Every year, a poll is conducted amongst 250 development executives and assistants in Hollywood, asking them what the hottest unproduced screenplays currently making the rounds are. The top rated results make it into a report called “The Black List,” which ranks them by popularity.
The tradition was started by Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company Appian Way in 2005, and has since went on to include the scripts for Juno, Django Unchained, and Argo, just to name a few, before they were picked up by studios.
While appearing on List isn’t a guarantee that the script will be bought (it’s not a “best of” list, it’s a “most liked” list), it is a decent indicator. More than 270 scripts from the nine previous Black Lists have been produced, collectively earning 37 Oscars and 196 nominations.
So despite the fact that it’s an “unofficial” list, it’s still a great opportunity to get a sneak peek at some potential upcoming classics.
This year’s list in particular featured a healthy number of genre movies, my personal favorite kind of cinematic experience. From among the 70 total screenplays, here are 15 intriguing sci-fi and horror ones, ranked in order of how many votes they received.
Writer: Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Summary: 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.
Producer: Film Nation
Why You Should Be Excited: Aether sounds like a smart, original, sci-fi infused mystery with some strong shades of Minority Report. The fact that it made it into the top 10 screenplays on the Black List is also a pretty strong indicator of how good the premise is.
Writer: Noga Landau
Summary: 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.
Producer: Russell Ackerman, John Schoenfelder
Why You Should Be Excited: Sentient computers murdering humans is not a new concept, but what if this one wasn’t “evil”? Combine that with some serial killer horror, and it sounds like the recipe for some great drama.
Writer: Scott Wascha
Summary: A genre bending action comedy about a pill popping thug who begins to develop superpowers.
Why You Should Be Excited: We don’t know very much about this one, but hey, a good superhero movie not based on a comic is always kind of refreshing.
Writers: David Weil
Summary: The investigation of a murder on a moon colony.
Producer: Ram Bergman
Why You Should Be Excited: Again, very little info to go on here, but moon murder mysteries is a pretty catchy concept.
5. BIRD BOX
Writer: Eric Heisserer
Summary: A woman tries to lead her children to safety after the world is invaded by monsters who turn you insane upon sight.
Producer: Universal, Chris Morgan
Why You Should Be Excited: That concept is so Lovecraft it hurts, and I can’t wait to see how it translates on screen. Plus, it has Chris Morgan, writer of the past five Fast & Furious moves, attached to produce.
Writer: Daniel Kunka
Summary: 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.
Why You Should Be Excited: Reverse animal horror, is that a thing? If not, it is now! Turning that subgenre on its head, and making the animal the heroine and the humans the monsters is a pretty rad idea.
7. SYNDROME (E)
Writer: Mark Heyman
Summary: 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.
Why You Should Be Excited: This premise reminds me a lot of John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns, and I’ve been dying to see that concept expanded on. Movies imbued with evil powers of suggestion seems like a meta-horror concept that can work on multiple levels, and combining that with a detective mystery story sounds like a really good time.
8. POSSESSION: A LOVE STORY
Writer: Jack Stanley
Summary: In a seemingly perfect marriage, a man discovers that he is actually wedded to a demon inhabiting another woman’s body.
Why You Should Be Excited: This could either be a horror movie or a comedy, but either way it’s a funny premise.
9. THE SHOWER
Writer: Jac Schaeffer
Summary: 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.
Why You Should Be Excited: The Shower is the scientifically the least exciting movie title of all time, but the premise is actually pretty neat. We need more female-led horror and sci-fi, and this one sounds like it has a good helping of both.
Writer: Kimberly Barrante
Summary: 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.
Why You Should Be Excited: This one sounds like another smart sci-fi drama with some cool ideas to play around it. The twists could definitely go either way, but the framework for some cool mind-fuckery is there.
Writer: Jason Micallef
Summary: A dark, reimagining of the Willy Wonka story beginning in World War II and culminating with his takeover of the chocolate factory.
Why You Should Be Excited: Are you serious? There’s nothing here that you shouldn’t be excited about. This movie is almost certainly not going to happen (at least as in its current form), but a gritty reimaging of Willy Wonka’s backstory sounds way too fun.
Writer: Seth W Owen
Summary: A corporate risk management consultant is summoned to a remote research lab to determine whether or not to terminate an at-risk artificial being.
Why You Should Be Excited: What is an “at-risk artificial being?” I don’t know, but I sure as hell want to find out!
13. THE BRINGING
Writers: Brandon Murphey, Philip Murphey
Summary: A private investigator investigates a mysterious murder at a downtown Los Angeles hotel and uncovers it’s dark supernatural history. Based on true events.
Why You Should Be Excited: Is this the rumored movie based on the real-life story Elisa Lam’s mysterious death? If so, that’s one reason to be intrigued.
If you don’t remember the story, Lam was found dead in a Los Angeles hotel’s rooftop water tank. If that wasn’t weird enough, security camera footage showed her in an elevator that same night. She attempts to press all of the buttons trying to get it to move, and when it doesn’t, she begins to act very bizarrely. No drugs or alcohol were found in her system. Look the video up if you want, it’s super creepy stuff.
14. THE EDEN PROJECT
Writer: Christina Hodson
Summary: 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.
Why You Should Be Excited: This sounds about as corny as the Underworld series, and that might just make it work. It has all of the right ingredients for a fantastic sci-fi action cheesefest, and I’m totally okay with that.
15. A GARDEN AT THE END OF THE WORLD
Writer: Gary Graham
Summary: 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.
Why You Should Be Excited: We don’t often see sci-fi movies getting recognized during the Oscars, but this one sounds like it has all the right elements for a good human drama that could get talked about around awards season. I mean, I can totally see Clint Eastwood starring in this one.
You can read about the other 55 Black List entries at the official site here.