Famous 20th Century Playwrights

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Vote for Your Favourite Playwrights

 1 Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller.
7
Famous As: Playwright, Essayist
Birthdate: October 17, 1915
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Harlem, New York City, United States
Died: February 10, 2005

Arthur Miller was an American essayist and playwright. Miller is credited with creating popular plays, such as Death of a Salesman, which is widely regarded as one of the best American plays of the 20th century. Thanks to his illustrious career, which spanned more than 70 years, Arthur Miller is regarded as one of the 20th century's greatest dramatists.

 2 Albert Camus

Albert Camus.
5
Famous As: Philosopher & Novelist
Birthdate: November 7, 1913
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Drean, Algeria
Died: January 4, 1960

Albert Camus was a French philosopher and the second-youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. His philosophical views contributed to the rise of absurdism, a philosophical concept. Also a prolific writer, Albert Camus had an illustrious literary career; most of his philosophical essays and novels are still influential.

Recommended Lists:

 3 Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams.
5
Famous As: American playwright
Birthdate: March 26, 1911
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Columbus, Mississippi, United States
Died: February 25, 1983
Pulitzer Prize-winning Tennessee Williams is regarded as one of the most significant playwrights of the 20th century, and had also written short stories, essays, and poetry. He is best remembered for his plays A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
 

 4 Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre.
6
Famous As: Philosopher, Novelist
Birthdate: June 21, 1905
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: April 15, 1980

Jean-Paul Sartre was a French philosopher, writer, literary critic, and political activist. One of the most important personalities in the philosophy of phenomenology and existentialism, Sartre played a crucial role in 20th-century French philosophy. His work continues to influence literary studies, post-colonial theory, sociology, and critical theory. He was honored with the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature.

 5 Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett.
7
Famous As: Novelist, Playwright, Theater Director
Birthdate: April 13, 1906
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Foxrock, Ireland
Died: December 22, 1989

Samuel Beckett was a legendary Nobel Prize-winning Irish postmodernist and minimalist playwright and author, regarded as a prominent figure of the "Theatre of the Absurd.” He is best known for the play Waiting for Godot and for his tragi-comic themes and black comedy. He was also the Saoi of Aosdána.

 6 Martin McDonagh

Martin McDonagh.
6
Famous As: Playwright, Screenwriter, Filmmaker
Birthdate: March 26, 1970
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Camberwell

The director and writer of the Academy Award-winning short film, Six Shooter, Martin McDonagh is also well known as a playwright and stage director. The Beauty Queen of Leenane is one of the his noted works. The crime drama film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was another successful venture of McDonagh. He says he prefers films to plays.

 7 Tracy Letts

Tracy Letts.
5
Famous As: Actor, Screenwriter
Birthdate: July 4, 1965
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tracy Letts is a highly acclaimed American actor, screenwriter, and playwright. Letts has received several prestigious awards, including the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a couple of Tony Awards. Tracy Letts is credited with popularizing Edward Albee's play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which he revived in 2012.

You May Like

 8 Neil Simon

Neil Simon.
5
Famous As: Playwright & Screenwriter
Birthdate: July 4, 1927
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: The Bronx, New York
Died: August 26, 2018

 9 August Wilson

August Wilson.
5
Famous As: American playwright
Birthdate: April 27, 1945
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: October 2, 2005
August Wilson, also known as "theater's poet of black America,” was a renowned playwright. He is best remembered for The Pittsburgh Cycle, his series of 10 plays that focused on the 20th-century African-American community. Two of his plays, Fences and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, were turned into movies.

 10 Harold Pinter

Harold Pinter.
5
Famous As: Nobel Prize Winner in Literature
Birthdate: October 10, 1930
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Metropolitan Borough of Hackney
Died: December 24, 2008

 11 Tom Stoppard

Tom Stoppard.
5
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: July 3, 1937
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Zlín, Czechoslovakia
Born in Czechoslovakia, legendary playwright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard had lost his father in the Japanese invasion of Singapore during World War II. The five-time Tony winner is best known for the absurdist tragicomedy Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. He also co-wrote the Academy Award-winning screenplay of Shakespeare in Love.

