Looking for the best screenwriting quotes? We’ve compiled a list of our favourite quotes from the greatest film directors. Whether you’re an experienced filmmaker or someone writing their first film, these words of wisdom from the masters of cinema are guaranteed to take your screenwriting to the next level.

The Script and Screenplay Quotes

To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script, and the script.

Alfred Hitchcock

I plan out a script very carefully, hoping to follow it exactly, all the way through, when shooting starts. In fact, this working on the script is the real making of the film, for me. When I’ve done it, the film is finished already in my mind.

Alfred Hitchcock

The most important thing is the script.

Martin Scorsese

It’s eighty percent script and twenty percent you get great actors. There’s nothing else to it.

William Wyler

Well, there’s no question that a good script is an absolutely essential, maybe the essential thing for a movie.

Sydney Pollack

The fundamental of anything as a director is material, material, material–script, script, script–once you have the script everything else is straightforward.

Ridley Scott

Everything starts with writing, and then to support your vision, your ideas, your philosophy, your jokes, whatever, you’ve gotta perform them and/or direct them, or sometimes just produce them.

Mel Brooks

All movies are pure process. A commercial movie isn’t less process than an art movie. You can’t make your decisions about a film on the basis of, ‘Is it important enough? Is it serious enough?’ It’s either alive or it’s not for me. If it’s alive, I want to do it.

Mike Nichols

The script is a skeleton you can work on. If it’s a good script, you do it verbatim. If its not, then you get a script that you can do verbatim.

John Ford

There’s nothing more important in making movies than the screenplay.

Richard Attenborough

A director shouldn’t get in the way of the movie, the story should.

Frank Darabont

Give me a good script, and I’ll be a hundred times better as a director.

George Cukor

You can’t fix a bad script after you start shooting. The problems on the page only get bigger as they move to the big screen.

Howard Hawks

Learning to make films is very easy. Learning what to make films about is very hard.

George Lucas

With a good script, a good director can produce a masterpiece; with the same script a mediocre director can make a passable film. But with a bad script even a good director can’t possibly make a good film. For truly cinematic expression, the camera and the microphone must be able to cross both fire and water. That is what makes a real movie. The script must be something that has the power to do this.

Akira Kurosawa

Recommended Reading: Writing the Screenplay Quotes

Finding the Story

There are things I want to say: They are very important to me, and, not being a writer, I do it through movies.

Richard Attenborough

If it can be written or thought, it can be filmed.

Stanley Kubrick

I write scripts to serve as skeletons awaiting the flesh and sinew of images.

Ingmar Bergman

Ideas are everything. We are nothing with the idea. So I go where the ideas lead. When we get an idea we love, you’ll see it and feel it and know it all at once.

David Lynch Quotes

On anything that you start, fragments of ideas run together and hook themselves up like a train. Those first fragments become a magnet for everything else you need.

David Lynch

To make the script, you need ideas, and for me a lot of times, a final script is made up of many fragments of ideas that came at different times.

David Lynch

Ideas are so beautiful, and they’re so abstract, and they do exist someplace – I don’t know if there’s a name for it – and I think they exist like fish, and I believe that if you sit quietly like you’re fishing, you will catch ideas. The real beautiful big ones swim kinda deep down there.

David Lynch

I think you have to write the film that you want to see, and try and do it honestly, and you can’t control people’s responses really.

Edgar Wright

The real world has always been far more exciting and funny and dangerous to me than anything somebody could conjure up sitting in front of a computer.

Tony Scott

Most of my films have grown – from some small incident, a feeling I’ve had about something, an anecdote someone’s told me, perhaps from a gesture or an expression on a actor’s face. It sets off a very special sort of tension in me, immediately recognizable as such to me. On the deepest level, of course, the ideas for my films come out of the pressures of the spirit: and these pressures vary. But most of films start from a specific image or feeling around which my imagination begins slowly to build an elaborate detail.

Ingmar Bergman

Give me any two pages of the Bible and I’ll give you a picture.

Cecil B. DeMille

History opens up new worlds to film-makers all the time.

Steven Spielberg

You can’t make a movie about making movies – it’s boring.

Jon Favreau

For me, it comes down to deciding whether it is a film that I feel I have to make. I ask myself, will I be sorry if I miss this chance? Is it a film that I would be excited to see? Will the story stick in my mind years and years after it is done? Those are the types of things I think about. The irony is that once you get into the process, sometimes the story leads you into a different direction than you initially imagined.

Christopher Nolan

Your mind just goes to the craziest idea to lure people into the theater, and then you write your script around those elements.

Robert Rodriguez

Our dreams are our real life. My fantasies and obsessions are not only my reality, but the stuff of which my films are made.

Federico Fellini

When I start on a film I always have a number of ideas about my project. Then one of them begins to germinate, to sprout, and it is this which I take and work with. My films come from my need to say a particular thing at a particular time. The beginning of any film for me is this need to express something. It is to make it nurture and grow that I write my script – it is directing it that makes my tree blossom and bear fruit.

