - Paddy Chayefsky (Writer) - Harold Hecht (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

8. George Lucas

Quadruple threat George Lucas is an American entrepreneur, screenwriter, director, and producer and is considered one of the most influential figures of all time in American cinema. A staple in Hollywood since he became a film production student in 1967, Lucas is heralded for his innovative yet classic take on complex ideas.

“You can’t stop change any more than you can stop the suns from setting.”

Star Wars
A New Hope: Star Wars: Episode IV
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Lucas, George (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 226 Pages - 06/28/2011 (Publication Date) - Random House Worlds (Publisher)

9. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

Top Hollywood Writers: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Gotfryd, Bernard, photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Born in Germany, educated in London, and a citizen of both the United Kingdom and the United States, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala was a renowned novelist and screenwriter who is the only person to date to win an Oscar and a Booker Prize. Jhabvala also won two Writers Guild of America Awards, one in 1986 for A Room With a View (Best Adapted Screenplay) and the Screen Laurel Award in 1993.

“I have no profession. My attitude–quite an indefensible one–is that as long as I am no trouble to anyone, I have the right to do as I like. It is, I dare say, an example of my decadence.”

A Room with a View

Interested in learning more? Check out our round-up of famous authors who self-published their work!

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