The 2021 Black List Picks the 73 Best Unproduced Screenplays of the Year
Producers, take note: Your next Best Picture winner could be here.
The Black List unveiled its annual list of the best unproduced screenplays of the year December 13, as decided by a group of industry peers totaling 375 executives. The announcement came via four videos emceed by Ashley Nicole Black and Gabrielle Dennis of “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” and including appearances from Oscar-winning screenwriters Florian Zeller (“The Father”) and Emerald Fennell (“Promising You Woman”). Also joining the guests was “King Richard” screenwriter Zach Baylin. Both “Richard” and “Promising” were ranked high on the 2018 Black List.
The Black List has included four scripts that went on to win Best Picture Oscars, including “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Argo,” “Spotlight,” and “The King’s Speech.”
At least seven of the jurying executives had to list a script as one of their 10 favorite unproduced screenplays of the year in order for a script to make the list. Altogether, 73 scripts and 71 writers/writing teams made the list.
A study by Harvard Business School concluded that movies made from Black List scripts make 90 percent more in revenue than movies made from scripts not on the Black List.
See this year’s Black List below, and check out the announcement videos.
Under the cruel guidance of a mysterious coach, an ambitious high school wrestler struggles to become a state champion while battling a bizarre infection in his ear that both makes him dominant in his sport and threatens his sanity.
SEE HOW THEY RUN
A blind mother moves into a remote farmhouse with her young daughter, but the mystery of the home’s previous inhabitants intrudes upon her attempts to repair their relationship.
Patricia Ford feels pretty good about trading her South Boston roots for a “perfect” life on New York’s Upper East Side, until everything falls to shit and her raucous girlfriends throw her a Divorce Party at the home she’s about to lose. As the night goes from wild to totally insane, Patricia takes back control of her life.
After a Hollywood assistant is publicly fired for admitting while on a conference call that he’d love to kill his boss, he finds his boss dead in the office the next morning and goes on the lam to figure out the real culprit, all while being hunted by his boss’s assassin.
The completely outrageous and completely true story of “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli — from his meteoric rise as wunderkind hedge fund manager and pharmaceutical executive to his devastating fall involving crime, corruption, and the Wu-Tang Clan — which exposed the rotten core of the American healthcare system.
When an ultramarathoner learns he is one of ten contestants chosen to take part in a secret race known as “the hardest race on earth,” he is forced to confront his past when he realizes there are deadly consequences for breaking the rules.
Carly J. Hallman
A troubled millennial from small-town Texas will do anything to get into her top-choice law school, including murder.
When a first date takes a dangerous turn, down-on-his-luck Michael risks everything to save his newfound love from her past. Little does he know, the night — and his date — are not what they seem. Michael soon finds himself on a high-octane cat-and-mouse race across the city to save himself and uncover the truth, armed with nothing but his wit, his driving skills, and a 1969 Ford Mercury.
IN THE END
Brian T. Arnold
In the near future, terminal patients are given the opportunity to go out with a bang with personalized VR “perfect endings.” But when the best Transition Specialist gets far too close to a patient, he finds himself questioning everything in his life.
When a short Japanese kid from post-war Tokyo decides to make it big in the US of A, he discovers a winning recipe of exploiting his heritage with good old-fashioned American entertainment, to the great shame of his traditionalist father. This is the larger-than-life immigrant story of the OG daredevil playboy tycoon: the one-and-only Rocky Aoki.
WORST. DINNER. EVER.
An estranged father and son have to survive terrorists, explosions, and, most terrifying of all, dinner with each other.
A car accident strands a young paramedic in the rugged Pacific Northwest where she is hunted by a ravenous grizzly bear.
Murder Ink (Brandon Broussard, Hudson Obayuwana, Jana Savage)
Ten years after graduation, one of New York’s most eligible bachelors and his eccentric wanderlust wingman try to pull their recently divorced friend out of his rut by taking him back to Howard University’s legendary Homecoming for the best weekend of their lives.
