First things first, the majority of scripts don't sell, and if they do, it's usually not for the kinds of prices you'll see on this list! That's just the honest truth. I'm not saying you'll never sell a spec script to a major studio or producer, or you won't sell it for a great price, because you may. I just want to emphasize that the following list of high-priced spec screenplays are outliers. They're not the norm in the film industry. Read on to learn more about some of the world's most expensive screenplays!
- Déjà Vu (2006)
“Déjà Vu,” a science fiction action film, written by Terry Rossio and Bill Marsilii, sold for $5 million
- Talladega Nights (2004)
“Talladega Nights," a comedy written by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, sold for $4 million
- Eurotrip (2004)
“Eurotrip," a teen sex comedy written by Jeff Schaffer, Alec Berg, and David Mandel sold for $4 million
- The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
“The Long Kiss Goodnight," an action thriller written by Shane Black, sold for $4 million. (At the time, this was the most expensive script ever sold)
- Basic Instinct (1992)
“Basic Instinct," a neo-noir thriller written by Joe Eszterhas, sold for $3 million
- Bright (2017)
“Bright," an urban fantasy written by Max Landis, sold for $3 million
- Medicine Man (1992)
“Medicine Man," an adventure drama, written by Tom Schulman and Sally Robinson sold for $3 million
- Mozart and the Whale (2005)
“Mozart and the Whale," a romantic dramedy written by Ronald Bass, sold for $2.75 million
- A Knight’s Tale (2001)
“A Knight’s Tale," a medieval action movie written by Brian Helgeland, sold for $2.5 million
Now that we’ve seen the exceptional price of some of the most expensive scripts, let’s get into the average selling price.
Derived from following along with industry news, I’ve determined that selling a script for higher than six figures is impressive, mid-six figures is still pretty great, and the lower six figures is more common. If you’re interested in learning about the cost of scripts, I’d suggest following along with industry trades, as they’ll often have articles that tell the sale of a notable script and the production company or other buyer details.
The WGA’s Schedule of Minimums says the lowest a writer can be paid on a low-budget film is $72,662, and $136,413 for a movie budgeted at $5 million or more. So, these are the absolute lowest numbers you can expect to be paid for selling a script.
No matter the price, it’s important to remember that that’s not what you’re walking away with! Agents and managers require ten percent. If you have a lawyer, they need to be paid five percent. And don’t forget the taxes! All in all, depending on how many people are on your payroll, you’re looking at netting between 40 to 60 percent of the script’s sale price.
The bigger hurdle may be getting someone to read through your original screenplays. Oftentimes, unless solicited, it's unlikely you'll find any of the major Hollywood players willing to sit down and read your entire script. If you're not at a place in your career where you have a screenwriting manager, agent, or entertainment attorney, you may consider entering your original script in screenwriting contests to get eyes on it. You can also upload (for a fee) a spec screenplay to online script libraries such as The Blacklist. Here, a script reader will rate your movie script, and if it ranks high enough and the right people take notice, you may just find yourself and your expensive screenplay on this very list in the future!
I hope this blog was able to shed some light on the most expensive screenplays of all time, while also giving you some information on the more usual terms and costs of script sales!