The Black List 2016: This Year's Best Unproduced Screenplays Revel in Fantasy and Robots
Here are the best unproduced scripts 2016 has to offer.
As the year draws to a close, The Black List has released its annual ranking of the best unproduced screenplays. Just don't call it "a best of" list; as The Black List is keen to point out in the introduction to this year's edition, "The Black List is not a 'best of' list. It is, at best, a 'most liked' list."
That's because The Black List is compiled from the suggestions of over 250 film executives, each of whom contributed the names of up to 10 of their favorite scripts that were written in 2016 and will not have begun principal photography during this calendar year. The full list includes 73 screenplays; each script requires at least six mentions to be included. The rankings are based on how many votes the script received.
At the top of this year's list is a debut screenplay by Elyse Hollander, Blond Ambition, which covers the creation of Madonna's first record in 1980s New York and scored 48 points. Other highlights from the list include Steve Rogers’ screenplay for the Tonya Harding biopic I, Tonya, which already has Margot Robbie attached as the infamous ice skater, and Flint Wainess’ Linda and Monica, the true story of how Linda Tripp took advantage of her relationship with Monica Lewinsky, setting into motion one of the biggest presidential scandals in American history.
Many of us aspire to have a screenplay on The Black List at some point in our career; it can be a major launching off point for any screenwriter who is lucky enough to be featured. Some of this year's biggest movies were featured in previous iterations of the list, including Arrival, Manchester By The Sea, and A Monster Calls. Last year's Best Picture Oscar winner, Spotlight, was featured on the list back in 2013.
Among other things, this list can help aspiring screenwriters identify trends in project popularity. So, this year, what are the type of scripts that stand out to top execs? Perhaps due to the explosive success of Stranger Things, one trend we noticed on the list this year were a lot of fantasy titles—fairytales, robot sex, and alien invasions come up a few times. Biopics are also well represented.
Take a look at the complete list, ranked, with descriptions compiled by The Black List below.
Blond Ambition by Elyse Hollander (48)
In 1980s New York, Madonna struggles to get her frst album released while navigating fame, romance, and a music industry that views women as disposal.
Life Itself by Dan Fogelman (35)
A multigenerational love story that weaves together a number of characters whose lives intersect over the course of decades from the streets of New York to the Spanish countryside and back.
The Olympian by Tony Tost (35)
The true story of an underdog rower trying to make it into the 1984 Olympics, told through the story of his relationships with his coach, his father, his fancée, and with competition itself.
The Post by Liz Hannah (35)
Before Watergate, there was the Pentagon Papers. This is the true story of how Washington Post scion Katharine Graham and legendary editor Ben Bradlee overcame their diferences to publish the story that would change their lives.
Voyagers by Zach Dean (28)
The cosmic love story of Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan.
In the Blink of an Eye by Colby Day (25)
Explores the entire history of the universe and our species through three interwoven storylines that question the very nature of life, love, mortality, where we’ve been, and where we’re going; the past, present, and future of the human race.
O2 by Christie LeBlan (22)
Waking up inside a cryogenic chamber with no memory of how she got there, Charlie must somehow escape the chamber before her air runs out.
Untitled Lax Mandis Project by Seth Spector (22)
A frustrated film exec at odds with the state of his industry is forced to work with the one person who is making him question everything.
Dark Money by Matt Fruchtman (21)
The true story of a young stock trader who goes to work for billionaire tycoon Steve Cohen and gets involved in the biggest insider trading scandal in history.
Letters from Rosemary Kennedy by Nick Yarborough (21)
Told through a series of letters to family members, the tragic true story of Rosemary Kennedy, a vibrant, passionate young woman and oldest daughter of Joe and Rose Kennedy. Born with a severe learning disability, Rosemary so worried her father with her erratic behavior that he believed the stigma of mental illness in the family would ruin his plans to build a political dynasty. He hid her away in convents and sanitariums and ultimately had her lobotomized.
Linda and Monica by Flint Wainess (20)
The absolutely crazy true story of the relationship between Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp, the woman who nearly destroyed the Clinton presidency - and herself in the process.
Hala by Minhal Baig (19)
When a teenaged Muslim-American girl, struggling with identity issues already, discovers her father is having an afair with a colleague, she responds by seducing her English teacher, ultimately leading to her parents’ divorce.
