Franklin Leonard has unveiled the 2020 Black List with an assist from Desus Nice and The Kid Mero, and this year’s list includes a script titled Excelsior! that chronicles the early days of Marvel Comics and its prodigious talents Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
The Black List ranks the most liked unproduced screenplays written in a given year, and while Alex Convery‘s Excelsior! garnered 9 votes, this year’s list was topped by Sophie Dawson’s Headhunter which earned 29 votes. That script follows a high-functioning cannibal who selects his victims based on their Instagram popularity, but finds himself shaken when he comes across a man who wants to be eaten.
We’ve previously written about several of the scripts on this year’s list, including the Julianne Moore movie Sharper from Apple and A24, as well as Will Smith’s slavery-era thriller Emancipation and Chris Pratt‘s indie comedy The Black Belt. However, there are several projects below that have never been written about before that sound quite interesting.
Those include scripts about Anna Nicole Smith, the 1MDB scandal, serial killers such as Jack the Ripper, Paul John Knowles and Delaware’s Route 40 killer, the Lindsay Lohan–Paris Hilton feud, the story of Vice, young Ted Kaczynski, and a pair of scripts that involve a dying Daniel Radcliffe and Terri Schiavo. If I had to pick two wholly original winners on this list, I’d go with Emergency, which is in the works at Amazon, and Birdies, which boasts Sukee Chew as a producer, and I really respect her taste in material.
Speaking of taste, The Black List’s track record is one of excellence — think Little Miss Sunshine and I, Tonya — and later this month will see the release of past honoree Promising Young Woman, while Olivia Wilde is currently shooting last year’s entry Don’t Worry Darling. Check out the 2020 Black List in full below, and keep an eye on Excelsior!, as I expect that project to find a home quickly given the interest in Marvel and the Stan Lee-Jack Kirby dynamic.
HEADHUNTER by Sophie Dawson
A high-functioning cannibal selects his victims based on their Instagram popularity, but finds his habits shaken by a man who wants to be eaten.
CHANG CAN DUNK by Jingyi Shao
A young Asian-American teen and basketball fanatic who just wants to dunk and get the girl ends up learning much more about himself, his best friends, and his mother.
Producers: Hillman Grad, Makeready
NEITHER CONFIRM NOR DENY by Dave Collard
An adaptation of David Sharp’s book The CIA’s Greatest Covert Operation that chronicles the clandestine CIA operation that risked igniting WWIII by recovering a nuclear-armed Soviet Sub, the K-129, that sunk to the bottom of the ocean in 1968.
Producers: New Sparta Films, Scott Free
IF YOU WERE THE LAST by Angela Bourassa
Two astronauts who think they’ve been lost in space forever fall in love, becoming content with their isolated lives, only to suddenly have to return to Earth.
Producers: Depth of Field
TWO FACED by Cat Wilkins
A high school senior attempts to get her principal fired after observing racist behavior, but she quickly learns he won’t go down without a fight.
Producers: Sharla Sumpter Bridgett, Bron, The Story Company, TPH Entertainment
BRING ME BACK by Crosby Selander
When a woman on an interstellar voyage falls in love with someone during a cryosleep simulation, she attempts to discern whether the man is a real passenger on the ship or just a figment of her imagination.
Producer/Financier: Legendary Entertainment
BUBBLE & SQUEAK by Evan Twohy
Two newlyweds traverse a fictional country on their honeymoon but slowly realize they’re yearning to take separate journeys.
Producers: Chris Storer, Universal Remote
EMERGENCY by KD Davila
Ready for a night of partying, a group of Black and Latino college students must weigh the pros and cons of calling the police when faced with an emergency.
Financier: Amazon Studios
Producers: Temple Hill Entertainment
FOREVER HOLD YOUR PEACE by Emma Dudley
Twenty-four-year-old, quiet, self-conscious Hazel has struggled with her sexuality ever since her conservative dad walked in on her kissing a girl at a middle school sleepover and flipped his absolute shit. On the way back to her hometown for her dad’s wedding, Hazel gets drunk and makes out with an older, attractive female flight attendant. She’s thrilled to have moved past her hang-ups and had some fun until she arrives home and realizes that the flight attendant is her dad’s fiance.
Producers: Lord Miller
VIDEO NASTY by Chris Thomas Devlin
Three teenagers who rent a cursed VHS tape are pulled into an 80s slasher movie that threatens to trap them forever.