Filipe Coutinho, Ben Mehlman
While looking into a client’s murder, a Los Angeles social worker stumbles on a political conspiracy in the wake of the 1987 Whittier earthquake.
An autistic kid tries to do normal college things — making friends, figuring out if girls like him, getting over his mom’s death — while seeing life in his own “musical” way.
The wild true story of how an upstart shoe company named Nike landed the most influential endorsement in sports history: Michael Jordan.
THE COLLEGE DROPOUT
Thomas Aguilar, Michael Ballin
A young Kanye West’s intimate journey to create his seminal first album that reinvented hip hop music.
HOT GIRL SUMMER
After witnessing a drug deal gone wrong, 13-year-old (and exceptionally awkward) Beatrice accidentally finds herself in the middle of an underground drug ring…and on the perfect route to having a proper hot girl summer.
HOTEL HOTEL HOTEL HOTEL
A man wakes up trapped in a mysterious hotel room. All alone in a mind-bending prison, his only chance for escape is teamwork: with himself.
A famed experimental musician finds himself embroiled in the race to solve Earth’s primary existential threat: A deafening sound that never stops, forcing all of humanity to survive in silence.
Supernatural horror about a woman stalked through a dark city park by the most monstrous manifestation of manhood during her walk home from her high school reunion.
Two rival graffiti artists engage in a series of street battles, culminating in an otherworldy duel after the art starts bleeding into the real world.
THE MASKED SINGER
Mike Jones, Nicholas Sherman
Mickey Rourke loses his mind after he’s forced to take a gig on television’s highest-rated show: “The Masked Singer.”
MICHAEL BAY: THE EXPLOSIVE BIOPIC
Packed with enough C4 to split an asteroid in two, this tell-all Michael Bay origin story reveals the explosions that defined him, the fire that ignited his little heart, and the fate that sealed his Hollywood destiny.
SYMPHONY OF SURVIVAL
The incredible true story of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich writing an epic symphony during the deadly World War II siege of Leningrad — a work of art so powerful it would save him and his family, all while helping to unite his people with the Allies.
Hannah Mescon, Dreux Moreland
An absurdist biopic chronicling the many rises and falls of Donald Trump, culminating with that fateful night at the 2011 Correspondent’s Dinner.
Jason Benjamin, Jessica Granger
In 1992 a seaplane crash in a lakefront community sparks a relationship between three young sisters and the mysterious, injured female pilot.
An art thief who takes priceless objects from museums and private collections and redistributes them to their original countries of ownership is tracked by a dogged FBI Agent across the globe.
Matthew Kic, Mike Sorce
A young woman and her devoted boyfriend’s lives are dramatically altered by a medical procedure that could potentially quadruple their lifespans.
WHEELS COME OFF
In the year 2065, a fiery teenager with a wild imagination, her paraplegic mom, and their clueless robot struggle to navigate the post-apocalypse; but when the mother’s wheelchair breaks, the trio must venture out into the dangerous “outside” for a chance to survive.
Stuart C. Paul
The true story of the first and only African Samurai in feudal Japan who rose from being a slave for the Jesuits to fighting as a Samurai in the unification of Japan.
ABBI AND THE EIGHTH WONDER
When a misogynist explorer meets his sudden (and violent) end, his long-overlooked understudy seizes the moment and embarks on an adventure that will earn her a place in the annals of history.
Leigh Cesiro, Erica Matlin
During the summer of 1998, five camp counselors accidentally kill a stranger in the woods.
When a social media influencer meets a fan at a meet-and-greet, she’s so taken with her cleverness and vulnerability that she invites the fan to intern with her for the summer. At first, they’re an unstoppable team, but soon, the influencer is forced to wonder who she has let into her life.
A successful illustrator finds herself friendless after her best friend gets engaged, forcing her to embark on an epic quest to “date” for new girlfriends — as an adult.
OPERATION MILK & COOKIES
M. Miller Davis
After their house is threatened with repossession, a mismatched group of foster kids set out on an adventure to summon Santa Claus to save their home and end up on the run from a crew of angry bank robbers.
