Now, for those who have read my reviews for a while, you may know that I am a big fan of both movies and books. I love to read, and I love to jump into films, so it is easy to be interested by movies based on novels. There have been so many of them through the years, and recent years have seen a boom in young adult novels being adapted to screen, often in films series’. There have been other genres too, with popular novels like Gone Girl being adapted to a big budget movie. Here, I look at what I feel are ten of the best movies that have been adapted from books. Now, obviously, I haven’t seen “all movies based on books”, nor do I like all of them. This, like all the lists I compile on the site, is my opinion, but I welcome your thoughts. Feel free to comment below with your views and choices. So, let’s get going.
1 – The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
The most famous and popular book series of all time became arguably the most famous and popular movie series of all time. Penned by J.K. Rowling, the seven book series became eight high-grossing and super-popular movies that mixed action and adventure with fantasy, science fiction and drama. With a huge cast, the films were huge and remain some of the best in their respective genre. A boy wizard grows up and finds himself in a battle between good and evil against a wizard gone bad. Amazing books and completely brilliant films, it’s hard not to love what Rowling created here, perhaps that’s why everyone has at least heard of the series, and most people who have read and watched it, love it too.
2 – The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The top of the heap when it comes to fantasy, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are classic literary fiction, and thanks to Peter Jackson, a phenomenal cast, and some truly amazing and ground-breaking visual effects work, the films are among the most popular adaptations ever made. Six films based on four books, these movies are epic adventure stories with deep and powerful scenes inside. While some fans dispute the films, and some find that there are too many things missing that were part of the books, there are still millions of people who love these movies, and I am one of them. Entertaining and truly visually flabbergasting.
3 – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
Featuring one of two of Jack Nicholson’s finest roles (the other also being on this list, actually), Cuckoo’s Nest is a classic of 70’s cinema that features tremendous performances in a setting that works wonderfully at creating dark humour and sympathetic drama. With a cast who do a magnificent job, and brilliant writing, this is a true cinematic classic, and one I continue to revisit all these years later.
4 – The Godfather by Mario Puzo
What can you say about The Godfather? Honestly? This is a classic novel, and, likely more-so, a classic movie. With iconic and flabbergasting performances from it’s incredible cast. Most people have seen the film, and it is so well received. I haven’t actually read the novel, so this is a bit of a cheat, because I have read the others on the list, but I couldn’t leave this out, it felt wrong to even consider it. Epic, in the truest sense of the word.
5 – Stand by Me by Stephen King
The ultimate coming of age story, Stand by Me is one of those films that is impossible to forget once you’ve seen it. A full on kick in the chest with its nostalgia and reminiscence, it points at childhood, at simpler times, at growing up, at friendship and loyalty and how we change as we get older. With standout performances from the late River Phoenix and Wil Wheaton, Stand by Me is one of the very best King adaptations. There have been some damn poor ones (Thinner) and some great ones (The Green Mile), and this is among the greats, possibly the very best. The train track scene is still one of the most memorable in film history for me. Brilliant.
6 – The Shining by Stephen King
The second King adaptation on this list, and I couldn’t ignore either of them. The Shining is, simply put, one of the greatest films ever made. Think I’m over-reacting? Watch it, and then watch it another twenty times, and tell me you aren’t still as intrigued and captivated as you were the first time. A film that shows something new each time you view it, and with another spectacular Nicholson performance, this has so many iconic scenes that it would take too long to list them all. The hallway, the elevator, the maze, the bathtub, the typewriter, the axe. Just amazing.
7 – Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally
A hard book to read, and a hard movie to view, yet completely necessary and important. In my view, the movie, starring Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson, is one of the best films ever made. It brings tears to the eyes and a frustrated lump in the throat, with performances that are absolutely incredible. The black and white, with irregular splashes of colour, works brilliantly, and it harrowing at times. There’s little to say about this that hasn’t already been said. It’s a vital film.
8 – The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
A young adult novel that is written in journal entries, this is one I have grown to love. The book is an original and fresh take on growing up, of dealing with teenage life, high school, love. The film does the same, and with energetic and warm performances from Ezra Miller, Emma Watson and Logan Lerman, it takes the content of the book and creates an excellent indie drama out of it. The film was directed by the author of the novel too, something that undoubtedly helped with the process and the strength of the adaptation.
9 – Dracula by Bram Stoker
A classic horror novel that has spawned endless spin-off’s, variations, influenced titles and even, arguably, a whole genre. The book, hard to read initially for me, is undoubtedly a class-act and is a truly magnificent piece of literature. Movie-wise, I went with the Universal Monster manifestation starring Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula. Iconic, brooding and gothic, it is one of those films in which each frame could be a photograph. Just brilliant.
10 – The Road by Cormac McCarthy
One of my favourite books of all time, The Road by Cormac McCarthy is a dark, poignant, sad and potentially hopeful story about a father and a son who travel the vast wastelands of post apocalyptic America in order to find some sort of hope for a future amidst pure disintegration. The movie adaptation is very loyal to the literature, and the performance from the minimal cast is great, especially Viggo Mortensen as the father. It’s heart-breaking, but it’s bloody fantastic. I recommend reading the book first because, while I love the film, the book is the better story of the two, and works better in that order in my view.