film

34 Books that Have Turned Into Great Movies

Although we have all seen movies that were based on books and were disappointed at the outcome, there were also many books that have turned into some really excellent movies, even if the movie adaptation didn’t always stay true to the source material. I love it when nothing in the plot is changed, but sometimes the film adaptation was so wonderful, that I could forgive the little tweaking here and there.

34 Books that Turned into Great Movies

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird
    I read the screenplay and the book, and I saw the movie several times. A classic novel that won the Pullitzer Prize, examining racism and lack of justice in the US during the 1930s. It features a great cast, including Robert Duvall and Gregory Peck; and everyone who has seen the movie can agree that Gregory Peck was perfect for the part of Atticus Finch.
34 Books that Turned into Great Movies
Image by David Mark from Pixabay

2. Little Women
This book already has 7 film adaptations. The newest one was filmed in 2019 with the talented Emma Watson, Laura Dern, and Meryl Streep. If you have not seen this movie yet, now is a good time 🙂

3. The Color Purple
Wonderful book and wonderful movie with an exceptional cast (Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, and Oprah Winfrey) that brought this heartfelt story to life! This is one of those stories I absolutely love and will not forget.

4. The Chronicles of Narnia
I truly enjoyed the book and the movie, and if you haven’t seen the movie adaptation of this classic yet, I recommend that you do. You won’t regret it!
Narnia

5. Alice in Wonderland (2010)
The 2010 version is the one with Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. Directed by Tim Burton and with a stellar cast, including Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Mia Wasikowska, Stephen Fry, and Frances de la Tour, one could only expect the very best. Johnny Depp excelled in his role as the Mad Hatter, and Helena Bonham Carter portrayed the perfectly mad and evil Red Queen. I wouldn’t mind seeing this film again.
Alice in Wonderland

6. The Jungle Book (2016)
This is a great adaptation of the old classic. It’s the Disney version; it is not based on the original (slightly harder to digest) Rudyard Kipling’s book. I like both versions, Rudyard Kipling’s and Disney’s, but Disney’s Jungle Book is a lot easier to take in :-)This movie received great praise from PETA for using CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) animals.

7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Although the film was very different from the book, it was an unforgettable movie that won several Academy Awards. Jack Nicholson’s and Louis Fletcher’s performances were impressive. The cast also included Christopher Lloyd, Danny De Vito, and Will Sampson.

8. The Shining

I read this book as a teenager, and I made sure to never read it at night. I got so scared that I only read it during the day time, lol. Years later, I watched the movie. A few scenes were changed, but it was one of the few times when I actually liked the changes. When I got to the end, though, I got the fright of my life.

If you haven’t read the book yet, please skip this paragraph, because here comes a SPOILER ALERT. During the whole movie, I was tense, especially with that bath tub scene (remember that one?) but when I saw the cook enter the hotel at the end of the movie, I finally relaxed. I had read the book, and I knew that the cook was going to live. Phew, what a relief. Now, imagine me, totally relaxed, watching the film, sure in the knowledge that for the next two minutes nothing scary was going to happen, when suddenly Jack Nicholson leaps out of nowhere with an axe and buries it in the man’s chest. I literally jumped and screamed!

terrified

Now, that was a change that certainly got my heart racing, lol.

9. The Green Mile
The Green Mile is exactly like the book, and I loved that! It’s a beautiful story and a drama that opens the floodgates for the waterworks, a must read. It is one of those stories that I won’t forget, and a book and movie I will always recommend. The film also features some great actors, such as Tom Hanks and Michael Clark Duncan.

10. Jurassic Park
Michael’s Crichton books are page turners, and the movie became an instant hit. Enough said, Jurassic Park was highly entertaining!

11. The Hunger Games
The book trilogy was very good, I especially enjoyed book a and 2. Book 3 was still OK, but not as much a page turner as the previous books. The movie versions were great. I only saw the first movie and a trailer for the second one, but it promised to be an enjoyable film as well.

12. The Mazerunner
I didn’t read the book or saw the movie, but many of my students loved the story and were avid readers of this book series. It has received excellent reviews and the three subsequent movies grossed a box office total of $949 million.

