10 Films to Watch to Improve Your Screenwriting Skills – watching scripts is the easiest way to learn!

The screenplay is said to be the foundation of filmmaking. The way it is written can make or mar a film’s success. Although there is never a sure-shot way of knowing what would work and what wouldn’t, there are always ways to-improve your screenwriting. One of the best ways to up your game is to watch some of the most acknowledged films of all time. Watching these films will give you a deeper sense of how each scene is written and then created on screen. From setting the background of a screen to the use of lighting, the body language of the actors, and their appearance, screenwriting should be able to provide a complete visualization of a scene.

Here are 10 films that you must watch to improve your screenwriting:


1. The Godfather
Based on a novel by Mario Puzo who also co-wrote the screenplay with director Francis Ford Coppola, the Godfather is highly regarded as one of the most celebrated scripts of all time. The characters of the film were so well written that both Puzo and Coppola had actors etched in their heads who would play those roles. Despite several disagreements with Paramount Pictures over the selection of the actors especially Marlin Brando and Al Pacino, the powerful writing of Puzo and Francis won over every argument and the movie went on to become one of the biggest grosser of all times and won 3 Oscar awards including one for best screenplay along with 7 other nominations as well. The realism of dark characters of the film was one of the highlights of the script. The movie revolves around a family of organized criminals and yet their humane side is so beautifully depicted. The very fact that the film’s prime characters come together at a family wedding and how each of them evolves with situations into the world of crime is simply commendable.


2. Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa
This film is said to be one of the rarest mainstream films in which the hero of the film is a loser. The character of Shahrukh Khan in the movie is known to be a very complex one, the hero isn’t perfect, he is an attention seeker, he lies, manipulates and yet the writing brings him across as affable. It’s one of the characters that stood out despite imperfections and that’s what made it very empathetic and real.


3. Forrest Gump
This Tom Hank starrer was based on a novel written by Winston Groom, but the movie script had a lot of changes that the writer incorporated on his own. The character of Tom Hanks who is slow-witted but has a very kind heart won accolades for his performance. In terms of how the scenes are visualized and picturized, the script is a marvel that every screenwriter should learn from. “And we see a man, sitting on a bus bench, reach to pick it up. In his forties, he looks like he smells like fish.” These opening lines of the script that set the scene are so impactful that you can identify with the homeless and lost character of Forest Gump in an instant. One can feel how wasted his character is during that moment, how alone that he ends up telling his story to any stranger sitting next to him on the bus bench.


4. Udaan
An award-winning script written by Vikram Aditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap, the film was praised and acclaimed both, by the critics and the audience. It brought a fresh breath of air into the art of storytelling. It was a tight drama without being melodramatic. A coming of age film that looked at a father and son’s strained relationship with new dimensions, this film is a must-watch for all aspiring writers.


5. Die Hard
Die Hard changed the overall perception of action films with its average guy defying all odds to control the situation and undertaking intense action sequences rather than the usual massive, or bulky action hero playing the role. Joe, the hero of the film was an average and vulnerable guy who faced situations that made him perform the required action. This film is touted as a cult for changing the image of an action hero forever.


6. Jab We Met
Written by Imtiaz Ali, who also directed the film, this movie is rated as one of the best when it comes to the characterization of its heroine. The character of ‘Geet’ is so beautifully etched that one simply cannot ignore the dedication of the writer. This is a film that one should watch to understand the details and nuances of scriptwriting. From camera angles to dramatic effects of lighting, each scene is written so well that it not just would help you improvise your writing skills, but also help understand the other aspects of filmmaking like cinematography, sound design, editing, lighting, etc.


7. The Silence of the Lambs
This film brought in the complex characters of a female protagonist in the limelight and gave cinema a flying fact that women-centric films could become commercial successes too. For women-centric scripts, this film is one of the finest examples.


8. Devdas
This film based on the novel of the same name by Sarat Chandra, has been adapted to Hindi films thrice and that alone tells us the power of its script. It was yet again a path-breaking piece of writing where the male lead is one of the weakest characters in the film. He is sensitive, emotional, extremely vulnerable, indecisive, and, unable to take a stand. The most recent one made by Sanjay Leela Bhansali although had quite a few changes in the script, could not hide the beauty of it, where Shahrukh Khan played the role of a man who was fragile, indecisive and extremely vulnerable.


9. Casablanca
This 1942 film is seen as the beginning of love triangles that the film industry still swears by. The ending was especially commendable and is still looked up as one of the greatest endings for a love story. Many of the Hollywood movies made in the 40’s and 50’s either depicted a happy ending with the union of lovers and showcasing an end to all their problems or the typical tragic endings with the death of lead characters. However, the ending of Casablanca brought a surprise angle wherein the hero gives up the love of his life to serve a greater cause, which is fighting for the freedom of one’s nation. During that time, it was considered as a very unique ending and is an inspiration to filmmakers even now.
This film should be on your list because it’s simple, timeless, has a perfect setting, and offers more than one aspect of filmmaking for you to learn.


10. NH 10
For learning how to write some great violence-based scenes, this film is a flawless watch. Thanks to its crisp script, inspired by true events of honor killing, despite so much violence, the film refrained from showing any bloodshed. It’s the kind of film where most of the things are dark, leave a strong impact and yet you don’t witness it. For instance, the scenes of assault or physical abuse are far away from vulgarity, the scenes of revenge and anger are written more with emotions rather than demonstrating its physicality.


The best way to write good scripts is to read more and more of them. These 10 are just like the tip of the iceberg and there is a long way to go, so read as many scripts as you can and make it a never-ending process. To expand your horizons further, enroll yourself for WWI Virtual Academy’s Certificate Program in Screenwriting.