The Miserable Adventures of Burt Squire by Ben Bolea (18)
The unbelievable true story of a family man from Alaska in the midst of a midlife crisis who embarks on what he hoped would be a dream sailing vacation but ends up shipwrecked in the Atlantic Ocean with a charming but psychotic sea captain who has decided to stop taking his medication.
The Time Traveler’s La Ronde by Tom Dean (18)
An exploration of relationships as a man witnesses diferent types of love across the ages.
Revolver by Kate Trefry (17)
Based on true events in Anchorage, Alaska in 1966, a teen girl attempts to sneak into the hotel where the Beatles are staying to lose her virginity to George Harrison.
Fairy Godmother by Chiara Atik (15)
When sought after Fairy Godmother Faye is hired by a mind-bogglingly gorgeous teenage client, Kenzie, to find her true love with the hottest prince in the land, Faye finds herself facing an unfamiliar challenge when the prince starts falling for her instead.
Free Guy by Matt Lieberman (15)
A bank teller stuck in his routine discovers he’s a background character in a realistic, open world action-adventure video game and he is the only one capable of saving the city.
The Kings of Maine by Kathy Charles (15)
Living with his wife and child in a trailer while working as a janitor, Stephen King struggles with alcoholism and his own dark history as he attempts to complete Carrie.
Layla…and Other Love Songs by Derek Weissbein (15)
Based on the lives and times of Eric Clapton, George Harrison, and Pattie Boyd and the tumultuous love triange that inspired an entire generation of music.
Maximum King! by Shay Hatten (15)
An outlandish, surreal imagining of how in 1985 Stephen King wrote and directed his horror classic MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE.
Battle of Alcatraz by Neil Widener, Gavin James (14)
A plan to escape from Alcatraz prison turns into a battle and hostage crisis that pits armed prisoners against US Army troops for two full days.
I Think We’re Alone Now by Mike Makowsky (14)
The apocalypse proves a blessing in disguise for one lucky recluse – until a second survivor arrives with the
threat of companionship.
Man Alive by Joe Greenberg (14)
After an alien invasion takes over the minds of humankind, one survivor known as “Man” must make peace.
Mother by Michael Lloyd Green (14)
A teenage girl is raised underground by a robot “Mother” – designed to repopulate the earth’s surface following an extinction-level event. But their unique bond is threatened when an inexplicable stranger arrives with alarming news.
Untitled Late Night Comedy by Mindy Kaling (14)
A veteran late-night talk show host comes close to losing her job after hiring the show’s first female writer.
King of LA by Chris Bremner (13)
Set in the 1980s, based on the true story of a man who went from star DEA agent to convicted drug trafficker in the worst corruption scandal in DEA history.
Let the Evil Go West by Carlos Rios (13)
In the 1800s, a father desperate to care for his family finds a barrel of gold, that may be less fortune than great curse.
Villains by Dan Berk, Robert Olsen (13)
Two small time robbers become prisoners when they break into a house and discover a ten-year-old girl chained up in the basement.
Hart You by Zoe McCarthy (12)
Estranged siblings pose as a married couple in the Amalfi Coast to win a cash prize.
James Cameron’s Titanic by Kate D’Angelo (12)
A Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead take on Titanic. An overprotective mother attempts to keep her teenage daughter, young son, and rowdy sister together while sailing on the doomed voyage of the Titanic in 1912.
Northeast Kingdom by Alex R Johnson (12)
When Angie witnesses the betrayal and murder of her father during a smuggler’s drop, the vigilant and determined young woman calls in the help of a mysterious female assassin to seek revenge against all those responsible.
Barbarian by Rosalind Ross (11)
Based on the true story of Boudicca, a queen and warrior of the British Celtic Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire.
The Builder by Tom Cartier (11)
A look inside the tortuous drama of Donald Drumpf’s frst Manhattan real estate deal, his relationships with troubled older brother Freddy and famed fixer Roy Cohn, and how they all created the Drumpf of today.
Untitled Fairy Tale by Cat Vasko (11)
A handsome prince falls in love with a commoner, so her fairy Godmother turns her in to a perfect princess. But when the spell works a little too well, the prince embarks on a quest to reverse it, not realizing that he’s endangering the entire fairy tale universe.
