The WGA Celebrates the 101 Funniest Screenplays



Wednesday night in Hollywood, WGA members, writers, and film fans gathered at the Arclight to celebrate the announcement of the 101 Funniest Screenplays.


After the red carpet, beloved comedy writer-director Rob Reiner took the helm as master of ceremonies for the night. Cutting and hilarious throughout, Reiner made a case for himself as the best possible panel moderator — he was able to balance off-the-cuff remarks with the necessary banter to keep the proceedings moving along. First up wias Jon Favreau, who introduced the infamous answering machine scene from SWINGERS, and then talked about how he wrote Swingers so that he and his friends could get jobs. Echoing a similar sentiment from many other writers, Favreau stressed that all writing is autobiographical, and much of the evening was devoted to exploring how writers got their first jobs in the industry.

For the first panel, Favreau was then joined by George Gallo (MIDNIGHT RUN), Marc Norman (SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE), Jennifer Westfeldt (KISSING JESSICA STEIN), and Cathy Yuspa and Josh Goldstein (WHAT WOMEN WANT) to discuss buddy comedies and romantic comedies. Norman walked us through the development process of SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, which began as a drama, and the eleven years it took for that script to reach the screen (three for writing, eight for development). Gallo echoed this idea, saying that he wrote MIDNIGHT RUN because it was the kind of movie he wanted to see, and encouraged other writers to do the same.


(L to R: Reiner, Alexander Payne, Jerry Zucker, David Abrahams, David Zucker, Bobby Farrelly, Bennett Yellin, and Peter Farrelly)

Following this discussion, Alexander Payne (SIDEWAYS) took the stage, lamenting the end of another summer with out a “great, intelligent comedy” in theaters. Payne stressed the importance of sincerity in comedy, saying that it’s often easier to acknowledge pain through laughter, and that having a collaborator (in Payne’s case, Jim Taylor) is a huge part of creating resonant comedy. He also took a moment to praise AIRPLANE!, calling it “a towering masterpiece, that’s as important to comedy as PSYCHO is to thrillers.” Payne was then joined by the Zucker Brothers and their co-writer, David Abrahams (AIRPLANE!) and the Farrelly Brothers and their co-writer, Bennett Yellin (DUMB AND DUMBER) to discuss satire and offbeat comedy.The Farrelly Brothers and Yellin then told the incredible story of how their first spec, DUST TO DUST, found its way to the Zucker Brothers: one of them went on a date with a woman who was living next to Eddie Murphy, she gave the script to him and he loved it but couldn’t identify who wrote it, so after passing it along to the Zuckers, they had to put an ad in the LA Times in order to find the writers.

For high-concept comedies, Randi Mayem Singer introduced the cake-mask scene from MRS. DOUBTFIRE, which she co-wrote and took the stage with Daniel Petrie Jr. (BEVERLY HILLS COP) and Dale Launer (DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS and MY COUSIN VINNIE). All writers agreed that comedy can go really far in terms of what it’ll do to get a laugh as long as there’s a universal thematic concept at the script’s core to help make the comedy stick to your ribs.

Michael Elias and Carl Gottlieb, co-writers of THE JERK, then joined Reiner on stage to discuss classic comedies. Elias shared some warm anecdotes from a recent Reddit AMA about THE JERK. Elias and Gottlieb were joined by two other legendary writers, Buck Henry  (THE GRADUATE, WHAT’S UP DOC?) and Peter Bogdanovich (PAPER MOON, THE LAST PICTURE SHOW), and all writers lamented the current state of original content in Hollywood, with Reiner saying “Nobody can make THE GRADUATE or PAPER MOON anymore.” Bogdanovich then talked about the freedom of the 1970s, highlighting Warner Brothers executive John Calley, who first suggested WHAT’S UP DOC? to him as a vehicle for Barbara Striesand. Bogdanovich wanted to bring in Henry to “complicate the picture,” which Henry did successfully, even if he confused himself in the writing process (Bogdanovich called Henry during rewrites to ask how he was doing, to which Henry replied: “Terrible! I lost one of the goddamn suitcases!”) Henry, who at 85, was the evening’s elder statesman and received a standing ovation, also talked about working with the notoriously particular Warren Beatty on HEAVEN CAN WAIT. Reiner asked if Beatty was difficult, and in response Henry quipped — “I don’t have problems with anyone except myself.”

