Movie adaptations of books can be hit or miss. This is especially painful for book lovers, who wince to see their favourite novels desecrated by a terrible movie version. But adaptations of classic books have been truly spectacular, loved by many who have not ever read the books.
What makes a good adaptation? Some movies stick closely to the original story and soak up the magic of the source material. Others, such as some on our list, only take the basic plot and create something else entirely.
Read on for our top 5 movie adaptations, and comment with your own favourites below!
- Pride and Prejudice (2005)
Austen die-hards will insist that the only acceptable version is the 1995 television adaptation. This rings true if you want to see every single line and scene from the books painstakingly brought onto the screen. The 2005 movie, while faithful to the material, sliced and diced the book into a more palatable 2 hour version. The casting choices divided fans, as well as some of the stylistic choices. Personally, I found the movie distilled the books pretty much perfectly: witty, heart-breaking and exquisitely filmed. It might be a bit misleading to say this film is as good as the book. But the setting, costumes and music were all so well executed, it is hard to imagine what more a Jane fan could want from a movie version of Pride & Prejudice.
2. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
This movie version couldn’t be more different from the material it's based on. Drawn from a 1958 short story by Truman Capote, the movie took the basic plot and left behind the more depressing and sordid elements of his story. Most of Audrey Hepburn’s movies are cinema classic due to her impeccable taste, glamour and undeniable charm. Few movies are as stylish as Breakfast at Tiffany’s : her little black dresses, dark sunglasses and bohemian flat have barely dated at all. Some of the movies other elements are more cringe-worthy - someone desperately needs to do an edit that removes all of Mickey Rooney’s unfunny and now deeply racist scenes. This is a movie that took a middling story and created a movie classic. Capote himself didn’t like the film, believing Hepburn was all wrong for the role. It’s true that it bears little resemblance to what he wrote. In spite of some of the dated scenes, this remains a movie classic.
3. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
This came out just a few years after Harper Lee’s book was published, which meant she was able to visit the set and strongly approved of the adaptation. She loved the casting of the child actors and Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. Due to the short time frame between the book and the movie, the two are synonymous with each other. With the author’s stamp of approval, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect adaptation of this masterpiece. Let’s hope Netflix don’t try and do a sloppy remake. The strength of the movie is largely due to the masterful acting of Gregory Peck. He manages to embody this character who is both morally upright without being self-aggrandising. Similarly, child stars can often be cloying or wooden, but Mary Badham, the young actress who plays Scout, is completely believable, and she delivers a unspoilt and moving performance.
4. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
As with Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the source material for this epic movie is surprisingly slight. It was based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald’s story is funny, satirical and quite short. The film took the strange and fantastical concept and made an epic and very, very long movie. When it came out, a lot of critics found it to be ponderous and overly long, making a meal out of a slim concept and a slight lack of depth in the main character. But the thematic elements and world-building is incredible and beautiful to watch at least once.
5. A River Runs Through It (1992)
This book adaptation also stars Brad Pitt, in a slightly less challenging role as a normal grown man and not as an old baby growing younger. It is based on the novella by Norman Maclean, and it is strongly inspired by his own childhood and youth growing up in rural Montana. The movie was a hit when it came out and now is a cinema classic. The book is also revered, although not as well known at the Hollywood movie. Fans of the movie will enjoy the book immensely. You can easily picture the scenes in your head as you read. And the movie version beautifully brings to life one of the main characters of the book, Montana and the Big Bear river.