Novels and movies are two totally different entertainment mediums, and converting a lengthy novel into a feature film is a hell of an undertaking. Hollywood, however, has a tradition of retaining both the theme and the original spirit of the novels into their film adaptations. Although not every Hollywood book movie adaptation remains faithful to the original script, but the 20 best book to movie adaptations that we are going to list today did manage to preserve the real essence of their original source:
20. The 39 Steps
John Buchan’s adventure novel (published in 1915) was adopted in many feature films but the best adaptation came from Alfred Hitchock in the form of The 39 Steps (1935), starring Robert Donat, Lucie Mannheim, and Robert Donat.
Not only is the film considered a Hitchcock classic, but it is also considered to be the best mystery movie of all time by various film critics.
19. The Road
Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” (published in 2006) is about the adventurous journey of an ailing father and his son towards the ocean in a post-apocalyptic treacherous world.
The well-received novel was turned into a feature film, that was both commercially and critically successful, by John Hillcoat in 2009.
Carrie (1976) was based on Stephen King’s horror novel of the same name (published in 1974) and became a huge hit at the box office upon its release.
The movie is about a shy girl named Carrie and her strained relation with her community and her fundamentalist mother. Carrie possesses a unique psychic ability to move things without touching them which, due to certain turn of events, soon turns into a weapon of horror and destruction.
17. The Heiress
William Wyler re-imagining of Henry James’s romantic novel Washington Square (published in 1880), which revolves around the love story of a poor lad and a girl whose rich father considers the guy to be fake and only interested in her daughter’s fairly large inheritance, produced an epic romantic drama in 1949 that is still loved by all romance genre fans.
Divergent (2014) is a successful science fiction movie series based on Veronica Roth’s novel series of the same name and revolves around the life of Tris that sets on a mission to find the cause that makes every ‘divergent’ so dangerous and unacceptable to the society (a society that is divided into various factions).
15. The Double
The Double (2013) is Richard Ayoade’s one of the best pictures to date starring Mia Wasikowska and Jesse Eisenberg that brought to life Fyodor Dostoevsky’s 1846 novel that describes the life of a clerk who encounters a co-worker who though resembles his exact physical characteristics but is totally opposite to his nature; charismatic, confident and seductive with women.
The creative cinematography and brain-teasing screenplay of the film impressed audiences and critics alike.
14. The Fault in Our Stars
John Green’s 2012 romantic novel “The Fault in Our Stars” got adopted by Josh Boone in 2014’s movie with the same name and became an instant success. The plot revolves around two teen cancer patients who meet at a cancer support group and fall in love.
Both Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley shined throughout the film and despite some differences between the novel and the film, the film adaptation was widely praised for bringing to life the original novel very well.
13. The Monuments Men
Although many major World War II battles are very well-preserved in various Hollywood war classics, one of the trickiest real World War 2 related missions was brought to life by George Clooney in the form of The Monuments Men (2014) which was itself a weak adaptation of Robert M. Edsel/Bret Witter’s book; The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History (published in 2009).
This war drama is centered around an Allied forces mission that was conducted to secure precious art masterpieces from the German thieves. It performed well both at the box office and with the critics.
12. Edge of Tomorrow
Based on 2004’s All You Need Is Kill novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Doug Liman’s masterpiece rocked the box office upon its release in 2014, thanks to the stunning performance of Tom Cruise and a witty action-packed screenplay.
The storyline is centered on a not-so-brave military officer that keeps reliving his day each time after getting killed in a war against aliens that only he can win.
11. The Prestige
Christopher Nolan adapted Christopher Priest’s book (published in 1995) of the same name in The Prestige (2006) that depicts the competition between two former partner magicians who compete with each other for creating the ultimate magic trick.
The contest soon takes a darker angle and the brilliant screenplay keeps intact the true nature of this unusual story. The film made both commercial and critical success.
10. Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn’s novel Gone Girl (published in 2012) became an instant classic as soon as it got adapted in Hollywood as Gone Girl (2014) by legendary filmmaker David Fincher.