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The top 21

For the final panel of the night, it was necessary to address an elephant in the room, something WGA president Howard Rodman brought up in his opening remarks — the list is overwhelmingly white and male, and when assembling panels for the evening, only white men had been asked to be panelists. With that in mind, the WGA created a panel for those who just missed the list including Kiwi Smith and Karen McCullah (LEGALLY BLONDE), Kay Cannon (PITCH PERFECT), Robert Townsend (HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE), and Don Roos (THE OPPOSITE OF SEX) to give the evening’s discussion some much needed diversity — there are only 10 women on the list, with even fewer writers of color or LGTBQ writers included. The writers then shared the films that inspired them to become screenwriters — for McCullah it was THE BIG CHILL, for Smith, WHAT’S UP DOC?, for Cannon AIRPLANE!, THE NAKED GUN, and ROCKY, and for Townsend HERE COMES MR. JORDAN.

Most of the time, it’s a joy to get writers in a room together and hear them discuss their experiences in the industry, and last night was no exception. Obviously, an evening that celebrates comedy screenwriting is going to have a lot of laughs, but there was a truly jovial spirit in the theater last night, thanks in no small part to Reiner’s skills as moderator. Being in the presence of writers you admire is always humbling, especially as they talk about their own influences — we’re all fans of someone else.

From the red carpet —


Karen McCullah


Don Roos


Jon Favreau


Robert Townsend

Check out the full list of the WGA’s 101 Funniest Screenplays below:

1. Annie Hall

2. Some Like It Hot

3. Groundhog Day

4. Airplane!

5. Tootsie

6. Young Frankenstein

7. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

8. Blazing Saddles

9. Monty Python and the Holy Grail

10. National Lampoon’s Animal House

11. This Is Spinal Tap

12. The Producers

13. The Big Lebowski

14. Ghostbusters

15. When Harry Met Sally…

16. Bridesmaids

17. Duck Soup

18. There’s Something About Mary

19. The Jerk

20. A Fish Called Wanda

21. His Girl Friday

22. The Princess Bride

23. Raising Arizona

24. Bringing Up Baby

25. Caddyshack

26. Monty Python’s Life Of Brian

27. The Graduate

28. The Apartment

29. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

30. The Hangover

31. The 40-Year-Old Virgin

32. The Lady Eve

33. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off / Trading Places (TIE)

35. Sullivan’s Travels

36. Planes, Trains and Automobiles

37. The Philadelphia Story

38. A Night at the Opera

39. Rushmore

40. Waiting for Guffman

41. The Odd Couple

42. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!

43. Office Space

44. Big

45. National Lampoon’s Vacation

46. Midnight Run

47. It Happened One Night

48. M*A*S*H

49. Harold and Maude

50. Shaun of the Dead

51. Broadcast News

52. Arthur

53. Four Weddings and a Funeral

54. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy/Dumb and Dumber (TIE)

56. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

57. The General

58. What’s Up, Doc?

59. Wedding Crashers

60. Sleeper

61. Galaxy Quest

62. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

63. Best in Show

64. Little Miss Sunshine

65. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut

66. Being There

67. Back to the Future

68. Superbad

69. Bananas

70. Moonstruck

71. Clueless

72. The Palm Beach Story

73. The Pink Panther

74. The Blues Brothers

75. Coming to America

76. Take the Money and Run

77. Election

78. Love and Death

79. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels/Lost in America (TIE)

81. Manhattan

82. Modern Times

83. My Cousin Vinny

84. Mean Girls

85. Meet the Parents

86. Fargo

87. My Favorite Year

88. Stripes

89. Beverly Hills Cop

90. City Lights

91. Sideways

92. Broadway Danny Rose

93. Swingers

94. The Gold Rush

95. The Miracle Of Morgan’s Creek

96. All About Eve

97. Arsenic and Old Lace

98. The Royal Tenenbaums

99. Mrs. Doubtfire

100. Flirting with Disaster

101. Shakespeare in Love


31 Days of Feminist Horror Films: THE EXORCIST


Considered by many to be the scariest film ever made and the first horror film nominated for Best Picture, The Exorcist has remained at the top of the horror heap for over forty years for good reason — what’s more terrifying than seeing a little girl on the edge of womanhood being possessed by the devil and driven to commit all manner of unholy atrocities? The film is still every bit as shocking and progressive as it was upon release, if not moreso, especially considering that The Exorcist made over $400 million, which means the majority of Americans witnessed the possession of Regan MacNeil in all its visceral detail. The point I raised in my introductory essay for this project is especially applicable with this film — how many general audiences would go see a movie about a single mother and her teenage daughter with intense discussions of female bodily autonomy, free will, and Catholicism if that film were not also a horror film?


