The Black List revealed its annual list of the best unproduced screenplays on Monday, honoring 74 feature film screenplays by a total of 80 writers that have spent the year circulating through Hollywood. Scripts were voted on by a jury of over 300 top film executives.
“It is absolutely staggering that this is my 18th December asking people about their favorite unproduced screenplays, but the success of Black List scripts and the writers we’ve spotlit speaks for itself, I think,” Black List founder Franklin Leonard said in a statement. “However unacknowledged, the life blood of this industry has always been great stories well-told, and that begins with great writers writing. No one can do anything else until they do what they do. It remains an absolute nerdy joy to build a metal detector that finds needles in a near infinite field of haystacks and to serve those folks who do exceptional work.”
The list included a wide range of narrative options, from rom-coms and genre scripts to stories seemingly ripe for the arthouse. There are biopics (including features about everyone from John Madden to Dolly Parton and Britney Spears), plenty of dramas about the reach of technology, and at least one film about Four Seasons Total Landscaping.
The Black List has famously produced several scripts that went on to be made into Best Picture winners, including “Spotlight,” “Argo,” and “Slumdog Millionaire.”
The scripts on this year’s Black List, sorted from most to least mentioned, are listed below, with synopses provided by the organization.
“Pure” (Catherine Schetina)
Obsessed with food purity, Hannah’s trip to her sister’s destination wedding descends into madness when she contracts a mysterious foodborne illness that threatens to destroy her from within.
“Court 17” (Elad Ziv)
An over-the-hill tennis pro, trying to salvage her career, finds herself stuck playing the first round of the US Open over and over again against one of the top players in the world. The only way to stop the loop is to win the match, a seemingly impossible task due to how overmatched she is.
“Pumping Black” (Haley Bartels)
A desperate cyclist and his charismatic new team doctor concoct a dangerous training program in order to win the Tour de France. But as the race progresses and jealous teammates, suspicious authorities, and the racer’s own paranoia close in, they must take increasingly dark measures to protect both his secret and his lead.
“Pizza Girl” (Jean Kyoung Frazier)
An 18-year-old pregnant pizza delivery girl falls into an obsession with a stay-at-home mother who is new to the neighborhood.
“Beachwood” (Briggs Watkins & Wes Watkins)
Shunned by elite society as a member of the gig economy, a sociopathic dog walker infiltrates an exclusive L.A. community with designs of reaching the top of the neighborhood’s social ladder.
“A Guy Goes to Therapy” (Shane Mack)
When an emotionally stunted townie with no direction is left by his longtime girlfriend, he has no choice but to turn to an option he would have never considered: Therapy. As a result, his entire existence is thrown into flux and his life gets a whole lot worse before it can get better.
“Madden” (Cameron Clark)
After being forced into retirement by the Oakland Raiders, fiery former NFL head coach John Madden teams up with a mild-mannered Harvard programmer to rewrite his fading legacy by building the world’s first football video game. Based on a true story.
“Dying for You” (Travis Braun)
A low-level worker on a spaceship run by a dark god must steal the most powerful weapon in the universe to save his workplace crush.
“Sang Froid” (Michael Basha)
After a botched delivery of fresh blood, a world weary vampire and a pregnant nurse team up to rob a hospital of their supply.
“Baby Boom” (Jack Waz)
When her sister’s gender reveal party triggers the apocalypse, a woman and her husband have to prove to themselves, and the world, that they’re responsible enough to save it.
“Jambusters” (Filipe Coutinho)
A mystery about what paper jams can teach us about life. After an inexperienced detective starts investigating a death at the Paper Jam department of a major corporation on the verge of its centennial, she unwittingly embarks on a life-altering spiritual journey that unearths her small town’s dark secrets.
“White Mountains” (Becky Leigh & Mario Kyprianou)
After an interracial couple in the 1960s has a horrifying encounter with a UFO, they set out to discover if it actually happened, or if it is just a case of folie à deux–madness for two. Based on the true story of Barney and Betty Hill.
“GOAT” (Zack Akers & Skip Bronkie)
A promising first-round draft pick is invited to train at the private compound of the team’s legendary but aging quarterback. Over one week, the rising star witnesses the horrific lengths his hero will go to to stay at the top of his game.
“Resurface” (Alyssa Ross)
After Michael Phelps cements his status as the greatest Olympian of all time, he struggles to build a life and identity for himself outside the pool.
“Oh the Humanity” (Gillian Weeks)
A dark comedy about the Hindenburg Disaster; or, the mostly true story about one of the biggest fuckups in history, the assholes who tried to cover it up, and the female gossip reporter who made some Nazis very angry.