 12 Danai Gurira

Danai Gurira.
18
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: February 14, 1978
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Grinnell, Iowa
Danai Gurira is best known as Michonne from The Walking Dead and as Okoye from the Marvel films Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame. She earned a Tony nomination for writing the Broadway play Eclipsed. She has been a UN Goodwill Ambassador and promotes arts and women empowerment.

 13 Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy.
8
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: September 9, 1828
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Yasnaya Polyana, Yasnaya Polyana, Russia
Died: November 20, 1910

Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy, is widely considered as one of the greatest authors ever. After experiencing a profound moral crisis in the 1870s, Tolstoy went through a phase of spiritual awakening, which had a great impact on his subsequent works that incorporated ideas on nonviolent resistance. These works influenced personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, thereby effectively changing the course of history.

 14 Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes.
4
Famous As: Poet, Novelist, Playwright, & Columnist
Birthdate: February 1, 1902
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Joplin, Missouri, United States
Died: May 22, 1967

Langston Hughes is best remembered as a prominent leader of the Harlem Renaissance. He was one of the first to write jazz poetry. He also wrote plays and short stories. He was a columnist for The Chicago Defender and wrote the iconic poem The Negro Speaks of Rivers.

 15 Leslie Jordan

Leslie Jordan
5
Famous As: Actor, Playwright, Stage actor, Television actor
Birthdate: April 29, 1955
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Chattanooga

 16 Rod Serling

Rod Serling.
4
Famous As: Screenwriter, TV Producer, Narrator
Birthdate: December 25, 1924
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Syracuse
Died: June 28, 1975

Rod Serling was an American playwright, screenwriter, narrator, and television producer. One of the first writers to write specifically for television, Serling is often credited with legitimizing television drama. He is also credited with creating the much-acclaimed series The Twilight Zone. For his much-publicized clashes with TV executives, Serling was often referred to as the angry young man of Hollywood.

 17 Lorraine Hansberry

Lorraine Hansberry
6
Famous As: Writer, Theatre director, Screenwriter, Playwright, Human rights activist
Birthdate: May 19, 1930
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Chicago
Died: January 12, 1965

 18 Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal.
5
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: October 3, 1925
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: West Point, New York, United States
Died: July 31, 2012

Gore Vidal was an American intellectual and writer. He served as a major inspiration to gays, lesbians, and bisexuals as he was openly bisexual and often incorporated LGBT characters in his novels, which was very unusual at the time. He was also known for his debates with William F. Buckley Jr., which inspired the 2015 documentary film Best of Enemies.

 19 Lillian Hellman

Lillian Hellman.
4
Famous As: Dramatist and Screenwriter
Birthdate: June 20, 1905
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana
Died: June 30, 1984

 20 Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron.
4
Famous As: Screenwriter, Producer, Director
Birthdate: May 19, 1941
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States
Died: June 26, 2012

Nora Ephron was an American writer, filmmaker, and journalist. She is known for writing films like Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally... The Nora Ephron Prize was created by the Tribeca Film Festival in her memory. Her life and work inspired the 2016 documentary film Everything Is Copy, which was directed by her son Jacob Bernstein.

 21 Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore.
7
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: May 7, 1861
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Died: August 7, 1941

Rabindranath Tagore was an Indian polymath who contributed greatly to the fields of literature, art, and philosophy. Referred to as the Bard of Bengal, Tagore is credited with reshaping Bengali literature and music. The first non-European to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, Tagore is also credited with composing the national anthems of India and Bangladesh.

