Famous 20th Century Playwrights

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 1 Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller
9
Famous As: Playwright, Essayist
Birthdate: October 17, 1915
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Harlem, New York, 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.

 3 George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw
8
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: July 26, 1856
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Portobello, Dublin, Ireland
Died: November 2, 1950

Nobel Prize-winning playwright and author George Bernard Shaw was best known for his realism and his support for women’s rights and socialism. His ideas gave rise to the word “Shavian.” His drama Pygmalion inspired the musical My Fair Lady. His other notable works include Candida and Man and Superman.

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 4 Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams
6
Famous As: 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
 

 5 Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre
6
Famous As: Philosopher
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.

 6 T. S. Eliot

T. S. Eliot
6
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: September 26, 1888
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Died: January 4, 1965
American-born British poet T. S. Eliot is best remembered for his poems The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Waste Land, and Ash Wednesday, and his plays such as Murder in the Cathedral. He won the Nobel Prize for literature and became a prominent figure of Modernist poetry.  

 7 Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett
7
Famous As: Novelist, Playwright
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.

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 8 Martin McDonagh

Martin McDonagh
7
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.

 9 Bertolt Brecht

Bertolt Brecht
6
Famous As: Theatre practitioner
Birthdate: February 10, 1898
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Augsburg, Germany
Died: August 14, 1956

German playwright, poet, and theater director, Bertolt Brecht, is best known for co-writing the play, The Threepenny Opera, with Kurt Weill. Growing up in war-torn Germany in the early 20th century, he had a difficult life. A hardcore Marxist, he lived in exile during the Nazi period. He returned to Germany after the war and established a theater company.

 10 David Mamet

David Mamet
5
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: November 30, 1947
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Author, screenwriter, and playwright David Mamet is best known for his Pulitzer-winning and Tony-nominated play Glengarry Glen Ross. He has written for many Broadway and off-Broadway plays and also for films such as House of Games. He has produced and written for the show The Unit and authored several books.

 11 Eugene O'Neill

Eugene O'Neill
5
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: October 16, 1888
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Longacre Square, New York, United States
Died: November 27, 1953

Eugene O'Neill was an American playwright whose works earned him several prestigious awards, including four Pulitzer Prizes for Drama and the 1936 Nobel Prize in Literature. His play Long Day's Journey into Night is frequently named among the 20th century's finest American plays. In the 1981 film Reds, Eugene O'Neill is played by actor Jack Nicholson.

 12 August Wilson

August Wilson
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Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: April 27, 1945
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
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.

 13 Federico García Lorca

Federico García Lorca
5
Famous As: Poet, playwright
Birthdate: June 5, 1898
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Fuente Vaqueros, Spain
Died: August 19, 1936

Federico García Lorca was a Spanish poet, playwright, and theater director. He was a prominent member of the Generation of '27, a group of poets who essentially worked with avant-garde forms of art and poetry. He was homosexual and had a love affair with sculptor Emilio Aladrén. He mysteriously disappeared at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.

 14 Neil Simon

Neil Simon
8
Famous As: Playwright & Screenwriter
Birthdate: July 4, 1927
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: The Bronx, New York
Died: August 26, 2018

 15 Harold Pinter

Harold Pinter
5
Famous As: Playwright, Screenwriter
Birthdate: October 10, 1930
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Metropolitan Borough of Hackney
Died: December 24, 2008

 16 Chadwick Boseman

Chadwick Boseman
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: November 29, 1976
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Anderson, South Carolina, United States
Died: August 28, 2020

A versatile actor and an inspiration for a generation of black youths, Chadwick Boseman is best remembered for portraying notable real life black figures like Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall and James Brown in their biopics. His excellent performance in Black Panther, though, turned him into a household name.

 17 Woody Harrelson

Woody Harrelson
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: July 23, 1961
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Midland, Texas, United States

Actor Woody Harrelson has been active in the entertainment world for over 40 years now. The son of a convicted hit-man, he had a difficult childhood and grew up in poverty. However, he was determined to build a good life for himself and earned a BFA in theater before venturing into acting. He is a vegan and an environmental activist.

 18 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.

 19 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.

 20 Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: November 11, 1922
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Died: April 11, 2007

Science-fiction author Kurt Vonnegut is best remembered for the novel Slaughterhouse-Five, which became a New York Times bestseller. The Hugo Award-winner had also fought against the Germans in World War II and expressed his anti-war and atheist views through his works, which also include short stories, plays, and autobiographical works.  

 21 Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy
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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.

 22 Maxim Gorky

Maxim Gorky
6
Famous As: Writer, Political Activist
Birthdate: March 28, 1868
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
Died: June 18, 1936

Maxim Gorky was a writer and political activist. He is best remembered for founding the socialist realism literary method. Gorky, who was nominated for the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature on five occasions, published several novels that were later adapted into plays, films, and operas. In 1938, Valery Zhelobinsky adapted Gorky's novel Mother into an opera.

