English playwright, poet, and actor William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language. He is also often called England's national poet. Many of his works have been translated into other languages and his plays continue to be produced till day. Popular during his lifetime, he acquired an iconic status after his death.
Widely regarded as one of the most popular writers of all time, Oscar Wilde is best remembered for his plays and epigrams. He was also one of the best-known personalities during his time as he was popular for his conversational skills, flamboyant dressing sense, and biting wit. Imprisoned in 1895 for consensual homosexual acts, Oscar Wilde was pardoned posthumously in 2017.
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.
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.
Victor Hugo was a French poet, dramatist, and novelist of the Romantic movement. Regarded as one of the best-known and greatest French writers of all time, Victor Hugo wrote abundantly during his career that spanned over six decades. Thanks to his works, such as Hernani and Cromwell, Victor Hugo was one of the leading figures of the Romantic literary movement.
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.
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.
Regarded as the greatest literary figure in Germany's modern era, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a statesman and writer. Apart from writing poetry and prose, he also wrote treatises on color, anatomy, and botany. Thanks to his literary genius, Goethe was made part of the Duke's privy council in Weimar and he implemented several reforms at the University of Jena.
11 Tracy Letts
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.
Anton Chekhov was a Russian short-story writer and playwright. Widely regarded as one of the greatest writers of short fiction, Chekhov's works have influenced the progression of the modern short story. As a playwright, Anton Chekhov is credited with influencing the rise of modernism in theatre, along with August Strindberg and Henrik Ibsen.
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.
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.
English playwright, poet, and translator, Christopher Marlowe, was one of the major literary figures of the Elizabethan era. It is believed that he greatly influenced his contemporary William Shakespeare. He led a troubled life and died young under mysterious circumstances. Despite his early death, he is regarded as one of the foremost dramatists of the 16th century London.
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.
Miguel de Cervantes was a Spanish writer best known for his work Don Quixote, which is considered one of the high points of world literature. He is regarded as one of the greatest novelists of all time and the greatest writer to ever write in the Spanish language. His works have influenced other works of art like music and paintings.
19 Sam Shepard
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.
21 Neil Simon
Sir Noël Peirce Coward was an English composer, playwright, singer, director, and actor. Renowned for his flamboyance and wit, Coward's style and work continue to influence popular culture. A recipient of several prestigious awards, including an Academy Honorary Award, Coward did not acknowledge his homosexuality publicly, although it was later discussed by biographers like Graham Payn.
23 David Mamet
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.
24 Emile Zola
Emile Zola was a French novelist, journalist, and playwright. He played a key role in the development of theatrical naturalism and was a well-known practitioner of the literary school of naturalism. He was also a political journalist and was influential in the political liberalization of France. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature twice.
25 Henrik Ibsen
Henrik Ibsen was a Norwegian theatre director and playwright. One of the most influential and popular playwrights of his generation, Ibsen is credited with co-founding modernism in theatre, for which he is often called the father of realism. After William Shakespeare, Henrik Ibsen is the world's most often performed dramatist. His works have influenced other playwrights like George Bernard Shaw.
Sophocles was an ancient Greek writer. He is one among three tragedians from his era whose plays have survived. Sophocles was the most decorated and celebrated playwright for almost five decades, during which he won 24 out of 30 dramatic competitions, which took place in the city-state of Athens during the religious festivals of the Dionysia and the Lenaea.
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.
Moliere was a French poet, playwright, and actor. Considered one of the greatest French-language writers of all time, Moliere's plays are often performed at the Comédie-Française and have been translated into several languages. Moliere had a huge impact on the French language and is widely regarded as the creator of modern French comedy.
Nikolai Gogol was a Ukrainian author who redefined Russian literature with his novels such as Dead Souls and his short stories such as The Overcoat and Diary of a Madman. Most of his works were influenced by Ukrainian folklore. He was typically fond of the grotesque as a literary element.
33 Tom Stoppard
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.
35 Leo Tolstoy
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.
37 Maxim Gorky
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.
38 Danai Gurira
39 Mark Rylance
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.
40 Jean Cocteau
41 Zoe Kazan
43 Ben Jonson
One of the most widely read French authors of all time, Alexandre Dumas was prolific in several genres. He joined the army as a young man and later became a full-time writer. Starting his writing career as a playwright, he moved on to writing novels. His novels have been adapted into nearly 200 films in the past century.
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.
47 Rod Serling
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.
48 Jules Verne
49 Gore Vidal
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.
Friedrich Schiller was a German poet, physician, philosopher, playwright, and historian. Schiller is best remembered for his friendship with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the two discussed issues concerning aesthetics. Schiller's discussions with Goethe paved the way for a period, which came to be known as Weimar Classicism. Friedrich Schiller is also widely regarded as Germany's most prominent classical playwright.