Free Movie Scripts: Where to Find Them, How to Learn from Them…
Free movie scripts are available all over the internet and are extremely valuable tools for the aspiring screen writer. Reading scripts help the screenwriter learn to see screenplays through an objective lens. If a writer can spot what works (or what doesn’t work) in a stranger’s screenplay, they will gain insight into their own work.
But free movie scripts aren’t as easy to come by as one might think. To find the best material, you need to know where to look, and you need to know what to look for.
I’ll address the ‘what to look for’ first. Many screenwriters believe that they can only learn from the pros. The only scripts worth reading have already been made into movies, or are currently in production.
But this isn’t true! Expand your search to include scripts written by peers, early drafts of favorite movies, and complete and utter flops.
You’ll then have a much wider library of free movie scripts to choose from, and ultimately, your writing will improve much more quickly than if you just read the masters.
That’s not to say that expertly written scripts aren’t good to read – they definitely are. Frustratingly, though, as with a lot of awesome stuff in life, these scripts are not usually going to be free.
How to Read Free Movie Scripts
1) Write as You Read: Document the plot as it develops. Make note of every single story beat, and whether the hero gets closer or further from their goal in every scene.
Over time, you’ll develop a second nature for story. You’ll be able to anticipate story beats, and learn to incorporate surprise and avoid over-used or ineffective beats in your own screenplay.
2) Keep Track of Scene Length: This is tedious, so you don’t need to write down the length of every scene, but just keep it in mind as you read. Do you feel the writer creating momentum as you read? Check out how long each scene in a sequence is.
Do you feel the script dragging? Chances are you’re in the middle of a series of too-long scenes. When does an action script take a breath with a slow, emotional scene? When does it amp up the action? Same with comedy – – Where do they speed the comedy up, and when do they tone it back?
This exercise will train you to understand the unique pacing and flow of good screenplays, which you’ll be able to mimic in your own work.
3) Track Conflict: In every scene you read, ask yourself “Who is fighting for what?” Not literally physical altercations – – but conflict. In great, commercial screenplays, the majority of the scenes will feature the hero fighting for what he wants. Ask yourself how each scene desire contributes to the hero’s overall desire, and pay careful attention to the different ways conflict can be portrayed on the page.
This will help you remember the importance of conflict and tension in your script.
4) Look for Cause and Effect: As you read each successive scene, ask yourself if that scene develops naturally from the preceding scene. The script’s scenes and sequences should form a puzzle, wherein if one scene is moved, the film is incomplete.
This interconnectivity is created by a strong understanding of cause and effect. In great screenplays, things don’t happen because the writer needs them to happen, they happen because they’re the only logical next story step.
Where to Find Free Movie Scripts…
Below you’ll find a comprehensive list of the best places online for you to find free movie scripts, along with a brief review and description of the site. Check it out, and get reading! Your screenplays will thank you…
1) http://www.simplyscripts.com This is the premier place for free screepnlays online. They have a huge database of movie scripts, TV scripts, unproduced scripts – – everything you need to get going. Plus, the database is organized A-Z for extremely easy navigation.
2) http://scriptshadow.blogspot.com/ Another great place to start. This site offers reviews of professional (and sometimes amateur) screenplays. The writer, Carson Reeves, offers lessons learned from each screenplay, and his deep-reading techniques and analysis are definitely useful.
3) http://www.imsdb.com/ Offers lots of recent movie scripts, along with plenty of classics. One drawback – this site is kind of spammy. Tons of pop up ads, talking ads, and generally stuff that annoys me. It’s all worth it, but mute your sound before visiting.
4) http://www.thescriptsource.net The Script Source has plenty of classics available, but the library here isn’t nearly as comprehensive is at is at some of the other sites on this list.
5) http://eshawcomedy.wordpress.com/ There aren’t a lot of free movie scripts offered here, but it’s a great site if you want to learn the intricacies of network sitcom writing. Blogger E Shaw breaks down all of the most popular shows, beat by beat. Great place to learn the value of reading scripts, and gain some invaluable info on TV writing while you’re at it. Plus, there’s a great “script swap” available with E Shaw himself. You read his script, he’ll read yours.