Top 10 Novel To Film Adaptations


Two very different mediums can lead to two very different results, it’s long been known that adapting a successful novel into movie form doesn’t automatically lead to great success. For every Twilight there’s the underwhelming performance of something like The Golden Compass. There are many good signs that the latest hot franchise to swell the coffers of Hollywood will be The Hunger Games (main image) so I thought it a good time to recall my favourite novel to film adaptations and to offer them up for debate, criticism and/or dismissal. Sadly, there are many works missing here that I felt just didn’t make the grade but that deserve a mention anyway – films based on the writings of Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Dickens, Philip K. Dick, John Grisham, Clive Barker, Ian Fleming, etc. Please feel free to mention your own favourites in reply.

#1 Jaws (1975)

Jaws remains my favourite film of all time and is also one of the best examples of a film that exceeds the quality of the source novel, a pulpy take on “Moby Dick” with a lot of unnecessary soap opera moments added by author Peter Benchley. Spielberg managed to cut to the core and focus on the better aspects of the novel, shedding plenty of dead weight and essentially creating the epitome of the modern blockbuster in the process.

#2 The Godfather (1972)

The novel by Mario Puzo is loved by many. The film, however, is almost unanimously embraced by fans of quality cinema and remains the pinnacle of the gangster movie.

#3 Trainspotting (1996)

A great novel, mixing the profane with the hilarious, made into a great movie, helped by some canny choices in the soundtrack selection.

#4 High Fidelity (2000)

“Oh no”, people cried out when they discovered that High Fidelity the movie was taking High Fidelity the book and transposing it to America. Location change aside, this remains the very best Nick Hornby adaptation to date, just edging ahead of the superb About A Boy.

#5 Stand By Me (1986)

Based on “The Body”, a novella by Stephen King that appears in the “Different Seasons” collection, Rob Reiner took enjoyable and nostalgic moments from the material and created an enjoyable and nostalgic movie. “Different Seasons” also contained the original stories that formed the basis for the equally impressive Apt Pupil and The Shawshank Redemption and is well worth a read.

#6 Harry Potter & The Prisoner Of Azkaban (2004)

The third book in the series is still often cited as a favourite among fans. Things remain enjoyable and magical but darkness also starts to encroach upon Hogwarts, wonderfully depicted on film by director Alfonso Cuaron.

#7 The Grifters (1990)

Jim Thompson is fantastic at writing about people you wouldn’t really want to spend time with. The Killer Inside Me is another great adaptation of his pitch-black work but The Grifters is jaw-droppingly brilliant. Seriously, watch this now if you haven’t seen it already.

#8 The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

It may appear, on the surface, to be nothing more than a sun-soaked piece of disposable fun but The Lincoln Lawyer is, arguably, the best adaptation of a Michael Connelly novel yet.

#9 Shutter Island (2010)

Dennis Lehane’s novel is handled with great care by Martin Scorsese, a cinema maestro having fun and mixing thrills with scenes full of strange beauty.

#10 Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

The John Le Carre novel, previously adapted for TV some years ago, became one of the most highly regarded films of 2011. And deservedly so.

Now, I think I’m off to read for a little while. In between more movies, of course.

  1. Keith Beard says

    Certain genres appeal to me more as films, I guess out of that list the only ones I would really want to read in novel form is the Grifters, High Fidelty (which I have already read), TTSS and Shutter island.

    High Fidelty is just one of my most enjoyable and quotable watches. Love he it merges romantic comedy but from a male perspective and darker deadpan humour with passion for music.

    Tinker, Talior just stands out as a masterful thriller unlike most things you see from the genre now.

  2. Kevin Matthews says

    I used to be a big reader but the movies have taken over more and more and so now I look on with jealousy as my wife tears through a book every couple of days.

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