Best Book-to-Film Adaptations, Ranked
Adapting books to film is a fascinating bridge between two artistic mediums, a popular way to gain readership and introduce relatively unknown authors to a wider audience. It’s also an easy way for film productions to effectively write successful screenplays and potentially expand those paperback-related universes. Either way, readers love to see Hollywood takes on their favorite stories come to life and pull them apart to compare. Isn’t it part of our education to watch the film adaptation of that book you didn’t read the day before an exam? Here’s a list of the eight best book-to-movie adaptations that stunned audiences and matched in quality to the greatness of its source material.
8 Requiem for a dream
Requiem for a dream was originally a novel written by Hubert Selby Jr. released in 1978. Selby wanted his novel to be made into a film and wrote his own screenplay years before it was picked up by Darren Aronofsky, who was a fan of his work at the time. Aronofsky said in a 2000 interview that the idea of addiction and hope fascinated him: “I thought it was an idea we hadn’t seen in movies and I wanted to bring it up on the big screen.” Although Aronofsky took a slightly different view of the film by wanting a younger cast, the majority of Selby’s ideas remained in the finished screenplay written by Aronofsky. Requiem for a dream premiered in May 2000 and starred Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly.
Dunes is a 1965 science fiction series written by Frank Herbert. Being the best-selling science fiction novel in the world, Dunes has endured several attempts at a film adaptation since its inception. The most recent incarnation released in 2021, starring Timothée Chalamet and directed by Denis Villeneuve, a die-hard fan of the series. Villeneuve’s was the most positively received interpretation. Covering only half of the novel, audiences eagerly await the conclusion of this creeping desert battle. The sequel is due out in late 2023.
6 the brilliant
Based on Stephen King’s 1977 novel, the brilliant was one of many adaptations of King’s novels that paved the way for modern horror. Directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall and Scatman Crothers, the film was released to disappointing reviews in 1980, but after a few years achieved cult status. King himself was not a fan of the film, saying it did not match his own intentions for the story, but acknowledged Kubrick’s strong directorial presence in the film. His disdain for Kubrick’s film led King to write and produce a miniseries of his story again in 1997. In 2019, a sequel was released titled Doctor Sleep, meant to be a closer sequel adaptation of King’s 2013 novel and an homage to Kubrick’s 1980 film.
5 Silver Linings Playbook
Based on Matthew Quick’s 2008 novel, Silver Linings Playbook was directed by David O. Russell and released in 2012. With an all-star cast and some directing by Russell, the film was well received and praised for its performances by Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. The rights to the book were acquired before it was published, so development on the film began instantly with its release. There are many notable differences between the novel and the film, possibly due to rewrites of the screenplay by Russell in his twenties.
Based on Emma Donoghue’s critically acclaimed 2010 novel, the adaptation, Hall, was released in 2015 with the same success. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson and starring Brie Larson, the screenplay was also written by Donoghue prior to the publication of his novel. After numerous refused offers from Donoghue, Abrahamson caught his eye after sending him a ten-page letter in thanks for his work and desire for an adaptation. After working on the script with Abarahamson, Donoghue became the film’s executive producer, helping with location scouting and maintaining the integrity of its story. The film won several awards and was nominated for four Oscars, considered one of the best films of the year.
3 call me by your name
call me by your name was released in 2017 and directed by Luca Guadagnino. It stars Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer. Based on the 2007 novel by André Aciman, producers Peter Spears and Howard Rosenman read an early draft of the novel before publication and immediately requested the rights to adapt it. After years of hellish development, the film finally came to fruition and received critical acclaim upon release. Aciman even said the screenplay was better than the novel. Since its planned sequel was cut short, many fans have turned to the books to continue Elio’s story.
Thesilenceofthelambs is a 1991 psychological horror film based on the 1988 novel by Thomas Harris. It was directed by Johnathan Demme and stars Jodie Foster and Clarice Starling. Considered one of the greatest films of all time, Demme’s adaptation spawned a sequel and two prequels. Screenwriter Ted Tally was “surprised” by how quickly filming began after writing his first draft of the screenplay. After its premiere on Valentine’s Day in 1991, the film gradually gained popularity and later critical acclaim. A new series called Claire was released in 2021 as a follow-up to the film.
1 Revelation now
Revelation now was first released in 1979 as an unfinished film based on Joseph Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness. At the time of the film’s release, it was believed that no one could properly adapt Conrad’s novel to film, it was a challenge screenwriter John Milius decided to take on. The film was directed by Francis Ford Coppola and stars Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando. Upon its premature release, the film was heavily panned by critics and audiences despite a polished film still in the works. Most criticism was directed at Coppola’s view of Conrad’s story. The film differs greatly from the novel, being set during the Vietnam War instead of 19th century Africa. Differences aside, the film kept the same unifying theme and gave it more relevance for its modern audience. Praise for the film eventually grew after it ended and was cited as one of the greatest films of all time by critics.
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