The greatest book to film adaptations ever made

From The Shawshank Redemption to The Shining, some of the greatest movies ever made started off as novels.

“It’s not as good as the book,” is a much used phrase when it comes to the long standing tradition of turning best-selling novels into film. But sometimes, just sometimes, the film is as good, if not better than it’s literary counterpart.

The best films retain the essence that made the book special, while bringing the story to life onscreen.  The work of novelist Gillian Flynn is providing lots of fodder for film in recent years.

Following on from the success of Gone Girl, her book Dark Places is set for release in cinemas next week and stars Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult in the lead roles.

Here we take a look at some of the best book to film adaptations in recent and not-so-recent years.



Gone Girl
Book Release: 2012
Film Release: 2014

Flynn’s previous work, Gone Girl was released to much critical acclaim in 2014, with the book having only been released two years earlier. Starring Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck, this psychological thriller focuses on a married couple in Southeast Missouri. The story starts with the dramatic disappearance of Nick Dunne’s (Affleck) wife, Amy (Pike). This mystery takes many twists and turns and sees Nick himself becoming the prime suspect in the police force’s epic investigation. For her star turn, Rosamund Pike won Best Actress at the Empire Awards and was nominated for an Academy Award, A Golden Globe and a BAFTA.


To Kill A Mocking Bird
Book Release: 1960
Film Release: 

Director, Robert Mulligan, brings tolerance and compassion in keeping to Harper Lee’s timeless classic, To Kill A Mockingbird, when at a time of racial inequality, Lawyer Atticus Finch is tasked with defending a black man charged with the rape of a young white woman. The book was instantly successful and in 1961 after spending 41 weeks on the best-sellers list, it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Harper Lee portrays sympathetic characters in the face of hatred and violence, which is why the casting of Gregory Peck as the heroic Atticus Finch is perfect. His children, Scout and Jem, the book’s central protagonists, are equally sympathetic to the film’s themes especially considering the film only came out two years later, in 1962, when racial segregation was still very much a large part of Southern American culture.


American Psycho
Book release: 1991
Film release:

 American Psycho was written by Bret Easton Ellis in 1991. The novel takes on the shallow capitalism in the heart of contemporary American culture. Mary Harron directs an excellent Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in the 2000 film adaptation. Veering from the ridiculous to the sublime, Harron’s comedic take on the extreme gore and horror from the book provides a relief to audiences whilst still capturing the essence of Ellis’ work and managed to take home nearly $5million in its domestic opening weekend.


Fight Club
Book release: 1996
Film release:

David Fincher’s Fight Club, was a slow burner at the box office but has since become a cult classic. Author Chuck Palahniuk has applauded Fincher’s adaptation himself, with the story illuminating the fragility of the male ego and basic neanderthal needs at his core. Though the film opened to mixed reviews, Helena Bonham carter won the Empire award in 2002 for Best British Actress due to her turn in the film. Fight Club sees a nameless, loner, protagonist who befriends a strange soap salesman on a plane. They eventually go on to set up the eponymous Fight Club. However we can’t go into any more detail as the first rule of fight club is “you do not talk about fight club.”

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Book release: 1974
Film release: 2011

In 2011 Tomas Alfredson adapted John le Carré’s suspenseful cold war thriller, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, into a hit feature length film. The story follows the efforts of spymaster George Smiley to uncover a Soviet mole in the British Secret Intelligence Service. Gary Oldman was the inspired choice as the taciturn and stoic George Smiley and the role awarded him nominations at both the BAFTA and Academy awards, Oldman was also joined by an excellent supporting cast, including Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt and Benedict Cumberbatch. Le Carré himself even makes a cameo appearance.


The Shining
Book release: 1977
Film release:

Stanley Kubrick was fairly liberal with Stephen King’s source material in the 1980’s adaptation of The Shining however the box office figures suggest this wasn’t really such a bad thing. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) moves in to an isolated Hotel with his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and his son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), who is plagued by psychic premonitions. Jack soon discovers the hotel’s dark secrets and begins to unravel into a homicidal maniac who tries to kill his own family. Taking over $44 million it is a true piece of fantastic piece of cinematic work and arguably Jack Nicholson’s most iconic role, “Here’s Johnny” will go down as one of the most famous quotes in Hollywood history.


The Shawshank Redemption
Book release: 1982
Film release:

Another Stephen King novel, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (just titled The Shawshank Redemption for the film) was brought to the big screen in 1994 with Tim Robbins as the protagonist, Andy Dufresne, and Morgan Freeman starring as his loyal friend Red. Directed by Frank Darabont, the film, like the book, takes place in 1947, where successful banker Andy Dufresne is wrongly convicted of murdering his wife and her lover, resulting in him serving two consecutive life sentences in the fictional Shawshank State Prison set in Maine. There, Andy befriends prison contraband smuggler, Ellis ‘Red’ Redding, an inmate also sentenced to life in Shawshank. Red procures a rock hammer and later a large poster of Rita Hayworth for Andy, both of which later lead to his inventive and successful escape.

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