Top Ten Book To Film Adaptations

Following our latest podcast Storytelling Part 2 here is the promised list of our favourite book to film adaptations. If you think of any other outstanding examples, please comment and let us know!

And no, Harry Potter DOES NOT feature. It belongs tucked away in the ‘Weak Fantasy’ list.



10:  The Road (2006) – Written By:  Cormac McCarthy

Film:  The Road (2009) – Directed by:  John Hillcoat

Read the book? Now watch the film: Writing about a barren, lifeless wasteland is one thing; depicting it on film is something else. Hillcoat has done an excellent job in this regard, showing us a world that is even bleaker than Dante’s Inferno. Great film and book that either condemns or saves humanity, depending on your outlook.

9:  Fight Club (1996) – Written By:  Chuck Palahniuk

Film:  Fight Club (1999) – Directed by:  David Fincher

Read the book? Now watch the film: Fincher perfectly interprets the social cynicism and anti corporate-culture permeating the book, creating a movie that is just as effective. The bible for many social reformists and disgruntled workers alike, both film and book stand as an important statement that something’s gotta change.

8:  Jaws (1974) – Written By:  Peter Benchley

Film:  Jaws (1975) – Directed by:  Stephen Spielberg

Read the book? Now watch the film: I know it’s a cliché, but after watching the film, I really did develop a fear of the sea. Buying the film rights before the book’s publication was a smart move for producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown: Spielberg’s film is often hailed as the ‘father of the blockbuster’ and was a roaring success. And it’s easy to see why: Jaws is both a tense thriller and a horrible wakeup call that humans aren’t at the top of the food chain.

7:  Dracula (1897) – Written By:Bram Stoker

Film:  Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) – Directed by:  Francis Ford Coppola

Read the book? Now watch the film: It’s hard to pick the best from the multitude of film adaptations spawned from Stoker’s story, but Coppola’s version does it for me. The sumptuous gothic art direction, fantastic score and superb performance by Gary Oldman really captures the dark poetry of the book, rendering it my favourite vampire film. CG out Keanu Reeves and you’d have a masterpiece.

6:  A Clockwork Orange (1962) – Written By:  Anthony Burgess

Film:  A Clockwork Orange (1971) – Directed by:  Stanley Kubrick

Read the book? Now watch the film: I actually think that the book and film hold to an equally high standard. However, Kubrick’s vision of a dystopian future is striking to say the least, presenting a world that is both futuristic, yet uncomfortably familiar. If Apple’s Kubrick-influenced product designs are anything to go by, a codpiece wearing droog could be knocking on my door sometime soon…

5:  The Shining (1977) – Written By:  Stephen King

Film:  The Shining (1980) – Directed by:  Stanley Kubrick

Read the book? Now watch the film: Alleged to only contain around 40% of the book, Kubrick’s film is a harder, less compromising version (in the novel, Jack Torrance has moments of redemption, coupled with a greater supernatural element). Successfully identifying King’s strengths (good concepts and themes) and weaknesses (a heavy dependence on ‘good’ and ‘evil’ forces, a tendency to ramble) as a writer, certainly helped Kubrick to trim the fat and create one of the best horror films to date.

4:  Heart Of Darkness (1902) – Written By:  Joseph Conrad

Film:  Apocalypse Now (1979) – Directed by:  Francis Ford Coppola

Read the book? Now watch the film: Conrad’s novella was more of a character concept piece, showing mental deterioration within the African jungle. Coppola expands on this idea, tying in statements about conflict amidst the insane backdrop of the Vietnam War. I consider this to be the number one war film and is another great example of pen and ink giving way to celluloid.

3:  The Lord Of The Rings (1937 – 1949) – Written By:  J. R. R. Tolkien

Film:  The Lord Of The Rings (2001 – 2003) – Directed by:  Peter Jackson

Read the book? Now watch the film: The task of adapting Tolkien’s long winded and often rambling classic cannot be underestimated: frankly I’m shocked that a film was even attempted. Thankfully, the results are for the most part great, successfully capturing the magic of the book while losing little of the narrative. I’m a fantasy nut at heart, which is why I’ve rated this adaptation so highly; but the sheer influence, following and bang-for-your-buck the movie contains also contributes.

2:  The Godfather (1969) – Written By:  Mario Puzo

Film:  The Godfather (1972) – Directed by:  Francis Ford Coppola

Read the book? Now watch the film: Coppola’s success with book adaptations (there are three included in this list) is clear proof that the movie can supersede the novel. While Puzo’s book was extremely popular and opened up the Mafia to the world, Coppola’s film has been argued to be the best film of all time. Indeed, it even made FilmFella James decide that 1972 was the best year for film (check out our A Good Year podcast here)

1:  Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? (1968) – Written By:  Philip K. Dick

Film:  Blade Runner (1982) – Directed by:  Ridley Scott

Read the book? Now watch the film: Ridley Scott took an already brilliant concept novel and turned it into one of the best sci fi pictures of all time. Blade Runner eschews the comedy elements of the book for an edgier vision of the future and to great effect. Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer are the perfect realisation for K. Dick’s original characters. An absolute classic.

Thanks for reading.  You can follow my tweets here @filmfellahenry
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About filmfellahenry
Film reviewer, script writer and occasional painter. Fan of Lumet, Aronofsky and Kubrick, with a good measure of early John Carpenter thrown in. Particularly like post-apocalyptic sci-fi, horror and fantasy film genres.

4 Responses to Top Ten Book To Film Adaptations

  1. filmflan says:

    Great article, definitely got the number one spot right. I was hoping you would have Blade Runner near the top.
    Good work.

  2. Boys, boys, boys… what about adaptations from Jane Austen’s novels? or Dickens?

    • To be honest, I’m not really an Austin fan and I find Dickens, despite his literary excellence, a little depressing. I mean it’s all grim workhouses and tales of an oppressed underclass… While obviously an important statement for the time, I find the common themes wax a little thin after a while.

      I guess their exclusion is also down to my lack of engagement with the Period Drama, of which I’ve never been a huge fan.

      Thanks for reading!

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