by John

Meriam-Webster defines “blacklist” as “a list of people, organisations, etc., that are disapproved of or that are to be punished”. You wouldn’t want to be on a blacklist at work or in school.

Things are a little different in the film industry – every year since 2005 in December, an annual list of the most liked screenplays that have not been produced is published. Known as The Black List, it is compiled based on a survey of studio and production company executives.

The screenplays on The Black List are usually challenging to produce, yet worthy of praise. Over 1000 screenplays have been listed so far, and about a third of them have been made into theatrical films. For the record, these produced films have grossed more than $25 billion, and have been nominated for more than 200 Academy Awards. One Oscar Best Picture winner made from a Black List script was Argo, a film which had many discussing whether Ben Affleck was robbed of a Best Director nomination.


Other notable examples of critically acclaimed movies made from Black List screenplays include Invictus (Clint Eastwood’s inspiring account of South Africa’s rugby team), Looper (Rian Johnson wrote and directed this thought-provoking thriller) and Prisoners (Denis Villeneuve’s disturbing yet emotionally absorbing masterpiece).

Here’s our take on three other movies that may not have been produced without The Black List.

Because Anything with Steve Carell Is Funny

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Just because Crazy, Stupid, Love. stars Steve Carell, it doesn’t mean that the 2010 movie is a gross-out comedy with toilet gags and fart jokes (sorry, Carell will always be The 40-Year-Old-Virgin in our minds). The film directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (screenwriters who went on to direct their self-penned I Love You Phillip Morris in 2009) is actually a heartfelt piece of work that has the intention of showing its audience how crazy and stupid love can get.

Or at least, how crazy and stupid people can get in the name of love.

With a screenplay by Dan Fogelman (Tangled) from the 2010 Black List, this comedy drama is a pleasantly sweet take on love which will have you smiling at the end. Carell plays a middle-aged man who is facing the biggest crisis ever – life. His nuanced and affecting performance is nicely complemented by the ever luminous Julianne Moore (Still Alice). She takes on the role of a career woman who cheats on her husband and wants a divorce.

Elsewhere, there is Ryan Gosling (The Big Short) who effortlessly plays a womaniser. Before La La Land, the good-looking actor was already exchanging glances with Emma Stone (Birdman), who plays a woman with the amazing ability to reject his advances. And we’d like to set the record straight: the two-hour movie isn’t just about Gosling’s amazing six-pack abs. 

The wonderful cast also includes Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler), Kevin Bacon (X Men: First Class) and a certain crooner we know as Josh Groban.

Thanks to its agreeable cast and a down-to-earth storyline, it is easy to sit through this movie, which is easily one of the better Hollywood romantic comedies we have seen. When the end credits roll, you may even feel hopeful about love and feel the exuberance of romance.

Inception Isn't the Only Great Movie About Illusion and Reality

Source Code

Christopher Nolan’s Inception cost $160 million to make, while Duncan JonesSource Code was produced with a $32 million budget. While both films deal with dreams within dreams and warped realities, does the latter do more with less?

For one, Source Code manages to tell its story within 93 minutes and Inception has left countless confused viewers scratching their heads after its 148-minute runtime.

When Ben Ripley sold his spec script (a non-commissioned unsolicited screenplay) to Universal Studios in 2007, he did not expect it to be ranked as one of the top screenplays in the annual Black List. The film was eventually released in 2011, with Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals) headlining the thriller.

The hunky actor plays a decorated soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man. By a mysterious turn of events, he learns that he has to locate the bomber on a commuter train. It turns out that he is involved in a government experiment which allows him to cross over into another man's identity in the last eight minutes of his life.

After impressing critics with Moon, English director Jones (who is the son of late English singer David Bowie) takes on the challenge of telling a story that explores the possibilities of human beings existing in another space. As absurdly outrageous as the plot may sound, the movie still makes you go along for the ride. Wasting no time to explain unnecessary details, it plunges into the action from the very first scene. 

Gyllenhaal oozes so much on-screen charisma that you don’t mind going through the same sequence of events again and again. His performance is not the only highlight: the cast also includes the pleasant looking Michelle Monaghan (Pixels) as a train passenger who gets embroiled into the drama, the ever reliable Jeffrey Wright (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) as a scientist with a motive, and Oscar nominee Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring) as an air force captain.

Whether you buy the concept of humans existing in another time frame, this movie has all the intelligence – and heart – in the right places.

The Truth is Out There


Everyone loves a film about uncovering the truth. That’s probably why Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight was considered one of the best productions in 2015, making it to various publications’ “Top 10” movie lists. What made this film even more compelling and poignant is that the screenplay is based on real life accounts.

Penned by McCarthy and co-writer Josh Singer, the script from 2013’s Black List chronicles The Boston Globe's investigative journalist unit, the Spotlight team, as it looks into the cases of widespread child sex abuse by numerous Roman Catholic priests. The story is based on articles written by the team that won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

The first thing that strikes you is the movie’s ensemble cast: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Brian d'Arcy James, Liev Schreiber, and Billy Crudup. Ruffalo isn’t a raging Hulk (The Avengers), Keaton isn’t a delusional movie star (Birdman) and Tucci isn’t a flamboyant master of ceremonies (The Hunger Games). Here, actors get to truly shine as men and women striving to uncover the truth. This is one of those films which remind you how journalism served as a watchdog before the emergence of the increasingly frivolous social media.

This is also a film that captures your attention without resorting to explosions, gun shootouts and car chases. There is no trace of computer generated effects, just scene after scene of people talking. Yet, it engages you from start to finish like a good movie should. The Oscars for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay at the 88th Academy Awards are truly deserving accolades.