 22 Ernie Hudson

Ernie Hudson
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: December 17, 1945
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Benton Harbor, Michigan, USA

 23 Tony Kushner

Tony Kushner
5
Famous As: Playwright, Screenwriter, Writer, Music educator
Birthdate: July 16, 1956
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: New York City

 24 Sir James Matthew Barrie

Sir James Matthew Barrie.
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: May 9, 1860
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kirriemuir, Angus, Scotland
Died: June 19, 1937

Sir James Matthew Barrie was a Scottish playwright and novelist. He is credited and remembered for creating the famous fictional character, Peter Pan. In the 1922 New Year Honours, Barrie was made a member of the Order of Merit. Before his death, he gifted the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children with the rights of his Peter Pan works.

 25 Thomas Clayton Wolfe

Thomas Clayton Wolfe.
5
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: October 3, 1900
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Asheville, North Carolina, United States
Died: September 15, 1938
Novelist Thomas Wolfe is remembered for his novels Look Homeward, Angel and Of Time and the River. He had also authored countless short stories and plays. His signature style included elements of autobiographical writing mixed with poetic and lyrical prose. His works influenced Beat Generation writers, too.

 26 W. H. Auden

W. H. Auden.
4
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: February 21, 1907
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: York, England
Died: September 29, 1973

W. H. Auden was an Anglo-American poet. His poetry was noted for its technical achievement and versatility. He wrote poems on love, political and social themes, and cultural and psychological themes. Throughout his career, Auden was both influential and controversial. His personal life also attracted attention as he had sexual relationships with men, which was unusual at the time.

 27 Thornton Wilder

Thornton Wilder
3
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: April 17, 1897
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Madison, Wisconsin, United States
Died: December 7, 1975

 28 John Osborne

John Osborne
4
Famous As: Actor, Playwright, Screenwriter, Writer
Birthdate: December 12, 1929
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: London
Died: December 24, 1994

 29 Jeffrey Archer

Jeffrey Archer
4
Famous As: Politician, Novelist, Writer, Playwright, Science fiction writer, Children's writer
Birthdate: April 15, 1940
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: London

Jeffrey Archer is an English author and former politician whose books have sold over 320 million copies around the world. Archer has been a controversial figure; he was convicted of perjury in 2001 after which he was sent to Belmarsh Prison from where he was later transferred to Wayland Prison. His conviction ended his political career.

 30 Henry Graham Greene

Henry Graham Greene.
5
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: October 2, 1904
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Berkhamsted, England
Died: April 3, 1991

English author Henry Graham Greene, better known as Graham Greene, is remembered for his pathbreaking Catholic novels and thrillers. He was shortlisted for the Nobel Prize in Literature. His works include The Third Man and The Human Factor, and his Academy Award-nominated script of the film The Fallen Idol.

 31 Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier.
4
Famous As: Novelist & playwright
Birthdate: May 13, 1907
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London, England
Died: April 19, 1989

Daphne du Maurier was an English playwright and author. Many of her works, which have been praised for narrative craft, have been adapted into films, including three of Alfred Hitchcock's movies. Such was her popularity that she was selected along with four other Women of Achievement to be featured on a set of British stamps, which were issued in 1996.

 32 Norman Mailer

Norman Mailer.
4
Famous As: Novelist, Journalist and Screen Writer
Birthdate: January 31, 1923
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Long Branch, New Jersey, United States
Died: November 10, 2007

Norman Mailer was an American journalist, novelist, essayist, filmmaker, actor, and playwright. A prolific writer, Mailer had at least one best-selling book in each of the seven decades post Second World War. Overall, he had 11 best-selling books in a career spanning over 60 years. A recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, Mailer is regarded as an innovator of New Journalism.

 33 Vinayak Damodar Savarkar

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.
6
Famous As: Independence Activist, Reformer
Birthdate: May 28, 1883
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bhagur
Died: February 26, 1966

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was an Indian politician and independence activist. He formulated the Hindu nationalist philosophy of Hindutva and was a leading figure in the Hindu Mahasabha. He was known for his strong oratory skills and was an eloquent writer. He was initially charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi but was later acquitted.

