The 2017 Black List was released Monday, and once again, Franklin Leonard’s annual poll of studio executives offers a handy snapshot of the kinds of scripts that are currently driving conversations in Hollywood, as well as a potential preview of films to come. Executives were asked to contribute “up to ten favorite scripts that were written in, or are somehow uniquely associated with, 2017, and [that] will not have begun principal photography during this calendar year,” and more than 275 executives participated. Seventy-six scripts were mentioned by six or more participants, the minimum level of buzz needed to make the list. So what does this year’s list tell us about Hollywood in 2017?
For starters, it’s a lot different than 2016! Last year’s Black List was filled with biopics and true Hollywood stories, both common themes of Black Lists past, including two scripts about George Harrison and two about Steven King. For some reason, stories about famous male artists are a little less popular this year, and the thought of a Donald Trump biopic making the list, as Tom Cartier’s The Builder did in 2016, seems completely unthinkable. So what’s taken their place? Nazis and female assassins, naturally. There are no fewer than nine screenplays about Nazis of various sorts, and either four or five about female assassins, depending on your definition of assassins. (One script, Darby Keeley’s Liberation, hit the exacta: it’s about Nancy Wake, a woman who killed Nazis.) There are also three scripts about abortion rights, including two movies about Chicago’s Jane Collective. It’s not entirely clear why Hollywood is suddenly fascinated by stories about women killing people, ideally Nazis, while securing their reproductive rights—no, wait, on second thought, it’s pretty obvious why that’s happening. It was also a big year for female screenwriters: this year’s list has 25 scripts written by at least one woman, the most in the Black List’s 13-year history. Finally, for reasons that do not seem to be related to the Mess We’re In, there were a bunch of screenplays about unlikely friendships and forced partnerships, although sadly, none of them involved a cop with an orangutan for a partner. Here are some of the list’s highlights, sorted by genre, along with their descriptions, taken verbatim from the Black List. As always, please remember that even great movies sound terrible when reduced to a logline.
True Stories About Famous People
Let Her Speak, Mario Correa. The true story of Senator Wendy Davis and her 24-hour filibuster to save 75% of abortion clinics in Texas.
When Lightning Strikes, Anna Klassen. The true story of 25-year-old Joanne Rowling as she weathers first loves, unexpected pregnancies, lost jobs, and depression on her journey to create Harry Potter.
Newsflash, Ben Jacoby. On November 22nd, 1963, Walter Cronkite puts everything on the line to get the story right as a president is killed, a frightened nation weeps, and television comes of age.
One Thousand Paper Cranes, Ben Bolea. The incredible true story of Sadako Sasaki, a young girl living in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped. Years later when she gets leukemia, she hears about the legend that if someone folds one thousand paper cranes, a wish will be granted. At the same time, aspiring writer Eleanor Coerr learns of Sadako’s story and becomes determined to bring her message of hope and peace to the world.
True Stories About Rich People Ruining the World
Don’t Be Evil, Gabriel Diani, Etta Devine, Evan Bates. Adapted from In the Plex by Steven Levy and I’m Feeling Lucky by Douglas Edwards. Google’s Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt struggle with their corporate motto, “Don’t Be Evil,” in the face of their meteoric rise to a multi-billion dollar valuation and a major Chinese hacking incident.
Panopticon, Emily Jerome. A look at the criminal justice and private prison system, told from the perspectives of a new inmate, a correctional officer, and a Wall Street hotshot.
The Man From Tomorrow, Jordan Barel. The true story of visionary entrepreneur Elon Musk, who after being ousted from PayPal, guides SpaceX through its turbulent early years while simultaneously building Tesla.
American Tabloid, Adam Morrison. The true story of Generoso Pope, Jr., who with the help of the New York mob turned a small, local paper into the phenomenon that is the National Enquirer, laying the foundation for tabloid journalism as we know it today.
True Hollywood Stories About People Whose Careers Have, So Far, Not Been Sunk by Sexual Misconduct Allegations
Strongman, Nicholas Jacobson-Larson, Dalton Leeb. Based on the confusing, sometimes offensive, borderline-insane memories of David Prowse, the irascible Englishman behind Darth Vader’s mask
Hughes, Andrew Rothschild. The story of writer-director John Hughes, whose emotionally honest high school movies helped define American culture in the 1980s—but who, at the very height of his success, abruptly abandoned filmmaking for reasons that have never been fully explained.
True Hollywood Stories Where the Sexual Misconduct Allegations Are Already Well-Known Because the Main Character Is a Convicted Serial Killer
Rodney & Sheryl, Ian McAllister-McDonald. Based on the unbelievable true story of serial killer Rodney Alcala–detectives have estimated Alcala’s body count to be north of 130 victims. Despite being in the midst of a killing spree, Alcala appeared on won a date with one of the contestants on The Dating Game.
True Hollywood Stories That Probably Are Getting a New Title Soon
When in Doubt, Seduce, Allie Hagan. The true story of the early relationship between Elaine May and Mike Nichols
Stories About Nazis (Fictional)
Ruin, Matthew Firpo, Ryan Firpo. A nameless ex-Nazi captain must navigate the ruins of post-WWII Germany to atone for his crimes during the war by hunting down and killing the surviving members of his former SS death squad.
The Boxer, Justine Juel Gillmer. A young Polish man escapes from a concentration camp in which he was forced by SS agents to box other Jews, travels to America to begin a successful career as a professional boxer, and reunites with the woman he lost.
Stories About Nazis (Historical)
Keeper of the Diary, Samuel Franco, Evan Kilgore. Chronicles Otto Frank’s journey, with the help of a junior editor at Doubleday Press, to find a publisher for the diary his daughter Anne wrote during the Holocaust.
