Many books have been made into movies since the silent picture era. Most film adaptations usually fall short of expectations, because moviegoers expect the film to follow the book exactly. That is not always possible due to time constraints, budgeting and other issues. Filmmakers do their best to follow the essence of a book. There are those exceptions where a successful book makes the transition to the silver screen magically. We’ll take a look at ten film adaptations from best-selling books where both the book and film were highly successful with critics or at the box office or both. Many have been nominated for Oscars while a few have won Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
10.) The Color Purple (1985) Alice Walker
Based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning epistolary novel about a young woman named Celie, the main character in the book and film. It chronicles her struggles as an African American during the early 1900s in the South through a series of letters. However, in the film her letters and thoughts are reenacted. The book and film follow each other remarkably. “The Color Purple” novel has been at the center of controversy for constantly being challenged by school systems and libraries for its violence, racism and sexual content. The film adaptation was nominated for 11 Academy Awards.
9.) To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) Lee Harper
Here is another novel about racism in the South set in the 1930s. It was the author’s one and only published book from 1960. Lee Harper’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” is yet another novel challenged by teachers, parents and other concerned citizens for its content. This Pulitzer Prize-winning book is considered a classic of American literature. Naturally certain characters and storylines have been changed or omitted in the film adaptation, but the core of each medium is about a lawyer who is a public defender and his two children. Atticus Finch must defend a black man accused of rape.
8.) L.A. Confidential (1997) James Ellroy
One of my favorite films where it chronicles featured members of the Los Angeles Police Department during the 1950s. The film and neo-noir crime novel deal with police corruption and Hollywood celebrities against the backdrop of the famed tabloid magazine Hush-Hush fashioned after the real tabloid called “Confidential”. These were the YouTubes, blogs and other online/media gossip columns of the day.
James Ellroy’s “L.A. Confidential” was part of the L.A. Quartet novel cycle series that included another film adaptation “The Black Dahlia”. “L.A. Confidential” was nominated in several categories at the Academy Awards including Best Picture. It did win two Oscars for Best Supporting Actress and Best Screenplay (Adapted).
7.) Gone With the Wind (1939) Margaret Mitchell
Considered one of the greatest and most popular films of all time set right before the start of the Civil War, during the war and Reconstruction afterwards. The main character, Scarlett O’ Hara, is fiercely independent, outspoken and rebellious for a Southern belle. Those qualities that ostracized her from society help her through extremely difficult times during and after the war. It was the only major publication from the author Margaret Mitchell.
“Gone with the Wind” won the Pultizer Prize in 1937. The book has gone on to become one of the most popular books of all time. Its film version was nominated for 13 Academy Awards and won 8 Oscars for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Hattie MacDaniel,. She was the first African American actress to win an Oscar.
6.) The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Stephen King
Adapted from Stephen King’s novella “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” comes this film that stars Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in powerful performances onscreen. It takes place at a prison in Maine called Shawshank State Penitentiary. When the film first came out it was not a box office hit, even though it was nominated for several Oscars including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Morgan Freeman.
Its later success was due in part to its broadcast on cable television, plus VHS and DVD rentals. The novella or short novel was published as a book titled “Different Seasons” that included four stories which also featured “Stand By Me” which was later made into a film. Rita Hayworth is a movie poster the main character uses as a ruse in his prison cell.
5.) Brokeback Mountain (2005) Annie Proulx
Spanning a twenty year period from 1963 to 1983 tells the tale of two men from out west dealing with a difficult and complicated relationship filled with sexual tension for one another. Both of them have wives, yet they find time with one another during their weekend excursions. This short story was originally published in The New Yorker magazine by Annie Proulx, a journalist and author. Later on it would be published in a collection of short stories titled “Close Range: Wyoming Stories.” The film won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.
4.) Blade Runner (1982) Philip K. Dick
The film is based loosely on the science fiction novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick, an American novelist and short story writer. It takes place in 2019 anti-utopia Los Angeles where replicants, engineered robots that look exactly like humans, have landed on earth. This planet is off limits to them. Their function is to work the dangerous, laborious or pleasure seeking off world colonies.
Harrison Ford plays the detective whose mission is to track them down. This is one of my favorite sci-fi, futuristic type films of all time. It is considered a cult classic even though it did poorly at the box office initially. Some have regarded it as one of the best movies made in the neo-noir genre. Interestingly, the book is set in the future in 1992 though it was published in 1968.
3.) One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) Ken Kesey
It was written initially as a novel by Ken Kesey about an asylum set in Oregon. The novel was published in 1962. The following year it was made into a successful Broadway play that starred Kirk Douglas as the main character, McMurphy. Then in 1975 it was adapted into a film version where Kirk Douglas had retained the rights during its Broadway run.
Kirk Douglas’ son, Michael Douglas, was one of the producers of the film. The book and film explore the very gritty and realistic look at state mental institutions as well as the human mind. The title comes from a nursery rhyme. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is only one of three films in the Academy Awards’ history to win all five Oscars in the major categories of Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Writing Adapted Screenplay.
2.) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Trilogy – 2001, 2002 & 2003) J.R.R Tolkien
This is a high fantasy novel written between 1954-1955 from University of Oxford professor, J. R.R. Tolkien where the story is actually a sequel to “The Hobbit” It is a volume of a two-volume set though the film version was broken down into a trilogy. The second film title is “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” and its third installment “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”Tolkien’s novel is considered one of the most popular and influential works of fantasy literature during the 20t century. The film’s last installment won 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.
1.) The Godfather (1972) Mario Puzo
Mario Puzo’s crime novel about a fictious Sicilian Mafia family, The Corleones was adapted into a critically acclaimed, highly successful film in the early ’70s. The film ranks at number three behind “Casablanca” and Citizen Kane” as AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies. One thing the book and film did was introduce readers and audiences to the Mafia underworld.
It won numerous Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor (that was refused by Marlon Brando) and Best Adapted Screenplay. A sequel was made that was equal in its success. “The Godfather Part II” also won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Robert DeNiro as the young Don Corleone and Best Adapted Screenplay.
You can purchase these books and DVDs at www.amazon.com to enjoy for yourself. See why many of these films have won Oscars for its screenplay adaptations from their books. It may not be exactly like the novel or short story, but it’s still a worthy adaptation
Rod Collins, “The Best Film Adaptations of Books”, Rod Collins
Yahoo! Movies, Yahoo!
The Free Encyclopedia, Wikipedia
Amazon Books, Amazon
The Internet Movie Database, IMDb