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Our Favorite Movies Based on Books

Updated on March 11, 2014
Jack Nicholson in The Shining
Jack Nicholson in The Shining | Source

By Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin

A sign in Alabama that refers to Forrest Gump.
A sign in Alabama that refers to Forrest Gump. | Source

If you are anything like me, you'd be a literary and movie buff combined.

We'd be huge fans of both books and films.

What better way to enjoy both genres at once than to watch a film based on a book.

Film adaptations have had a fascinating appeal and unforgettable as far back as any of us can remember.

We love movies based books because...

  • Moving images bring characters to life.
  • A film adaptation helps us to make better sense of the books we read.
  • A movie is condensed and easier to understand.
  • It has actors we admire and connect with

The vivid images of the characters in a book, seen more clearly in movies, help to bring them to life. We see them live, breathe, eat and move, something we can only visualize if we merely read the book.

A film adaptation helps us to make better sense of the books we read. It was far easier to digest the very lengthy Lord of the Rings with Peter Jackson's 9 hour trilogy.

A movie is summarized, condensed and way shorter than the novel it adapts, which makes it more digestible. The short length does a better job of getting its point across, considering our very short attention spans.

Besides, a movie usually stars actors we relate to admire for all the glamor attached. With their help, the novel becomes much more captivating.

Source

What makes a book to movie adaptation a success

A film adaptation should be what it is - an adaptation. It should offer a different perspective from the novel itself. Doing so may challenge those who feel that a film adaptation should stick closely to the details of the novel. One which does not, however, ironically draws one's attention to the book's salient points because we would say "Aha! This is different from what I've read."

A film adaptation should summarize the novel accurately and succinctly, without losing the novel's essence.

It should make it easy for those who've not yet read the book to appreciate it and understand. Delving into the novel after seeing the movie would be less of a task.

A film adaptation may tell a tale differently from a book. Still, it should capture the reader's feelings as he reads the novel.

Joy Luck Club

Our favorite movies based on books

These movies have managed to bring life to the books they adapt and secure a firm place in our memories.

The Joy Luck Club

Based on the novel by Amy Tan and adapted into a film by Tan and Ronald Bess, the story revolves around four young American Chinese women and their traditional, immigrant mothers.

Tan presents the problems of the generation gap and cultural chasms between each young woman and her mother with much sensitivity.

Though not really restricted material by today's standards, Tan touches on controversial issues through the eyes of each of the four women, and these can be disturbing for younger viewers of the film.

Forrest Gump Long Run Scene

Forrest Gump

Based on the novel by WInston Groom and directed by Robert Zemeckis, the movie depicts the life of a simple man with little brain activity. Forrest, in all his simplicity, has thought provoking insights on life, his most famous take being that it's "a box of chocolates….you never know what you're going to get."

Tom Hanks gave a stunningly moving portrayal of a man who enjoyed life, cherishing and admiring its simplicity and the film was, for me, perhaps a more heart rending adaptation than the novel.

Bridget Jones' Diary

Bridget Jones Diary

Helen Fielding's novel of the same name spawned this British comedic gem directed by Sharon McGuire. A misinterpretation of Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice, the movie was
a hilarious, well-rounded interpretation made possible by great performances by Colin Firth, as the romantic "Mark Darcy", Hugh Grant as the caddish Daniel Cleaver and Rene Zellwegger, as the torn-between-two lovers Bridget Jones. Not surprisingly, she scored an academy award nomination for her performance.

For the movie to be really effective for you though, you'd have to be familiar with both the novels concerned.

The Mambo Kings

The Mambo Kings

This movie birthed from Oscar Hijuelo's novel The Mambo Kings play songs of love. The first directorial attempt by Arne Glimcher, his insistence on the casting of Antonio Banderas and Armande Assante as aspiring young musicians who fled Cuba and came to America proved to be a good move that gave the movie its authenticity.

The movie received mostly positive reviews.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Adapted by the novel by Ron Jansen, this is an account of the life of Jesse James in his final months till the day the 19 year old Ford, who idolizes him,joins him on a planned heist and finally shoots him.

Performances by Casey Affleck as Ford and the gorgeous Brad Pitt as James were beautiful and stunning. The script itself was a thorough adaptation of the novel, though its pacing was somewhat slow for me.

The Shining

The Shining

This psychological thriller based on Stephen King's 1977 novel of the same name was directed with finesse by Stanley Kubrick. A close adaptation of King's write, I it describes a man who descends into madness after being plagued by ghosts at a hotel he puts up at with his wife and children.

Jack Nicholson dramatizes the descent into madness with realistic aplomb, and makes for a watch that left, and still leaves, audiences enthrall end by his psychosis.

The Notebook - ending

The Notebook

This tale shows how wonderfully assuring love can be. Based on Nicholas Spark's novel of the same name, it is a romantic tale of two star crossed lovers from the 1940s, separated by war and disparity of status.

With wonderful, sensitive performances by Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, this film defies its teen chick flick impression and Is instead a film about coming through life 's adversities. An adaptation that does the novel justice, it makes a wonderful watch.

Minority Report

Which is your favorite movie?

Which is your favorite movie

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Minority Report

Ths pairing of Cruise and Spielberg is not likely but works well for this science fiction thriller. Adapted from Phillip K Dick's short story of the same name, the adaptation has been touted as having a 99% alignment with the novel.

It certainly does. Spielberg stays true to its complex layers of storytelling and, together with cruise, helps to bring the novel to life.

Conclusion

Adaptations, when well dramatized, bring a novel to life.

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    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      And I love all the movies you have listed!!! I taught the Joy Luck Club in school...wish the teens could connect more!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Definitely! The book must not spoil the movie, Nithya!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 3 years ago from Dubai

      Great hub, I love to read the book first and then see the movie but as you say when a book is well dramatized it definitely is a worthwhile watch!

