When I was younger I would almost always choose to read a book over watching a film, especially when it came to book-to-screen adaptations. I always found that the film never lived up to the standards of the books. Now, I can appreciate books and films separately for the different mediums that they are. That being said some adaptations are better than others, and so, in honour of World Book Day (7th March), I thought I would share with you my top ten book-to-screen adaptations.
Note: I have only considered films where I have read the books myself.
10. O (2001)
Centred around basketball star ‘Odin’ (Mekhi Phifer), his girlfriend Desi (Julia Stiles) and his team-mate Hugo (Josh Hartnett), O is a modern re-telling of William Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’.
You don’t have to be familiar with the source material in order to enjoy this film. It is dark and violent, with strong performances from its principal cast and a more sinister yet realistic look at some of our less desirable emotions such as pride and jealousy.
9. The Harry Potter Saga (2001-2011)
Just in case you don’t know, Harry Potter tells the story of a young wizard, still learning magic at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; and his battle to defeat the dark and powerful, Lord Voldemort.
While the first two films are not very good, as a whole, the Harry Potter saga deserves to be in my top ten. Admittedly, the films do not hold a torch up to the books but they do have a magic of their own and if you ever have a chance to go to the Warner Bros Studio Tour, then do it, it helps you appreciate just how much work and effort goes into the making of a film.
8. Pride & Prejudice (1995)
Pride and Prejudice tells the story of Elizabeth Bennett, a spirited young woman, who has a habit of making hasty judgements and presumptions. She eventually learns not to judge a book by it’s cover; and that while something may appear one way of the surface, it is something completely different underneath. A lesson we still need to learn today.
While I enjoyed the 2005 movie starring Kiera Knightley, for me, the 1995 BBC TV adaptation is the strongest contender. Over the course of six episodes, Pride and Prejudice brings Jane Austen’s 1813 novel to life. If you are a fan of period pieces, this is a definite must-see.
7. The Time Traveller’s Wife (2009)
A beautiful heart-warming story of a love that transcends time. Henry (Eric Bana) suffers from a condition that causes him to involuntarily travel in time, not only does this lead him to his wife, Clare (Rachel McAdams) but it also threatens to drive them apart.
This is a truly beautiful film and, considering its depth and brilliance, is a pretty accurate adaptation of the book. A must-watch and a must-read.
6. Sin City (2005)
When I met Mark, he introduced me to the world of comics and graphic novels, including Frank Millar’s Sin City, which is actually a series of thirteen parts telling several intertwining stories. In the film adaptation, co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Millar successfully bring the neo-noir stylistics of the page to the screen.
Sin City is visually stunning and truly gives the sensation of being inside a comic book. Great for those who want to experience something a little different.
5. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Based on the best-selling trilogy by Swedish writer, Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo tells the story of journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and his assistant, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) as they attempt to solve a forty year old disappearance.
The books, for me, were a little difficult to read but I think that was due to a lot of Swedish names, that I wasn’t sure how I should be pronouncing, even in my head. And while the first book/film primarily focuses on Mikael, Lisbeth is the actual star of the show and the trilogy follows her story.
As good as this adaptation is, I have heard that the original Swedish trilogy is even better, so I would recommend putting both on your must-watch list.
4. To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
Set in small-town Alabama in 1932, racial prejudice is rife and the lawyer, Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) is defending a black man from an unjustified rape charge against a white woman. Told through the eyes of Atticus’ six-year old daughter, Scout (Mary Badham), To Kill A Mockingbird tackles issues of race, truth and ignorance; and despite being over fifty years old, both the book and the film are relevant in modern-day society.
3. Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet is a magnificent adaptation of the classic Shakespeare tragedy, brought into the twentieth century whilst maintaining loyalty to the story and, more importantly, the language.
2. Watchmen (2009)
As with Sin City, Mark introduced me to both the graphic novel and subsequent film adaptation of Alan Moore’s Watchmen. Included in Time magazine’s top 100 novels of all time, the story differs somewhat between the two mediums but the gritty spirit of the original material remains.
As good as the storyline and cinematography is, the element that really makes this film is the soundtrack. Personally, I can not listen to Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah without remembering a particularly steamy scene.
1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)
When considering which book-to-screen adaptations to include in my list, there was no doubt in my mind that the Lord of the Rings trilogy would take the number one spot. Director Peter Jackson did a brilliant job of bringing J.R.R Tolkien’s vast and complex world to the big screen and composer Howard Shore created some of cinema’s most moving and iconic scores.
So, there you have it, my top ten book-to-screen adaptations. I appreciate that some of the most iconic films are based on books (Jurassic Park, Fight Club etc.) but as I haven’t read them myself, I couldn’t include them. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and recommendations.