Adrift by Aaron and Jordan Kandell (10)
In this incredible true story of love and survival, Tami Ashcraft sails into the heart of a hurricane and embarks on a harrowing 41 day odyssey against impossible odds to save the man she loves.
Kings Canyon by Paul Hilborn, Evan Parter (10)
At the height of the Cold War, Air Force pilot Lieutenant David Steeves vanishes over the Sierra Nevada mountains in a high-value jet. Fifty-four days later, left for dead, he crawls out of the wild with an impossible tale of survival. The media and military brand him a hero, launching him to fame and fortune, only to call him into question when certain discrepancies in his story point to his being a hoax, or worse — a traitor.
The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore (10)
Attorney Paul Cravath takes on Thomas Edison in a legal battle to determine whether Edison or his rival George WEstinghouse will provide the electricity to light America.
Lee by Chris Urch (10)
An emotionally charged depiction of the six months leading up to one of Alexander McQueen's greatest shows, probing both his personal and professional personas.
Liberty by Jayson Rothwell (10)
The truly astonishing tale of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi – the French sculptor wholly responsible for designing, building, and delivering the Statue of Liberty across the Atlantic to where it stands today.
Saving Charlie Chaplin by Justin Shady (10)
With Nazi agents attempting to stop the production of a film that is poking fun at Hitler, an FBI agent and an LAPD detective must team up to protect a drunk and angry Charlie Chaplin from being kidnapped.
Two Butterflies by Evan Dodson (10)
Torn apart by tragedy, two estranged sisters are forced to reunite and confront their differences after one sister must be transported to an Alzheimers facility.
The Woman With the Red Hair by Michael Schatz (10)
The extraordinary true story of Johanna “Hannie” Schaft, a young woman who dropped out of college to join the Dutch Resistance during WWII, eventually becoming one of their most talented assassins and one of the Nazis’ most wanted enemies.
American Rebel by Christopher Cosmos (9)
The true story of Deborah Sampson, a woman from Massachusetts who risked her life by disguising herself as a man and joining the Continental Army to help fight for independence during the Revolutionary War.
Rugged by April Prosser (9)
Four dysfunctional female coworkers get lost in the wilderness during a team-building trip and must work together in order to survive.
Turned On by Charlie Kesslering (9)
When a socially awkward engineer creates an android to fill in for her, things go awry when it becomes self actualized.
Boyfriend Material by Mackenzie Dohr (8)
In the near future, a heartbroken girl who hates technology participates in an experiment that allows you to program a robot into your dream man.
The Burning Season by Jenny Halper (8)
A primatologist takes her teenage daughter to a remote region of Madagascar, where her determination to save endangered lemurs puts their relationship and safety at risk. Based on the short story “What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us” by Laura Van Den Berg.
Contingency Protocol by Mark Townend (8)
When futuristic technology renders the Federal Witness Protection Program obsolete, the U.S. Government begins using Time Travel to hide high-profle witnesses in the Past. When a security breach occurs, a U.S. Marshal and her witness struggle to find their way back to the Present Day while evading assassins.
A Deconstruction of Reality by Mattson Tomlin (8)
Tasked with finding a game changing take for the sixth Jason Bourne movie, Tom Milton goes deep down the rabbit hole of cracking the story. With the guidance (and abuse) of a professor from his past and Bourne himself, Tom begins workshopping scenes that begin to bleed into real life in unexpected ways.
The Fruitcake by Trey Selman (8)
The remarkable true story of an unremarkable church-going accountant who stole $17 million in the biggest fruitcake heist of all time.
The Hunchback by Topher Rhys-Lawrence (8)
Defying an isolationist, fear-mongering government, a gypsy revolutionary, a mutinous soldier, and a deaf hunchback become the champions of human tolerance and the symbols for a peaceful future in a dystopian revision of Victor Hugo’s novel.
I, Tonya by Steven Rogers (8)
Based on the author’s irony free, wildly contradictory, totally true interviews with Tonya Harding and Jef Gillooly.
Inner City by Dan Gilroy (8)
When a hard nosed liberal lawyer who has been fghting the good fght while others take the credit assumes the role of his crusading firm's front man, he discovers some unsettling things about what they’ve done, resulting in an existential crisis that leads to extreme action.