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 3 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Outstanding. I like that you began with discussion on the advantages or disadvantages of adapting a movie from a book. Sometimes I really hate it when they alter a story so much that the real story gets lost. Some of my favs are To Kill a Mockingbird, Shawshank Redemption, The Help, Pride and Prejudice., and I too love the Joy Luck Club - a great book and a stunning film. There are so many hundreds of movies based on books. Oh and Stand by Me was another good one. Nice work.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Sherry!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      I love it too, Lisa! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Linda!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Rebecca!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Kitty!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      I just love that book!!!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks so much!!

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 3 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      The Shining is the only one of these where I both read the book and saw the movie. I actually preferred the book, but the movie was good. The Joy Luck Club I only read the book, and Forest Gump, Bridget Jones Diary and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, I only saw the movie.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Janet!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks Joelle!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, my fellow Singaporean friend!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Alphadogg!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Devika!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Audrey!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Like you, I prefer the older movies too, Dianna. thanks for sharing!

    • lisavanvorst profile image

      Lisa VanVorst 3 years ago from New Jersey

      Although I am an avid reader, I end up seeing the movie before reading the book. My favorite movie of those you mentioned is The Shining. I just read Stephen King's sequel book Dr. Sleep. A great read. I will say by reading the book first for a change, I can't imagine how it could ever be made into a movie. My second favorite of those you mentioned is Forest Gump. I think before I a movie of a novel, I will read the book. I have heard the book is so much better. Can't wait though till some production company grabs Dr. Sleep. Great Hub and Great mention of movies.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      The Notebook is my favorite from your list. Fabulous movie!!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      It is always surprising to me how many movies are actually based on books. Most times the books are better, but I love seeing the movies to. Thanks!

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 3 years ago from the Ether

      I have to put in a vote for The Hunger Games, as well. Great list. I will say that I watched The Notebook and then tried to read the book and the book fell short. Loved the movie though!

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 3 years ago from USA

      Interesting list - Funny, but Stephen King has said he hates Kubrick's version of "The Shining", mainly because the mother in the film just stands around screaming (in his opinion). I've always enjoyed the film.

      I would add to the list "A Room With a View" and "Snow Falling on Cedars" - one of my favorites!

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 3 years ago from Singapore

      Nice hub

    • Alphadogg16 profile image

      Kevin W 3 years ago from Texas

      This is a great list of movies midget38, as many of my favorites are on your list. The Shinning is a classic. I was unaware that The Minority Report was a book, it's one of Tom Cruises better movies. I'll have to look into reading that. Thumbs up on your hub.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      I selected Forrest Gump as my favorite but I've seen all of these films and enjoyed them. Glad you wrote this hub - I really enjoyed it. ~ Audrey

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Rasma!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Eddy!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Jodah. I usually digest the book first too.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, a movie helps us to make sense of a complex plot. Thanks for commenting, miss bejabbers!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thank you, Nikki! That's what a good book to movie should do!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thank you!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Great list here I watched Forrest Gump at least four times my favorite

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      Of those mentioned here, I vote for Forrest Gump. I do think Minority Report is very interesting and brings reality into view. I love the old movies the best. I really think the new ones lack some quality thematic issues. Excellent post!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      A great hub Michelle and voted up.

      Eddy.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Suzie!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Hi Midget, I enjoyed this hub. I like to read the book first so I can imagine what the characters look like myself without the movie having dictated that. That said I then like to watch the movie adaption. One I particularly enjoyed was "The Green Mile". The movie was based on a series of short novelettes by Steven King, and stuck very close to the books. Even the characters were almost exactly as I imagined. Voted up.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 3 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Voted up and interesting. I always think that one of the reasons people flock to movies which have come from novels is because they have formed an image of the characters they have read about and it is exciting to see them come alive on the screen. However there are movies which disappoint and those are the ones I wish I hadn't seen. In that case I read the book again and make my own imaginary images. The movie which impressed me the most was The Shining because I am a big Stephen King fan. After seeing that movie I know that it would have taken me a long time to be able to socialize normally with Jack Nicholson if I had known him personally. Passing this on.

    • janetwrites profile image

      Janet Giessl 3 years ago from Georgia country

      A great list. It's always great to see the characters of the book in live after reading the book. So first the book, then the movie. Thank you for sharing this interesting list of movies based on books.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      I agree that I prefer to read the book before I watch the movie. Sometimes in a complicated fantasy like the Harry Potter series or Lord of the Rings, reading the book helps to know what is going on especially when the plot is complicated. However, I find that sometimes Hollywood can come up better description of scenes than I can in my imagination, so I enjoy the movie, too.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Usually, I like to read the book before watching the movie. Sometimes I read the book after watching the movie. But it's always interesting to compare and see how they changed some of the scenes in the movie compare to the book. What I like also about comparing is the reality that we created in our mind while reading and then the reality the film makers produce in the film.

      Great list of books turned into movies, Michelle!

      Enjoy your day!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mine will forever be "To Kill A Mockingbird." Interesting list, Michelle.

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 3 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Loved this Hub. I usually think the book is better than the movie.

    • Nikkij504gurl profile image

      Nikki Wicked 3 years ago from Louisiana

      Some good books to movies you listed there. Seems most movies are based on a book these days. I read all of the Hunger Games books and the movies so far have followed the books pretty closely only a few minor differences. When I was watching the movie I felt like I had already watched it because it followed the book so well.

    • Bk42author profile image

      Brenda Thornlow 3 years ago from New York

      Great picks! Misery and The Godfather were also great movies that originally books. Voted up!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Everyone enjoys movies, especially those based on books.