Thomas Mentel recently shared a list of the five highest-grossing screenwriters of all time (meaning their films have made the most money collectively, not necessarily themselves). There are probably some names on this list that you don’t know, but you absolutely should. One name not on the list worth noting is Melissa Rosenburg — the highest-grossing female screenwriter of all time (due primarily to her work on the Twilight series).
Here are a few excerpts from Mentel’s list:
Goyer has made a career out of being the go-to screenwriter for comic adaptations for the screen. However, he’s also had a lot of duds over the years with films like Sony’s Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Fox’s Jumper. But overall, he’s been a consistent player for Warner for over a decade with films like the Blade trilogy and the well-regarded sci-fi film Dark City.
And while Goyer currently finds himself at number five on this list, he’s likely to shoot to the top within a decade if things continue the way they have been going. Along with penning Man of Steel, Goyer is set to write both the Man of Steel sequel and the upcoming Justice League film for Warner Bros. He’s also responsible for the story of the upcoming monster film, Godzilla, also from Warner Bros.
4. David Koepp – $2.25 Billion (Spider-Man, Jurassic Park)
While David Koepp has directed some smaller films (Secret Window, Premium Rush) he is much better-known for his incredible track-record as a screenwriter. To date, his films have gone on to gross $2.25 billion at the box office and his highest-grossing film, Spider-Man, made $403.7 million at the domestic box office.
3. Steve Kloves – $2.41 Billion (Harry Potter)
Considering that Steve Kloves so far only has twelve films to his name as a screenwriter and is still as high as number three on this list, it should be clear just how successful his films have been. And there’s a good reason for it: he was the screenwriter of every single Harry Potter film.
2 & 1. Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio – $2.56 Billion (Pirates of the Caribbean, Shrek)
Technically, Terry Rossio is the number one screenwriter of all-time by numbers — he has written just one more film than Ted Elliott, good for $64 million more than Elliott overall — but the two hugely successful screenwriters should be put together for all accounts and purposes, because they are a writing team and share nearly identical screenplay credits.
The films of Rossio and Elliott have made $2.56 billion overall, with their biggest hit being Disney’s Pirates of the Caribeean: Dead Man’s Chest, which raked in a total of $423 million domesticly. In fact, the majority of the writing team’s biggest hits have been with Disney, writing the entire Pirates of the Caribbean franchise along with the successful action series National Treasure and its sequel National Treasure: Book of Secrets.
Moving back a little further, the team was responsible for the screenplay to the classic Disney animated film Aladdin, the Sony films The Mask of Zorro and its sequel, and the DreamWorks Animation films El Dorado and the hugely successful first installment of the Shrek series.