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

Fittingly for a script that blends farce, satire, tragedy, and a host of other narrative textures, Birdman hatched from a mélange of provocative ideas. Seeking a break from the angst of straightforward melodrama, cowriter-director Alejandro G. Iñárritu imagined an immersive one-take story about an actor suffering an existential crisis during the performance of a play. Despite initial resistance from collaborators Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr., and Armando Bó—all of whom questioned the single-shot approach—Iñárritu sparked a lively collaborative process. What resulted was something bold, strange, and touching—a nervy rumination on how the compromises, disappointments, and exhilarations of an artistic career parallel the same patterns in life itself. Despite its intimate scale, the script is so thematically ambitious that the risk/reward ratio is breathtaking. “If you don’t do some things that terrify you,” Iñárritu told Variety in 2014, “I don’t think they’re worth doing.”