“There You Are” (Brooke Baker)
When a non-confrontational playwright loses her engagement ring, she must travel through Italy to get it back with a man who was supposed to be just a one-night stand, discussing love and lying along the way.
“Viva Mexico” (Miguel Flatow)
When a washed-up superhero gets betrayed by a Mexican government, he must lead a populist social movement to fight the Narcos, topple the government, and free the people.
“Colors of Authority” (Kevin Sheridan)
Escaping his father’s shadow, James Sexton, the son of a Sheriff in Alabama joins the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department with lofty ambitions of one day becoming Sheriff himself. But these dreams quickly sour when he realizes that the department he serves is mired in corruption and a systemic culture of moral depravity. At war with powerful figureheads within the department, threats of death looming from all sides, James betrays the department’s code of silence in order to incriminate his father’s close friend, Sheriff Lee Baca. This is based on a true story.
“The Midnight Pool” (Jonathan Easley)
Burdened by the loss of his wife to a suicide cult, an embittered investigative journalist infiltrates an elite secret society, only to find something far more sinister.
“They Came From a Broken World” (Vanessa Block)
The year is 1955. The small town of Boon Falls has provided a local forest as refuge to aliens fleeing their war-torn planet. When Mia–young woman dealing with the trauma of her mother’s death–stumbles upon an Alien woman who needs her help, a series of haunting revelations in the refugee forest leads her to an unimaginable truth.
“Dumb Blonde” (Todd Bartels & Lou Howe)
The origin story of Dolly Parton, following her rise through the male-dominated music scene of late 1960s Nashville.
“Pikesville Sweep” (Brendan McHugh)
After a young, newly widowed janitor in a small mining village is unexpectedly elected Mayor, she navigates a new relationship with a mysterious man from the city and tries to determine how to use her new position of power to confront the corruption that has plagued the town for years.
“Wild” (Michael Burgner)
A young woman is determined to protect a thief on the run when he holes up in her small town, even if it means revealing a darker, more violent secret of her own.
“Clementine” (David L. Williams)
Set in real time, a Colombian mother barely escapes a pawn shop shootout and goes on the run from her violent ex-husband, a terrifying mob boss, and a bloodthirsty hitwoman sent to collect an overdue debt, all while trying to keep her diabetic daughter safe.
“Fog of War” (Peter Haig)
When a retired war journalist returns to the outpost where her son was stationed to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death, she uncovers unspeakable horrors.
“Jingle Bell Heist” (Abby McDonald)
At the height of the holiday season, two strangers team up to rob one of New York’s most famous department stores while accidentally falling in love.
“Let’s Go Again” (Colin Bannon)
When her domineering director makes her film the same scene 148 times on the final night of an exhausting shoot, actress Annie Long must fight to keep her own sanity as she tries to decipher what is real, and what is part of his twisted game.
“The Americano” (Nico Bellamy & Chase Pestano)
An everyday guy who accidentally starts working as a barista inside the CIA headquarters building gets lured into a spy mission by a beautiful secret agent, known only to him as Caramel Macchiato.
“The Boy Houdini” (Matthew Tennant)
New York, 1889. When young street urchin and aspiring magician Harry Houdini discovers a mysterious puzzle-box, he must use his talent for illusion and escape to unlock the box’s powerful secrets and keep it from the hands of a vengeful occult sorcerer hot on his tail.
“Match Cut” (Will Lowell)
While filming on location in Rome, a movie stuntman is mistaken for an infamous assassin, leading to 48 hours of madness as he’s chased through the city by both gangsters and police.
“Mega Action Hit” (Sean Tidwell)
After Hollywood’s leading action star hits his head on set and wakes up thinking he’s a real-life action hero, he embarks on an international mission to track down a real stolen nuke before it’s too late.
“Sempter Matrnus” (Laura Kossan)
On a private island off San Francisco, a nanny goes to work for a mother who is one of America’s most powerful tech entrepreneurs. Things slowly begin to devolve as the mother’s hyper-monitoring and surveillance become suffocating.
“Subversion” (Andrew Ferguson)
When her family is abducted, a disgraced submariner must pilot a narco submarine to its destination in less than eight hours or her husband and daughter will be killed.
“Total Landscaping” (Woody Bess)
A day in the life of the employees of Four Seasons Total Landscaping and its neighboring businesses on November 7th, 2020: the day an average, working-class strip mall in East Philadelphia became the focal point of the most divisive presidential election in American History.
“Cheat Day” (Emma Dudley)
When a young woman in a decade-long heterosexual relationship realizes she needs to explore her bisexuality, she and her boyfriend institute a “Cheat Day”: 24 hours in which they can do whatever–and whomever–before deciding whether to get engaged or break up.
