Best Books: Plays, Musicals, and Screenplays

Not everyone reads plays, or at least after the required reading in high school and college. I do. (And more than Shakespeare, though I do love Shakespeare.) I enjoy them the same way I enjoy novels. Not that I read them like crazy, because I just don’t encounter them as much. Well, with this list I will at least be reading another of the greats every once in a while. And with Rowling coming out with her latest series as screenplays…

As always, this is not a list of plays that I am recommending. It is an amalgamation of some of the top best-of lists that I could find online. Mostly just limited to something like fifty and smashed together. I also try not to use lists like “Bob’s List.” Reputable sources, you know.

  • Hamlet, William ShakespeareWHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF
  • Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Eugene O’Neill
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Edward Albee
  • Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller
  • Oedipus Rex, Sophocles
  • Angels in America, Tony Kushner
  • The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams
  • Look Back in Anger, John Osborne
  • A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry
  • Woyzeck, Georg Buchner
  • Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett
  • The Bald Soprano, Eugene Ionesco
  • Hedda Gabler, Henrik Ibsen
  • The Homecoming, Harold Pinter
  • Machinal, Sophie Treadwell
  • Fences, August Wilson
  • Uncle Vanya, Anton Chekov
  • Tartuffe, Moliere
  • What the Butler Saw, Joe OrtonWHAT THE BUTLER SAW
  • Uncommon Women (and others), Wendy Wasserstein
  • This Is Our Youth, Kenneth Lonergan
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard
  • The Normal Heart, Harry Kramer
  • TopDog/Underdog, Suzan-Lori Parks
  • Candida, George Bernard Shaw
  • Playboy of the Western World, J.M. Synge
  • The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde
  • Awake and Sing!, Clifford Odets
  • The School for Scandal, Richard Brinsley Sheridan
  • Stuff Happens, David Hare
  • Far Away, Caryl Churchill
  • Blasted, Sara Kane
  • Antigone, Sophacles
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, August Wilson
  • Bent, Martin Sherman
  • The Government Inspector, Nikolai Gogol
  • Old Times, Harold PinterTHE CHANGELING
  • Purgatory in Ingolstadt and Pioneers in Ingolstadt, Marieluise Fleiber
  • The Changeling, Thomas Middleton
  • Our Country’s Good, Timberlake Wertenbaker
  • Independent 40 Best Plays of All Time
  • Henry IV, Luigi Pirandello
  • Intimate Apparel, Lynn Nottage
  • An Oak Tree, Tim Crouch
  • Sizwe Bansi Is Dead, Athol Fugard
  • The Effect, Lucy Prebble
  • The Seagull, Anton Chekhov
  • One Man, Two Guvnors, Richard Bean
  • A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen
  • Making Noise Quietly, Robert Holman
  • Private Lives, Noel Coward
  • Mother Courage and Her Children, Berthold BrechtMOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN
  • Faith Healer, Brian Friel
  • Jerusalem, Jez Butterworth
  • Medea, Euripides
  • Arcadia, Tom Stoppard
  • La Dispute, Pierre de Marivaux
  • Happy Days, Samuel Beckett
  • John, Annie Baker
  • The History Boys, Alan Bennett
  • Frozen, Bryony Lavery
  • Life is a Dream, Calderon de la Barca
  • Copenhagen, Michael Frayn
  • The Oresteia, Aeschylus
  • Life with Father, Lindsay and Crouse
  • Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare
  • Cloud 9, Caryl Churchill
  • Volpone, Ben Johnson
  • Our Town, Thornton Wilder
  • Ruined, Lynn NottageOUR TOWN
  • The Vortex, Noel Coward
  • She Stoops to Conquer, Oliver Goldsmith
  • John, Annie Baker
  • Clybourne Park, Bruce Norris
  • Master Harold… and the Boys, Athol Fugard
  • Fefu and Her Friends, Maria Irene Fornes
  • The Women, Claire Booth Luce
  • The Humans, Stephen Karam
  • M Butterfly, David Henry Hwang
  • Short Eyes, Miguel Pinero
  • Everyman
  • Dutchman, LeRoi Jones
  • The Persians, Aeschylus
  • Anything else Shakespeare
  • Betrayal, Harold Pinter
  • Richard III, William Shakespeare
  • The Cherry Orchard, Anton Chekhov
  • The Clean House, Sarah RuhlTHE CHERRY ORCHARD
  • In the Blood, Suzan Lori-Parks
  • Agamemnon, Aeschylus
  • The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Bertolt Brecht
  • Arms and the Man, George Bernard Shaw
  • Miss Julie, August Strindberg
  • Oedipus the King, Sophocles
  • American Buffalo, David Mamet
  • Doctor Faustus, Christopher Marlowe
  • Pygmalion, George Bernard Shaw
  • Six Characters in Search of an Author, Luigi Pirandello
  • Glengarry Glen Ross, David Mamet
  • August: Osage County, Tracy Letts
  • True West, Sam ShepardAUGUST OSAGE COUNTY
  • The Iceman Cometh, Eugene O’Neill
  • Look Back in Anger, John Osbourne
  • A View from the Bridge, Arthur Miller
  • The Little Foxes, Lillian Hellman
  • The Real Thing, Tom Stoppard

