6 Best Film Adaptations of Books

April 10, 2014, Article by Tom in Books, Film & TV

Everybody says that the book is always better than the film and, to be honest, we usually agree. However, here are our picks of the films that did a pretty good job of living up to the original.

Do you agree with our choices? Tweet us your favourite film adaptations: @StareAtBooks

Rich: The Godfather (Mario Puzo)

Before Al Pacino started appearing as himself in Adam Sandler movies and being lampooned by Rob Brydon, he was actually a ruddy good actor. The famous restaurant scene from The Godfather is testament to this. Add a cotton-wooled Marlon Brando in the most extraordinary performance of his career, and you get three solid hours of Mario Puzo’s amazing power-struggle. Part II is often argued to be better than one, but of course the less said about III the better…


Tom: The Road (Cormac McCarthy)

As with reading the book it’s based on, watching The Road isn’t exactly an enjoyable experience. Following the father and son team as they struggle to survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, it’s pretty bleak and harrowing stuff as they try and avoid various murderers, cannibals, and other bad eggs.

Beautifully shot and with superb performances from King Aragorn himself, Viggo Mortensen, and Kodi Smit-McPhee as his son, you won’t be able to tear yourself away.


Beau: Jaws (Peter Benchley)

I first watched JAWS in the summer holidays of 1991 when we were staying in a cottage in Devon. We’d had fish and chips, my little brother was put to bed and mum said we were about to watch “a film about a shark”.  I even remember it being on ITV because the stings for the channel were different from the London ones (I used to love that).

I was left a wreck. Thrilled, scared and completely absorbed by what I was watching. The opening scene of the skinny-dipping girl being dragged around the moon-lit ocean by an unseen shark is THE perfect opening. It was perfectly paced, edited and the sound of her screams still leave me a wreck. Have a listen.

This was the film that made me fall in love with cinema.

Years later I got the book for Christmas. Written by Peter Benchley in 1974 (a year before the film’s release) the film strayed very little from the book’s story. For me, the main difference between the book and film were how the characters were written. The book’s characters are incredibly unlikeable. You’re rooting for the shark. There’s infidelity, greed and the difference in social class is played on much more. But what makes the book a fantastic read is that (like the film), it’s all about fear, the unknown and what’s lurking below.

This year the film was released in cinemas in a beautiful restored print. It looked incredible and made me want to reach for the book again for one more trip to that seaside town of Amity.

If I were you, I’d put a weekend aside, and sink your teeth into both book and film.


Ben: Fight Club (Chuck Palahniuk)

The best thing, for me, about Fight Club (the movie) is that it is quite possibly the film most true to its bookish origin. The first-person, in-the-protagonist’s-head narration allows us to hear out loud all those awesome Palahniuk turns of phrase. It looks as dark as the book feels. It’s got Brad Pitt in it.

Sure, everyone knows the twist at the end (it is one of the most famous film twists of all time), but can you tell me what Edward Norton’s character’s name is? No? That’s because, like in the book, he doesn’t actually have one. He is simply The Narrator. Interesting, no?


Simon: Couldn’t decide so picked a couple

I’m going to be greedy and pick two. First,Into The Wild, based on Jon Krakauer’s brilliant non-fiction account of Christopher ‘Alexander Supertramp’ McCandless’s inspiring but doomed journey into the American wilderness. It’s brilliantly brought to screen by Sean Penn. It is also scores a rare triple whammy: great book, great film, great soundtrack (by Eddie Vedder).

Second,Wonder Boys, a funny, clever and touching novel by Michael Chabon and a great example of a sensitively-made adaptation – completely true to the book, even though some scenes have been missed from the movie (the snake has gone altogether!). Michael Douglas is a revelation in the lead role, playing against type and with real warmth and humour.


John: The Shining (Stephen King)

It’s got to be The Shining. And not just because I used to look a lot like Danny when I was a boy (bowl haircut, denim dungarees etc).

God only knows how many times I’ve read the book. It’s definitely one of my favourites. Much of what I love about the Stephen King masterpiece – the topiary animals, the bug bomb, Jack Torrance’s final act – isn’t in Stanley Kubrick’s film. But somehow that doesn’t really bother me.

I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of watching it. Hallorann showing them around the kitchen, the steadicam shots following Danny on his tricycle, Jack getting drunk at the empty bar, those freaky twins … everything just works. It’s perfect.


Do you agree with our choices? Tweet us your favourite film adaptations: @StareAtBooks