Producers: Point Grey Pictures, Stampede Ventures
SATURDAY NIGHT GHOST CLUB by Steve Desmond & Michael Sherman
After being haunted by a terrifying entity, a twelve-year-old boy teams up with his eccentric uncle and three other misfits to form their own ghost club, investigating all the paranormal sites in town so that he can find and confront the ghost that’s tormenting him.
Producers: Fully Formed Entertainment
THE SAUCE by Chaz Hawkins
A depressed, selfish black man fights for his life after taking a job at a white-owned beauty parlor, whose monstrous owners concocted a wildly popular shampoo that requires a sickening ingredient.
Producers: Scott Free Productions
SHARPER by Brian Gatewood, Alessandro Tanaka
A chain of scam artists goes after one wealthy family with the perfect plan to drain them of their funds. But when love, heartbreak, and jealousy slither their way into the grand scheme, it becomes unclear whether the criminals are conning or the ones being conned.
Financier: Apple TV+
Producers: A24, Gatewood & Tanaka, Julianne Moore, Picturestart
BIRDIES by Colin Bannon
When Tabitha, a struggling foster kid, wins a contest to become part of the BIRDIES, a popular daily YouTube channel featuring the radiant and enigmatic Mama Bird and her diverse brood of adopted children, she soon learns that things get dark when the cameras turn off.
Producer: Sukee Chew
POSSUM SONG by Isaac Adamson
After discovering his secret songwriting partner dead, a country music star struggling to record new material makes a Faustian bargain with a family of possums who have taken up residency within his walls.
Producers: Isaac Adamson, Lee Stobby Entertainment
THE BLACK BELT by Randall Green
Eighth grader Simon Paluska dreams of being a Taekwondo Black Belt, but he’s not allowed to take lessons. So he buys a Black Belt on Amazon for twenty-five bucks. Then, he has to use it.
RIPPER by Dennis MaGee Fallon
London, 1888: When their friends begin dying at the hands of a brutal killer, an all-female crime syndicate, The Forty Elephants, must work together to take down the predator stalking them – Jack The Ripper.
Producers: Atlas Entertainment, Bellevue Productions
A BIG, BOLD, BEAUTIFUL JOURNEY by Seth Reiss
After both attending the same wedding solo, David and Sarah embark on a big, bold, beautiful journey with a little help from their 1996 Passat GPS and a little bit of magic for the road trip of their lives.
Producers: Love & Squalor, Red Hour, Seth Reiss
ENEMIES WITHIN by Cat Vasko
In the 1950’s, Joseph McCarthy and his right hand man Roy Cohn sit at the height of their influence, casting aside democratic norms unchecked – until the Army’s lowest-level lawyer, John G. Adams, stumbles upon the shocking truth behind their power grab, and makes it his mission to reveal this to the public.
Financier: Endeavor Content
THE MAN IN THE YARD by Sam Stefanak
When a dangerous stranger shows up at her front door, a depressed widow must confront her own past in order to protect her two children.
SUNCOAST by Laura Chinn
An awkward teenage outcast comes of age against the backdrop of the hospice where her brother (and coincidentally, Terri Schiavo) are dying.
Producers: 3 Arts Entertainment
FISH IN A TREE by Jeff Stockwell
Based on the eponymous novel by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. A young girl in an intimidating new school finally faces seemingly insurmountable obstacles in her learning and in her social life when she crosses paths with an energetic-but-inexperienced substitute teacher.
Producers: Fezziwig Studios
THE NEUTRAL CORNER by Justin Piasecki
A Nevada court judge who moonlights reffing high-profile boxing matches must face his demons when he’s assigned to the Olympic fight of an ex-con he’d previously sentenced for murder.
Producers: Aggregate Films
GUSHER by Abigail Briley Bean
Based on the story of Anna Nicole Smith, a shrewd young mother rises out of a small Texas town to become a famous Playboy centerfold, but when she falls in love with an eighty-nine-year-old billionaire, his son and the entire world believe she’s nothing but a gold digger.
Producers: Coveside Films
BIKRAM by Silpa Kovvali
Based on an unbelievable story, Bikram chronicles the rise and fall of celebrity yoga guru Bikram Choudhury through the eyes of his young wife Rajashree, who engineers his ascent to fame and fortune, then fights to salvage their empire when his crimes bring it crumbling to the ground.
Producers: David Weil, Star Thrower Entertainment
BORDERLINE by Jimmy Warden
A bodyguard protects a pop superstar and her athlete boyfriend from a determined stalker in 1990s Los Angeles.
LURKER by Alex Russell
An obsessed fan maneuvers his way into the inner circle of his hip hop idol and will stop at nothing to stay in.