The film depicts the disappearance of a wife under mysterious circumstances that make her husband (played by Ben Affleck) the prime suspect. The mystery deepens as the plot progresses and the viewers soon discover that there’s much more sinister to the story than what meets the eye initially.
Gone Girl’s adaptation received universal critical and commercial acclaim and is considered to be one of the best-adapted mystery screenplays ever.
The classic novel Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (published in 2010) by Laura Hillenbrand was turned into a film by Angelina Jolie in 2014 staring Jack O’Connell, Domhnall, and Takamasa Ishihara.
The plot revolves around the unprecedented real-life survival story of American Olympian Louis Zamperini during World War 2.
8. Life of Pi
Ang Lee turned Yann Martel’s 2001 book into 2012’s one of the best pictures; Life of Pi, which explores the amazing journey of spirituality and survival of a young boy that survives a catastrophe on the sea only to be stricken with a fearsome adult Bengal tiger.
Starring Irrfan Khan, Suraj Sharma, and Adil Hussain, the film adaption of the novel was a real cinematic achievement and rightfully bagged an Academy Award for the Best Visual Effects along with three other Academy Awards.
7. Household Saints
“Household Saints” hit the big screens in 1993 and was based on Francine Prose’s popular novel (published in 1981). The brilliant performances from all the cast made the movie an instant critic favorite.
The story is about the family dynamics of three generations of daring Italian-American women and their endeavors during the post-Second World War era.
6. The Harry Potter Series
The British-American director, Chris Columbus’s film series adaption (2001-2011) took J.K Rowling’s already popular and epic novel series (published during 1997-2007) to new heights. It is not uncommon to find titles from the Harry Potter film franchise among various online best books turned into movies lists from various critics.
The Harry Potter series is centered on the life of 11 years old orphan wizard Harry Potter, during his stay at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where he faces various challenges and makes new friends and foes.
5. The Green Mile
The 1996’s critically acclaimed fantasy novel by Stephen King got a beautiful film conversion in the form of The Green Mile (1999) by Frank Darabont. The film focuses on the lives of several prison guards and death row prisoners one of whom has a mystifying healing ability.
The graphic executions, magical healing, and an excellent performance from the cast made the film a memorable book-to-film adaptation.
4. To Kill a Mockingbird
Robert Mulligan’s Oscar winner To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) was based on Harper Lee’s novel of the same name (released in 1960) and starred Frank Overton, Gregory Peck, and John Megna. The film showed the defense by a lawyer of a black man who is accused of the rape of a white woman.
The film gracefully handled the hard-boiled subject at its time and highlighted racism in a uniquely aesthetic way.
3. The Silence of the Lambs
The epic thriller film The Silence of the Lambs (1991) is based on Thomas Harris’s book of the same name (published in 1988) and stars Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster in the lead roles.
The film revolves around the struggle of a young inexperienced FBI agent who has to get help from an imprisoned murderer to catch an intelligent serial killer on the loose. The screenplay is a lingering classic and brings to life the real essence of the novel and for this very feat, it rightfully received an Oscar award for Best Adapted Screenplay along with four other major Academy awards.
2. The Lord of the Ring Series
The Middle-earth-centric Peter Jackson’s popular “The Lord of the Rings series” is based on John Ronald Reuel Tolkien’s 1955 novel, and is considered to be one of the best and most ambitious film projects ever.
The Lord Of The Rings series is also counted amongst the highest-grossing film series of all time. It won 17 Academy Awards out of its 30 total nominations, whereas its final installment in the series won all of its 11 Academy Awards nominations.
1. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) was based on Ken Kesey’s novel of the same name (published in 1962) and shows the struggle of a young rebellious criminal who tries to escape the mental institution he has been transferred to from a prison farm.
Directed by Milos Forman, the film featured an unforgettable performance from Jack Nicholson and poured the beautiful soul of the novel into the eternal body of cinema. The film won Academy Awards in all five major categories which itself speaks for the quality of the movie adaptation.
Did we miss any book to film adaptations that should have been a part of our best book to movie adaptations list? Let us know in the comments below!