Essential Books for Screenwriters, by the Blacklist

By Kate Hagen

Obviously, to become a good screenwriter, one has to watch a lot of films — new films, old films, shorts, documentaries, and everything in between are essential to developing one’s sense of narrative and aesthetics. Watching a million movies is an essential part of growing as a new filmmaker, but it’s also important to remember that reading actual books about the art and craft of screenwriting and filmmaking can be a significant aid in understanding the industry on a macro- and micro-level.

With that in mind, we’d like to develop an ever-evolving list of essential books for screenwriters and filmmakers. Being well-versed in the various techniques and approaches to crafting great scripts is essential if one wants to be a working screenwriter, but it’s also important to understand the role of screenwriting within the larger film industry, and how that industry functions as a whole.

We’ve begun putting together a list of essential texts on screenwriting and filmmaking that will live as a part of the Educational Resources available on The Black List…but we also want your help! Tell us about the books that greatly enhanced your understanding of screenwriting, narrative, and the film industry as a whole on Twitter, and we’ll add them to the below list. Together, we can make a comprehensive list of unmissable texts to help writers and filmmakers grow: think of it as a Black List syllabus, of sorts. And it also functions as a great gift guide for the screenwriter in your life too!

Essential books for screenwriters and filmmakers:

  1. The Hero With a Thousand Faces and The Power of Myth – Joseph Campbell
  2. The Writer’s Journey – Christopher Vogler
  3. Save the Cat – Blake Snyder
  4. Writing Movies for Fun and Profit – Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant
  5. Poetics – Aristotle
  6. Making Movies – Sidney Lumet
  7. Easy Riders, Raging Bulls and Down and Dirty Pictures – Peter Biskind
  8. In the Blink of An Eye – Walter Murch
  9. Celluloid Mavericks – Greg Merritt
  10. Hitchcock – Francois Truffaut
  11. The Filmmaker’s Handbook – Ascher & Pincus
  12. Shooting to Kill – Christine Vachon
  13. On Directing Film – David Mamet
  14. Who the Devil Made It – Peter Bogdanovich
  15. Painting with Light – John Alton
  16. Inside Story – Dara Marks
  17. The Empty Space/The Open Door – Peter Brook
  18. 36 Dramatic Situations – George Polti
  19. Bulfinch’s Mythology
  20. Rebel Without a Crew – Robert Rodriguez
  21. Story – Robery McKee


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