 34 Yolanda King

Yolanda King.
4
Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: November 17, 1955
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Montgomery, Alabama
Died: May 15, 2007

African American activist, Yolanda King, was the first-born child of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. Exposed to social justice activism at a young age, she grew up to be an outspoken supporter of civil rights and LGBTQA+ rights. She was also known for her artistic endeavors. She died of heart disease at 51. 

 35 Lashana Lynch

Lashana Lynch.
5
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: November 27, 1987
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Hammersmith, London, England, UK
Lashana Lynch is best known for her roles of Rosaline Capulet in the series Still Star-Crossed and Maria Rambeau in the film Captain Marvel. She received the Laurence Olivier bursary in drama school. Lynch will be seen as Nomi in the upcoming James Bond film No Time to Die

 36 Eugene Ionesco

Eugene Ionesco
3
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: November 26, 1909
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Slatina
Died: March 28, 1994

 37 Alan Bennett

Alan Bennett
5
Famous As: Actor, Screenwriter, Playwright, Diarist, Writer
Birthdate: May 9, 1934
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Armley

 38 Ruby Dee

Ruby Dee
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: October 27, 1922
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Died: June 11, 2014

 39 David Hare

David Hare
3
Famous As: playwright, screenwriter, film director, theatre director, writer, actor, television director, film producer
Birthdate: June 5, 1947
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: St Leonards-on-Sea

 40 Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan
4
Famous As: Writer, Screenwriter, Novelist, Playwright, Film producer, Author
Birthdate: June 21, 1948
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Aldershot

 41 John Patrick Shanley

John Patrick Shanley
3
Famous As: Screenwriter, Playwright, Writer, Film director, Theatre director
Birthdate: October 3, 1950
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: The Bronx

 42 Andrew Upton

Andrew Upton
4
Famous As: Film director, Screenwriter, Librettist
Birthdate: February 1, 1966
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Australia

Andrew Upton is an Australian playwright, screenwriter, and director known for creating an adaptation of Maxim Gorky's The Philistines for the Royal National Theatre in London. He has also written critically-acclaimed original plays. He is married to actress Cate Blanchett, with whom he runs a film production company. Upton was honored with the Rotary Professional Excellence Award in 2014. 

 43 Roxann Dawson

Roxann Dawson.
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: September 11, 1958
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California

 44 Dario Fo

Dario Fo.
3
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: March 24, 1926
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Sangiano

Nobel Prize-winning Italian playwright Dario Fo, best remembered for the play Mistero Buffo, donned many hats and made his presence felt as an actor, stage director and designer, and painter. He and his wife, actor Franca Rame, did everything from writing sketches for the show Canzonissima to founding theater companies.

 45 Sidney Sheldon

Sidney Sheldon
4
Famous As: Writer, Screenwriter, Novelist, Playwright, Film director, Actor, Television producer, Author
Birthdate: February 11, 1917
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Chicago
Died: January 30, 2007

 46 Matthew Cowles

Matthew Cowles
4
Famous As: Television actor, Film actor, Stage actor
Birthdate: September 28, 1944
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York City
Died: May 22, 2014

 47 Anthony Minghella

Anthony Minghella
4
Famous As: Screenwriter, Playwright, Film director, Film producer, Writer
Birthdate: January 6, 1954
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Ryde
Died: March 18, 2008

 48 Stefan Zweig

Stefan Zweig.
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: November 28, 1881
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: February 22, 1942

Stefan Zweig was an Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist, and biographer. He was one of the most widely translated and most popular writers in the world at the height of his career. His best-known work is Sternstunden der Menschheit, in which he wrote about decisive historical events. His later years were very difficult and he died by suicide in 1942.

 49 Sarah Kane

Sarah Kane
4
Famous As: Playwright, Writer
Birthdate: February 3, 1971
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Brentwood
Died: February 20, 1999

 50 Thomas Harris

Thomas Harris
4
Famous As: Writer, Screenwriter, Novelist, Playwright, Journalist
Birthdate: April 11, 1940
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Jackson