Still reeling in the wake of her husband’s death, master thief Viola Crier signs on to a risky, last-minute job set to take place inside a man-made time loop, but as the number of loops increases, the job begins to spiral out of control.
Eilleen Edwards rises from an impoverished upbringing in rural Canada to transform into ’90s global country-pop superstar Shania Twain, only to face her greatest challenge yet: putting her life and career back together after losing her voice.
When an accident sinks their boat, two teenaged boys must learn how to survive the wilds of the remote Alaskan coastline, endure one another, and to come to terms with a long-held life-altering secret.
Framed around a single tennis match at a low-level pro tournament, three players who knew each other when they were teenagers — a world-famous grand slam winner, his ambitious wife/coach, and their old friend who’s now a burnout ranked 201 in the world — reignite old rivalries on and off the court.
CHICAGO FOR ONE
Based on Robbie Chernow’s hilarious viral solo adventure, a newly heart-broken groomsman takes Chicago by storm celebrating a solo Bachelor Party Weekend after the rest of the party — including the groom — get stuck over 700 miles away.
While meeting her boyfriend’s dysfunctional family at their ancestral manor, a young woman finds herself entangled in a bizarre and terrifying mystery when the family’s patriarch claims to have been cursed by a demon.
HARD TO GET
After Amanda is seemingly ghosted by the man of her dreams, she’s delighted to discover he’s actually been kidnapped — and takes it upon herself to be his rescuer, going on an adventure of epic proportions along the way.
The true story of “American Idol” viral sensation, William Hung
IT WAS YOU
With the future of Manhattan’s Chinatown at stake, a stubborn store clerk battles against an innovative CEO’s expansion plan, while both are unaware they’ve been falling in love with each other on a new, anonymous dating app.
A naval engineer and her crew find themselves trapped in a deadly game on a shipping vessel in the middle of the Atlantic when they learn a series of car bombs are hidden amongst the thousands of vehicles on board.
Evan Ari Kelman
When his young son is viciously murdered by a classmate, a grieving father with a history of violence kidnaps the child responsible, igniting a frenzied manhunt fueled by a powerful politician — the father of the kidnapped boy.
THE DEVIL HERSELF
When an elite assassin is sent to the haunted Harz Mountains in Germany on an extraction job she intends to be her last, she quickly learns that the local legends about witchcraft are true and must face a sinister supernatural threat.
THE FIRE OUTSIDE
Peter, a 17-year-old painter, lives with his controlling mother in a lonely house in the wilderness. When he meets a mysterious stranger, he begins to question the reality he was raised to believe, gathers the courage to leave his mother, and unveils the sinister truth behind his upbringing.
FOUR ASSASSINS (AND A FUNERAL)
The adoptive daughter of a legendary assassin returns home for his funeral… and finds herself in the crosshairs of her four highly trained, highly dangerous siblings.
FROM LITTLE ACORNS GROW
After a woman becomes one of the first female presidents of a 1950s publishing house in New York, she draws a former college classmate into her orbit, who soon finds her literary empire is not what it appears to be.
Josh Marentette, Spencer Marentette
A team of black-ops soldiers use an experimental technology to travel into the afterlife and rescue their dead teammate.
When a bully’s antics land a timid boy in the bottom of a well, his self-proclaimed psychic friend and unknowing crush team up to find him. Based on the 2017 book by Erin Entrada Kelly.
A HUFFLEPUFF LOVE STORY
Unpopular Hogwarts student Finn blames everything bad in his life on being sorted into Hufflepuff rather than Gryffindor with Harry Potter and the cool kids. So when he discovers a chance to go back in time and fix that, he takes it — only to discover things aren’t quite as simple as he’d imagined.
A NICE INDIAN BOY
When Naveen brings his fiancé Jay home to meet his family, his traditional Indian parents must contend with accepting his white partner and helping them plan the most fabulous same sex Indian wedding the Bay Area has ever seen.
