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Film Studies Research Guide: Screenplays/Filmscripts

A guide to conducting research in Film Studies at Yale University, including key resources and crucial search strategies.

How to Find Screenplays/Filmscripts

What's Here


Yale has screenplays in print and in an online database.  There are also resources on the web.  On this page you'll find information on locating:

From the Crawford Collection, Yale University Library Manuscripts and Archives.

Screenplays in Print


There is no completely accurate way to locate screenplays in Orbis.  In many cases you can simply search the film's title. The results may include a novel (if the film is an adaptation) or even titles that aren't relevant to the film at all, but you can browse the list for the screenplay.


However, that approach won't work well if you're looking for scripts of highly popular films such as the Star Wars series: a search for the title Star Wars brings up over 100 entries, including videos, novels, scholarly analyses, and so forth.


Consequently you may find it more effective to do an Advanced Keyword search that excludes videos.  You can click the links in the examples below in order to see the search results (will open a new window or tab).


Star Wars [treat as a phrase] not videorecording

(to see how this search was constructed, after you run it, click on the Edit Search button above the result list)


You can narrow the search still further by including terms that might capture works with "screenplay" or "script" in the Orbis record.  Be aware that "screenplay" might be written as "screen play."  However, if the record doesn't include either term, this approach will miss it.


Star Wars [treat as a phrase] and (script or screen?) not videorecording

(to see how this search was constructed, after you run it, click on the Edit Search button above the result list)


You can narrow even further by performing an Advanced search in Orbis.


Additional Resources for Screenplays in Print


L'Avant-scène - Cinéma. Paris : L'Avant-scène, 1961-.
SML Stacks, Hae60 Av15 (Yale classification)

This journal occasionally publishes full scripts. It is indexed by the Film Literature Index, Film Index International and the Film and Television Literature Index (see Articles).

Beinecke Western Americana Filmscript Collection Database

The database of Western movie scripts in the Yale Collection of Western Americana contains information about more than 430 scripts. The records include information about script titles, authors, the directors, producers, production companies, actors and distributors associated with the films, dates and settings as well as shelf locations.

Motion picture scripts: a union list. Beverly Hills, Calif.: Margaret Herrick Library: Academy Foundation, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1998.

SML Reference, Z5784.M9 U55


Motion Picture Scripts Collection

The New York State Archives preserves the largest collection of film scripts in the world. It is also valuable for research on the history of censorship in New York State and shifting of American attitudes toward sex, religion and morality over the period.

The Wisconsin/Warner Bros. screenplay series [microform]. Reading, England; Woodbridge, Conn.: Research Publications, 1988-1991.

SML Microform Room, Film B14606

Guide: Microtext Ref. PN1997 A1 +O33 1989

A large number of Warner Bros's screenplays have been microfilmed.  The microfims consist of the final shooting scripts and also earlier script variants for a significant portion of Warner's entire output from 1930-1950. Some scripts are also available in print or in American Film Scripts Online (see below).  Use the Guide to identify which of the 74 reels contains the script you'd like.

You can find more screenplays (including collections) in the Yale Library by using these subject searches:


Screenplays Online


American Film Scripts Online


AFSO contains screenplays with detailed, fielded information on the scenes, characters and people related to the scripts. The collection includes more than 1,000 scripts.  Some of the scripts have not been previously published; some are for films that were never actually produced.


Scripts in AFSO offer three major benefits over most of the ones you may find on the Web (such as those from the sites listed below).

  1. They're there legally.  All copyright permissions have been secured from the studio; you simply have to cite the script source properly.  In contrast, scripts in ordinary websites may or may not be there with permission, and there may be no way to find out.  Claims of fair use for educational purposes may or may not be in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or the TEACH Act.
  2. AFSO provides authoritative versions of the screenplay -- whenever possible, the final shooting script.  Screenplays on the web are often drafts.
  3. Scripts in AFSO are not simply flat texts.  Instead, they have been encoded with a variety of data: scene breakdowns, character information (such as sex and race), setting, genre, subjects and more.  Thus it's possible to search across all of the screenplays in AFSO in order to find scenes that are from comedy films, are set in a church, and include at least one female character.

Bear in mind however that AFSO only covers American films; there are far more than 1,000 American films; and not all of the ones in AFSO are the scripts of major films.  So you may still need to find scripts and scenes you want by other means.


Additional Resources for Screenplays Online


Drew's Script-O-Rama

Internet Movie Script Database (IMSDb)

Script City

Script Fly




Resources on Screenplays and Screenwriting


For books about screenplays in the Yale Library, including guides to writing screenplays, try these subject searches:

Some books about screenplays are also under these subject headings:

You may also find this website useful:


E-script: the Internet's scriptwriting workshop

E-script brings writers from around the world together with top film, theatre and TV professionals in unique online courses and workshops.

Director, Film Study Center