Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay
Awarded forBest First Screenplay
CountryUnited States
Presented byFilm Independent
First awarded1994
Currently held byJohn Patton Ford for Emily the Criminal (2022)

The Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay is one of the annual awards given by the Film Independent, a non-profit organization dedicated to independent film and independent filmmakers. It was first presented in 1994 with David O. Russell being the first recipient of the award for Spanking the Monkey, a film he also directed.

Winners and nominees

Paul Auster won for Smoke.
Neil LaBute won for In the Company of Men.
Darren Aronofsky won for Pi.
Charlie Kaufman won for Being John Malkovich.


Year Recipient(s) Film
David O. Russell Spanking the Monkey
Paul Zehrer Blessing
Kevin Smith Clerks
James Bosley Fun
Tom Noonan What Happened Was
1995 Paul Auster Smoke
Harmony Korine Kids
James Gray Little Odessa
Steve McLean Postcards from America
Kelly Reichardt River of Grass
Joseph Tropiano and Stanley Tucci Big Night
Suzan-Lori Parks Girl 6
Lisa Krueger Manny & Lo
Michael Scott Myers The Whole Wide World
Steve Buscemi Trees Lounge
1997 Neil LaBute In the Company of Men
Steven Schwartz Critical Care
Paul Thomas Anderson Hard Eight
Miguel Arteta Star Maps
Daniel Harris The Bible and Gun Club
1998 Darren Aronofsky Pi
Lisa Cholodenko High Art
Matthew Weiss Niagara, Niagara
Tamara Jenkins Slums of Beverly Hills
Sherman Alexie Smoke Signals
Charlie Kaufman Being John Malkovich
Kimberly Peirce and Andy Bienen Boys Don't Cry
Anne Rapp Cookie's Fortune
Tod Williams The Adventures of Sebastian Cole
John Roach and Mary Sweeney The Straight Story


Gina Prince-Bythewood won for Love & Basketball.
Terry Zwigoff won for Ghost World alongside Daniel Clowes.
Michael Arndt won for Little Miss Sunshine.
Diablo Cody won for Juno.
Dustin Lance Black won for Milk.
Year Recipient(s) Film
Gina Prince-Bythewood Love & Basketball
Ben Younger Boiler Room
David Gordon Green George Washington
Jordan Walker-Pearlman The Visit
Ross Klavan and Michael McGruther Tigerland
Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff Ghost World
Richard Kelly Donnie Darko
John Cameron Mitchell Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Stephen M. Ryder, Michael Cuesta and Gerald Cuesta L.I.E.
Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming The Anniversary Party
Erin Cressida Wilson Secretary
Laura Cahill Hysterical Blindness
Burr Steers Igby Goes Down
Neil Burger Interview with the Assassin
Heather Juergensen and Jennifer Westfeldt Kissing Jessica Stein
Tom McCarthy The Station Agent
Karen Moncrieff Blue Car
Patty Jenkins Monster
Peter Sollett and Eva Vives Raising Victor Vargas
Catherine Hardwicke and Nikki Reed Thirteen
2004 Joshua Marston Maria Full of Grace
Rodney Evans Brother to Brother
Zach Braff Garden State
Shane Carruth Primer
Mario de la Vega Robbing Peter
2005 Duncan Tucker Transamerica
Kenneth Hanes Fixing Frank
Angus MacLachlan Junebug
Miranda July Me and You and Everyone We Know
Sabina Murray The Beautiful Country
Michael Arndt Little Miss Sunshine
Dito Montiel A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints
Gabrielle Zevin Conversations with Other Women
Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden Half Nelson
Goran Dukić Wristcutters: A Love Story
Diablo Cody Juno
Jeffrey Blitz Rocket Science
Zoe Cassavetes Broken English
Kelly Masterson Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
John Orloff A Mighty Heart
2008 Dustin Lance Black Milk[9]
Lance Hammer Ballast
Courtney Hunt Frozen River[10]
Jonathan Levine The Wackness
Jenny Lumet Rachel Getting Married
2009 Geoffrey Fletcher Precious[11]
Sophie Barthes Cold Souls
Scott Cooper Crazy Heart
Cherien Dabis Amreeka
Tom Ford and David Scearce A Single Man


