Book to Movie Adaptations: The Dirty Dozen

Hollywood has been bombarding us recently with book to movie adaptations and sequels, partly because a.) they are running out of ideas, and b.) because they have been doing so well in recent years (e.g. The Twilight Saga — the movies suck, in my opinion, The Harry Potter Series — some good, some not too much, Series of UNfortunate Events, Spiderwick, Where the Wild Things Are). It is understandable that studios need to produce marketable films and which better way to test the waters than check for book sales?

So, this got me thinking: What book to movie adaptations really made an impact on me after all these years? I did a bit of digging and found out that some of the best movies that I’ve seen have been based on and if not straight out adapted from novels. So without further ado, welcome to my list of best book to movie adaptations. (I’m doing this in no particular order).


Directed by Baz Luhrmann, this adaptation of classic tale written by William Shakespeare about star crossed lovers Romeo Montague (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Juliet Capulet (Clare Danes) was proof of the Luhrmann’s creativity and vision as a filmmaker. The selling point of this movie was its verbatim use of Shakespeare’s words and its attribution to the modern day setting, giving the classic tale a new twist that enabled it to reach a new market.


I’ve seen this movie countless times but still have not read the book by Stephen King. However, I doubt if the movie could fall short of the darkness and suspense that the book could hope to provide. Kathy Bates was an excellent choice for the role of psycho fan Annie Wilkes (She deserved the Oscar), as was James Caan who played the part of renowned author Paul Sheldon, who had the misfortune of being rescued by the obsessed groupie who forced him to write a novel the way she wants or else….


This 1994 coming of age classic about the March sisters, and a power house cast including Winona Ryder, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, Clare Danes, Christian Bale and Gabriel Bynes remains to be one of my favorite movies. The movie’s adaptation to the book written by Louisa Marie Alcott was very sweet and touching and brought to life the basic essence of the written work.


I count this as one because they pretty much deal with the same thing — except one tackles the subject of wiping out the world with a virus and the other oh, just giant monsters from wherever…
The Stand – I saw this TV movie on VHS a long long time ago (You could imagine there being no DVD yet). Until now, I’ve spent a long time hunting for this on the shelves of record bars and video stores to no avail. I’ve read the book (all 1,000 plus pages of it) after I’ve seen the movie, and was amazed all over again by how great the mind of Stephen King works. The Stand covers three main chapters of man’s survival amid the threat of extinction and ultimately a battle between good and evil. The six part miniseries starred Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald and Rob Lowe. It was a pretty cool cast.

UPDATE: I just learned this morning that studio execs are greenlighting a 2013 remake of this apocalyptic novel (no time like the present, right? — with talks of 2012 Armageddon looming). Here’s an article on Stephen King’s picks for the new movie Read full article here .. Billy Bob Thornton would make a kickass Randall Flagg, but I don’t know if anyone can top Rob Lowe’s Nick Andros.

Under this heading, I would also like to add another King adaptation, The Mist. This movie takes an in depth look at how people react differently to the unknown and the unexplained and how politics, power and alliances play major roles in the face of survival. This movie, in my opinion, was one of the best horrors I’ve seen because it has all of the elements — drama, suspense, action, all within the confines of a grocery store with a group of people trapped by a giant mist, with creatures unknown beyond it.


I first saw this Ewan McGregor film during film appreciation class in college. This adaptation from Scottish author Irvine Welsh was so darned funny. A British stoner flick (the very best kind) which deals with a bunch of potheads who go to great lengths to get high. My favorite scene (spoiler ahead), was when Renton (McGregor’s character) dove into a toilet bowl to get a pill. While it was loads of fun, it also held a great lesson — cherish your body. Don’t do drugs, it makes you do crazy stuff (like diving into a toilet bowl, yuck!)


I couldn’t decide which was the best one among the three because basically, Peter Jackson did a genius job of editing the book to suit the big screen. The film still remained faithful to J.R.R. Tolkien’s vision about a bunch of hobbits (the most vulnerable creatures in all of Middle Earth) who were given the mission to destroy the One Ring that rules all the Rings of Power to keep it from the hands of the evil lord Sauron, all the while being able to capture the magic of the literary classic to bring Middle Earth to life.


This movie was recommended to me by a friend (Thanks Joel) who loved the classics. I think this can already be considered one in spite of the fact that it’s not even 20 years old. Released in 1994, it is another adaptation from Stephen King’s Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. Believe me, I never knew that until today. The plot deals with a banker Andy Dufrense who is sentenced to jail for the murder of his wife and her lover, who proceeds to make the grandaddy of all escapes, digging a tunnel with a rock hammer for two decades, and crawling through 500 meters of shit to freedom.


While I’m not an American, I kind of relate to this story of Chinese-American women and how they deal with their heritage. Based on the book of the same name by Amy Tan, this story made me question how well I have adhered to my culture both as a Filipino and a Chinese woman, and how it would measure up to the expectation of my elders. As this story deals with family, many parts of this film tugged at my heartstrings and hit home.


Who can forget King Leonidas and his troop of 300 buff and bloodthirsty Spartan warriors? This adaptation from the graphic novel of Frank Miller changed the face of noir in cinema forever and set the precedent for other great works such as Spartacus (TV series). It was bloody and it was action packed. As a bonus, it had a kickass story and a witty dialogue, rife with one liners and zingers so uncommon for that time period that it was all the more entertaining.


“Life is like a box of chocolates, you’ll never know what you’re gonna get — Forrest.” Whoever doesn’t like this movie is seriously whacked. ‘Nuff said. And yes, it was adapted from a book by Winston Groom. I only learned about it today. 🙂


A great movie by Danny Boyle which brought life to the novel entitled Q & A, by Vikas Swarup. The story deals with the journey of a lowly Chai Wala or tea bringer (portrayed by Dev Patel), his brother and his first love, and how a series of questions from the game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? managed to depict his whole life. I liked this film because it spoke of how the little guy managed to get the best of the big boys in the end of it all.


This is my favorite Nicholas Sparks movie. Its should have been a generic film — bad boy falls for the goody two shoes and they live happily ever after. Except, life is not always cut and dried like that. A Walk to Remember is a tale about young love that bloomed into adult love in a hurry because of an unforeseen circumstance. I cried buckets over this film, some tears of joy and some I shed for sadness. A bittersweet tale of love, and joy, and faith.

So there you have it. My list of favorite movie adaptations. My dirty dozen, give or take a few. Fell free to sound off if I missed your favorites. 🙂