“First of all, this script is way too long. 180 pages is 80 pages more than anyone in Hollywood is willing to read. Next, you’ve got this overwhelming theme of saving the planet that’s obviously a political message. Nobody wants political messages in their movies. They just want to be entertained. Your main character, Jake, is boring. He’s a lughead without any personality. A movie that’s going to cost this much money needs a way more interesting main character. And let’s not even get into how ridiculous this mythology is. I was confused half the time. So, they’re on a planet with aliens and then they become the aliens by growing the aliens and putting themselves inside their heads digitally. Basic questions like, what happens when their avatars need to sleep, are never adequately answered. A movie like this is a bridge too far, too weird, and too expensive to ever get made.”
Worldwide box office: 2.7 billion
“There are so many things wrong with this script, I don’t know where to start. Maybe start with the fact that in a movie about people living in a simulation, that whenever people fight each other, they can only use kung-fu. Why don’t they fight like normal people? Why only kung-fu? The script is packed with pseudo-philosophy that is consistently eye-rolling. I kid you not, one of the lines is, “Do not try and bend the spoon, that’s impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth… there is no spoon. Then you’ll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.” Good lord. This doesn’t even get to all the logical faults in the movie. Why do they have to go through this entire song and dance to get Neo out of the Matrix? Why not just take him out right away? This whole script is ridiculous.
Worldwide box office: 467 million
Also, the most successful DVD of all time
“This is one of the most disjointed scripts I’ve ever read. It has a great opening sequence that pulls you in but then, inexplicably, you leave that storyline and follow another one with a douchey Hollywood sex offender who we hate. Why would you build a story around this guy? Eventually, we get back to the house where all the good stuff was happening and that’s when you introduce the most ridiculous character I’ve ever seen, a giant naked orc-woman with superhuman strength who thinks everyone is her baby. This went so far away from your cool opening that it made me completely lose faith in both you and the script. This would never get made because everybody who watched it would leave the theater fuming.”
Budget: 4.5 million
Worldwide box office: 45 million
Turned its director into one of the hottest names in Hollywood
“I’ve never seen a dumber idea in my life. You’re making a superhero film with a main character that doesn’t have any superpowers. And, oh yeah, you’re not focusing on the superhero. You’re focusing on the supervillain. Why in the world would we root for the bad guy???? He’s one of the most diabolical awful human beings in existence. We see that here in spades. His primary storyline is stalking the single mom who lives in his building. Who’s our target demo here? 4chan? The script doesn’t have a narrative either. The character just drifts through life, occasionally trying to be a stand-up comedian. This is too heady and slow for superhero fans and cinephiles have no interest in watching superheroes. I don’t see any audience for this movie.”
Budget: 55 million
Worldwide box office: 1 billion
“I don’t understand why we’re considering this script. This is a horror film, which is a genre that plays to 13-21 year olds, and the whole thing is a silent film. Nobody speaks! What Gen-Z moviegoer that you know is going to pay to watch a silent film? The script is so desperate to be seen as clever. It makes the daughter character deaf. Get it!? The monsters hunt on noise and she can’t hear any noise! Oh, the irony! Give me a break. The rules dictating this world don’t make sense. As humans, we always make noises. We sneeze, we cough, we fart. All of this is ignored in the movie. Audiences would tear the logic of this film apart. And teens – our primary audience – are going to massacre us online for a horror film where nobody talks.”
-A Quiet Place
Budget: 17 million
Worldwide box office: 340 million
“So let me get this straight. We’re going to go all in on making a period piece about a boat sinking and the whole thing is going to rest on a love story? I get it if this is Dirty Dancing and we’re shooting in a small town for 10 million bucks. But we’re recreating 1912! We’re recreating an entire boat down to the last detail and we’re shooting on multiple sets with hundreds of extras and endless costuming. This is going to cost us a fortune. There’s no scenario whatsoever where enough people will pay to see this movie to make up for that cost. We’re literally throwing money away.”
Worldwide box office – 2.3 billion
“I have never read a script with a more passive main character in my life. Nothing that happens in this story happens because the main character made it happen. It only happened because he fell into it. For that reason alone, we have zero shot at getting an actor big enough to convince a studio to finance the movie. But even if we somehow trick someone to be in the film, it’s three hours of a wandering narrative that doesn’t have a clear destination. We’re in Vietnam, then we’re playing ping-pong at the Olympics, then he decides to walk across the US for no reason. It’s like the writer couldn’t make up his mind what kind of story he wanted to tell. I feel certain in my assessment that if we make this, it will be one of the biggest flops the studio has ever made.”
Worldwide box office: 678 million
“This was a good script but these movies don’t make money! Small town crime dramas have a ceiling of 10 million at the box office if they’re lucky. Their audience, older men, is too small. Also, with everything moving online, people are getting more and more used to watching these kinds of movies at home. Not to mention, the golden age of TV is allowing audiences to get their fix of this genre in TV shows, which is probably what this movie should be since it’s so character-driven. No way this justifies the cost.”
-Hell or High Water
Budget: 12 million
Worldwide box office: 37 million
The movie is the first step in the writer creating a billion dollar franchise (Taylor Sheridan)
“This is the most generic laughable action movie I’ve ever read. It starts off with some Russian guys killing our protagonist’s dog. That becomes the primary motivation in the film – to get them back. No, actually, they kill his dead wife’s dog. It wasn’t even his dog! That would actually make more sense. So he decides to unretire and kill an entire Russian crime organization because of the dog. I kid you not. And then we get five standard gun shootouts and that’s the movie. We’ll be lucky to get 20 rentals on digital video if we make this.”
Budget: 14 million
Worldwide box office: 86 million
Begins a billion dollar franchise
A story that’s always stuck with me is Zach Braff’s pursuit of making Garden State. Everyone told him that script was terrible. And, to be fair, it wasn’t very good. But he pushed through all that resistance, made the movie, and it was the big surprise hit at that year’s Sundance. It then went on to have a long successful theatrical run.
That story made me realize that every single script that ever gets written is going to be criticized. In fact, more people are going to criticize your script than not criticize it. No matter how good it is. Without going into the weeds, art is weird. It is the most criticized of any pursuit in life. Everybody has opinions on why a piece of art doesn’t work. And if every artist and writer gave up because of those critiques, nothing would ever get made.
Everything you read in this post is something I’d heard was said or was likely said. Yet, in every case, the writer pushed through regardless of the criticsm. Which is exactly what you should do if you believe in your screenplay. It doesn’t matter what anyone on this board says, what I say, what some random agent says. You will get negative criticism no matter what. Once you understand that, you have a superpower. Cause now you know you can ignore those people and find the people who do get your script. That’s the only way movies happen, is people pushing through the criticism and finding a way to get their art produced.
Do the same and your movie will be on my sequel to this post!