Justin Simien won for Dear White People.
Emma Donoghue won for Room.
Robert Eggers won for The Witch.
Emily Gordon won for The Big Sick.
Kumail Nanjiani won for The Big Sick.
Bo Burnham won for Eighth Grade.
Year Recipient(s) Film
Lena Dunham Tiny Furniture
Robert Glaudini Jack Goes Boating
Nik Fackler Lovely, Still
Dana Adam Shapiro and Evan M. Wiener Monogamy
Diane Bell Obselidia
2011 Will Reiser 50/50
Mike Cahill and Brit Marling Another Earth
J. C. Chandor Margin Call[13]
Patrick deWitt Terri
Phil Johnston Cedar Rapids
2012 Derek Connolly Safety Not Guaranteed
Rama Burshtein Fill the Void
Christopher D. Ford Robot & Frank
Rashida Jones and Will McCormack Celeste and Jesse Forever
Jonathan Lisecki Gayby
2013 Bob Nelson Nebraska
Lake Bell In a World...
Joseph Gordon-Levitt Don Jon
Jill Soloway Afternoon Delight
Michael Starrbury The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete
Justin Simien Dear White People
Desiree Akhavan Appropriate Behavior
Sara Colangelo Little Accidents
Justin Lader The One I Love
Anja Marquardt She's Lost Control
Emma Donoghue Room[15]
Jesse Andrews Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Jonas Carpignano Mediterranea
Marielle Heller The Diary of a Teenage Girl
John Magary; Russell Harbaugh and Myna Joseph (story by) The Mend
Robert Eggers The Witch
Chris Kelly Other People
Adam Mansbach Barry
Stella Meghie Jean of the Joneses
Craig Shilowich Christine
Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani The Big Sick
Kris Avedisian, Kyle Espeleta (story by), and Jesse Wakeman (story by) Donald Cried
Ingrid Jungermann Women Who Kill
Kogonada Columbus
David Branson Smith & Matt Spicer Ingrid Goes West
2018 Bo Burnham Eighth Grade
Christina Choe Nancy
Cory Finley Thoroughbreds
Jennifer Fox The Tale
Laurie & Quinn Shephard Blame
Fredrica Bailey and Stefon Bristol See You Yesterday
Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen Driveways
Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy Blow the Man Down
Jocelyn Deboer and Dawn Luebbe Greener Grass
James Montague and Craig W. Sanger The Vast of Night


Year Recipient(s) Film
Andy Siara Palm Springs
Kitty Green The Assistant
Noah Hutton Lapsis
Channing Godfrey Peoples Miss Juneteenth
James Sweeney Straight Up
Michael Sarnoski and Vanessa Block Pig
Sheldon D. Brown and Matthew Fifer Cicada
Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr. Wild Indian
Shatara Michelle Ford Test Pattern
Fran Kranz Mass
John Patton Ford Emily the Criminal
Joel Kim Booster Fire Island
Jamie Dack and Audrey Findlay, story by Jamie Dack Palm Trees and Power Lines
K.D. Dávila Emergency
Sarah DeLappe, story by Kristen Roupenian Bodies Bodies Bodies


  1. ^ Ten Groundbreaking Film Independent Spirit Awards Wins - Film Independent
  2. ^ Stanley Tucci · Conversatory of Theatre Arts · Purchase College
  3. ^ Being John Malkovich - Awards - IMDb
  4. ^ "Love and Basketball" (New Line Cinema, 2000)|Library of Congress
  5. ^ Ghost World (2001) - MUBI
  6. ^ Ten Groundbreaking Film Independent Spirit Awards Wins - Film Independent
  7. ^ 14 Big Facts About 'Little Miss Sunshine' - Mental Floss
  8. ^ JUNO|Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
  9. ^ PRIDE Film Series: MILK (2008) Seattle Gay Scene|Your Daily Gay in Seattle
  10. ^ Frozen River (2008) - MUBI
  11. ^ Precious - Awards - IMDb
  12. ^ Tiny Furniture - Philadelphia Film Society
  13. ^ J.C. Chandor - Awards - IMDb
  14. ^ Justin Simien '05 wins Independent Spirit Award || Best First Screenplay|Chapman Newsroom
  15. ^ Room - Awards - IMDb
  16. ^ Robert Eggers Wins Independent Spirit First Screenplay Award|IndieWire
  17. ^ 'The Big Sick' Wins Indie Spirit Award || Best First Screenplay|IndieWire
  18. ^ Film Independent Spirit Awards 2020:See the winners list|
  19. ^ 2021 Independent Spirit Awards Winner's List|IndieWire
  20. ^ Galuppo, Mia (March 6, 2022). "Spirit Awards: 'The Lost Daughter,' 'Reservation Dogs' Win Big as Ukraine Fuels Onstage Remarks". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 6, 2022.
  21. ^ Davis, Clayton (November 22, 2022). "Independent Spirit Awards Nominations: 'Everything Everywhere' Leads With Eight Noms". Variety. Retrieved November 22, 2022.