Producers: Chris Storer, Lee Sung Jin
MY DEAR YOU by Meghan Kennedy
Based on a short story by Rachel Khong. A love story set in the afterlife about our struggle to let go of the past, even when our present is heaven… literally. Tess keeps searching for the love of her life without realizing he’s right there next to her the whole time, helping her look.
Producers: Writ Large
OCCUPIED by Tara Cavanagh
When a tactless Nordstrom’s store manager denies two trans women access to the bathroom, Fran and Althea seek restitution and occupy the ladies room in protest.
Producers: Gatewood and Tanaka
REPTILE DYSFUNCTION by Creston Whittington
A chemical leak in a local water supply in Central Florida wreaks havoc on the invasive population of pythons, leading a family to the fight of their life to survive.
ST. SIMMONS by Greg Wayne
When a very fat and possibly gay boy from New Orleans is visited by an angel called Barbra Streisand, he sets out on a holy crusade in daytime television to touch and save the soul of every obese person in America before his demons consume him – if only to make his daddy proud. It’s the true gospel of Richard Simmons.
THE U.S.P.S. by Perry Janes
Following in his murdered mother’s footsteps, Michael Griffiths enlists in the United States Postal Service… only to discover a mail route full of surprises and a job that means maybe, just maybe, saving the world.
Financier: Amazon Studios
Producers: Chronology, Imagine Entertainment
ANNALISE & SONG by SJ Inwards
Annalise is a girl who quite literally “sees the world differently” than everyone else and finds herself a lonely, misunderstood outcast who keeps her “cursed sight” a secret as a consequence. But everything changes when Annalise meets her new neighbor, Peter Song — a fellow teenager whom everyone else sees as a disfigured boy, but whom Annalise sees entirely differently.
Producers: Luckychap, Star Thrower Entertainment
BLOOD TIES by Aaron Katz
Based on the New Yorker article by Nathan Heller. A true-crime thriller based on the story of two brilliant college lovers convicted of a brutal slaying. An obsessed detective investigates the true motives that led to a double homicide, and the decades of repercussions that follow.
Financier: Endeavor Content
THE BOY WHO DIED by Monisha Dadlani
A young girl creates a robot version of Harry Potter while her father simultaneously is treating Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe for a terminal disease.
CRUSH ON YOU by Shea Mayo
Summer on a secluded campus takes a dark turn for three college girls when a supernaturally sexy mystery man begins haunting their dreams.
THE CULLING by Stephen Herman
A troubled priest confines himself to a remote cabin in the middle of the woods where he attempts to make a last stand against the demon that terrorized his family when he was a child.
Producers: Good Feat Content, Mangata
MAY DECEMBER by Samy Burch
Twenty years after their notorious tabloid romance gripped the nation, a married couple buckles under the pressure when an actress arrives to do research for a film about their past.
Producers: Gloria Sanchez
1MDB by Scott Conroy
The incredible true story of the multi-billion dollar Malaysian government corruption scandal which led to the conviction of Prime Minister Najib Razak and almost $5 billion in settlements paid out by Goldman Sachs.
Producers: 2.0 Entertainment
REWIRED by Adam Gaines, Ryan Parrott
Harvard. 1959. A young Ted Kaczynski is experimented on by Dr. Henry Murray during a secret CIA psychological study that may have led to the creation of the Unabomber.
STORY by Emily Siegel
When a journalist turned stay-at-home mom relocates to Los Angeles to rebuild after a personal trauma, she blurs the lines between fact and fiction… only to find herself at the center of her own story.
COSMIC SUNDAY by MacMillan Hedges
A small percentage of the population is stuck in a time loop and have had to create a society that functions within the same day, repeated day in and day out. One man struggles to find himself for the first time in ages amidst a society clinging to a sense of normalcy.
Producers: Original Films
EARWORM by Austin Everett
A former music therapist is recruited to use a mysterious machine to dive into the memories of a serial killer on death row.
EXCELSIOR! by Alex Convery
The true story of the meteoric rise (and subsequent fall) of Marvel Comics and the star-crossed creators behind the panel: Stan Lee & Jack Kirby.
FLIGHT RISK by Jared Rosenberg
An Air Marshal transporting a fugitive across the Alaskan wilderness via a small plane finds herself trapped when she suspects their pilot is not who he says he is.
Producers: Davis Entertainment
HIGH SOCIETY by Noga Pnueli
A depressed, progressive woman stuck in a conservative small Texas town starts micro-dosing the entire town with marijuana to make them all get along.
