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Movies Based on Books

Updated on March 29, 2009
Memoirs of a Geisha
Memoirs of a Geisha

Every year an average of thirty novels are made into movies for the big screen. It can be perceived by some that writing a movie based on a novel is a tad lazy. Much like a college student who has the answers before a test. If you ask me, it takes as much time and effort to write a screenplay as it does a book. Having to adapt a written story into visual one can be a real challenge.

Personally, I am grateful that writers have taken on the task of taking great novels and making them available to a wider audience. Not everyone is a reader, not everyone can even read. It is a great tribute to the Arts when a note worthy book is made into movie.

Among the host of successful book based movies is:

The 1997 version of Ivanhoe based on a novel by Sir Walter Scott , and Accidental Tourist based on a book by Anne Tyler. The Notebook (novel by Nicholas Sparks) is another one that made it to the local movie theater. It was a big hit but many fans of the book were disappointed. The plot of the original story was changed, it altered a dimension of one of the main characters and even added events that never took place in the book. It is hard work to translate a book into a movie.

My Personal Favorite

Memoirs of a Geisha written by Arthur Golden is an unforgettable book. It is a well written book about the triumph of the human spirit in the face of crushing circumstances. The world of the Geisha is fascinating to say the least. Now, the movie version came out in 2005 and wowed the majority of movie goers. I was captivated by the beautiful cinematography. It is a good film well worth watching. But I still like the book better.

The Bitter Disappointments:

Often times these film adaptations do the original story no justice. A perfect example of how difficult it is are these two movies: Jonathan Livingston Seagull based on a celebrated book by Richard D.Bach and Clan of the Cave Bear(novel by Jean M.Auel). Both were disappointing duds for tinsel town.

"Why doesn’t the writer of the novel write the screenplay as well?"

Because it is a different art all together. Many novel writers are stumped when trying to communicate with picture and action rather than words. It is taking a multidimensional book into a few dimensional screenplay. Most often it is impossible to convey a story chapter by chapter on screen. Also, in a book you have a characters thoughts spelled out for you, thought cannot be portrayed onscreen.

So to answer the question: Is a screenwriter being lazy when he picks a story that has already been written in a book? I would say no. On the contrary, I think it is more difficult.


Do you like movies based on books?

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    • Jimmy Evola profile image

      Jimmy Evola 

      7 years ago from Australia

      great hub, more of a book guy than a movie guy myself

    • justmesuzanne profile image


      7 years ago from Texas

      Yes, Memoirs of a Geisha was a great movie adaptation. It seems that movie adaptations are getting better and better, too. I have seen several that I thought were much better than the book recently:

      Books to Movies: Three Great Screen Adaptations

      I think that, more and more, screen writers are looking to novels as "seed" material, rather than trying to reproduce the novel. In the case of a less-than-perfect novel, I think that is a very good idea!

      Thanks for an interesting HUB! Voted up & LIKED! :)

    • kaltopsyd profile image


      8 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      Hello, Tomato. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie Memoirs of a Geisha but I have yet to read the book. It's on my list of to-reads. The movie that disappointed me was My Sister's Keeper because they COMPLETELY changed the ending. I was appalled but it WAS a good movie... what can I say?

      Good Hub.

    • tdarby profile image


      9 years ago

      I agree with Memoirs of a Geisha--a fabulous movie from an equally fabulous book.

    • The Real Tomato profile imageAUTHOR

      The Real Tomato 

      9 years ago

      Hello Dolores - To Kill a Mockingbird is a wonderful movie and your right, the book is good too. It didn't come to mind when I wrote the article or I would have included it. The story not only has great content and plot but there is something calm and good about it that is inviting.

      Iphigenia - I look forward to reading your publications!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Blimey ! I read the Hub, I voted and I read down through all the comments - all the time thinkg "of all the books and all the movies I've read and seen there's only one movie that is as perfect as the book - To Kill a Mockingbird' - and then I arrived at Dolores' comment.

      I write screenplays - original screenplays not adaptations - but I have studied both. I wrote a 600 word comment here .... so have decided to make a hub out of it ! When I publish it do I shall link back to this hub and let yu know.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      9 years ago from East Coast, United States

      my personal favorite is To Kill a Mockingbird, I first read the book then saw the movie and it was absolutly perefect

    • The Real Tomato profile imageAUTHOR

      The Real Tomato 

      9 years ago

      Gone with the Wind- Vivien Leigh did make the movie didn't she. Her body language was amazing!

      Hawkesdream- Jonathan Livingston Seagull was supposed to be with music only- The visual aspect of it to be interpeted by the audience. The director/producer added in narration and it washed out much of the beauty of the story.

      Note--I found some copies at (ebay), both the movie and book.

      Jonathan Livingston Seagull has always been one of my favorites- I still have my hardback version. Thorn Birds...great story, the bitter sweet taste that life can dish out sometimes.

    • Hawkesdream profile image


      9 years ago from Cornwall

      How on earth did they make a film out of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, I must see it. My favourite book to film is the Thorn Birds, it didn't follow exactly but was close enough. great hub

    • profile image

      Gone With the Wind Scarlett 

      9 years ago

      The main thing that makes Gone With the Wind palatable compared to the book is Vivien Leigh's fantastic portrayal of Scarlett. Without that, the movie just couldn't even come close to comparing.

