Novels and movies are two 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 in their film adaptations. Although not every Hollywood book-movie adaptation remains faithful to the original script, the 20 best book to movie adaptations that we are going to list today did manage to preserve the real essence of their source:
30. The Godfather (1972)
The Godfather has a huge following to this day. Based on Mario Puzo’s novel about a mafia family, follow Michael, the youngest son of the empire as he tries to bring about change.
Everyone around him is unsafe as he has to prove that he has what it takes to manage the family business.
29. Jaws (1975)
Not many people know that Jaws is based on a book by Peter Benchley. Steven Spielberg directed an absolute masterpiece and managed to scare many people away from the sea for quite some time.
Jaws created an entire genre based on shark tales.
28. The Shining (1980)
Stephen King worked wonders when he wrote The Shining. Although he did not like the movie adaptations, the film has impacted pop culture to this day.
The dark examination and visuals make it the perfect option for those of you who are drawn to the supernatural.
27. Fight Club (1999)
With Brad Pitt, Jared Leto, and Helena Bonham Carter playing the lead, Fight Club follows a white-collar insomniac who grows tired of his capitalistic lifestyle. To cope with his unhappiness, he forms an underground fight club. However, their venture spirals into something more sinister.
Few are aware that the film is based on Chuck Palahniuk’s novel of the same name published in 1996.
26. Jurassic Park (1993)
Steven Spielberg did a fabulous job directing Jurassic Park, a thriller by Michael Crichton. The film is based on the unpublished novel with the same name by Michael Crichton.
Chaos ensues when the security system of a wildlife park breaks down and causes the cloned dinosaurs to escape. The memorable characters will be engrained in your memory when you give it a watch.
25. Little Women (2019)
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Timothée Chalamet, Emma Watson, and Meryl Streep, the 2019 Little Women is a coming-of-age film adapted by Greta Gerwig.
The March sisters go through all types of ups and downs to make a future of their own.
24. No Country for Old Men (2007)
When a hunter discovers two million dollars after a drug deal, his life takes a turn. With a psychopathic killer out for the money, his life is put at risk and he has to fight to survive.
The movie is packed with action and clever dialogue. It is based on Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name that was published in 2005.
23. Twilight (2008)
Written by Stephanie Meyer, Twilight is a film that helped Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart climb to success. Featuring “Decode”, a song by the well-known band Paramore, the vampire romance novel-turned-film has everything you need from a iconic teen movie.
22. The Hunger Games (2012)
Jennifer Lawrence plays the lead in The Hunger Games which is based on the 2008 novel of the same name by the American author Suzanne Collins.
The movie takes viewers through a dystopian world where people are divided into an upper class and a lower class. Tributes are brought from the lower class and are expected to compete for survival.
21. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)
C.S. Lewis was a true mastermind in creating the world of the Chronicles of Narnia. Although the book was published back in 1950, its movie adaptation was released in 2005.
Go on an adventure as four siblings enter a magical realm and have to fight for their lives.
20. The 39 Steps (1935)
John Buchan’s adventure novel (published in 1915) was adopted in many feature films but the best adaptation came from Alfred Hitchcock in the form of The 39 Steps, 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 (2009)
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.
18. Carrie (1976)
Carrie 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 relationship with her community and her fundamentalist mother. Carrie possesses a unique psychic ability to move things without touching them which, due to a certain turn of events, soon turns into a weapon of horror and destruction.
17. The Heiress (1949)
It’s William Wyler’s 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 that is still loved by all romance genre fans.
16. Divergent (2014)
Divergent 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 who sets on a mission to find the cause that makes every ‘divergent’ so dangerous and unacceptable to society (a society that is divided into various factions).
15. The Double (2013)
The Double is Richard Ayoade’s one of best pictures to date starring Mia Wasikowska and Jesse Eisenberg. It brought to life Fyodor Dostoevsky’s 1846 novel that describes the life of a clerk who encounters a co-worker who resembles his exact physical characteristics but is 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 (2014)
John Green’s 2012 romantic novel “The Fault in Our Stars” was adopted by Josh Boone in the 2014 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 (2014)
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 German thieves. It performed well both at the box office and with the critics.
12. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
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 who keeps reliving his day each time after getting killed in a war against aliens that only he can win.
11. The Prestige (2006)
Christopher Nolan adapted Christopher Priest’s book (published in 1995) of the same name in The Prestige (2006) which 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 was both a commercial and critical success.
10. Gone Girl (2014)
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.
9. Unbroken (2014)
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 starring 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 (2012)
Ang Lee turned Yann Martel’s 2001 book into 2012’s successful film; Life of Pi, which explores the amazing journey of spirituality and survival of a young boy who survives a catastrophe on the sea only to be stricken by 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 Best Visual Effects along with three other Academy Awards.
7. Household Saints (1993)
“Household Saints” was based on Francine Prose’s popular novel (published in 1981). The brilliant performances from 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 (2001-2011)
The British-American director, Chris Columbus’s film series adaption took J.K Rowling’s already popular and epic novel series (published between 1997 and 2007) to new heights. It is not uncommon to find titles from the Harry Potter film franchise among various online best books turned into movie 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 (1999)
The 1996 critically acclaimed fantasy novel by Stephen King got a beautiful film conversion in the form of The Green Mile 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 excellent performance from the cast made the film a memorable book-to-film adaptation.
4. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Robert Mulligan’s Oscar-winner To Kill a Mockingbird 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 of a lawyer for 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 (1991)
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 (2001-2003)
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 among 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 (1975)
One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest 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!
- The Da Vinci Code (2006)
- Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
- The Maze Runner (2015)
- Alice in Wonderland (2010)
What are your favorite book to movie adaptations that we have missed? Let us know in the comments!