You know the details: 12-year old Regan MacNeil becomes possessed by the demon Pazuzu after playing with a Ouija board, and it’s up to her single actress mom, Chris, (the always luminous Ellen Burstyn), some conflicted priests, Fathers Merrin and Karras (Max Von Sydow and Jason Miller), and a curious cop (Lee J. Cobb) to save her. Regan and Chris’s single mother/daughter dynamic was still a relatively new narrative base in the 1970s, and even when Regan starts acting out due to the possession, Chris is willing to do whatever it takes to save her daughter, relying first on science, then on more spiritual options. Some of the scariest scenes in the film are early on, when Regan is subjected to a variety of grueling medical tests (including a particularly brutal spinal tap) that yield no answers, frustrating Chris infinitely since she cannot help her daughter even with the assistance of medicine, and beginning the slow process of Regan’s loss of bodily control. There have been plenty of films about demonic possession since The Exorcist, but the intimacy of Regan and Chris’s relationship in the film’s first act coupled with extremity of the imagery in the film that happens later in the film feels more shocking in the wake of exsanguinated possession films that have been released since. 

The Exorcist is based on the real-life case of Roland Doe, but in adapting the film for the screen, Oscar-winning screenwriter William Peter Blatty made the change of Roland to become Regan, a teenage girl. I don’t fully adhere to Peter Biskind’s theory that the film is all about male fears about menstruation, but I do think it was a very conscious choice on Blatty’s behalf to portray a teenage girl as so monstrous, considering many roles for teenage girls in “adult” films are of the Lolita variety. But, Blatty’s decisions in just how far to go with Reagan’s possession — the spider walk, the head spinning, the green vomit, and the crucifix masturbation — does feel like a conscious choice to explore the horrors of female puberty, and the terror that comes from a mother and from the church when a young woman’s sexuality blossoms. Regan’s self-carving of “HELP ME” into her stomach addresses how even when nearly all hope is lost for her, she still clings to whatever tiny sense of bodily autonomy she still has. The crucifix masturbation is an especially careful choice from Blatty and Friedkin — sexually graphic in a way that few other films are, especially as related to a child, totally sacrilegious to the celibate priests trying to perform the exorcism, and conceptually devastating as a form of self-mutilation — it is nonetheless one of the most singular images in all of horror, and speaks to an overall male fear of teenage female sexuality. 


The Exorcist is continually lauded as the best and scariest horror film because it presents us with images and concepts so graphic that we cannot help but allow them to get under our skin. Even if the idea of possession defies all logic, you can’t help but feel a little more aware of your own body while watching this film. Most horror films are about the loss of the self, whether that means the physical self, the emotional self, or the psychological self, and The Exorcist hits on all three of those fears, as personified in Regan MacNeil. It’s a truly remarkable thing that the most notorious (banned on video in the UK until 1999 derided by the Catholic League, and possessed by demon according to Billy Graham) horror film of all time is on some level about male fears about teenage female sexuality, and the death of innocence.


And with that, we conclude 31 Days of Feminist Horror Films. I’ve really enjoyed unpacking these films, and I hope this series has helped you better delve into the idea of the female experience as it is explored in horror, presented you with a new take on an old favorite, or simply given you more thoughtful scary movies to watch this fall. I’ll never stop talking about women in horror, as I feel that the genre offers a unique window into the female body, psyche, and social experience, and explores a variety of topics that are still rarely touched upon in most mainstream films. I also wanted to note that I really, really tried to find more horror films with women of color or LGBTQ women in the lead, or those made by women of color/LGBTQ women, but there are a dearth of those horror films out there — all the more reason we need more women behind the camera in genre filmmaking. As a super special spooky Halloween treat, here are 31 more feminist horror films for your viewing pleasure:


The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane

Heavenly Creatures


The Final Girls

Starry Eyes

The Company of Wolves

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

Rosemary’s Baby

Mulholland Dr.

Under the Skin



The Stepfather

The Haunting

The Descent


Pan’s Labyrinth

Dark Water


Night of the Comet


A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night


A Tale of Two Sisters

The Guest

American Mary

The Hunger


Poison Ivy

Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural

Black Swan

Full List:

