10 Book-to-Film Adaptations Worth Revisiting

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This weekend, Emily Blunt’s new film The Girl on the Train rolled into theaters. The movie is based on the best-selling book by Paula Hawkins, which has prompted us to revisit some other books that set the stage for worthwhile movies…

Fight Club

Love it or hate it, this book by Chuck Palahniuk left an indelible mark when it arrived in 1996 and its subsequent film adaptation, starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, somehow upped the ante on the big, subversive ideas at work in the novel. Besides boasting twisted imagery and a scathing critique of American materialism, this one will forever change the way you feel about soap.

Blade Runner

Based on Philip K. Dick’s novella Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Ridley Scott’s 1982 adaptation has become a hallmark in both the sci-fi and noir genres for it’s melding of brilliant chiaroscuro lighting, jaw-dropping visions of a future world, and posing some existential questions through Deckard’s (Harrison Ford) mission to rid Earth of the replicants running amok.

Jurassic Park

If you didn’t read Michael Crichton’s beloved book, you most certainly saw the movie. The tale of an island getting overrun with long-extinct dinosaurs was a sensation. It’s no wonder Steven Spielberg was eager to bring the one-of-a-kind story to the big screen. While the book allowed for taut, thrilling moments, the film allowed the filmmakers to actually show audiences these terrible lizards with everything from CGI, to practical effects, to sound design; crafting a film that has stood the test of time.

Forrest Gump

Didn’t know this was a book first, did you? Before Tom Hanks earned his second Oscar for the now-classic role, the book had only sold roughly 30,000 copies. But the story’s hero — a simple-minded optimist from Alabama bumbling though great moments in American history — struck a chord with film-goers, suggesting that priceless wisdom doesn’t always come from the smartest guys in the room.

The Shining

Although Stephen King’s novels and short stories have been adapted about as much as anyone, Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of his novel The Shining reigns supreme. The film is teeming with bizarre and terrifying images that stick with viewers long after the credits roll. Kubrick didn’t concern himself with the novel’s backstory. Instead he worked to create cerebral, chilling moments and a pervasive sense of dread that culminated with the axe-wielding Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) hacking his way around the Overlook Hotel.

Jaws

Like Forrest Gump, perhaps not everyone has given Peter Benchley’s novel a read, but we’re willing to bet you know John Williams’ unnerving score hailing the arrival of the film’s rogue shark. Spielberg managed to turn a gruesome summer read into a harrowing adventure with an ancient predator at its center. This terrifying blockbuster has kept cinephiles from venturing out into the water for decades.

Harry Potter

It’s noteworthy when a movie manages to grasp and enhance the ideas at work in a book, but what about seven books? Now that’s an achievement. On the page, J.K. Rowling’s fantastical language ignites the imagination. In the films, the alliterative and bombastic wordsmithery takes on a life of its own. But it wasn’t just the language of the movies that worked. From Williams’ unforgettable score, to the elaborate sets, to the three actors who grew up on screen, the books made for immersive and enchanting cinematic adventures.

The Godfather

While Mario Puzo’s novel introduced English-speaking readers to the Italian mafia, Francis Ford Coppola’s film set a new standard for the medium. Beyond Marlon Brando’s lauded turn as the titular mobster and family man, the film introduced audiences to a new generation of seminal actors including John Cazale, Al Pacino, James Caan and Robert Duvall and raked in countless awards. Not to mention coining several of the most-quoted lines in film history.

Silence of the Lambs

Try to imagine pizza without the crunchy crust. Or maybe liver and fava beans without a nice Chianti. That’s Thomas Harris’ prose without Anthony Hopkins’ terrifying performance as Hannibal Lector, the psychiatrist and cannibal at the heart of this Academy Award-winning adaptation. It’s also worth mentioning that director Jonathan Demme’s use of patriotic imagery in the film added a commentary and a visual language that made this tale all the more troubling.

Lord of the Rings

There’s a reason no one adapted J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic trilogy until 2001. Up until then, technology couldn’t summon the kind of sweeping, transportive imagery the books convey. Peter Jackson’s films (not including The Hobbit prequels) managed to balance dozens of characters, breathtaking computer effects and an intimate struggle between good and evil that explains why the books have been staples for generations.