101 Greatest Screenplays of the 21st Century (*so far)

This offbeat confection tracks the melancholy story of Amélie Poulain, a young Parisian woman striving to find the happiness that has evaded her since childhood. (In a prologue, a man leaps off the roof of the Notre-Dame cathedral and lands on Amélie’s mother, killing both.) Cowritten by director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and novelist/playwright Guillaume Laurant, the whimsical screenplay suggests we all have the power to reshape our worlds—or at least our worldviews—just as Amélie does. Thus, the title character is more than just an endearing gamine with a pixie cut. She’s force of will personified. After Jeunet initiated the writing process, he recruited Laurant, with the latter focusing on dialogue while the former concentrated on story structure and visuals. Together, they endowed bittersweet episodes with lucidity and momentum, positioning Amélie’s eventual victory as the gleaming conclusion of a magical-realism quest.