Friday Faves: Literary to Film Adaptations

When a new movie is released that is based on a renowned piece of literature, my usual approach is to not watch the movie until I have read the book. That hasn’t always been the case, and  plenty of times where I finally got around to reading the book years after having watched the film.

Today, I decided to share my favorite page to big screen adaptations, and to find out which ones are your favorites. In no particular order:

~The Godfather (1972): This movie, featuring Al Pacino in a masterful portrayal of mob boss Michael Corleone, is a great film and one of my favorites. Yes, it’s violent and all that other stuff, but the combination of wonderful performances and a gripping story is why it made my list.

I was slightly older than newborn when this movie was released, so it stands to reason that there was no way I could have read it before the film was released, but I still haven’t read it. I’ve decided that I will read it after the Advent season has passed, at the begiining of next year, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise. That there is your southern idiom lesson for the week. 🙂

~Sense and Sensibility (1995)– As I’m sure many of you might guess, I have read -several times over- the book from which this film was adapted. Jane Austen’s classic trope of lovely yet penniless young women seeking marriage and hopefully love is brought delightfully to life in this 1995 adaption. Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, as sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood make this a worthy adapation.

~True Grit ( 1969 or 2010 take your pick!) – Whether we’re discussing the 1969 version starring John Wayne, or the 2010 version starring Jeff Bridges, both of these movies are really great adaptation of Charles Portis’ 1968 novel. I have a strong bias towards Jeff Bridges so my vote goes to the later version, but as I said, both are great.

~The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)– This adaptation strays far from James Thurber’s 1939 short story, but it’s a fun movie and it’s one of the few where the time and trouble to read the original and compare notes is easily accessible. The short story doesn’t wrap up with a happy ending gift wrapped and handed to reader with a bow on top the way the film does. But having experienced both, I did come away wondering if it were possible for the original Walter Mitty, even at his more advanced stage of life, to break out of the doldrums and live a happier life in the reality he was born into. We recently discussed Thurbers story right here.

Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)– Based on Roald Dahl’s 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a very fun film. Much more fun than the 2005 version which we didn’t like all that much. I wasn’t born yet when this movie was released, so again, I didn’t read it before it hit theaters. I was born a little later that same year, but I didn’t read the book until I was a married mother. It’s a great book.

The Help (2011)– I tend to weary of movies that depict slavery or the Jim Crow south, unless there is a very unique unheard angle worth exploring.  But this film (and the 2009 book) had so much humor woven through it and the performances were so well done that I got past it. Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, and Allison Janney (had to Google the cast members!) made me laugh so much that it was worth it to me to watch the film.

That’s my short, but certainly not exhaustive, list.

What are some of  your favorite book to film adaptations?









9 thoughts on “Friday Faves: Literary to Film Adaptations

  1. Grab the Lapels says:

    Alfred Hitchcock’s film adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca is wonderful.

    Alias Grace on Netflix captures the book by Margaret Atwood beautifully.

    The Silence of the Lambs, both book and movie, are top of my list.

    I’m thinking I’ll do my own books-to-film post. Thanks for the inspiration!


  2. Curly Sue says:

    The Firm by John Grisham. I actually read the book after seeing the movie and was surprised at the book ending. It was way different and not as good as the movie ending. John Grisham said there was no trickery involved in the movie ending. All the required pieces were present in the book, but he just didn’t think of it when writing the ending for the book.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. smkoseki says:

    Well-written post; liked it very much. Your craft is wasted on the web :-).

    I concur with Curly Sue, The Firm book was poor, The Firm was movie excellent & even plot-improved. First movie I thought of, quickly followed by The Hunt for Red October.

    Also In the Bedroom movie by Fields beats Dubus’ book. I personally found In the Bedroom the most morally charged movie of all time…the first big movie directed by Gen X and boy did it hit a home run. Poetry scene: top notch!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Elspeth says:

    @ Curly Sue:

    The Firm as I recall it (it’s been a while), was a good film. I never read the book.


    Thank you, sir, for the kind compliment. I do try.

    I must admit a little surprise that you read John Grisham. I confess I tend to spurn popular modern fiction authors who crank out book after book.


  5. hearthie says:

    The Princess Bride – the movie is better, the book has a lot of random oddness that clashes annoyingly with the story. (I know that’s the POINT, but I don’t have to like it).

    Sense & S is excellent. Elinor was played perfectly, even though the actress was much too old…but could one find an actress the right age to have the proper polite snark and self-control? Probably not!

    I *love* Bram Stoker’s Dracula – no, it’s not as faithful as one might like, but Dracula is gothic literature, and that movie is gothic to the max (in the original sense of the term). Also, Winona Ryder and those dresses… ach, to swoon.


  6. smkoseki says:

    Hearthie Yes on TPB! Totally forgot it; my kids read the book & skimmed along & agree with you 100%. But what do I know since I still can’t figure out how such a lame movie plot with lame actors turned out so good…I remember watching it in college with 10 males I thought incapable of emotion full of shameless tears of laughter/joy…I will clearly never be “with it”. I fondly remember Elwes once was asked when he first knew the movie was a hit (it was clearly a B-list dud!) and he said a random waitress replied to his order slyly: “As you wish!” he knew something was afoot.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. hearthie says:

    The Princess Bride is great because it plays the rescuing princess adventure story straight, and that story speaks to the hearts of humans in a deep way. YES it’s funny, and has great lines and amazing scenes …. but the CORE, the love and the rescue no matter what – that’s played seriously. You’re allowed to love to the death, you’re allowed to do the daring deed without a shred of irony or looking back and questioning… you’re allowed to DO. To be.

    The humor allows you to relax and let your heart be touched by the Deep Story. Plus, the humor is the most skillfully done part of the movie.

    I think the same thing is true of Forrest Gump. Because the protagonist is not mentally ept, his daily heroism is something we’re ‘allowed’ to fall into. We love because he loves, because he has no barriers, our own barriers fall away.

    And we WANT to fall into adventure, into love – true love. We’re just too darn cynical to live our lives that way.

    Liked by 1 person

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