Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Great Scripts Written In The Least Amount Of Time

It's not uncommon to hear about movies that took years to make – if they got made at all. Prospective debuts and franchise reboots spend years in pre-production, only to get axed before ever seeing the light of day. Scripts like "Ant Man" are tossed around from writer to writer before they finally hit the big screen in a form the original team doesn't recognize. Writers spend their entire careers perfecting the script they hope will define their legacy. But once in a blue moon, a filmmaker will get an idea that just won't leave them alone. They throw themselves into their work, and end up with a finished script completed in record time.

Writing a script in a matter of days or weeks is an impressive feat for anyone to achieve, of course. But when a screenwriter churns out a classic at a breakneck pace, the achievement becomes even more dazzling. Join us as we examine the greatest scripts ever written in the least amount of time.

Stallone got Rocky down on paper in under a week

Sylvester Stallone's 2005 interview with Howard Stern offers uniquely clear insight into what it takes to make a movie. When asked how long it took to write 1976's "Rocky" — the first script Stallone ever wrote by himself, incidentally — Stallone answered that it was just three days. Immediately, he added that most of what was written didn't make the cut, but the kernel of the idea was there. The action star admitted that the script ultimately took dozens of rewrites to get where it needed to be, but that's the reality of writing any screenplay. Very few of them manage to begin with a draft completed in less than half a week.

Equally as impressive is the fact that the cast and crew shot "Rocky" in just 28 days. The visceral boxing film went on to win Best Picture and many other awards, but ironically didn't walk home with the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. That honor went to Paddy Chayefsky's "Network."

Sixteen Candles was the work of a weekend

There's an old Hollywood legend that John Hughes wrote all of his now-iconic 1980s teen comedies in ridiculously short amounts of time. "The Breakfast Club" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" were, according to rumors, allegedly each written in under a week. Is that true? It's unclear. Plenty of Hughes' contemporaries certainly recall him as constantly writing at full speed. One person, however, has put her name behind a particularly mind-boggling figure: According to Molly Ringwald, Hughes wrote the 1984 rom-com classic "Sixteen Candles" in just two or three days.

"From what I heard from him," Ringwald said in a 2010 Vanity Fair interview, "he put my headshot on the bulletin board by his desk and wrote 'Sixteen Candles' over a weekend. And when it came time to cast it, he said, 'I want to meet her: that girl.'"

"Sixteen Candles" was the beginning of an enduring friendship between Hughes and Ringwald. She would go on to star in the acclaimed scribe's "The Breakfast Club" and "Pretty in Pink," which would define both of their careers for decades to come. 

John Hughes wrote Ferris Bueller in record time

As it turns out, the rumors that John Hughes wrote "Ferris Bueller" in less than a week are true. Arguably the most famous of his 1980s run of Chicago-based teen comedies, 1986's "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" kickstarted the long career of Matthew Broderick, due to his generation-defining performance as the titular teen rapscallion.

According to the Vanity Fair profile, Hughes developed the idea for the movie on February 25, 1985. By March 3, the first draft of the script was complete. His own personal notes reveal a precise breakdown of this eye-popping pace: "2-26 Night only 10 pages ... 2-27 26 pages ... 2-28 19 pages ... 3-1 9 pages ... 3-2 20 pages ... 3-3 24 pages."

While that first draft was most likely not the final one, it's still an immeasurable feat to conceptualize, draft, and pitch what would end up being one of the most famous movies of the '80s in just one week.

Banging out Scream, and its sequels, in just three days

Widely known by TV fans as the creator "Dawson's Creek" and "The Vampire Diaries," slasher fans will recognize Kevin Williamson as the writer of horror classics "Scream" and "I Know What You Did Last Summer." Inspired by an actual serial killer, Williamson wrote the original draft of "Scream" in just three days. Funnily enough, the title of this self-aware slasher about kids who've grown up watching blood-soaked flicks was originally intended to be "Scary Movie." Four years after "Scream" hit theaters, "Scary Movie," a "Scream" parody (among other, similar films), debuted.

