thoughts//TOP TEN MOVIES ADAPTED FROM BOOKS

TOP TEN

This weekend sees the release of the eagerly-anticipated film adaptation of the bestselling young adult novel The Fault in Our Stars and a manga adaptation Edge of Tomorrow. Like other book-to-film adaptations before it, TFIOS is a widely-loved story and fans of the book will undoubtedly be scouring the film for things they find wrong with it. So far, critics have said that the film is a pretty stellar take on the story and that it gets most things right. Edge of Tomorrow isn't as well-known, but the film is already receiving some major praise from critics for its unrelenting action and originality (despite the fact that it's based on a book).
It's always a tough sell when a highly beloved book becomes a feature film. The Twilight series had its fair share critics (both of the adaptation and the fact that it was a cheesy young adult love story). The Harry Potter series has received pretty solid raves. The Perks of Being a Wallflower almost earned an Academy Award nomination. The Wizard of Oz and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory are both based on books. And, people are already fuming over the trailers for August's The Giver.

No matter how passionate you feel about a book or story, there's something exciting and scary about seeing it come to life on the big screen. Hopefully, TFIOS lives up to the expectations. In the mean time, take a look at these other great films that originally came to life on the printed page.

10. FORREST GUMP (1994), based on the book Forrest Gump by Winston Groom
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Starring Tom Hanks, Sally Field, Gary Sinise, Robin Wright Penn

The story of a simple man and his unabashed love for a girl named Jenny, Forrest Gump captured the world upon its release in 1994. The year alone was a big year for movies. This, plus The Shawkshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction are testament enough to what was going on in Hollywood at the time. But, it was Tom Hanks performance as the titular Forrest Gump that quickly turned this film into an American classic. The film was originated as a novel by Winston Groom. Published in 1986, the book found some acclaim. It's the movie, however, that has stood the test of time. Gump's legacy can be felt everywhere from the town squares of Savannah, GA, to the Bubba Gump restaurants located in touristy towns all over.

9. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007), based on the book No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen
Starring Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Javier BardemWoody Harrelson

Drug deals gone wrong. The American West. The Coen brothers' dark and twisted modern-western perfectly captured the dry bones feel of American desert. While the Coen's are already masters of atmosphere and clever intrigue, Cormac McCarthy's novel is a modern American classic in the realm of literature. The film brings to life ever subtle piece of the book's story. And Javier Bardem's turn as the elusive Anton Chigurh makes him one of cinemas best baddies. 2007 was a dark year for film and one of the last to produce only 5 Academy Award Best Picture nominees. No Country for Old Men ended up walking away with the award, very deserving.

8. STAND BY ME (1986), based on the book The Body by Stephen King
Directed by Rob Reiner
Starring River Phoenix, Jerry O'Connell, Kiefer Sutherland

It's hard to find another movie that showcases the joys and hardships of coming-of-age. Stand By Me follows a group of best friends and misfits who go on a search for a dead body. Reiner's classic works on many levels, mostly thanks to the incredible work done by the young cast. Most of the young cast has gone on to find fame. It was River Phoenix who really struck a chord. Sadly, he wouldn't have too long of a career. Stand By Me is one of those movies that makes you appreciate your own childhood. It is full of the same spirit and fear that you balance as a kid. King's book The Body was a seminal hit, but it's the film that has made a cultural impact.

7. SENSE AND SENSIBILITY (1995), based on the book Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Directed by Ang Lee
Starring Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkinson, Hugh Grant

Emma Thompson won an Oscar for her work as screenwriter on this adaptation of the classic Austen novel. Kate Winslet received her first Oscar nomination. And, modern audiences fell in love with Jane Austen all over again. The story ranks up there with Pride and Prejudice as books that seem romantic to read, but become incredibly daunting. This adaptation brings the classic story of finding joy in the midst of despair to the big screen in an attainable way. Thompson's script allows the literature to live, but not in an overwhelming way. Being able to bring authors like Jane Austen into the modern lexicon shows that this film deserves all of the credit it's received. Unfortunately, we wouldn't see another classic like this brought to the screen in a credible way until 10 years later with Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice.

6. GONE WITH THE WIND (1939), based on the book Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Directed by Victor Fleming
Starring Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Hattie McDaniel

Margaret Mitchell's epic story of a Southern belle and her unrequited love for a debonair Southern gentleman during the Civil War won the Pulitzer Prize after it was released in 1937. The beloved book was immediately swept up by Hollywood and turned into the most expensive film in Hollywood history, at the time. Its release came with much fanfare and controversy after the segregated South was chosen as the film's premiere location (it would make sense to premiere it in Atlanta where much of the film takes place). The film is full of sweeping cinematography and incredible sets only the days of Hollywood's golden past could create. When watching the film now, it's kind of refreshing to see what good, solid hard work can create. Technology is great, but could you imagine having to physically create most of sets we see today? Gable was already a star at the time and Leigh became one thanks to this film, generally regarded as the greatest of all time.

5. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (1975), based on the book One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
Directed by Milos Forman
Starring Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd

Jack Nicholson is a Hollywood legend. He's created some of cinema's zaniest characters, from Jack Torrance in The Shining to the Joker in Batman. But, it's his turn as R.P. McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest that really put an impression on an entire generation of filmgoers. Nicholson's McMurphy is a rebel among the patients of an insane asylum. His brash actions and witty dialogue makes you wonder exactly why someone so "cool" would end up as a patient there, but Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) doesn't think twice. The struggle between the two is almost romantic. Almost as tantalizing as Nicholson's performance is that of the supporting cast. Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd are just two of the memorable characters we meet. The story is a cross between heart aching brilliance and uncontrollable drama.

4. SCHINDLER'S LIST (1993), based on the book Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Starring Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kinglsey

Spielberg had already become a name equal with quality by the time Schindler's List premiered. The film follows Oskar Schindler (Neeson) as he becomes increasingly concerned for his Jewish workers as the Nazi regime moves into Poland and begins persecuting Jews. The story is a harrowing account of the bravery and humbleness of one of WWII's heroes. Spielberg, who was mostly known at the time for family-friendly adventure films, didn't hold back in the form of storytelling. The film is lengthy, like the book on which it is based, but the payoff is worth it. Filmed in black and white, Schindler's List was not your conventional studio release, but it became a hit worldwide. Despite its gruesome scenes and unflinching portrayals of WWII's evils, the film is actually a story of redemption and salvation. Seeing the real-life characters visiting Schindler's grave at the end of the film brings the entire story full circle.

3. FIGHT CLUB (1999), based on the book Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
Directed by David Fincher
Starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter

When David Fincher introduced to the world Se7en a director was born. He's since been responsible for some incredible films like The Social Network and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but it's Fight Club that really shows what kind of powerhouse auteur he really is. Based on the Chuck Palahniuk book of the same name, Fight Club follows an office worker (Pitt) and a soap maker (Norton) who form an underground fight club that evolves into something greater than either were expecting. The idea is that we learn most about ourselves in how we handle struggle. Fincher's world is a telling sign of what book adaptations can be, utilizing every ounce of the narrative in the same way Palahniuk wrote. Stylish and mesmerizing, Fight Club was a huge hit when it was released and has held solid since. It's become the epitome of late-90s films, much in line with other notable society flicks like American Beauty. It's an action film for the art world and an introduction to what modern literature can do.

2. THE SHINING (1980), based on the book The Shining by Stephen King
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd

Kubrick's take on any film is one to be seen. The director has such a clear vision that even his "worst" films are something to be studied and celebrated. Many fans of Stephen King's novel were not pleased with this adaptation (including King, himself), but there's something to be said about taking a horror novel and giving it such a resonant glimpse. Nicholson stars as Jack Torrance, one of his many notable film roles (see number 5), a family man and author who takes his family to an isolated hotel for the winter. Duvall stars as his wife, the doting Wendy. When strange spiritual events begin to occur, Jack loses his mind in every sense of the phrase. Chasing Wendy around with an ax is just one peak in the story's pacing. Lloyd, as the precocious Danny, Jack and Wendy's son, is every bit the look of innocence, despite his own psychic-riddled episodes. The Shining makes a lot of sense on the surface, but doesn't upon its delivery. Visions and scenes become glimpses into an intriguing and disturbing world. The film has been studied for years and rightfully so. Kubrick could be trying to say more than it seems at the surface, or he could be pulling the biggest prank of all.

1. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962), based on the book To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Directed by Robert Mulligan
Starring Gregory Peck, Ruth White, John Megna, Mary Badham, Robert Duvall

Arguably one of the greatest films of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird is widely remarked as one of the most honest adaptations in film history. The film respectfully holds tight to the story, written by Harper Lee, that has become one of the most read books of all time and an excellent example of American literature. Peck stars as Atticus Finch, an attorney who splits his time between courtrooms and raising his two children. When he lands the job to represent and defend a black man who has been charged for a rape he didn't commit, Finch must decide how to approach the topic while living in and among the people of the Depression-era South. Prejudice runs rampant around the Alabama town and Finch's greatest challenge comes in trying to instill acceptance in the eyes of his children. Lee's book won the Pulitzer Prize after its release and the film was equally praised, earning Peck an Academy Award. The film has become a staple amongst film historians and critics who frequently include it in their lists of greatest films. Scenes from the film have become the stepping stones for the power in an influential screen shot. It's hard to escape the power of this film and its characters. 

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