Some of his films include Murder, My Sweet in 1944, Cornered in 1945, Crossfire in 1947 (an adaptation of the controversial novel The Brick Foxhole that earned him his only Oscar nomination). He helped adapt the screenplay for the controversial movie The Wild One in 1953 starring Marlon Brando, and his adaptation of the Nevil Shute novel On the Beach appeared in 1959. Paxton's work twice received the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award for Best Motion Picture Screenplay, for Murder, My Sweet and Crossfire.
Before coming to Hollywood in the 1940s, Paxton worked as a journalist and a publicist.
Paxton was an uncle of comic book writer Ed Brubaker as well as retired army intelligence officer, Col. David O. Paxton.
- "John Paxton, Screenwriter of 'Murder My Sweet,' 'Kotch'". Los Angeles Times. January 11, 1985. p. A6.
- Weaver, John D. (March 10, 1985). "John Paxton: Mr. Fix-It to the End". Los Angeles Times. p. 26.