Orb by Steve Desmond, Michael Sherman (8)
Inspired by actual events from a phenomenon that occurred in 1974, a young married couple discover a mysterious metallic orb in the woods near their house following a meteor shower. While the unusual object dazzles the couple by exhibiting some awe-inspiring properties, its true purposes are revealed to be far more sinister than they could ever imagine.
Burn Run by Matt Tente (7)
In war-torn Afghanistan, an American mercenary team is hired to escort a 20-ton heroin seizure bound for destruction but get caught up in a botched drug deal when their leader goes rogue, forcing them to overcome various enemies who wish to steal it.
The Fall by Peter Bridges (7)
Finding themselves in the middle of an alien invasion, a newly divorced couple must survive a dangerous real-time journey on foot from downtown Atlanta to the suburbs, where their young children are home
The Gun Show by Lucas Carter (7)
A famous top cop wakes up twenty years after a shootout and is reinstated to solve the case that killed his old partner. Only problem: he’s a bull in a China shop, and 2016 is a very different time than the 1990s world he’s
used to. To teach him the ropes, he’s paired with his old partner’s son, a risk averse traffic cop.
The Housewife by Alyssa Hill (7)
Based on a true story set in 1960s New York, a journalist fnds and investigates a woman whom he believes is married to a Nazi in hiding. Their relationship results in the first ever extradition of an American citizen for war crimes.
Hummingbird by John Tyler Mclain (7)
A black-ops assassin’s latest mark forces her to question the truth of her identity and ultimately confront the unsettling fact that she’s more than a hired gun, she’s an entirely new breed of weapon.
Reason of State by Matthew Orton (7)
Twenty four hours inside the British Prime Minister’s abode at 10 Downing Street.
Palmer by Cheryl Guerreiro (7)
A recently-paroled convict returns to his hometown in the South, where he forms an unlikely-but-powerful bond with a young, efeminate boy.
Allison Adams by Devon Graye (6)
A little girl goes missing in a small town, and the key to fnding her resides with four disparate women who share nothing in common except for the young girl’s name…Allison Adams.
America: The Motion Picture by Dave Callaham (6)
An R-rated action comedy, animated, revisionist history of the founding of the United States of America
Bad Education by Mike Makowsky (6)
The unfolding of the single largest public school embezzlement scandal in United States history – an incredible true story that pits corrupt educators against dogged student journalists against the background of a cutthroat Long Island suburb.
Bitter Pill by Turner Hay (6)
When an out-of-work divorced mother stops taking the court-ordered medication that made her feel like a zombie, her brazenly immoral, fifteen-year-old imaginary friend appears to help get her life back on track.
Captain Infinity by Harry Tarre (6)
When his comic book obsessed fve-year-old brother is diagnosed with cancer, Oscar Ruiz attempts to shield him from the truth by convincing him that his “treatment” is all part of a top-secret program to become a superhero.
Carnada by Katharine Werner (6)
Based on true events. In post-Cuban Missile Crisis Miami, an ambitious young CIA agent receives a career making opportunity in becoming the case officer for a charismatic Cuban ambassador offering to help eliminate Fidel Castro. As their relationship grows, however, he begins to question the mission and the true motives of his superiors.
Donzinger by Matt Bai, Jay Carson (6)
After twenty years, Steven Danziger wins a $19 billion verdict against Chevron for poisoning rural lands in Ecuador. Chevron responds by hiring heavy hitter Randy Mastro determined to have the entire verdict thrown out.
Escape from Sarajevo by Vanya Asher (6)
Based on the author’s father’s escape from Sarajevo in 1992, the harrowing and heartbreaking tale of one man’s mission to get back to his family.
Hotel Artemis by Drew Pearce (6)
In riot-torn, near-future Los Angeles, the wrong six people become trapped for the night in Hotel Artemis – a secret, members-only emergency room for criminals.
Miller’s Girl by Jade Bartlett (6)
A precocious young writer becomes involved with her high school creative writing teacher in a dark coming-of-age drama that examines the blurred lines of emotional connectivity between professor and protégé, child and adult.
Mr. Toy by Chai Hecht (6)
The true story of Marvin Glass, brilliant, charismatic, self-loathing, paranoid, demanding – and probably the greatest toy inventor of all time.
Space Oddity by Rebecca Banner (6)
A young man obsessed with taking a one-way trip to Mars begins to question his motives when he starts to fall in love with the Insurance Agent underwriting his trip.