The 20 Greatest Screenwriters of All-Time

The twenty screenwriters that I believe had the most distinguished careers. Some, like Billy Wilder, are also known as great directors, but they were first and foremost writers.
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1.
Billy Wilder
The second of two sons, his father ran a chain of railway station cafes. As a youth he was obsessed with everything American. encouraged by his mother he enrolled as a law student at the University of Vienna but quit after 3 months to be a writer on a magazine which although poorly paid it gave him a great amount of experience interviewing such as Richard Strauss and Sigmund Freud...
“ Undoubtedly one of the greatest writer-directors ever, Wilder was prolific, as well as diverse. One of the few people ever to win for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, & Best Director in the same year, Wilder is Hollywood royalty. His best work is cynical, yet never without humor. "Sunset Blvd." is remarkable in its audacity, as well is "Ace in the Hole", a supremely dark movie. Yet along side these were some the funniest and sweet movies ever made. "Some Like it Hot" and "The Apartment" are considered comedy classics. The number of great movies is just too lengthy to list, basically any movie listed to his credit is at least very good to remarkably great. While he almost never wrote alone, and sometimes with great writers in their own right (Charles Brackett, I.A.L. Diamond, Raymond Chandler), all of his works bore his unmistakable vision. ” - kobe1413
 
2.
Woody Allen
Writer, Annie Hall
Woody Allen was born Allan Stewart Konigsberg on December 1, 1935 in Brooklyn, New York, to Nettie (Cherrie), a bookkeeper, and Martin Konigsberg, a waiter and jewellery engraver. His father was of Russian Jewish descent, and his maternal grandparents were Austrian Jewish immigrants. As a young boy...
 
3.
Dalton Trumbo
Writer, Spartacus
Dalton Trumbo, the Oscar-winning screenwriter, arguably the most talented, most famous of the blacklisted film professionals known to history as the Hollywood 10, was born in Montrose, Colorado to Orus Trumbo and his wife, the former Maud Tillery. Dalton Trumbo was raised at 1124 Gunnison Ave. in Grand Junction...
“ A screenwriter sometimes more known for his involvement with the Hollywood Ten then his screen credits, Trumbo's work was diverse and plentiful. He is responsible for such sad, elegiac pieces as "Lonely are the Brave" to pithy love stories such as "Roman Holiday". Somewhat of a cult hero due to his banishment from Hollywood in the 1950's, Trumbo continued to write important screenplays no matter where he was stationed. ” - kobe1413
 
4.
Waldo Salt
Waldo Salt was one of the many people blacklisted in Hollywood during the Red Scare, but unlike others, Salt recovered triumphantly. He wrote his first scripts in the late 1930s (MGM contract writer, 1936-42) and also served as a civilian consultant to the Office of War Information from 1942- 1945 before being blacklisted in 1951 after refusing to testify before HUAC...
“ Salt had a great gift for creating characters that existed without explaination. They existed within themselves, yet never beyond reality. Characters such as Ratso or Serpico were tremedous examples of this ability to give a unique character a footing in the real world. His best works were "Serpico", "Coming Home", and "Midnight Cowboy", all Oscar-nominated works. ” - kobe1413
 
5.
Spike Milligan
Spike was born an 'Army Brat', the son of an Irish Captain in the British Raj in India. Educated in a series of Roman Catholic schools in India and at Lewisham Polytechnic in England, he spent his formative years playing the fool and playing the trumpet in local jazz bands. He joined the British Army himself (under protest if you believe his auto-biogs) as a conscript at the outbreak of WWII...
“ Milligan was one of the original Goons, a comedy troupe that specialized in the absurd and anarchy. Milligan was their most prolific writer, allowing Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe to flesh out their outrageous performances. While Sellers became a superstar, Milligan was relugated to cameo appearances in British movies. His best work was "The Bed Sitting Room", a movie satarizing the stiff upper lip of British society. ” - kobe1413