ST. MARY’S CATHOLIC SCHOOL PRESENTS THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES
Hannah Hafey, Kaitlin Smith
Frustrated by the conservative curriculum at her high school, a rebellious teen girl decides to stage the school’s first ever production of The Vagina Monologues. Which is going to be a challenge, as no one else at St. Mary’s can even bear to say the word ‘vagina’ out loud . . . Based on Flynn Meaney’s Bad Habits.
When an adrenaline junkie sets out to conquer a menacing river, she discovers that nature isn’t the only thing out for blood.
A young college student is forced to confront her family’s dark past when a mysterious stalker appears, derailing her life and sending her spiraling into a web of anxiety and paranoia.
Awkward and lonely, Jared is only able to find a community online — until the day he realizes that his favorite Youtuber lives nearby. Desperate for a connection, he becomes determined to find a way into her life… whether she wants it or not.
Emi Mochizuki, Carrie Wilson
A pregnant couple hoping to start their family in the suburbs find themselves embroiled in a decades long mystery which threatens to shatter their American dream.
When stranded on the far end of Manhattan by a mysterious city-wide blackout, a group of inner-city middle schoolers must fight through seemingly supernatural forces to make their way back to their parents in the Bronx.
DENNIS RODMAN’S 48 HOURS IN VEGAS
Before Game 7 of the NBA finals, Dennis Rodman tells Phil Jackson he needs 48 hours in Vegas. What follows is a surreal adventure with his skittish assistant GM that involves a bull rodeo, parachuting out of a Ferrari and building a friendship that neither one of them ever thought was possible but will end up solving both of their problems.
Thomas Berry, Isaac Gabaeff, Nathan Gabaeff
The life of a cynical San Francisco criminal lawyer at the top of his career unravels when he agrees to represent a father accused of killing his infant son in an extraordinary case that challenges widely accepted medical beliefs, a biased justice system, and his own personal worldview. Based on true events.
THE FAMILY PLAN
A former top assassin living incognito as a suburban dad must take his unsuspecting family on the run when his past catches up to him.
AN IDEAL WOMAN
Set in American suburbia during the Cuban Missile Crisis: A 1960s ex-actress and housewife finds her house-of-cards world begin to tumble as she continues to be pitted against two identities.
KILLERS AND DIPLOMATS
John Tyler McClain, Michael Nourse
The true story of the murder of four American churchwomen in El Salvador in 1980 and the low-level American diplomat who teamed with his most dangerous informant to smoke out their killers. Based on Raymond Bonner’s work for The Atlantic.
A female master thief and her ex-boyfriend who works for the FBI team up to steal $100M worth of gold bullion being transported on a 777 passenger flight from London to Zurich.
MAX AND TONY’S EPIC ONE-NIGHT STAND
A disastrous Grindr hookup goes from bad to worse when a meteor unleashes a horde of aliens on New York and the two ill-matched men must depend on each other to make it through the night alive.
Ted Caplan, Jenni Hendricks
Two former thieves are having a hard enough time with their fussy newborn baby when a mishap draws them back into their old lives, forcing them to recover a priceless jade bangle, escape their boss’s murderous son and, toughest of all, get their baby to sleep through the night.
THICKER THAN ICE
Inspired by the true story of Hannah and Marissa Brandt, adoptive sisters and hockey players who put their relationship to the test as they vie for Olympic glory… on different teams: top-ranked Team USA and Korea’s first ever unified team.
Disillusioned with life in the wake of a personal tragedy, Rachel goes on a mountain retreat with her friends in search of an escape, only to find themselves stumbling into the depths of horror and madness.
THE WAY YOU REMEMBER ME
Following the death of her vivacious, entrepreneurial, thirtysomething son Ben, Laurie learns that he had frozen some of his sperm before his passing. As she embarks on an unconventional journey in search of someone who may bear Ben’s child, Laurie forges an unexpected friendship with a woman, who, in turn, starts to fall for the memory of him.
WAYS TO HIDE IN WINTER
A woman in rural Pennsylvania falls in love with a stranger from Uzbekistan, then finds out he may be responsible for war crimes. Based on Sarah St. Vincent’s acclaimed debut novel.
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