Akira Kurosawa

I feed on other people’s creativity, photographers, artists of every kind. Sometimes a feeling that you get listening to a song can be so powerful. I’ve wanted to write whole scripts around what I felt just listening to a piece of music. I think music is important, and surrounding your visual field with stimulating things.

James Cameron

I just grew up watching a lot of movies. I’m attracted to this genre and that genre, this type of story, and that type of story. As I watch movies I make some version of it in my head that isn’t quite what I’m seeing – taking the things I like and mixing them with stuff I’ve never seen before.

Quentin Tarantino

All the films I have made have started by me reading a book. Those books have been made into films have almost always had some aspect about them that on first reading left me with the sense that, ‘This is a fantastic story: is it possible to make it into a film?’

Stanley Kubrick

The important thing is to make a different world, to make a world that is not now. A real world, a genuine world, but one that allows myth to live. The myth is everything. 

Sergio Leone

How does one get ideas? By sheer perseverance to the point of madness.

Charlie Chaplin

Ideas come through an intense desire for them; continually desiring, the mind becomes a watch-tower on the look-out for incidents that may excite the imagination – music, a sunset, may give image to an idea.

Charlie Chaplin

Ideas come from curiosity.

Walt Disney

You have to find something that you have to obsess over if you’re making a movie about it. As a director, you have to be able to pick something that excites you enough that you can breathe it every day.

Jon Favreau

Recommended Reading: What Makes a Good Movie Quotes

What to Look For?

When there is a strong woman character in a story – that always grabs me.

Ang Lee

The best stories come out of the truth.

Ridley Scott

Reality is a dirty word for me, I know it isn’t for most people, but I am not interested. There’s too much of it about.

Ken Russell

We must all start with the believable. That is the essence of our craft.

Chuck Jones

We tend to do period stuff because it helps make it one step removed from boring everyday reality.

Ethan Coen

What I look for in a script is something that challenges me, something that breaks new ground, something that allows me to flex my director muscle. You have got to think fast in this business, you’ve got to keep reinventing yourself to stay on top.

Michael Bay

I think I’m attracted to subjects that I’m afraid of. It’s a way to approach things I am afraid of, things that I fear in my heart, and try to understand them, try to deal with them. It’s like demons. I try to approach it and understand it…. I’m just visiting my fears.

Denis Villeneuve

Conflict, great characters and a gripping storyline.

Chris Columbus

I’m first and foremost interested in the story, the characters.

David Lean

If you can’t find the you in the story, then it has no personal meaning for you. That’s an important discovery, because then you should immediately walk away from it. Don’t be lured into sticking with it by inertia or the sad faces of disappointed friends. They’ll find someone else.

Elia Kazan

I try to push ideas away, and the ones that will not leave me alone are the ones that ultimately end up happening.

J.J. Abrams

Analyzing the Story

I decide completely instinctively, very often on just one reading. I don’t analyze a script as I read it for the first time. I just sort of let it wash over me. Sometimes it happens with a book. I also make sure that I have the time to read a script straight through. A script can have a very different feeling if reading it is interrupted, even for half an hour. The final movie will be seen uninterrupted, so why should reading the script for the first time be any different?

Sidney Lumet

When you make a film you usually make a film about an idea. The idea in Tootsie is that a man becomes a better man for having been a woman.

Sydney Pollack

Storytelling is the most important aspect of anything I’ve ever done. It’s how the story is told. That’s all I’ve focused on. If something doesn’t tell a story or if it’s confusing, I either don’t shoot it or I cut it out.

Steven Spielberg

Let’s say you now decide that it is possible to make a movie out of it; the next questions are: does it have cinematic possibilities? Will it be interesting to look at? Are there good parts for the actors? Will anybody else be interested in it when you’ve finished with it? Those are the thoughts that cross my mind. But mostly, I would say, a sense of personal excitement about the thing; the fact that you just fell in love with the story.

Stanley Kubrick

When I see a story, I ask: is this something I’d like to be in? Is this something I’d like to see? And if I’d like to see it, would I like to tell it?

Clint Eastwood

The story being told in ‘Star Wars’ is a classic one. Every few hundred years, the story is retold because we have a tendency to do the same things over and over again. Power corrupts, and when you’re in charge, you start doing things that you think are right, but they’re actually not.

George Lucas

To make films, it always begins with two words: what and how. First of all, you have to find a story, or what are you going to tell? And you have to find a way to tell it visually.

Wong Kar-wai

Now comes the most important decision I have to make: What is this movie about? I’m not talking about plot, although in certain very good melodramas the plot is all they’re about. And that’s not bad. A good, rousing, scary story can be a hell of a lot of fun. But what is it about emotionally? What is the theme of the movie,the spine, the arc? What does the movie mean to me? Personalizing the movie is very important. I’m going to be working flat out for the next six, nine, twelve months. The picture had better have some meaning to me.

Sidney Lumet

Recommended Reading: Writing Quotes from Famous Authors

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