Wyler, Michael Moskowitz. With Hitler laying waste to Europe, and the United States refusing to answer the call to war, Jewish filmmaker William Wyler risks his career to make Mrs. Miniver, the most effective propaganda film of all time.
George, Jeremy Michael Cohen. The true story of the Reys, the husband and wife team who fell in love, created Curious George, and escaped the horrors of WWII together.
Liberation, Darby Kealey. The true story of Nancy Wake, the most decorated servicewoman in World War II, who led resistance fighters in a series of dangerous missions in Nazi-occupied France.
V.I.N., Chiara Towne. As Alex Haley struggles to write The Autobiography of Malcolm X, his editor at Playboy assigns him a new interview: George Lincoln Rockwell, head of the American Nazi.
Stories About Nazis (Contemporary)
Come As You Are, Zach Baylin. An idealistic young woman’s life begins to unravel when her job in social media exposes her to the darkest corners of humanity, sending her on a violent mission to take down not just the web’s most vicious content, but its creators as well.
Hack, Mike Schneider. Based on actual reports, a horrifying look inside the Democratic National Committee hack and the Russian manipulation of the 2016 election.
Stories Where One Character Probably Says, “You’re Making Me Team Up With This Guy?”
Sleep Well Tonight, Freddie Skov. Behind the walls of a maximum security prison, a naïve teenage inmate and a rookie correctional officer are forced into a drug-smuggling operation, while a looming conflict between rival gang members threatens to boil over.
The Great Nothing, Cesar Vitale. A grieving thirteen-year-old girl hires a terminally ill, acerbic philosophy professor to prevent flunking the seventh grade. What begins as a homework assignment blossoms into an unlikely friendship and a new appreciation for life that neither will forget.
Trapline, Brett Treacy, Dan Woodward. A captive boy’s lifestyle is upended when his abductor asks for help kidnapping a second child.
Power, Mattson Tomlin. When a young drug dealer is kidnapped by a man hellbent on finding his missing daughter, they must team up to get to the bottom of the mystery of the intense street drug known as Power.
Escape From the North Pole, Paul Laudiero, Ben Baker. A young girl partners up with an elf, a Russian explorer and a reindeer to rescue Santa Claus from a band of evil elves and save the North Pole.
FUBAR, Brent Hyman. An inept CIA psychologist is embedded on a globe-trotting mission with the agency’s most valuable operative who suffers from an extreme case of multiple personality disorder.
Heart of the Beast, Cameron Alexander. A former Navy SEAL and his retired combat dog attempt to return to civilization after a catastrophic accident deep in the Alaskan wilderness.
Green Rush, Matt Tente. A paroled ex-con agrees to help his daughter steal medical marijuana tax dollars from city hall.
Lionhunters, Will Beall. A rogue cop suffers a gunshot wound in 1987 and wakes from a coma thirty years later, where he is partnered with a mild- mannered progressive detective–his son.
Dorothy & Alice, Justin Merz. Dorothy Gale and Alice meet in a home for those having nightmares and embark on a journey to save the imaginations of the world.
Help! My Significant Other Is a Robot!
Where I End, Imran Zaidi. In a world where your life can be saved, uploaded to a computer, and restarted in the case of your untimely demise, a husband returns from the dead, suspecting his wife may have been involved in his death.
Bios, Craig Luck, Ivor Powell. In a post-apocalyptic world, a man spends his dying days with the robot he created to look after his dog.
On, Ryan Jennifer Jones. In a slightly futuristic, hyper-efficient Manhattan, a newly-single book editor purchases a customizable sex android to assuage her broken heart. When her toy’s closed feedback loop starts to alter her personality, she must reevaluate the merits of a perfectly- compatible partner.
Help! Female Assassins!
The Mother, Misha Green. A female assassin comes out of hiding to protect the pre-teen daughter she gave up years before.
Ruthless, John Swetnam. After she is diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, a former assassin must carry out one last assignment in order to ensure her daughter’s future.
Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know, Jade Bartlett. Based on the book trilogy Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know by Chloe J. Esposito. An underdog identical twin accidentally kills her too-perfect sister only to discover murder suits her as she becomes compulsively embroiled in the life of a mafia assassin.
Kate, Umair Aleem. When a veteran hitwoman is mysteriously poisoned on her last assignment in Tokyo, she has 24 hours to track down her killer before she dies.
Ballerina, Shay Hatten. After her family is murdered, an assassin seeks revenge on the killers.
Help! Someone Else Is Also Making a Movie About the Jane Collective!
This Is Jane, Daniel Loflin. Based on the book The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service by Laura Kaplan. An ordinary group of women provide 11,000 safe, illegal abortions in Chicago from 1968 through 1973.
Call Jane, Hayley Schore, Roshan Sethi. Before Roe v. Wade in 1960s Chicago, a pregnant woman becomes a member of an underground group which provides abortions in a safe environment.
Jellyfish Summer, Sara Jane Inwards. A young black girl’s family in 1960s Mississippi decides to harbor two human-looking refugees who have mysteriously fallen from the sky.
The Thing About Jellyfish, Molly Smith Metzler. After her best friend drowns, a seventh-grade girl is convinced the true cause of the tragedy was a rare jellyfish sting. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory.
It can be difficult to confidently predict the kinds of movies studios are going to make based on the trends visible on the Black List—we’re probably in for another few years of superhero movies, regardless—but it’s usually a good barometer for the kinds of screenplays executives are looking for. Which means the first person to write a screenplay in which a female assassin has to team up with a kidnapper to help a jellyfish get an abortion—working title, Roe v. Blade—wins a house in the Franklin Hills and a WGA pension. The complete 2017 Black List can be found here.