How Many Top-Grossing Screenwriters Are from Illinois?

Fact Checked by Lou Monaco

Before there can be images on the screen, no matter how startling or visceral, there must be words.

Jan. 5 is the observance of U.S. National Screenwriters Day. With the date approaching, it’s fitting to give attention to what celebrated film-maker Alfred Hitchcock said about the art and craft of putting stories on the screen. “To make a great film you need three things,” Hitchcock intoned. “The script, the script, and the script.”

IllinoisBet.com – your source for Illinois sports betting - joins in the acknowledgement of screenwriters in presenting some of the results of research by the website, The-Numbers.com, which identified the top 100 grossing screenwriters in Worldwide Box Office. IllinoisBet.com then utilized the IMDB’s database to find the birthplace of those 100 screenwriters to determine the states that have produced the most.

Keep in mind, the website offers the following disclaimer: “Since we are still actively researching technical roles, we consider this chart to be in beta mode. The table includes data for movies in The Numbers database. While we make every effort to collect all available data, there are inevitably omissions and errors.”

States with the Best Screenwriters

Overall RankState# of Screenwriters
1New York29
2California22
3New Jersey7
4Florida5
5Illinois4
T-6Massachusetts3
T-6Pennsylvania3
T-6Maryland3
T-6Michigan3

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Wachowski Family Does Illinois Proud

It is hardly a surprise that at the top of the list is writer-director James Cameron, whose movies have grossed more than $9.73 billion. Among Cameron blockbusters are “Titanic,” “Avatar” and “Terminator.”

Two Illinois writers counted among the top 100 grossing list are Lana Wachowski (formerly known as Larry Wachowski) at No. 70 (about $2.2 billion) and Lilly Wachowski (formerly known as Andy Wachowski) at No. 72 ($2.17 billion). The sisters, from Chicago, are both trans women. 

The Wachowskis have worked as a team since the late 1990s and made their mark in writing and directing the smash hit “The Matrix” as well as two Matrix sequels and were involved in further iterations of the franchise. Other credits include “Speed Racer” and “V for Vendetta,” among others.

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Other Big Illinois Names

While not on the list of The-Numbers.com list, a number of famous screenwriters hail from Illinois.

A writing icon of the 1930s through 1950s is Ben Hecht. Hecht, who was born in New York but ran away to Chicago and went on to become a journalist and foreign correspondent. Among the dozens and dozens of movies that were, at least in part, the product of Hecht’s keyboard was “The Front Page,” in which Hecht’s rough-and-tumble Chicago newspaper days were romanticized. Hecht’s words also graced a couple of Hitchcock movies, “Spellbound” and “Notorious.”

Science-fiction legend Ray Bradbury was from Waukegan. And while sci-fi was his identifier, as a screenwriter, Bradbury worked on the 1956 film version of the Herman Melville classic “Moby Dick.”

Deceased last year, William Friedkin, a Chicagoan, was a writer, director, producer with credits that included “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist.”

Other Illinois notables whose entertainment careers included script writing are early TV comedy writer Nat Hiken (Chicago) and international cultural icon Walt Disney, from the Hermosa neighborhood of Chicago.      

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Author

Bill Ordine covers state gambling issues for IllinoisBet.com. He was a reporter and editor in news and sports for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore Sun for 25 years, and was a lead reporter on a team that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News. Bill started reporting on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for 10 years.

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