1. TOM McCARTHY - THE VISITOR
One of the most admired screenplays of the year from McCarthy (who won the Bafta for his script for The Station Agent), The Visitor could be the one to beat for its sensitive combination of social and political issues and touching character arcs. If the film is too small to win best picture or director nominations, it is highly likely to be compensated in the screenplay category.
2. NICK SCHENK - GRAN TORINO
Previously unknown screenwriter Schenk used his time in a factory job in Minnesota with a number of Hmong families from Laos as grist for the story he conceived with Dave Johansson, and his own screenplay. An unusual insight into immigrant communities as well as the auto industry world of Michigan, Gran Torino is already winning Schenk kudos and this year's discovery slot.
3. DUSTIN LANCE BLACK - MILK
Black's intelligent screenplay for Milk focused on the last 10 years of Harvey Milk's life, when he moved to San Francisco and became politically engaged. Never straying too far into potentially melodramatic personal relationships, except insofar as they impact the political story, Black creates a fully rounded portrait of Milk as gay man, lover, friend, activist and inspiration.
4. ANDREW STANTON AND JIM REARDON - WALL-E
It may not be the most dialogue-heavy of animated movies - in fact there is barely a single word uttered in the first 45 minutes - but that only makes Wall-E a more remarkable original screenplay. Stanton was nominated for writing Finding Nemo and the film is likely to follow that film, along with Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Shrek and Toy Story, to a screenplay nod.
5. MIKE LEIGH - HAPPY-GO-LUCKY
Leigh's legendary film-making technique delivered an engaging exploration into the nature of happiness as characterised by his lead character, Poppy. Leigh has called the film 'anti-miserabilist', but its script is no less profound or thought-provoking for its sunny nature.
6. JENNY LUMET - RACHEL GETTING MARRIED
A teacher who also happens to be the daughter of directing titan Sidney, Jenny Lumet's first filmed screenplay follows no formula in its portrait of a family battling each other and their demons at a family wedding. What could have been a saccharine lovefest turns into an unflinching look at human behaviour with all its unlikeable traits.
7. GRANT NIEPORTE - SEVEN POUNDS
Nieporte, previously a writer on Sabrina The Teenage Witch on TV, struck gold with his Seven Pounds screenplay, attracting the world's biggest movie star, Will Smith, to play the lead and produce. Perhaps the year's most original script, it twists and turns in puzzling ways before a final, stunning reveal, which could win as many fans as detractors in awards bodies.
8. WOODY ALLEN - VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA
Allen had a renewed dose of creative vigour in 2008 with his Barcelona-set multi-character romance, which was one of his sharpest scripts in years and featured some of his most memorable characters - from the neurotic, Allen-esque Vicky to the crazy Spanish couple Juan Antonio and Maria Elena.
9. MARTIN McDONAGH - IN BRUGES
A film that has picked up more fans as the year has gone on, In Bruges stands its biggest chance in the original screenplay category. McDonagh's first feature contains all the witty dialogue, darkly comic situations and unusual settings that make voters take note.
10. J MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI - CHANGELING
Former journalist Straczynski literally dredged up old police records in Los Angeles, reading transcripts before they were destroyed and reworking exact dialogue from 1928 newspaper reports to craft his clever screenplay for Changeling, which follows the story of police corruption in a missing-child case before slowly revealing the crimes behind the child's disappearance.
Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Burn After Reading
Courtney Hunt, Frozen River
Charlie Kaufman, Synecdoche, New York
Baz Luhrmann, Stuart Beattie, Ronald Harwood, Richard Flanagan, Australia
Michael McCullers, Baby Mama
Christopher McQuarrie, Nathan Alexander, Valkyrie
Jason Segel, Forgetting Sarah Marshall Robert D Siegel, The Wrestler