HORSEGIRL by Lauren Meyering
Living under the full time care of her cancer-stricken mother, a twenty-six-year-old, socially awkward, horse-obsessed woman attempts to prove her independence by winning a hobbyhorse competition.
Producers: Alix Madigan
MAGAZINE DREAMS by Elijah Bynum
A Black amateur bodybuilder struggles to find human connection in this exploration of celebrity and violence.
Producers: Jennifer Fox, Dan Gilroy
MOUSE by Kelly O’Sullivan
When seventeen-year old Minnie’s best friend Callie is killed in an accident, she struggles to find an identity of her own and forms a complicated friendship with Callie’s grieving mother.
MURDER IN THE WHITE HOUSE by Jonathan Stokes
The President is murdered during a private dinner, and Secret Service agent Mia Pine has until morning to discover which guest is the killer before a peace agreement fails and leads to war.
Financier: Paramount Pictures
Producers: Original Film
NANNY by Nikyatu Jusu
Aisha is an undocumented nanny caring for a privileged child. As she prepares for the arrival of her only son, who she left behind in her native country, a violent supernatural presence invades her reality, jeopardizing the American Dream she’s carefully pieced together.
Producers: Nikkia Moulterie
A SINGLE POINT OF FAILURE by Terry Huang
Journalists race to expose how Boeing knowingly misled regulators, pilots, and airlines to cover up a problematic flight software system on the 737 MAX, leading to two major airplane crashes and the deaths of 346 people. Based on real events.
Producers: Mandalay Pictures
STATE LINES by Rachel Wolf
When headstrong but well-intentioned college student Sara Jane bails on Senior Spring Break to drive a fourteen-year-old girl to get an abortion, she’s shocked to discover that her passenger is an undercover pro-lifer who has kidnapped her.
Producers: Picture Films
VICELAND by Chris Parizo
The true story of how Vice magazine grew from a free magazine in Montreal into a multi billion dollar media empire, making two of its founders multi-millionaires while the third founder was kicked out and went on to modernize the white supremacist movement by creating the Proud Boys.
Producers: Bellevue Productions
EMANCIPATION by Bill Collage
Based on a true story, a runaway slave has to outwit bounty hunters and the perils of a Louisiana swamp to reach the Union army and his only chance at freedom.
Financier: Apple TV+
Producers: CAA Media Finance, Escape Artists, McFarland Entertainment
FIGHT OR FLIGHT by Brooks McLaren & DJ Cotrona
A mercenary takes on the job of tracking down a target on a plane but must protect her when they’re surrounded by people trying to kill both of them.
Producers: Thunder Road
THE GORGE by Zach Dean
A brazen, high-action, genre-bending, love story about two very dangerous young people, who despite the corrupt and lethal world they operate in, find a soulmate in each other.
Financier: Skydance Media
Producers: Lit Entertainment Group, Skydance Media
HERE COME THE BANDITS by Ethan Dawes
Mickey Bradley, a wildly talented minor league baseball player in his early twenties who returns home to Los Angeles after an injury and coaches a little league team full of misfits who remind him why he fell in love with baseball in the first place. And theres a sweet romance in there too.
Producers: Corduroy Entertainment, Makeready, Waffle Iron Entertainment
PLUSH by Alexandra Skarsgard
Sex, money, and one schoolyard fad that took a nation by storm. Based on the true story of Ty Warner, the enigmatic entrepreneur behind a ‘90s toy craze that sparked madness, murder, and a billion-dollar empire.
TOWERS by Aaron Rabin
A businessman’s obsession with his competitor leads him down a rabbit hole of self-discovery, fantasy, and delusion
Producers: 1.21 Pictures
TRESPASSER by Gabe Hobson
A father and daughter living in remote isolation must fight for survival after aliens arrive seeking revenge for killing one of their own.
Financier: Endeavor Content
Producers: Fully Formed Entertainment, Jason Fuchs
UNCLE WICK by Gabe Delahaye
An action comedy wherein Benji Stone, a lovable but deeply unpopular sixteen year old, is pulled into an international assassination plot by his uncle, a retired undercover assassin charged with babysitting Benji for the weekend.
Financier: Amazon Studios
Producers: Field Trip Productions
WHAT IF? by Alvaro Garcia Lecuona
An unassertive seventeen year old turns his high school on its head when he asks out his crush, a transgender classmate.
Financier: MGM, Orion
Producers: Andrew Lauren Productions, Killer Films
BELLA by Jason Markarian
Set against the backdrop of an unprecedented crime wave that gripped New York City in the 80s, a hyper-stylized action thriller about a cop’s daughter who, after her father clings to life following an assassination attempt, goes on a rampage to unearth her father’s assassin and weed out deep-rooted corruption in the NYPD.