During this intense writing binge, Williamson also crafted plot outlines for two potential sequels, with the intention of pitching the entire trilogy to a studio. It is unknown how much these outline pitches for two sequels resemble "Scream 2" and "Scream 3." It's safe to say that a lot probably changed in the intervening years between the success of the original and the production of the sequels. Heck, Williamson didn't even end up writing the script for "Scream 3." Still, getting all that down in just three days is a jaw-dropping feat.

Taxi Driver took up two intense weeks for Paul Schrader

Martin Scorsese's filmography is packed with classics. Even with over five decades of great films to his name, however, 1976's "Taxi Driver" remains one of Scorcese's most poignant and quotable works. A lot of that is thanks to the brilliant script, written by Paul Schrader. How long did it take to pen this monument to cinema? Around 15 days, according to the writer. 

Schrader's "Taxi Driver" script was his first for Scorsese — he went on to write "Raging Bull" and "The Last Temptation of Christ." Getting it down was an autobiographical struggle for the screenwriter. De Niro embodies the jaded, mentally ill Travis Bickle, but Schrader based the protagonist of "Taxi Driver" on himself. "At the time I wrote it, I was in a rather low and bad place," Schrader explained to The Guardian in 2006. "I had broken with Pauline [Kael], I had broken with my wife, I had broken with the woman I left my wife for, I had broken with the American Film Institute and I was in debt." For Schrader, the writing process of "Taxi Driver" was a form of therapy — one that thousands of fans went on to find meaning in.

Jon Favreau wrote Swingers in under two weeks

Jon Favreau is now so entrenched in the world of Disney as an actor, producer, and director that it's hard to believe he ever started as an independent filmmaker. Older fans will recall, however, that the first movie he ever wrote was not just a breakout for Favreau, but also Vince Vaughn. We're talking about "Swingers," a raunchy 1996 comedy about actors at loose ends. The movie was made quickly on a shoestring budget, but the craziest part about its production is how effortlessly and quickly the script was written. In Grantland's Oral History of "Swingers," Favreau discussed how uniquely low-stress the writing process was. In fact, he had a really good time getting "Swingers" down on paper in "about a week and a half."

"The writing process wasn't filled with any sort of turmoil," Favreau recalled. "If you really do the math, it's 10 days, 10 pages a day. It's not like you're chained to the computer. I was just entertaining myself and really enjoying it ... I couldn't wait to share it with my friends more as, like, doodles in the notebook than saying, 'Hey, here's my big movie.'"

Sex, Lies, and Videotape was kicking around Soderbergh's head for a year

Steven Soderbergh's "Sex, Lies, and Videotape" served as the prolific filmmaker's debut. Released in 1989, the movie is often cited as one of the most important releases in modern independent cinema, having set the stage for the wave of boundary-pushing film that followed in the 1990s. The script is so full of complex symbolism and rich characters that it's downright shocking to learn that the script was written in just eight days. Well ... sort of. 

This factoid is truthful, but Hollywood has definitely blown the story a bit out of proportion in recent years. Before cranking out the script in basically a week, Soderbergh spent a year conceptualizing the movie, filling up notebook after notebook with ideas that would eventually spring to life in his first feature film. With notes that good, who needs time to write?

Barton Fink was a quick distraction from Miller's Crossing

While 1991's trippy "Barton Fink" is not a Coen Brothers classic as famous as "Fargo” or "The Big Lebowski," the dark comedy is one of their most acclaimed works, winning the Palme d'Or at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival.  It was also written in just three weeks.

When Joel and Ethan Coen were writing their great neo-noir "Miller's Crossing," they ran into a number of issues that forced them to step away from the script for a while. In that time, they wrote the pseudo-autobiographical "Barton Fink," in which a playwright suffers from writer's block. "Our working speed had slowed, and we were eager to get a certain distance from 'Miller's Crossing,'" said Joel Coen in a 1991 interview with French film magazine Positif. "In order to escape from the problems that we were experiencing with that project, we began to think about a project with a different theme. That was 'Barton Fink.'"