“Going for Two” (Kevin Arnovitz)
An openly gay NFL quarterback finds his meticulously-planned life upended on and off the field when he falls for a charming high school teacher during the most important season of his career.
“Popular” (Marley Schneier)
GOP strategist Lee Atwater won the presidency for George H.W. Bush in 1988, and his campaign changed politics forever–and gave him the worst reputation in America. Now, Lee is on his deathbed, and he needs to tell God his side of the story…before it’s too late.
“Ravenswood” (Evan Enderle)
To save her friend, a maid in a decaying manor must unravel the secrets of its inhabitants while confronting spirits, her own terrifying abilities and the very real horrors of Depression-era America lurking outside the door.
“The House in the Crooked Forest” (Ian Shorr)
A mother and her young son fleeing Nazi-occupied Poland are forced to take shelter from a blizzard in an isolated manor, where they discover the Nazis may be the least of their worries.
“The Pack” (Rose Gilroy)
A group of documentarians braves the remote wilderness of Alaska in an effort to save a nearly extinct species of wolves. When the crew is brought back together at a prestigious awards ceremony, tensions flare as a deadly truth threatens to unravel their work. The team lived through the harsh elements of the wild but will a secret they share survive the night?
“Vitus” (Julian Wayser)
In 1518, a Dancing Plague overtook the city of Strasbourg in the Holy Roman Empire. Hundreds of people danced themselves to death over the course of a summer and no one knows why. Encircling medieval medicine, the uncanny, and the origins of mass hysteria, Vitus is a wildly visual exploration of a crucial (but little-known) moment in European history.
“What We Become” (Amy Jo Johnson)
A successful author/wife/mother plans a trip to a bucolic island to crack her next book and finds herself in a surprising situation.
“Who Made the Potato Salad?” (Kyle Drew)
A family’s Christmas dinner goes awry when a xenomorphic demon starts to duplicate and imitate each member of the family. What does it want? To show them their greatest fears.
“It’s a Wonderful Story” (Alexandra Tran)
In the aftermath of WWII, a traumatized Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart use the making of It’s a Wonderful Life to attempt to find a way back into normalcy.
“The Sisters” (Alexandra Thompson)
Identical twins Aurora and Gabrielle live in a secluded commune where all twins are raised knowing that in adolescence, one of the two of them will abruptly turn into a terrifying monster. Discovering the full truth of their situation one fateful night, the sisters plot their escape into an outside world they know little about.
“An Oakland Holiday” (Yudho Aditya & Emma Dudley)
When a neglected and lonely Southeast Asian Princess goes undercover in an Oakland high school to live out her dream of being a normal teen, she discovers that happy endings come with many hard lessons about life, love, and humility.
“Better Luck Next Time” (Kristen Tepper)
Two best friends run a successful underground service taking womens’ toxic exes on humiliating dates, but their friendship is put to the ultimate test when an old mark plots his revenge.
“I Love You Now and Forever” (Robert Machoian)
After exhausting all financial options to save their dying daughter, Frank and Abby are forced into a final act of desperation: rob a local bank.
“Jerry!” (Greg Roque)
One man ran what was declared to be the worst TV show of all-time. Responsible for the degradation of American society. All while topping Oprah in the ratings. This is the over the top, insane true story of how Jerry Springer went from ambitious young attorney, to the Mayor of Cincinnati, to the undisputed King of Trash TV. And along the way, accidentally helping to create the world we live in today.
“Pop” (James Morosini)
A kid blackmails his favorite pop star into being his best friend.
“The Demolition Expert” (Colin Bannon)
Blasting out of prison after being double crossed by the Mastermind of a heist, a Demolition Expert uses his genius with explosives to enact revenge on the Caper Crew who set him up while simultaneously picking up the pieces of his personal life.
“The Homestead” (Bradley Kaaya Jr.)
A troubled bi-racial, inner-city teen is sent to live with his white, conservative grandfather on his ranch for the summer. Things take a turn when the two are forced to overcome their generational and racial differences while defending the ranch from a ruthless, backcountry gang.
“The Twelve Dancing Princesses” (Becca Gleason)
A horror thriller spin on the Brothers Grimm fairytale in which 12 female college students fight against a group of dude bros trying to take over their female-only space.
“Undo” (Will Simmons)
A down-on-his-luck former getaway driver comes into possession of a mysterious watch that allows the user to go back in time by one minute. As he starts to uncover its uses and gets pulled into one last heist by his former crew, a dangerous group after the technology gets on his tail and will stop at nothing to get the watch back.
“Weary Ride the Belmonts” (Josh Corbin)
After staging his death many years ago, an aging gunslinger is forced to reunite with his outlaw daughter during the dying days of the west.
