Top Ten: Book to Film Adaptations

You know I love films and I love books, so it kind of follows that I love films based on books. Sometimes the adaptations are quite poor and disappointing (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), much less often they improve on the source material (anything based on a Tom Clancy book) but just sometimes a great book leads to a great film. Here are ten of my favourites. I appreciate that there are other adaptations that may be better than these, however I have stuck to adaptations where I have both read the book and seen the film.

Casino Royale

The first of the Daniel Craig Bond films this was a welcome return to top class form for our favourite MI6 agent. Of course there were a number of changes from the source text – Bond no longer smokes 70 cigarettes a day and the sexual politics aren’t quite so unsettling, however the feeling of the book definitely runs through the film. Craig’s Bond is colder than previous incarnations and much closer to Fleming’s creation than before.

muppet christmas carolA Christmas Carol

There have been a number of adaptations of the Dickens classic about the skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge and how one Christmas Eve changes his life forever. Some have been great, others have been a bit rubbish but my favourite adaptation is probably the least likely – The Muppets took on the story in 1992 and created a brilliant version, possibly the best and certainly the most fun.

Dangerous Liaisons

The novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos is a biting attack on the excesses of the aristocracy. Told through a series of letters between characters it depicts the twisted games played by the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont who use seduction as a weapon against those they wish to humiliate and punish. The film version (based on Christopher Hampton’s stage version of the novel) is stunning with Glenn Close and John Malkovich both on top form and deliciously wicked as Merteuil and Valmont.

gone windGone With The Wind

Margaret Mitchell’s epic tale of Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler’s doomed relationship deserved an epic film adaptation. And it got it in the 1939 classic starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable. The production wasn’t easy; director Victor Fleming had to take time out due to exhaustion and the search for Scarlet took two years. There are some very disturbing racial politics and the story of Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American Oscar winner needs to be read (did you know that despite being an Oscar nominee she and her escort were seated in a segregated section at the awards ceremony?). Gone With The Wind remains an impressive watch 75 years on.

harry potterHarry Potter Series

JK Rowling’s boy wizard captivated millions of readers, children and adults alike, so it was no surprise that a movie franchise followed. The film series gets progressively better the darker the stories get and the best of British acting talent appears throughout. It would take a hard heart not to burst into a huge grin when the Hogwarts Express makes its first appearance, bringing the books properly to life for the first time.

to kill a mockingbirdTo Kill A Mockingbird

This is my favourite book of all time (I can’t tell you how excited – and terrified – I am about Go Set A Watchman) and I am a little bit in love with Atticus Finch, if only everyone had his moral fibre and strength. I can’t think of a better actor to portray Atticus than the wonderful Gregory Peck who deservedly won the 1963 Best Actor Oscar for his performance. Released as the Civil Rights movement in America started to get louder and stronger this remains a powerful statement about defending the weakest in society.

Schindler’s Ark

Australian author Thomas Keneally won the Booker Prize for his 1982 novel Schindler’s Ark, the fictionalised version of the true story of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who saved the lives of over 1000 Jews during the Holocaust. Steven Spielberg, a man deeply committed to Holocaust remembrance, adapted the book for the big screen in 1993 and held to the spirit of the book – Liam Neeson’s Schindler is a man of contrasts, he’s not a hero nor a villain, simply a man who ends up doing the right thing at a dreadful time.

Sense and Sensibility

Emma Thompson won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for writing the script to the 1995 Ang Lee version of Jane Austen’s classic novel. The book and the film are both sharp and witty and I’m not sure there’s been a better screen version of an Austen story – nope, not even Colin Firth’s wet-shirted lake exit in the classic BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Silence Of The Lambs

Winner of the “Big Five” Oscars – Best Film, Director, Actor, Actress and Adapted Screenplay this 1991 adaptation is the most successful and certainly the best big screen version of Thomas Harris’s novels about serial killer Hannibal Lecter. The performances by Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster are spell-binding and bring the book to life exceptionally well.

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