Top 15 Book-to-Movie Adaptations

tokillamockingbird

I agree with Buzzfeed when it picked “To Kill a Mockingbird” as the best book-to-movie adaptation of all time. Buzzfeed listed the top 23 adaptations based on their readers’ favorites. Those who “voted” for the movies that made the list were not necessarily comparing them with the novels.

When I see a list like this, I inevitably end up making my own list! I’ve come up with my top 15 book-to-movie adaptations based on how well the directors interpreted the novels in film. The movie may not be 100 percent faithful to the book, but it successfully preserved the novel’s essence.


For example, sixth on my list is Alfred Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train.” Hitchcock changed the ending of Patricia Highsmith’s excellent thriller, but overall, the movie captured the book’s spirit.

StrangersonatrainHere are my 15 favorite book-to-movie adaptations. See how this list stacks up against your own list.

  1. “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962, directed by Robert Mulligan; novel by Harper Lee)
  2. “A Room with a View” (1985, directed by James Ivory; novel by E.M. Forster)
  3. “Pride and Prejudice” (1995, miniseries, directed by Simon Langton; novel by Jane Austen)
  4. “A River Runs Through It” (1992, directed by Robert Redford; novella by Norman Maclean)
  5. “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991, directed by Jonathan Demme; novel by Thomas Harris)
  6. “Strangers on a Train” (1951, directed by Alfred Hitchock; novel by Patricia Highsmith)
  7. “The Age of Innocence” (1993, directed by Martin Scorsese; novel by Edith Wharton)
  8. “The Painted Veil” (2006, directed by John Curran; novel by W. Somerset Waughm)
  9. “True Grit” (2010, directed by the Ethan and Joel Coen; novel by Charles Portis)
  10. “Revolutionary Road” (2008, directed by Sam Mendes; novel by Richard Yates)
  11. “Gone with the Wind” (1939, directed by Victor Fleming; novel by Margaret Mitchell)
  12. “The Help” (2011, directed by Tate Taylor; novel by Kathryn Stockett)
  13. ‘Ordinary People” (1980, directed by Robert Redford; novel by Judith Guest)
  14. “Shutter Island” (2010, directed by Martin Scorsese; novel by Dennis Lehane)
  15. “The Lovely Bones” (2009, directed by Peter Jackson; novel by Alice Sebold)

Buzzfeed’s 23 Best Book-to-Movie Adaptations

Some of these movies/books, such as “Harry Potter,” “Life of Pi,” and “Lord of the Rings,” are immediately off my list because I don’t read those genres.

Of all the selections on Buzzfeed’s list, I disagree with one: “High Fidelity,” ranked 17th. I enjoyed Nick Hornsby’s book, but not the movie. The biggest disappointment for me was the change in setting from London to Chicago. Nick Hornsby has a distinctly charming voice; he’s funny and witty. It’s the reason I read his novels. The movie simply failed to capture the Hornsby charm and voice by Americanizing the story.

Here is the Buzzfeed list:

  1. “To Kill a Mockingbird”
  2. “Silence of the Lambs”
  3. “Fight Club”
  4. “Princess Bride”
  5. “The Orchid Thief”
  6. “Harry Potter”
  7. “Howl’s Moving Castle”
  8. “Requiem for a Dream”
  9. “Little Women”
  10. “Life of Pi”
  11. “Pride and Prejudice”
  12. “The English Patient”
  13. “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”
  14. “Everything is Illuminated”
  15. “The Virgin Suicides”
  16. “Snow Falling on Cedars”
  17. “High Fidelity”
  18. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”
  19. “The Road”
  20. “Lord of the Rings”
  21. “Great Expectations”
  22. “Solaris”
  23. “Apocalypse Now”

To read Buzzfeed’s list, click here.

 

 

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6 Comments

  1. One thing I harp on endlessly about as a critic, and it’s reflected both in your list and Buzzfeed’s, is that straight, chronological narratives are far easier to adapt “faithfully” into movies. These “best” lists will always illustrate it. Films are designed for consumption like a meal in a restaurant, with the courses in order, at a pace the eater doesn’t control. Being able to own and view movies at home alters the control over consumption, but it hasn’t changed the way they are made.

    Books aren’t all like that. Whole genres of literature are non-narrative and non-chronological. As a result, you get thousands of great books considered “unfilmable”. Is an adaptation of a story where everything happens in proper order via externally viewable events really a greater achievement than an inspired reimagining of a book full of internal monologue from an unreliable narrator? What these kind of best lists show is which movies are the closest alternate versions of books that are the most like movies to begin with.

    Reply
  2. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. “The Lovely Bones,” Number 15 on my list, but excluded on the Buzzfeed list, was deemed “unfilmable.” It was a nonlinear book. The narrator was a murdered girl. But I thought Peter Jackson did a good job capturing Alice Sebold’s voice.

    Reply
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