You might have heard about, if not read the classic books like ‘Little Women’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ And now, the blockbuster movie series like Harry Potter came from the books. But what you probably don’t know that many other famous books turned into movies.
Books that turned into Movies
This 2016 Academy Award-nominated film explained a little-known side of American history, revealing the story of real-life Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) and other women African-American mathematicians who assisted move the United States into space in the 1960s. Although the movie had remarkable economic and critical success, many fans might not know it was based on a 2016 nonfiction book. As in any dramatization, not everything happened in the movie exactly as it did in reality, but the fundamental inspirational message of overcoming obstacles remains. The film did increase sales of the book after its release, and it’s worth the read to know more about these captivating role models. Buy on Amazon.
The Shawshank Redemption
Movie lovers praise this now-classic film as one of the best of all time but it blasted on its initial release. The slow-moving 1994 tale about prison inmates just didn’t resonate with box office audiences. Also, to this day viewers don’t know it’s based on a novel written by one of the greatest horror writers ever, Stephen King. Following the book reasonably firmly and even using some dialogue directly, the film didn’t change much except in the cast of Red, detailed in the book as a red-haired Irish guy but performed in the film by Morgan Freeman. But after the film won attention with Academy Award nominations, it got a new life on video and TV. Buy on Amazon.
One of the classic books that turned into movies whose technological accomplishments hold up 25 years later ( no doubt, those dinosaurs are still really scary!), 1993’s Jurassic Park frequently sees itself on “the movie was better than the book” lists. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the film makes the novel’s characters more profound and more sensitive and adds more STEM power to female characters Dr. Sattler (Laura Dern) and Lex (Ariana Richards). But it did discard one dino who figures prominently in the novel: the procompsognathus. Although the novel was a hit before Spielberg got his hands on it, the film helped drive its already popular author, Michael Crichton, to even greater success. Buy on Amazon.
The Martian took on the job of making a lot of complex tech talk in the novel readable and enjoyable without losing too much plot. Fortunately, this 2015 film hit the right note with both science geeks looking for precision. Could a stranded astronaut (Matt Damon) really survive on Mars? and mainstream audiences looking for entertainment, complex characterizations, and impressive Red Planet scenery. Andy Weir’s book was also something of a survival story: Self-published in 2011 to success, it was chosen by a big publisher and optioned for film rights at almost the same time. Buy on Amazon.
The Princess Bride
This 1987 fairy tale parody may be one of the few cases where the book and the movie are seen as similar in quality. There are some differences: In the book, a father reads his son a story that originally came from the (fictional) country of Florin; in the film, it’s a rude Peter Falk reading the story (of undefined origin) to his grandson (Fred Savage). But perhaps because screenwriter and author William Goldman modified his own 1973 novel, it’s really hard to say which is better. The film did not instantly reach the book’s popularity, but over the years has become a family classic, transcending the book as the better-known version. Buy on Amazon.
The Girl on the Train
It seems any famous thriller with the word ‘girl’ in the title (Gone Girl, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) is intended to be a film even if it’s not as good as the book. Paula Hawkins’ psychological thriller, about a girl on a train who believes she sees something strange out the window, was a truant success and the bestselling book of 2016. But unlike the fast-paced, can’t-put-down quality of the novel, the film is unexciting and dry. It was a moderate success at the box office but not well-reviewed; although it did help to make it one of the best books that turned into movies. Buy on Amazon.
You are right! This 1988 hit action film about a cop battling terrorists came from the 1979 book it’s based on, Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp, stars an older main character more apt to dark rumination than Bruce Willis’ livelier John McClane. The film also misses the book’s flashbacks to become a stronger story and changes various plot curves to focus on McClane’s relationship with his wife (in the book, it’s his daughter he’s trying to save, with different results). Amping up the nature of the characters boosts what could have been an average action flick into a surprisingly good film full of entertainment and spirit. Although the book went out of copy, it was re-released in 2012, corresponding to the latest film in the Die Hard franchise, A Good Day to Die Hard. Buy on Amazon.