 23 Zoe Kazan

Zoe Kazan
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: September 9, 1983
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, USA

 24 Jeff Daniels

Jeff Daniels
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: February 19, 1955
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Athens, Georgia, United States

Jeff Daniels is an American actor, playwright, and musician. Over the years, Daniels has played an influential role in the American entertainment business. In 1991, Daniels founded a not-for-profit organization called The Purple Rose Theatre Company, which offers an attractive apprenticeship program for youngsters looking for a career in theatre.

 25 Jesse Eisenberg

Jesse Eisenberg
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: October 5, 1983
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Queens, New York, United States
Jesse Eisenberg amazed audiences with his Academy Award-nominated performance as Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. He began his stint on TV at 16, with Get Real. He has also been part of Rodger Dodger, Adventureland, and Now You See Me. He has written three plays and a short-story collection.

 26 Mark Rylance

Mark Rylance
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 18, 1960
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Ashford, United Kingdom

Mark Rylance is an English actor, playwright, and theatre director. He is one of the eight actors to have been honored twice with the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play. He is also one of the eight people to have won the British Triple Crown of Acting, having received the BAFTA Television Award, BAFTA Film Award, and Laurence Olivier Award.

 27 Jean Cocteau

Jean Cocteau
4
Famous As: Poet, Playwright, filmmaker
Birthdate: July 5, 1889
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Maisons-Laffitte, France
Died: October 11, 1963
While Jean Cocteau preferred calling himself a poet, his multidimensional works consisted of novels such as Les Enfants Terribles and films directed by him such as La Belle et la Bête. Cocteau relied on motifs such as eyes, blood, and mirrors, and mingled mythology and modernism.

 28 Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: February 1, 1901
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.

 29 Lorraine Hansberry

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

Lorraine Hansberry was a writer and playwright best remembered for her play A Raisin in the Sun which emphasizes the plight of African-Americans living under racial segregation. At the age of 29, Lorraine Hansberry received the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, becoming the youngest playwright and the first African-American dramatist to win the prestigious award.

 30 Rod Serling

Rod Serling
4
Famous As: Screenwriter
Birthdate: December 25, 1924
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Syracuse, New York, United States
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.

 31 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.

 32 Ernie Hudson

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

 33 Edward Albee

Edward Albee
4
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: March 12, 1928
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Virginia, United States
Died: September 16, 2016

 34 W B Yeats

W B Yeats
4
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: June 13, 1865
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Sandymount, Ireland
Died: January 28, 1939
Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet, playwright, and prose writer W. B. Yeats is remembered as one of the most significant literary figures of the 20th century. Known for works such as The Tower, he also helped establish the Abbey Theatre. An occult enthusiast, he was also part of The Ghost Club.

 35 Mae West

Mae West
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: August 17, 1893
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died: November 22, 1980
Mae West began her career as a child actor in vaudeville. She later appeared in films such as You Done Me Wrong and Go West, Young Man. She became famous for her signature double entendres and sexual liberty she projected on screen. She also wrote books and plays later.

 36 Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin
4
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: June 9, 1961
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York, United States

Aaron Sorkin is an American filmmaker, playwright, and screenwriter. He won the Academy Award for writing the popular film The Social Network. Aaron Sorkin is credited with popularizing his trademark extended monologues and fast-paced dialogue in films. He is also known for using single tracking shots of long duration where multiple characters enter and exit the conversation.

 37 Tony Kushner

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

 38 Michaela Coel

Michaela Coel
5
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: October 1, 1987
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: London, England

 39 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.

 40 Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: March 11, 1952
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Cambridge, England
Died: May 11, 2001

English author, screenwriter, and essayist, Douglas Adams, is most remembered for his comedy science fiction series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. As a screenwriter, he wrote two stories for the TV series Doctor Who. He advocated for environmentalism and spoke about environmental issues in his non-fiction radio series Last Chance to See.

 41 Sir James Matthew Barrie

Sir James Matthew Barrie
4
Famous As: Novelist
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.

 42 August Strindberg

August Strindberg
4
Famous As: Novelist, Playwright, Poet
Birthdate: January 22, 1849
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Stockholm, Sweden
Died: May 14, 1912

August Strindberg was a Swedish playwright, painter, essayist, novelist, and poet. He wrote over 30 works of fiction and more than 60 plays in an illustrious career that spanned 40 years. Widely regarded as the father of modern Swedish literature, Strindberg is best remembered for his work The Red Room, which is considered the first modern Swedish novel.

 43 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.

 44 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.

 45 Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier
5
Famous As: Writer
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.

 46 Lewis Black

Lewis Black
5
Famous As: Comedian
Birthdate: August 30, 1948
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Silver Spring, Maryland, United States

 47 Eugene Ionesco

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

 48 John Osborne

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

 49 Thornton Wilder

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

 50 P G Wodehouse

P G Wodehouse
4
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: October 15, 1881
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Guildford, England
Died: February 14, 1975