Ever since 2005, film executive Franklin Leonard has been putting out The Black List, an annual list of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood. Placement on the list has often led to the movies being produced, and several Black List alumni – including Oscar winners Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, Argo and Spotlight – have become prominent important motion pictures. Promising Young Woman, one of the best movies this year, was on the Black List on 2018.
Leonard doesn’t just choose the movies himself; he assembles them from a survey of other development executives. And while there have been many successes, some films on The Black List remain unproduced.
This week, the 2020 version of The Black List was released, as part of a live show hosted by Showtime’s Desus and Mero. Some highlights from the list: (per Deadline):
– Headhunter, written by Sophie Dawson, about a practitioner of cannibalism who specifically targets Instagram influencers. This one got the most votes.
– 1MDB, by Scott Conroy, a movie about the real-life banking scandal in which a Malaysian financier came to America, befriended the Kardashians and Hollywood royalty, and even had a hand in producing The Wolf of Wall Street, before his scandal took down the Malaysian government.
– Chang Can Dunk, by Jingyi Chao, the story of an Asian-American teen who loves basketball.
– Neither Confirm Nor Deny, by Dave Collard, based on the true story of a CIA operation to capture a Soviet submarine in 1968.
– If You Were the Last, by Angela Bourassa, about a pair of astronauts who fall in love in space, but then must return to Earth.
– Two Faced, by Cat Wilkins, about the battle between a high school student and her principal, who she accuses of racist behavior. Taraji P. Henson is set to direct and star in the film.
– Bring Me Back, by Crosby Selander, another love story set in space, this time involving a woman in a cryosleep simulation trying to figure out whether the man she’s fallen for is actually real.
– Bubble & Squek, by Evan Twohy, the story of a couple on their honeymoon visiting a fictional country.
– Emergency, by KD Davila, in which a group of Black and latino students wonder whether to call the police after an emergency.
– Forever Hold Your Peace, by Emma Dudley, in which a young lesbian heading to her dad’s wedding realizing she once hooked up with the woman who is marrying her father.
– Video Nasty, by Chris Thomas Devlin, in which three teenagers rent a VHS tape and end up jumping into the movie, in the tradition of Jumanji, Purple Rose of Cairo, and Last Action Hero.
– Saturday Night Ghost Club, by Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman, in which a child and adults team up to form a ghost club.
– The Sauce, by Chaz Hawkins, a Sorry to Bother You-like story of a depressed Black man who goes to work at a beauty parlor that offers a mysterious shampoo.
– Shaper, by Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka, a Parasite-like tale of a group of scammers targeting a wealthy family. This is being made by Apple and A24, with Julianne Moore starring.
– Ripper, by Dennis McGee Fallon, the story of a group of female avengers who try to take down the notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper.
– Enemies Within, by Cat Vasko, telling the story of Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn, and the Army lawyer who worked to take them down.
– Gusher, by Abigail Briley Bean, the story of an Anna Nicole Smith-like woman who appears in Playboy and later marries an 89-year-old billionaire.
– St. Simmons, by Greg Wayne. An alternative, and likely unauthorized, original story for Richard Simmons, in which the young Richard is visited in New Orleans by Barbra Streisand, in the form of an angel.
– Rewired, by Adam Gaines and Ryan Parrott, which posits that the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, went the way he did due to government experiments when he was at Harvard in the ’50s.
– Excelsior!, by Alex Convery, which tells the story of the rise of Marvel Comics, with characters based on Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
– High Society, by Noga Pnueli, in which a liberal woman in a conservative town begins micro dosing everyone in town with marijuana.
– Murder in the White House, by Jonathan Stokes, in which the president is murdered and a Secret Service agent must solve the mystery, Clue-style, by morning. This is being made by Paramount.
– Viceland, by Chris Parizo, which tells the story of the rise of Vice magazine, including the part where one of the founders, Gavin McInness, went on to found the racist gang The Proud Boys.
– Uncle Wick, by Gabe Delahaye, is a comedy about a teenager pulled into intrigue by his uncle, an assassin. The film, despite the name, doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the John Wick franchise, but it is being made by Amazon.
– Frenemy, by Ariel Sayegh, which tells the story of Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton’s feud in the mid-2000s.
– Get Lite, by Eric Gross, yet another itineration of The Jazz Singer, in which a Bronx teenager wishes to become a dancer, against the wishes of his father.
– I.S.S., by Nick Shafir, a film set aboard the International Space Station, in which the U.S. and Russia are at war back on Earth, and the astronauts from both countries have to find a way to get along in space.
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.