11 Classic Modern Movies Based On Books

No Country for Old Men (2007) | © Scott Rudin Productions, Mike Zoss Productions
No Country for Old Men (2007) | © Scott Rudin Productions, Mike Zoss Productions
Photo of Anna Jauhola
8 September 2017

In 99 percent of cases, a book is better than a movie adapted from a book. However, every once in a while an excellent screenplay turns a novel into a terrific film. Here are 11 to savor.

Naked Lunch (1991)

A surreal science-fiction drama, David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch introduces a protagonist William Lee, an exterminator who finds out his wife is addicted to his pesticide and, after being infected by the bug powder, steps into the world of hallucinations. The movie is based on William S. Burroughs’s nonlinear novel published in 1959, but the film also used other fiction and Burroughs’s biographical material for the screenplay. An eccentric film that in its time received positive reviews, despite the fact it might not be everybody’s cup of weird tea.

The Shining (1980)

Three years after Stephen King‘s psychological horror novel was published, Stanley Kubrick directed a critically-acclaimed movie adaptation starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, and Danny Lloyd. The protagonist, Jack Torrance, is a recovering alcoholic and author devoted to working on his next novel in the peace and quiet of a distant and isolated hotel up in the mountains. As the winter grows darker, so does Torrance’s state of mind—he starts to think that staying in the hotel forever and ever might not be such a bad idea…

Stand By Me (1986)

A moving drama-comedy film, Stand and Me, based on Stephen King’s novella called The Body, tells a story of four small-town boys who set out on on an adventure to find the body of a missing child. The movie was praised by both King and the critics when it premiered, and it is considered one of the cult coming-of-age feature films of the 1980’s.

The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003)

Peter Jackson’s trilogy, which tells the story of Frodo Baggins’s quest to destroy the One Ring, was based on a novel written by English author J.R.R. Tolkien, the first part of which was originally published in 1954. Filmed entirely in Jackson’s native land of New Zealand, The Lord of the Rings is said to be one of the most ambitious movie projects of all times and is definitely a must-see for any adventurous fantasy film buff.

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Based on Lewis Carroll‘s classic fantasy novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the vision of director Tim Burton and screenwriter Linda Woolverton resulted in the unique, humorous, and visually-enthralling feature film, Alice in Wonderland. Through the rabbit hole, Alice falls into the wonderfully chaotic realm ruled by the vicious Red Queen. According to the legend drafted on a scroll of parchment, Alice is the only one who can save Wonderland and its inhabitants from its terrible future.

Interview With the Vampire (1994)

A cult film in its genre, Interview With the Vampire is based on Anne Rice’s Gothic horror novel, originally published in 1976. The film stars Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise as the tragic main characters and features Kirsten Dunst, Antonio Banderas, and Christian Slater in supporting roles. Interview With the Vampire chronicles the journey of Lestat and Louis through the centuries—two vampires seeking what they cannot find. Neil Jordan’s direction derives from the darkest corners of the human mind, turning life into a never-ending, bittersweet tragedy.

Fight Club (1999)

Based on a 1996 novel by Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club turned out to be one of the most controversial films of 1999 due to the excessive violence. Starring Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, and Helena Bonham Carter, it follows a protagonist (Norton) who suffers from insomnia and, after meeting a mysterious soap salesman Tyler Durden (Pitt), develops a rather extreme form of self-help. You either love or hate Fight Club—but it’s one to remember.

Goodfellas (1990)

Yes, there was a time when they made good gangster movies. Goodfellas, starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Ray Liotta, is based on a non-fiction book, Wiseguy, by crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi. The film, directed by Martin Scorsese, follows the story of Henry Hills from his childhood up to fully fledged gangsterhood—just like Henry always wanted it. A classic in its genre, Goodfellas was rightfully nominated for several Oscars and Joe Pesci won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Milos Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is one of three movies to have won the five big Oscars—for best film, actor, actress, director and screenplay. Based on Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel, it explores institutional procedures and the human mind.

Mary Poppins (1964)

Based on P.L. Travers’ children’s book series about a magical nanny blown into London by the wind, Mary Poppins was directed by Robert Stevenson. It is a magical family feature film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. An evergreen Walt Disney production, Mary Poppins received 13 Academy Award nominations and has been added to the US National Film Registry, which acknowledges films that the organisation deem to be “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

No Country for Old Men (2007)

This multilayered drama-thriller-western-comedy directed and written by Joel and Ethan Coen brought author Cormac McCarthy’s novel onto the big screen. The story depicts the consequences of a drug deal gone wrong near the Texas-Mexico border. The stories of a psychopathic hitman, a local hunter, and a sheriff are brought together in this film, which won four Oscars at the 80th Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Cookies Policy

We and our partners use cookies to better understand your needs, improve performance and provide you with personalised content and advertisements. To allow us to provide a better and more tailored experience please click "OK"