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The Top 25 Best Adapted Screenplay Winners So Far (Updated for 2023)

Alright my friends, it’s time for another one of these. Continuing a tradition I’ve been keen on for years, I’m ranking the new crop of Academy Award winners. For nearly all of the Oscar categories, you’ll see me list the top 25 recipients of that prize. Sometimes, our newest winner will appear. Other times, they’ll be relegated to the Honorable Mention category. Who knows, maybe one or two won’t even make the cut? It’s a list series that I’ll do each and every single year, in the weeks after the ceremony concludes. So, while this is a fun way to think about the Oscars in the aftermath of the latest telecast, it’s also a beginning for another column here on the site. Of course, definitely show us your own lists as well, in the comments section below. We’re definitely keen to know what you think!

This week, it’s a pretty big one…the Best Adapted Screenplay category. Often the spot for prestige fare to shine, it’s also a place where major Best Picture hopefuls (and winners) see their writers rewarded. The other screenplay category may seem “cooler” on the whole, but if you look at some of the scribes who have emerged victorious in Adapted Screenplay, they’re no slouches. This is also the spot where Spike Lee finally got his Academy Award, winning for BlacKkKlansman. For my money, Aaron Sorkin and The Social Network is tops here. Where does Sian Heder and CODA, last year’s winner, rank What about a debut placement for our newest winner in Sarah Polley and Women Talking? Well, you’re in luck, as you can read on below to find out the answer…

Here now are what I consider to be the 25 best winners of the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, to date:

Aaron Sorkin

25. CODA (Sian Heder)
24. BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel & Kevin Willmott)
23. Sideways (Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor)
22. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo)
21. No Country for Old Men (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen)
20. Women Talking (Sarah Polley)
19. The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo)
18. Traffic (Stephen Gaghan)
17. The Exorcist (William Peter Blatty)
16. Moonlight (Tarell Alvin McCraney and Barry Jenkins)
15. The Departed (William Monahan)
14. MASH (Ring Lardner Jr.)
13. Kramer vs. Kramer (Robert Benton)
12. Marty (Paddy Chayefsky)
11. Midnight Cowboy (Waldo Salt)
10. Judgment at Nuremberg (Abby Mann)
9. Argo (Chris Terrio)
8. To Kill a Mockingbird (Horton Foote)
7. Forrest Gump (Eric Roth)
6. The Silence of the Lambs (Ted Tally)
5. Schindler’s List (Steven Zaillian)
4. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Bo Goldman and Lawrence Hauben)
3. All the President’s Men (William Goldman)
2. Casablanca (Philip G. Epstein, Julius J. Epstein and Howard Koch)
1. The Social Network (Aaron Sorkin)

Honorable Mentions: 12 Years a Slave (John Ridley), The Big Short (Adam McKay and Charles Randolph), Brokeback Mountain (Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana), Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi), Ordinary People (Alvin Sargent), and Sling Blade (Billy Bob Thornton)

Sian Heder

Stay tuned for another category later on this week or early next week!


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20 days ago

Some reshuffling

1.Casablanca -Philip Epstein ,Julius Epstein and Howard Koch
2.L.A.Confidential Curtis Hanson & Brian Helgelad
3.The Best Years of Our Lives -Robert E Sherwood
4.Women Talking -Sarah Polley
5.Miracle on 34th Street -George Seaton
6.To Kill A Mockingbird -Horton Foote
7.It Happened One Night -Robert Riskin
8.The Silence of The Lambs -Ted Tally
9.Sense and Sensibility -Emma Thompson
10.Schindler’s List -Steven Zallian
11.Dangerous Liasons – Christopher Hampton
12.The Imitation Game -Graham Moore
13.The Social Network -Aaron Sorkin
14.All The President’s Men -William Goldman
15.Ordinary People -Alvin Sargent
16.Precious -Geoffery S. Fletcher
17.JoJo Rabbit – Taika Watiti
18.In The Heat of The Night -Stirling Silliphant
19.The Philadelphia Story Donald Ogden Stewart
20.Missing -Costa -Garvas & Donald Stewart
21.Moonlight -Barry Jenkins
22.Argo -Chris Terrio
23.Brokeback Mountain -Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana
24.CODA – Sian Heder
25.A Letter to Three Wives -Joseph L Mankiewicz

The Big Short Charles Randolph & Adam McKay
No Country for Old Men -Coen Bros
Blackkklansman -Spike Lee
12 Years A Slave John Ridley
The Treasure to The Sierra Madre -John Huston

Robert Hamer
19 days ago
Reply to  kellie

Love your high placement of L.A. Confidential. It’s one of the few, and best, examples of a screenplay justly rewarded specifically for how it translated its source material.

Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson both agreed that the best part of James Ellroy‘s novel was its three compelling main characters, but felt like the narrative driving them was too convoluted and distended, so they set out to cut out every plot thread not directly involving Jack Vincennes, Bud White, or Ed Exley, and make the overarching storyline “tighter,” and the result was arguably better than the book.

18 days ago
Reply to  Robert Hamer

Cutting out what isn’t needed is crucial.

Brian H.
Brian H.
6 days ago

1.      One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
2.      L.A. Confidential
3.      Godfather, The
4.      Silence of the Lambs, The
5.      Social Network, The
6.      Casablanca
7.      No Country for Old Men
8.      To Kill a Mockingbird
9.      All About Eve
10.  Godfather Part II, The
11.  Blackkklansman
12.  Schindler’s List
13.  Sideways
14.  All the President’s Men
15.  Departed, The
16.  In the Heat of the Night
17.  Ordinary People
18.  Exorcist, The
19.  French Connection, The
20.  Amadeus
21.  MASH  
22.  Midnight Cowboy
23.  Women Talking
24.  Traffic
25.  Moonlight
HM – Argo, Bridge over the River Kwai, The, Dangerous Liaisons, Doctor Zhivago, From Here to Eternity, Gone with the Wind, Judgement at Nuremberg, On Golden Pond, Terms of Endearment and 12 Years a Slave



Written by Joey Magidson

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