American Psycho

Near Dark



The Babadook

We Need to Talk About Kevin




The Craft

Picnic at Hanging Rock

The Slumber Party Massacre


Black Christmas


Drag Me To Hell

I Spit on Your Grave

Ms. 45

Ginger Snaps


What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Trouble Every Day

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders

Eyes of Laura Mars

The Innocents

We Are What We Are

Cat People

Death Becomes Her

Eyes Without a Face


The Exorcist



31 Days of Feminist Horror Films: POSSESSION


Andrzej Zulawski’s unforgettable 1981 film, unavailable uncut in the States until very recently, is a classic example of a film you need to just see with as little prior knowledge as possible, so I’ll try to not to give much away. Possession is an all-encompassing experience, a gruesome two hour tilt-a-whirl through a couple’s disintegrating marriage in 1980 Germany. Anna (Isabelle Adjani), a housewife, tells her husband Mark (Sam Neill), a government agent of mysterious origin, that their marriage is over and that she’s been cheating with an older man named Heinrich (Heinz Bennent) upon Mark’s return from a business trip. Mark is totally unbelieving at first, unable to make sense of what this means for his life with Anna and their young son, Bob. From this point on, the film begins show the slow, steady deterioration of both Mark and Anna’s psyches as their break-up becomes realized in surreal, bloody detail. However, most of the initial violence — psychological and physical — comes from Mark, who constantly states that he cannot believe Anna could sleep with another man, could betray him, could do anything at all without his express permission. Zulawski’s constantly spinning camera (the blocking is exquisite throughout, with incredible shot selections of oppressive domestic interiors) adds to this sense of nauseating violence as it goes from screaming matches in the kitchen to a brutal beating of Anna to more surreal directions. Throughout, Zulawski makes the point that Mark’s sense of entitlement when it comes to controlling Anna is totally toxic, and misses no opportunity to show how pathetic wounded masculinity can be.


Anna eventually has the good sense to get an apartment of her own, leaving Mark to take care of Bob, but Mark has hired a private investigator to follow her. The PI gets more than he bargained for when he discovers Anna’s grisly sexual treatment of men in her new place — again, I don’t want to give too much away here, as that would spoil the incredible surprises the film has in store. Even as we see her victims, it’s sort of impossible not to empathize with Anna, as her sexually-motivated killings become a manifestation of the violence she’s experienced in her marriage. As the film progresses, Anna’s transformation is beautifully realized by Adjani, giving one of the bravest, most inedible performances ever put to film (she won a Cesar and Best Actress at Cannes for the role). In the film’s most breathtaking sequence, Anna walks through an abandoned subway tunnel, and totally loses her shit, exorcising the violence of her marriage. In a long unbroken shot, we watch as Anna whirls through the tunnel, her movements somehow simultaneously animalistic and controlled. We watch as Anna’s body, a body that has been subjected to a wide variety of abuse from Mark, acts out that trauma in stunning, horrific fashion. The sequence climaxes with a totally singular image of Anna that reflects the inherent fear of female bodies that many men have, especially of miscarriage.

While we may spend more time throughout the film in Mark’s POV, Zulawski is constantly reminding the audience that without Mark’s need for total dominance over Anna (and frankly, all women, as he says, “’I’m at war with women”), the extreme violence of her acts could have been avoided. If Mark would’ve simply been able to let her go, to move on with a new man, the ensuing horrors their break up wouldn’t exist. Like so many other horror films with a central romantic relationship, Possession uses brutal violence and challenging thematic concepts to explore the much more grounded threat of masculine inability to let go of romantic partners.


In the film’s final act, Mark begins to match Anna’s violence, and becomes strangely protective of her killings, helping her cover up the horrors in her apartment. Mark also gets to know the other major female characters more intimately in the film’s final third — Bob’s teacher, Helen, also played by Adjani but as an idealized, saintly version of herself; Anna’s best friend, Margie, who’s thirsty for Mark as she assumes some of Anna’s domestic duties but pays a terrible price; and Heinrich’s mother, who challenges Mark’s philosophical convictions, and forces him to fully consider what he has done in helping cover for Anna. After a violent confrontation with his former employers and the police,  Mark is pursued by Anna, who shows him what she’s been working on in her apartment — as Helen represents the idealized version of Anna, Anna too has been crafting an idealized Mark out of blood, viscera, and other secretions, eventually fucking the creature once it becomes sentient to help it along in the process to become more like Mark.

This leads to the final moments of the film, which finds Anna and Mark going down in a bloody final coupling, and poor Bob left alone with doppleganger Mark and Helen. The psychological complexity of this film is such that no small explanation could do justice to the many layers of relationship violence at play, the conceptual horror of Anna’s killings, or the notion of the divine as discussed at numerous points throughout the narrative, and this simply speaks to the must-see nature of this story. Possession’s significant reputation within cult film circles is totally earned, and its grisly depiction of how violent intense intimacy can be is realized in stunning fashion, thanks to Zulawski’s focus on close shooting, much in the mold of the domestic dramas of John Cassavetes or Ingmar Bergman. An ideal double feature with David Cronenberg’s The Brood, Possession uses bloody, sexual violence to bring the psychological wounds of a disintegrating relationship to life in gruesome fashion.