While it’s true that hardly anyone is going to curl up with the score of a musical and “read” it, it felt uneven presenting you with a best plays list and not a best musicals one. I also find it difficult to see many musicals, as many of them do not become blockbuster movies (in their original form, especially) or come to your town (and for a non-prohibitive price point, especially).

MUSICALS

  • Guys and DollsOKLAHOMA!
  • Gypsy
  • Sweeney Todd
  • Oklahoma!
  • West Side Story
  • Cabaret
  • A Chorus Line
  • Rent
  • The Book of Mormon
  • My Fair Lady
  • Fiddler on the Roof
  • The Music Man
  • Chicago
  • The Fantasticks
  • Carousel
  • Company
  • Show Boat
  • The King and I
  • Little Shop of Horrors
  • Sunday in the Park with GeorgeLITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS
  • How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
  • A Little Night Music
  • Phantom of the Opera
  • Les Miserable
  • Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat
  • She Loves Me
  • Nine
  • Follies
  • Falsettos
  • Ragtime
  • Kiss Me, Kate
  • 1776
  • Into the Woods
  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
  • Urinetown
  • The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
  • Wicked
  • Hair
  • EvitaEVITA
  • Hello, Dolly!
  • La Cage au Folles
  • 110 in the Shade
  • The Producers
  • Lady in the Dark
  • City of Angels
  • Dreamgirls
  • Avenue Q
  • 42nd Street
  • Brigadoon
  • The Cradle Will Rock
  • The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
  • Jesus Christ Superstar
  • Once on This Island
  • Adding Machine
  • South Pacific
  • The Sound of Music
  • Rent
  • Man of la Mancha
  • You’re a Good Man, Charlie BrownRENT
  • Camelot
  • The Full Monty
  • Godspell
  • Annie Get Your Gun
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Annie
  • Ain’t Misbehavin’
  • Bye Bye Birdie