After the three weeks of writing were done, the Coens returned to finish "Miller's Crossing," then shot the movies back to back. Both were critical early career hits well worth tracking down if you're a fan of the Coens. 

Do the Right Thing took half a month

The writing process for Spike Lee's essential American indie "Do the Right Thing" began in December 1987. By March 1988, Lee had begun to write a first draft in a spiral-bound notebook. Two weeks later, "Do the Right Thing" was born into the world, forever changing the director's trajectory and the course of cinema. Today, Lee is one of Hollywood's leading voices, a position that can be traced all the way back to "Do the Right Thing." Of all his grand work, this small story of racial tensions erupting on the hottest day of the year remains one of his most enduring.

Lee wrote the first handwritten draft of this 1989 classic in just over two weeks, according to those early documents. One of the notes he made after completing the first draft muses, "In all, the actual writing of the first draft took 15 days, but I have been taking notes since December." Even accounting for the development process, that's a shockingly short amount of time for a stone-cold classic.

Cabin in the Woods was cranked out in just a few intense days

After working with heavyweights Joss Whedon and J.J. Abrams for years as a writer on "Buffy," "Alias," and "Lost," Drew Goddard finally got a chance to direct a feature film with 2011's "The Cabin in the Woods." This campy fourth wall-breaking horror-comedy ended up being a breakthrough work for the director. But making "The Cabin in the Woods" wasn't all fun and games for the movie's two screenwriters. After months of preparation, Goddard and Whedon decided to lock themselves in a hotel room to bang out a script.

"We worked on the outline together for months, just sort of batting it back and forth when we had time off from our day jobs," Goddard told Filmmaker Magazine in 2012. "And once we got the outline to a place we were happy with, we locked ourselves in a hotel room. I had the upstairs and he had the downstairs, and we just wrote as fast as we could. We didn't allow ourselves to leave that hotel until we were done."

The process lasted, according to Goddard's recollection, three or four days of nonstop writing at a pace of 15 pages per day. At the time, Goddard called it "the most intense writing [he'd] ever done."

Magnolia was tweaked in a Vermont cabin

Rumor has it Paul Thomas Anderson, acclaimed writer-director of "There Will Be Blood" and "Boogie Nights," wrote 1999's "Magnolia" in a couple of weeks at actor William H. Macy's secluded cabin. Allegedly, he was so scared of the snakes outside that he kept to the house. That part of the story has never been officially backed up, granted, but other parts of it have.

While the story has been overblown, Anderson did end up writing much of one of the film's final drafts at Macy's Vermont abode. As Macy revealed in a 2015 Screen Anarchy interview, "There is usually a bit of a production draft that has to do with mechanics more than art. Yeah he went up to the cabin way out in the wild of Vermont and no one will bother you." Did it really take him just a couple of weeks? That remains unconfirmed. But the idea is certainly an intriguing one.

Three Kings began as a test of writing speed

The origins of David O. Russell's 1999 black comedy "Three Kings" sure are complicated. One thing we do know, though, is that writer John Ridley wrote the first draft as a test of skill.

"I wanted to see how fast I could write and sell a screenplay," Ridley explained in a 1999 Entertainment Weekly interview. "So I came up with the most commercial and visually interesting story I could think of. It worked. I wrote it in 7 days and sold it in 18."

Ridley titled his script "Spoils of War" and sold it to Warner Bros. David O. Russell ran with the story's core idea, rewriting a majority of what was in the original draft and eventually renaming it "Three Kings." After pre-release disagreements between Ridley, Russell, and the studio erupted, Ridley was given a "story by" credit. Ridley remains dissatisfied, however, by what he perceives to be an attempt to use his work without credit.