Sometimes Hollywood just gets it right. Adapting a book to make a film is no easy feat, it involves having an extensive knowledge of the material as well as the author’s vision. Also, how do you choose which book or short story to adapt? Do you choose the easiest one or do you choose the most popular one? I’m not sure that either of these rules apply – I mean, someone made Cloud atlas!! – But what I can detail is my top 10 best movie adaptations to date.
10. The Road (Book by Cormac McCarthy)
The Road tells the story of ‘Man’ and ‘Boy’ who are father and son and are living in a post-apocalyptic United States and the landscape is nought but ash. The main source of food is human flesh and so life has, once again, become sacred. The Road won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was a literary success. The film was directed by John Hillcoat and starred Strider, I mean, Viggo Mortensen as ‘Man’ and Kodi Smit-McPhee as ‘Boy’. The film was slightly successful in terms of numbers (it grossed $27.5 million at the box office on a $25 million budget). But the real win was that the essence of the book was captured within the movie. It would be easy to throw a load of cannibals in there and have them tear people limb from limb but that was not McCarthy’s vision. This instead focuses on the purity of a relationship in a world that is striving to tear them apart.
14. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep – Short story by Philip K Dick
Philip K Dick is responsible for a lot of sci-fi adaptations (others may yet still make this list) that have been picked up by big studios and portrayed by superstar actors. One such film is ‘Blade Runner’ (1982). Harrison Ford jumped on board (I’m a poet and I didn’t know it) for the film and lent it some real star quality. If I’m being honest though, it didn’t really need it because the adaptation was absolutely perfect.
8. The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer
I really enjoyed the Twilight Saga (with the exception of ‘New Moon’) and actually bought into the characters and their world. I wasn’t as keen on the movies and didn’t really go nuts for it. The films were decent and I do think that the characters were cast well, even Kristen Stewart and some of her more ‘amdram’ moments. This saga went CRAZY when it hit the big screen and fans in their hundreds of millions have now seen these films. A positive offshoot of that is the book sales, I am an advocate of buying books (obviously) and am over the moon (pardon the pun) that these have risen.
7. Silence of the Lambs
The book was great and the character of Hannibal Lecter could not have been portrayed any better. The line, “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti” will live long in the memory. Another iconic feature of the film is Hannibal Lecter’s mask, damn that thing was freaky. Clarice Starling’s character was fleshed out excellently by Jodie Foster and she was brilliant alongside Anthony Hopkins. The film was nominated for 7 Academy Awards and won 5. Nuff said.
6. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
This is a book-cum-movie that attracted a huge cult following. The book covers one man’s psychosis and his alter ego. He joins/creates a fight club and starts to act out of character, finding different ways to escape his mundane day-to-day life. There is a BIG reveal at the end and it works on every level. Brad Pitt does OK in the movie but, for me, Edward Norton steals it. I find Norton to be massively underrated as an actor but, in fight club, he shows off all of his talents.
5. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Pulitzer Prize winning book starred Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, a lawyer who takes on the task of defending a black farm hand accused of murder. I love this book and adore the film. The observations given through (Atticus’ daughter) Jem’s perspective are just phenomenal and the genius in the book is well documented. My favourite character is Dolphus Raymond as he symbolises some of the thinking at the time – and maybe even now. He doesn’t agree with society’s perceptions and judgements so takes a passive stance and creates an excuse for his non-compliance. It is subtle but brilliant.
4. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
The hunger games is now the beacon for YA dystopia novels as its adaptation into movie form has been so successful. The books are excellently written and I flew through them. Katniss Everdeen’s characters was really interesting and even though I did get frustrated with her at times (her naivety runs for too long) I loved her. Jennifer Lawrence embodies her brilliantly in the movies and the ‘world’ is created wonderfully. What I also love about the characters in the movie is the actors portraying them – getting Woody Harrelson on board was a master stroke and his portrayal as Haymitch Abernathy is perfect.
3. Harry Potter And The…Franchise? By JK Rowling
What could I possibly day about this franchise that hasn’t already been written? Pure brilliance. This franchise has captured the imagination of adults, teens, and children and is set to continue its expansion with the soon to be released ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ which is set 70 years before the previous Harry Potter stories. The books were great, the films were great, and Harry Potter is GREAT!
2. The Godfather by Mario Puzo
“…you come into my house on the day my daughter is to be married, and you ask me to do murder for money”Excellent. The book was fantastic and the movie was on a different level, Marlon Brando really earned his money with this one but the question that always burns on my mind is ‘How could he have cotton wool in his mouth all of the time?’ the squeaking would just be unbearable for me. Nevertheless, brilliant action scenes mixed with first-rate story-telling mean that this has become the go-to for wannabe Mafia/gangster movies.
1. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carré
The story of ‘The Circus’ (British Intelligence) and its many moving parts, set in the cold war era. All I can say is that I loved this. Gary Oldman as George Smiley is just terrific and Colin Firth has ‘slimy’ down to a tee. The film is shot beautifully and has some excellent supporting cast members including; Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark strong, John Hurt, and a superb Tom Hardy. I have put this film in first place because I think its fantastic and because it wasn’t driven by any major campaigns such as Harry Potter or the Hunger Games. This adaptation relies purely on the director’s vision and the fantastic array of British acting talent on show, who all bring their qualities to the fore.
Honourable Mentions (Those that just missed out but would be in my Top 20)
- American Psycho
- The Shining
- The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
- Stand By Me
So what did you think? Do you have any favourites that did not make the lost? Please comment and share 🙂