DUST by Karrie Crouse
A young mother in 1930s Oklahoma is convinced that her family is threatened and takes drastic steps to keep them safe.
Financier: Searchlight Pictures
Producers: Mad Dog Films
FRENEMY by Ariel Sayegh
A chronicle of the infamous Lindsay Lohan/Paris Hilton feud of 2004-2006 over who would be Britney Spears’ best friend.
GABI SEEMS DIFFERENT by Victoria Bata
After spending several years recovering from a devastating car crash that pulled her out of the spotlight, Gabi, a famous pop star, gets ready to perform again for the first time. But with the pressure mounting and her memory failing her, the young woman begins to doubt who she really is — and if Gabi really survived the crash at all.
GENERATION LEAP by John Sonntag & Thomas Sonntag
After a global pandemic causes NASA to send a crew of astronauts into deep space to find another habitable planet, the crew is unexpectedly awoken from hypersleep and must survive a mysterious new threat that comes from the future generations they sought to save, and the one place they never expected – Earth.
Producers: Atlas Entertainment
GET LITE by Eric Gross
Saunders, a headstrong Bronx teenager, is caught between his love of Litefeet subway dancing and his strict father’s insistence on becoming an engineer. After he finagles his way onto a ragtag Litefeet crew, he’s exposed to an electrifying new world as well as a new crush. Now he has to decide who and what he’s willing to sacrifice in order to compete in the biggest dance competition of the year: Kingdome.
Producers: Bill Karesh
GOOD CHANCE by Tricia Lee
A feisty transgender teen helps a church-going, undocumented Asian woman escape deportation, and they form an unlikely friendship that helps them heal the rifts in their own families.
Producers: Janet Yang Productions, JBF Entertainment
HANDSOME STRANGER by Greg Navarro
Based on the incredible true story of serial killer Paul John Knowles and the week he spent with British journalist Sandy Fawkes in the midst of a murderous killing spree.
Producers: Affiliated Pictures
I.S.S. by Nick Shafir
At any given moment in time there are roughly six astronauts living on the International Space Station (ISS). The station itself is divided into two segments one half Russian, one half American. When a world war event occurs on Earth, America and Russia find themselves on opposing sides. As such, both nations secretly contact their astronauts aboard the ISS and give them instructions to take control of the station by any means necessary. The six astronauts must each secretly choose between their friendships with each other and their allegiance to their country.
Financier/Producer: LD Entertainment
MARGOT by Emily Adams
Annie Mills has always known Margot Ellison to be two things: her best friend and a devout Mormon. But as high school graduation nears and Margot starts to crave change, the girls must grapple with the fear that growing up might require growing alone.
Producers: Canary House Productions
THE PEAK by Arthur Hills
A troubled young surgeon travels to a desolate peak to climb the mountain where her father suffered a mental breakdown years earlier, only to realize halfway up the rock wall that she might be subject to the same fate.
REALITY by Heather Quinn
A woman abruptly discovers nothing she’s known until now is real, and she must recover the truth in order to save the rest of the country, still trapped inside of the lie.
RUBY by Kat Wood
After her husband is attacked, assassin Ruby is lured into the open to hunt down those responsible, leading her back to the boss who wants to keep her in the fold at any cost.
Financier: Amazon Studios
TIN ROOF RUSTED by Michelle Harper
When two life-long best friends discover that they’re both pregnant, they promise to embark on their journey together. But with the constant pressure of outsiders, the two struggle midst personal differences and must re-learn that what connected them as children can still be their glue as adults.
Producers: Jax Media
WAR FACE by Mitchell Lafortune
A female U.S. Army Special Agent is sent to a remote, all-male outpost in Afghanistan to investigate accusations of war crimes. But when a series of mysterious events jeopardize her mission and the unit’s sanity, she must find the courage to survive something far more sinister.
Producers: Calvary Media
THE WOMEN OF ROUTE 40 by Erin Kathleen
A struggling single mother must confront dangerous forces – and sins of her past – when her world collides with that of a serial killer. Inspired by the true story of Delaware’s only serial murderer, the Route 40 killer.
Producers: Phantom Four Films
YOM KIPPUR by Brett Melnick
After getting high on the night of Yom Kippur, three distant cousins wake up with muddled minds and empty stomachs as they find themselves in the middle of a kidnapping and a major drug ring.
The film hails from ‘Black Mirror’ and ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ director Dan Trachtenberg.
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