“42.6 Years” (Seth Reiss)
After waking up from a failed experimental lifesaving procedure in which he was cryogenically frozen for 42.6 years, a young man realizes he wants his ex-girlfriend back. He’ll have to overcome the fact that while he hasn’t aged a day, she’s lived an entire life without him.
“Break Point” (Zachary Joe Johnson)
Courted by colleges and sponsors alike, a burnt-out tennis prodigy fights to maintain dominance against her Academy rival as she hurtles toward the existential decision of turning Pro–a choice that will force her to double down on her dream or walk away from the future she’s fought for.
“Caravan” (Lindsay Michel)
During the Tang Dynasty, a young Persian woman joins a Silk Road caravan to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance‚ but must fight for survival when her fellow travelers realize there is a shapeshifting demon hiding in their midst.
“Gather the Ashes” (Vikash Shankar)
Two brothers, Dev and Siddharth, hope to break free of London’s foster care system when they inherit their estranged family’s old farmhouse in India, but they find something sinister lies in the roots of their family tree as they attempt to discover their past.
“Himbo” (Jason Hellerman)
A naive male stripper attempting to start his life over finds himself in the crosshairs of his boss’ increasingly violent divorce.
“It’s Britney Bitch” (Cerina Aragones)
A dramatic and musical character study of global pop icon Britney Spears, leading up to her very public unraveling at a Tarzana hair salon, and her recent courtroom victory to win her freedom back.
“Life of the Party” (Julie Mandel Folly & Hannah Murphy)
In this contemporary reimagining of Frankenstein, two teenage feminists struggle to create the perfect boyfriend, only to watch their experiment deteriorate as he succumbs to the ultimate perpetrator of casual high school misogyny: the football team.
“Ripple” (Max Taxe)
When a time traveler starts meddling with the past just as Miles finally meets the love of his life, he must battle ever shifting timelines to find her again.
“Wildfire” (Chaya Doswell)
After accidentally starting a wildfire, 7-year-old Lu, mute and from an abusive home, slyly tricks Merribelle, a hardworking trans woman, into kidnapping her – sparking a beautifully unexpected bond with a devastating expiration date.
“Below” (Geoff Tock & Greg Weidman)
Fresh out of a spell in prison a man attempts to set his life right by working a mysterious job that requires him to seek out life forms hidden amongst us.
“Black Dogs” (Kieran Turner)
Based on the novel by Jason Burhmester. In 1973, Led Zeppelin was robbed of nearly a quarter million dollars in cash while playing a series of concerts in New York City. The case was never solved. We follow four young friends from the streets of Baltimore as they attempt to pull off what is possibly the most brazen heist in Rock & Roll history.
“Black Kite” (Dan Bulla)
After a devastating wildfire wipes out a small California town, a teenage girl is missing and presumed dead. A year later, an obsessive mother and cynical arson investigator begin to suspect that she’s still alive…and in the clutches of a predator.
“Chatter” (Chris Grillot)
Stranded in a small Cajun town, a young mother battling a painkiller relapse must fight to save her daughter from a demonic Tooth Fairy.
“Craigshaven” (Nicole Ramberg)
A troubled teen must confront a local legend when the reappearance of a missing classmate and a fabled ghost ship unravel clues to her own mother’s disappearance.
“Eternity” (Pat Cunnane)
After death, everybody gets one week to choose where to spend eternity. For Joan, Larry, and Luke, it’s really a question of who to spend it with.
“Marriage Bracket” (Liv Auerbach & Daisygreen Stenhouse)
Ten years after a group of girlfriends bet on which of them would be the last to get married, their adult lives and relationships are completely upended when they discover the $80 they drunkenly invested in Bitcoin is now worth $5.2 million.
“The Seeker” (Camrus Johnson)
A childhood folktale comes to life when children of the neighborhood start to go missing after playing hide and seek. A group of friends known as “The Finder Four” set out to get answers, but instead, find themselves sucked into a fantasy fear-factor world with only one way out… Based on Daka Hermon’s Scholastic YA Novel, “Hide & Seeker.”
“The Trap” (Julie Lipson)
Twin-sister trapeze artists wrestle their own inner demons amid the push-pull of career, stardom, and family, all while performing in the most harrowing production of their lives.
“You’re My Best Friend” (Mary Beth Barone & Erin Woods)
Lily is mature, thoughtful, artistic, and… awkward. Rosie is sweet, caring, and popular with dreams of being a star. When Lily breaks down in tears on her 15th birthday because she has no friends, her Aunt Beth (a hot shot at a big movie studio) devises a plan. Aunt Beth agrees to jump start Rosie’s acting career as long as she can convincingly play the role of a lifetime: Lily’s best friend. Aunt Beth has the scheme and Rosie has the talent. All they have to do is get away with it.