With the recent surge in book-to-film adaptations, I thought it’d be fun to do a list of the Top Five Films Adapted From Books.
Disclaimer: This list consists of books I have actually read and movies I have actually seen.
5. The Hunger Games (2012)
The reason this film was such a success is because Suzanne Collins (the author of the book series) was very involved. She knew the story and characters and could guarantee their essence was protected. The filmmakers also knew what to leave out and what to add to make it work on screen. The book relies heavily on Katniss’s internal commentary and they made the film work without it. Rather than try a voice over, they centered the story on its basic premise and made a really tight science fiction film with interesting characters and settings by adding a few elements that weren’t in the book but helped visually.
4. Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Adapted from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, this is the best interpretation of the themes and story I’ve seen. Disney has often been criticized for its adaptations (they aren’t close to the original, they take major creative liberties, changing details, etc.) but I think they understood this source material better than anyone else. The film captures the innocence and wonderment of childhood perfectly, as well as the dream-like bewilderment of the plot. The 2010 remake is proof that Johnny Depp doesn’t always make things better and that Disney can occasionally get it wrong (especially when trusting Tim Burton).
3. Pride and Prejudice (2005)
It’s hard to please everyone when you adapt something from its original form and there will always be Jane Austen purists who say that no adaptation could ever measure up. I am a huge Austen fan and have seen multiple Pride and Prejudice inspired films. Joe Wright knew what he was doing when he made this film. He understood Austen. He knew what she was trying to say and what her thoughts and feelings were on life and humanity. A lot of people like the BBC miniseries better but I think Wright’s version is much closer to Austen’s story and opinions on life and love.
2. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
The filmmakers took the longest book in the series (870 pages (US)) and turned it into the second shortest film (138 minutes). Deathly Hallows Part 2 beat it by eight minutes. How did they do that? By picking the most important messages, going with them and leaving out all the rest. A good adaptation doesn’t mean getting every little detail on screen. It is about adjusting the story to effectively fit a different medium. They used film tricks to tell a very visual story while maintaining the integrity of the characters. Plus, we got far less of the “Angsty Potter,” which I think everyone appreciated.
1. Goldfinger/Casino Royale (1964/2006)
I’m cheating a little on this one. The reason Casino Royale isn’t the only one in this slot is because it’s missing one element to make it perfect. It doesn’t have Sean Connery. Both Goldfinger and Casino Royale were faithful interpretations of the novels. Very little changes in story were made to either and Casino Royale captured the tone of the book perfectly. Daniel Craig does an excellent job and everyone has their favorite James Bond (I even know someone who loves Roger Moore) but let’s face it, there is no replacement for Connery. True, Ian Fleming hated the idea that Connery was going to be the actor bringing his beloved character to life but after he saw Dr. No he realized that Connery was the embodiment of Bond. Fleming even went as far as creating a heritage for the character based on Connery’s background. I don’t think it gets better than the author adding to future novels because the actor was such a perfect fit. Connery stands as the example by which all other actors portraying Bond are, and should be, measured.