Screenplay Sources

by John Robert Marlow

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Whether you’re interested in adapting your own story, getting help, or having someone else do it for you—reading scripts will help to familiarize you with screenplay format, which can seem strange to the uninitiated. And while you can pay $10-$20 for a hard copy or for scripts “officially” published in book form, you can also find a great many scripts online—for free.

This is a list of some of the more comprehensive and frequently-updated free-script sites. If you can’t find what you’re looking for there, try the pay sources listed farther down. Between the two of them, there’s not much you can’t get hold of. But…

Generally speaking, you will not find sold scripts on public sites until after the films have been released. If you’re new to screenplays, be sure to read the note on script formats below (quick tip: you want downloadable .PDF files when you can get them). Also, check linked pages for indices; some sites group their scripts alphabetically or by format etc.—and place each group on a separate page.

Lastly, several of these sites have feature, tv, and streaming scripts (sometimes listed by category)—so be sure to take a good look around.

Free Sources

Internet Movie Script Database (IMSDb)

Simply Scripts

The Daily Script

Drew’s Script-O-Rama

aellea Classic Movie Scripts

Horror Lair
(Horror and suspense scripts)

Sci Fi
(Science fiction scripts)

TV Writing
(Television scripts)

Pay Sources

Hollywood Book City Script Shop
(Phone 818.731.9565)

Larry Edmunds Book Shop
(Best to call 323.463.3273)

NOTE ON SCRIPT FORMATS: Screenplay format is very specific, but there are some small differences between “selling” and “shooting” scripts. Shooting scripts are later versions and include camera directions, as well as scene and shot numbers added by the director. Selling scripts (unless written by the director) never have scene or shot numbers (which appear in the margins), and are sparing with camera directions (which are considered the province of directors).

Most online and for-sale scripts are shooting scripts. This is fine for learning format, but it’s important to keep in mind that, story-wise, the eventual shooting script may be quite different from the selling script—that is, the version that initially got someone excited enough to buy (or approve) the screenplay.

The selling script is (in the case of spec scripts) the writer’s vision; the shooting script is the director’s take on that, often with input from producers, studio executives, and actors. In some cases, there will be multiple versions of shooting and / or selling scripts; look for a date or draft number on the filename or title page. Reading multiple versions of the same script is a good way to trace the evolution of the story from initial script to screen.

“Transcripts,” sometimes found online, are the result of someone sitting in front of a tv and writing down what they see and hear on the screen. While transcripts might serve as a useful reference when the actual screenplay is unavailable, they cannot convey the writer’s or director’s vision with the same authenticity as a screenplay, and should not be relied upon for learning proper format.

Online scripts often fail to preserve the original pagination, which is important when looking for the timing / placement of plot points. Scripts in .PDF format are ideal, as they do preserve the original pagination. (Page numbers can be distinguished from scene and shot numbers by the period immediately after the number.)