BONUS: MUSICAL MOVIES

  • AnnieANNIE MOVIE
  • Newsies
  • Into the Woods
  • The Sound of Music
  • 42nd Street
  • Tophat
  • Swingtime
  • Follow the Fleet
  • Shall We Dance
  • A Damsel in Distress
  • Carefree
  • The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle
  • Broadway Melody of 1940
  • Second Chorus
  • You’ll Never Get Rich
  • Easter Parade
  • Take Me Out to the Ballgame
  • On the Town
  • Summer StockEASTER PARADE
  • An American in Paris
  • Showboat
  • Singin’ In the Rain
  • The Belle of New York
  • The Bandwagon
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
  • Kiss Me, Kate
  • Brigadoon
  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
  • White Christmas
  • Guys and Dolls
  • Oklahoma!
  • Carousel
  • The King and I
  • Funny Face
  • GigiFUNNY FACE
  • Damn Yankees
  • Bells are Ringing
  • Flower Drum Song
  • West Side Story
  • Bye Bye Birdie
  • Mary Poppins
  • My Fair Lady
  • The Sound of Music
  • Camelot
  • Finian’s Rainbow
  • Funny Girl
  • Sweet Charity
  • Paint Your Wagon
  • Fiddler on the Rood
  • Bedknobs and Broomsticks
  • MameFIDDLER ON THE ROOF
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show
  • Fame
  • Pennies from Heaven
  • The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
  • Yentl
  • Annie
  • A Chorus Line
  • Newsies
  • Chicago
  • The Phantom of the Opera
  • Rent
  • Dreamgirls
  • Hairspray
  • Sweeney Todd
  • Across the Universe
  • Moulin Rouge!MOULIN ROUGE
  • Mamma Mia!
  • Nine
  • Burlesque
  • Les Miserables (2012)
  • Jersey Boys
  • Into the Woods
  • Lucky Stiff
  • La La Land
  • The Greatest Showman
  • Mama Mia! Here We Go Again
  • Mary Poppins Returns
  • Cats
  • Judy
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Cabin in the Sky
  • An American in Paris
  • Cabaret
  • The Rocky Horror Picture ShowDANCER IN THE DARK
  • Bugsy Malone
  • Dancer in the Dark
  • The Umbrellas of Cherborg
  • Grease
  • The Lion King
  • Mary Poppins
  • New York, New York
  • Meet Me in St Louis
  • Lemonade
  • The Young Girls of Rochefort
  • I Could Have Danced All Night
  • Beauty and the Beast

And if you are intense, or you want to become a screenwriter:

BEST SCREENPLAYS TO READ

  • Some Like It HotCASABLANCA
  • Casablanca
  • Psycho
  • Chinatown
  • The Godfather
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • Bringing Up Baby
  • American Beauty
  • Memento
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • Annie Hall
  • The Sting
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • Apocalypse Now
  • Pulp Fiction
  • The Usual Suspects
  • Shakespeare in LoveTHE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES
  • The Best Years of Our Lives
  • LA Confidential
  • Raging Bull
  • The Life of Brian
  • Rear Window
  • 12 Angry Men
  • The French Connection
  • The Manchurian Candidate
  • Blade Runner
  • High Noon
  • La La Land
  • Dances with Wolves
  • Die Hard
  • Network
  • Forrest Gump
  • The Apartment
  • The Silence of the Lambs
  • Citizen CaneCITIZEN KANE
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Some Like It Hot
  • Fargo
  • Finding Nemo
  • Lovely & Amazing
  • Creed
  • The Kids Are All Right
  • Punch Drunk Love
  • Carol
  • Inglorious Basterds
  • You Can Count on Me
  • Moonlight
  • Lost in Translation
  • Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Sideways
  • SpotlightGRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Toy Story 3 and Toy Story
  • A Serious Man
  • Lady Bird
  • Zodiac
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Social Network
  • Get Out
  • Adaptation
  • Stand By Me
  • The Matrix
  • The Borne Identity
  • Braveheart
  • Four Weddings and a FuneralA QUIET PLACE
  • The Hangover
  • North by Northwest
  • The Platoon
  • The Dark Night
  • A Quiet Place
  • Star Wars
  • Tootsie
  • All About Eve
  • Rocky

One thought on “Best Books: Plays, Musicals, and Screenplays

  1. Past high school, there is a genre of books don’t read as well. I love the classics- not expected for someone to read beyond high school. From Les Misérables, Hunchback of Notre Dame, A Christmas Carol, Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, Nicholas Nickleby, Oliver Twist, Don Quixote, The Illiad (which I read in high school but wanted to read the entire thing), and the Odyssey (just like Illiad read in high school, but now reading the entire work. Reading the classics does sound crazy reading after high school: but do love them.

    I do love musicals and for me they are easy to see. The musical movies and tours due to living in a major touring city.

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