Since 2004, every December has seen the publication of The Black List, a survey of Hollywood executives’ favorite unproduced screenplays of the past year. What started as a fun exercise has gained traction as a development tool for aspiring screenwriters; several movies that have appeared on The Black List have gone on to be produced, including 2014 films Transcendence and The Imitation Game.
Of the 70 screenplays featured on The Black List 2014, about one-quarter were genre stories. Read on to see which under-the-radar scripts—featuring moon colony murders, pill-popping superheroes, alien baby showers, and possessed newlyweds—might end up on the silver screen one day soon.
One recurring theme that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon is cautionary stories about technology. Aether and Tau sound like updated takes on (respectively) Minority Report and Panic Room, while Morgan seems to be in the same vein as an upcoming artificial intelligence movie that isn’t even out yet, Ex Machina:
In near future London, a revolutionary technology has been invented that can record sounds hours after they were made. Detective Harry Orwell, inventor of this technology, is part of a pilot program where investigators record and analyze past sound waves and finds himself the prime suspect while investigating a string of brutal murders.
A woman held captive in the futuristic smart house of a serial kidnapper realizes that her only hope of escape lies in turning the house’s sentient computer against its creator.
Seth W Owen
A corporate risk management consultant is summoned to a remote research lab to determine whether or not to terminate an at-risk artificial being.
A genre bending action comedy about a pill popping thug who begins to develop superpowers.
These three space-centric offerings tackle Earth, the moon, and everything in between (including one from Jac Schaeffer, writer of the quirky futuristic soulmate rom-com TiMER):
The investigation of a murder on a moon colony.
At a baby shower for their longtime friend, the attendees suddenly find themselves in the middle of a different type of shower: meteors that release a vapor turning men into blood-hungry aliens.
When a missing astronaut crash lands forty years after he launched having not aged a day, his elderly twin brother helps him escape the NASA scientists hunting him. As the government closes in, neither brother is who they claim to be.
The largest percentage were apocalyptic movies, where humans have become mutated monsters. Special shout-out to Bird Box, adapted from Josh Malerman’s novel (of which you can read an excerpt). If we’ve learned anything from these synopses, it’s that you had better have some family members with whom to stick out the end of the world:
A woman tries to lead her children to safety after the world is invaded by monsters who turn you insane upon sight.
After an apocalyptic event, a mother wolf is separated from her mate and the rest of the pack, and has to protect her cubs from swarms of mutated humans.
The Eden Project
When a race of genetically modified humans living secretly among us declare war on Man, the fate of the world is in the hands of a rogue “Synthetic” named Eve and a young girl who is about to discover she’s not all human.
A Garden at the End of the World
In a post-apocalyptic world, a recluse, trying to recreate trees to produce new life, takes in a young girl who is on the run from some bad men, including her father.
There are also a number of supernatural stories, including movies that kill (can they stop doing that already?) and a pretty nutso newlywed horror story:
A detective solving the case of a disturbing film with subliminal images that is killing people who come in contact with it discovers a greater evil.
Possession: A Love Story
In a seemingly perfect marriage, a man discovers that he is actually wedded to a demon inhabiting another woman’s body.
Brandon Murphey, Philip Murphey
A private investigator investigates a mysterious murder at a downtown Los Angeles hotel and uncovers its dark supernatural history. Based on true events.
Finally, the surreal and meta screenplays. It’s unclear if I Am Ryan Reynolds will be similar to Being John Malkovich (if not, we’ve got other suggestions for “remaking” that movie), but it had better touch upon Green Lantern.
A young woman, feeling directionless, stumbles upon a mysterious courtyard where she is transported into a sitcom-like universe, becoming a major character on this “TV show.”
I Am Ryan Reynolds
An inside look at the marriage, career, and mental state of 2010’s Sexiest Man Alive.
There are also a number of biopics or historical fictions involving beloved children’s stories. Adding to the pile of Wizard of Oz-centric stories out there are Road to Oz, about L. Frank Baum’s early days; and The Munchkin, a 1930s murder mystery in which a little person private eye uncovers secrets related to the movie. Then there’s Wonka, the “dark reimagining of the Willy Wonka story” that follows the eccentric candy man from World War II to his chocolate factory.
Check out the rest of The Black List 2014, plus the last ten years of unproduced screenplays.