He received his first screenwriting credit for "Comrades of Summer", a 1992 HBO movie about an American baseball manager (Joe Mantegna) hired to train a Russian team for Olympic competition. Exploring one of the more recent hypotheses about the identity of the notorious British criminal Jack the Ripper, he penned "The Ripper" (Starz!, 1997), which posited the notion that the murderer was a member of the English royal family. After years of writing spec scripts, Rodat received his first feature credit on a project he co-wrote USC pal Steven L Bloom. "Tall Tale: The Unbelievable Adventures of Pecos Bill" (1995). This well-crafted but unusual fable about a boy who encounters the mythical heroes Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, John Henry and others won critical praise but failed to find an audience. He fared somewhat better with the delightful family picture "Fly Away Home" (1996, co-written with Vince McKewn), the story of a father (Jeff Daniels) and daughter (Anna Paquin) who teach their adopted geese how to migrate. It was, however, his script for Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" (1998) that elevated Rodat to the circle of A-list screenwriters by highlighting the enormity of the sacrifice and bravery of World War II combatants in a realistic film which at the same time made a powerful anti-war statement.
He continued to explore themes of the effect of war on individuals in his next produced screenplay, "The Patriot" (2000). Originally a more realistic biopic of the 18th-century hero Francis Marion (nicknamed 'The Swamp Fox'), the screenwriter eventually opted for the fictional route, using Marion's life as the inspiration for the character of Benjamin Martin (played by Mel Gibson), a former soldier who fought in the French and Indian War, now a widower raising his children. As the American rebellion grows and his family is drawn into the conflict, Martin must decide whether to abandon his pacifist stance or not. "The Patriot", helmed by Roland Emmerich, proved to be that rare film which was set during the Revolutionary War period which managed to infuse a sense of drama on history, partly via Rodat's strong script.