Many screenplays for award-winning films were based on books. Here are just some of the top movies successfully adapted from literary gems.
All of these are available to stream now on channels including Sling TV, Netflix, and Showtime.
Gone with the Wind (1940)
Bringing this sprawling wartime epic novel to the big screen was no small feat. Clocking in at four hours, the film spans with dramatic authenticity the devastation of the American Civil War on the home front as seen through the eyes of a spoiled plantation owner’s hardscrabble daughter struggling her way out of poverty and through torrid love affairs gone wrong.
Stream Gone with the Wind on HBO Max.
The Godfather (1972)
It helps that the author assisted with the writing of the screenplay for this film that became the preeminent mobster flick and the bellwether for all to follow, including its own sequels. Remaining mostly faithful to the novel is one of the aspects that makes the film so raw and riveting, though Coppola found a way to make Puzo’s ending even darker.
Stream The Godfather on Apple TV.
Stand by Me (1986)
While the vast bulk of Stephen King books are in the horror genre, this top book made into a film is not. Rather a simple, homespun, almost Twain-like coming-of-age tale, it brings together the lighthearted nostalgia of youth and the bitter loss of innocence through the eyes and mouths of a cast of precocious acting wunderkinds.
Stream Stand by Me on Netflix.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The tortuous relationship between caged serial killer Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter and neophyte detective Clarice Starling as realized by Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster. The film remains today one of the most poignant master classes on acting and it can be attributed in no small part to the screenwriter’s delicate configuring of the broodingly seductive dialogue in the book.
Schindler’s List (1993)
As Holocaust films go, it’s rare to find one that raises the spirits, to show that there are those who can still rise above all they’ve ever known and trusted and all that’s kept them safe to do what’s right. The original novel, called Schindler’s Ark, won the Booker Prize, and Steven Spielberg’s authentic black and white interpretation featuring Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes does it historic justice.
Stream Schindler’s List on Vudu.
Fight Club (1999)
The one rule about Fight Club is you only talk about it to talk about how bad-ass it is! The film, (and book) is about so much more than a bunch of guys holding an underground bare-knuckle brawl meetup – however, you truly can’t say much more about it without giving too much away. But you can say that through Fincher’s twisted lens, Brad Pitt and Edward Norton deliver a mind-bending one-two punch that makes the pages of this part crime, part psychological thriller novel bleed with raw emotion.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)
This trilogy of movies brings Tolkien’s dense cult-classic fantasy series to vivid life. Filled with magical creatures, exotic hidden lands and supernatural wonders, at the heart of this imaginative tale is a simple, humble and unassuming hobbit’s unlikely quest. Shot in breathtaking New Zealand and set to an inspired score by Howard Shore, the film literally lifts the scenes from the pages.
The Life of Pi (2012)
Perhaps the only feat more difficult than keeping a book about a boy trapped on a raft with a tiger compelling for 300-odd pages is keeping a film adapted from that book compelling for two hours, yet both managed to be achieved par excellence. Both artfully picturesque yet somehow believably real and emotionally truthful, the film touches on the core of human resilience and the drive for survival.
These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to books breathed into life through the talent of screenwriters and film directors. If you’ve got other favorites, let us know in the comments below. And if you want more literature in film inspiration, check out some of the best movies about being a writer.