    • The Real Tomato profile imageAUTHOR

      The Real Tomato 

      9 years ago

      Patricia- Thanks for your comment and for taking the time to read my Hub.

    • Patricia Costanzo profile image

      Patricia Costanzo 

      9 years ago from Behind the Redwood Curtain

      Gotta agree Clan of the Cave Bear was a disaster. I found that the Harry Potter movies actually helped me make sense out of fight scenes and time travel sequences that confused me in the books.

    • Peppermint Thrift profile image

      Peppermint Thrift 

      9 years ago

      Yes - I have to admit that V.C. Andrews books are one of the few series I have read a lot of. I didn't mind the "Flowers in the Attic" movie but the book was much better! Disturbing, but good!

    • The Real Tomato profile imageAUTHOR

      The Real Tomato 

      9 years ago

      Hi Peppermint Thrift- very nice username by the way. Ironweed sounds familiar and sounds like it would be a good movie concidering the cast. Sybil was so intense, yes, very hard to read. Another one that was shocking was Flowers in the Attice. Do you recall that book? The movie wasn't very good though.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • Peppermint Thrift profile image

      Peppermint Thrift 

      9 years ago

      One of my favorites (book/movie) is "Ironweed" by William Kennedy. The movie stays pretty close to the book and has a great cast:  Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson and a small cameo from Tom Waits.  However, the movie is hard to find and as far as I know has yet to be released onto DVD.  Also, "Sybil" although hard to watch/read is another great book/movie duo.  Great Hub!

    • The Real Tomato profile imageAUTHOR

      The Real Tomato 

      9 years ago


      I will beg to differ on one account, Band of Brothers. Very good and accurate.

      I thought it was interesting you used the word idiot. I love etymology and I looked up idiot. The greek origin of the word means person lacking professional skill; layman. Used paronizingly for "ignorant person"...ouch.

      So many factors go into making a movie I think it takes true brilliance ( a natural talent) to produce a good one. Perhaps many professionals as well as uneducated persons can produce a good movie. (I know plenty professional idiots)

      Thanks for stopping in.

    • knolyourself profile image


      9 years ago from Bay Area, Ca

      The best adaptions are mini-series they have done in Britain. They go from 3 to 12 hours. In US often idiots do the adaption, and more producers ruin the thing for the lowest common denomator, in the hopes of making more money.

    • The Real Tomato profile imageAUTHOR

      The Real Tomato 

      9 years ago

      Anna Marie Bowman- I love period movies and Notebook not only depicts a time in history but a romantic story like no other. Stephen King! I know, I know but I wanted to talk about movies I had read the book AND seen the movie myself. In my own words, ya know?  (psst, I am not a fan of S.K.) His books scare me too much.

      Elena- The Silence of the Lambs is a good one, I bought the dvd years ago, I like Jodie Foster's work. ( but I haven't read the book


      One book I would like to read and haven't is Pride and Prejudice. I wouldbe nice to compare it to the movie.

    • Elena. profile image


      9 years ago from Madrid

      Cool hub!  I think The Goodfather and The Silence of the Lambs would be my favorite adaptations, and I think the writers participated in the screenplay development.

      Then there are also books that were quite a struggle but allowed easier "swallowing" on the screen, such as the Anne Rice vampire series :-) 

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile image

      Anna Marie Bowman 

      9 years ago from Florida

      Stephen King...LOL!  Sorry. Couldn't help myself. By the way, though,  The Notebook is one of my favorite movies! 

    • The Real Tomato profile imageAUTHOR

      The Real Tomato 

      9 years ago

      I remember this movie well and have never read the book. I watched all the "older" movies when I was growing up.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      9 years ago from California Gold Country

      My altime--long time ago-- favorite was "Gone with the Wind" I actually read the book before I saw the movie. Except for one minor subplot in the book, the film was very true to the book. Quite a feat, I thought, since the book was long.

    • The Real Tomato profile imageAUTHOR

      The Real Tomato 

      9 years ago

      Oh ya, I remember Fight Club. It sure held my attention! Thanks for your comment.

    • TheRealTruth profile image


      9 years ago from Virginia

      nicely done. my presonal favorite (and my favorite movie) is Fight Club. Fincher was able to translate Pahlaniuk's monotone through Ed Norton and his view of Jack's world was astounding. Thank you for answering!

    • The Real Tomato profile imageAUTHOR

      The Real Tomato 

      9 years ago

      Hi Simon- thanks for reading, I agree that it would be quite a daunting task.

      49er- I think most people would agree with you in favoring the book version of a story. I did however find about a dozen people who liked the Lord of the Ring Series on screen more than the book. 

      kbdunn- Nicholas Sparks has many good books, I found his website for you to look at. Here you go


    • kbdunn profile image


      9 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Didn't know the Notebook was based on a book, gotta pick more of that stuff up I guess!

    • 49er profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      To be honest, I think Godfather is one of the few movies that I really enjoyed both the movie and the book. The book is still better, IMHO, but they did a really good job adapting it. I guess to be honest the book kind of reads like a screen play to begin with though.

      Pretty much any other time I can think of where I read the book and watched the movie, I was rather disappointed with the movie. I don't think it is so much that the movies are bad, although some certainly are, but more that the movie has no hope of covering the same details and emotions that a book does.

    • Simon_Lloyd profile image


      9 years ago from Staffordshire, England

      Well said, I for one wouldn't know where to start if Iwas was given a novel and told to write a screenplay for it.


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