13. The Da Vinci Code
Great book, great movie, and great actors! Tom Hanks has a knack for always choosing the right film 🙂
da Vinci Code

14. The Wizard of Oz
Another classic and unforgettable story. Who hasn’t seen the Wizard of Oz? 😉 Such a wonderful movie!

15. Sense and Sensibility (1995)
I love Jane Austen’s books, and I have read most of them. I also enjoyed the movie adaptations. With Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet as leading actresses, you can’t go wrong.

16. Forrest Gump
Unforgettable story, movie, and performance. Another excellent work by Tom Hanks. I love the following quote:
“Do you ever dream, Forrest, about who you’re gonna be?”
“Aren’t I going to be me?”

17. The Godfather
“Revenge is a dish best served cold” Everyone knows that quote, right?Another favorite of many. After so many years, I always find someone who has to bring up the Godfather in one or another conversation. I guess, it’s just one of those movies.

18. Trainspotting
I did not read the book, but I saw the movie. While the written form has many thought processes and may be a challenging read – according to online reviews – the movie is excellent and worth watching. It features great actors such as Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle.

19. Doctor Zhivago (1965)
Who can ever forget the book, or the movie with Omar Sharif and Julie Christie’s unforgettable performances? Albeit old, this film is an absolute must see.

20. Schindler’s List
A story of goodness that can still be found in the face of evil. I missed reading the book, but the movie is wonderful, and will provoke a few tears. Schindler’s story is an inspiring tale of hope and humanity, based on real events, a story that can’t be missed.

21. Harry Potter
Harry Potter has an enormous fan base. I also devoured the whole book series and read most of the books several times. They were such a joy to read and I love the world J.K. Rowling has created. The movies did not disappoint. With different film directors, they represented Harry Potter’s world perfectly, with its magic, innocence, and growing darkness which becomes more prominent in the later books.

22. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
I have not read the book, but I recently watched the movie on Netflix and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was interesting to watch this fantasy world which so far had always been set in England in New York this time, with different rules, a slightly different Ministry of Magic, and a different name for “Muggles”, or non-magical people. With a cast including Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farell, and Johnny Depp, I was hooked.

23. The Devil Wears Prada
I loved the book and the movie. Meryl Streep was excellent as Miranda Priestley, and Anne Hathaway was also perfectly cast. Enough said, go and watch The Devil Wears Prada and see the iconic Meryl Streep at her best again 🙂

24. The Lord of the Rings
The movies were an enormous success. Although the books didn’t enthrall me and I only watched the first movie, (sorry, I know, that’s an unpopular thing to say 😉 ) The Lord of the Rings must be included on this list.

25. The Shawshank Redemption
Another great story that has been turned into a wonderful movie with amazing actors Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins. You can’t miss out on this one.

26. Goodfellas
Another classic movie based on a great book. Marvellous actors. Enough said 🙂

27. MASH (1970)
I loved MASH! It always cracked me up and I would like to watch it again. Unfortunately, I never read the book, but how I enjoyed the series! Unforgettable!

28. The Exorcist (1973)
Oh dear, the movie was great! And scary! I have seen the old version and the remakes, and I like the newer films too, but I am still a fan of the old movie 🙂

29. The Silence of the Lambs
A film that still provokes fear, featuring Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster who give an outstanding performance as Hannibal Lecter and FBI agent Clarence Starling. The dialogues between Lecter and Starling are mesmerizing, finding much common ground in similar pasts and creating a (sort of) relationship they both didn’t see coming.

30. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
The book is slightly darker than the movie and has a sad ending, whereas the movie is a little more frivolous and has a happy ending (the writer ends up with Holly). Despite those huge differences between the film and the original material, it still became a smashing success and turned into another film classic.

31. To all the Boys I’ve Loved Before
To all the Boys I’ve Loved Before is also based on a book, and it is the only one that was not shown in the theaters; it is a Netflix production, and my students convinced me to watch it. At first, I thought it was just another silly teenage romance, but it was a sweet story and a wonderful romantic comedy I truly enjoyed. I could watch it again 🙂

32. The House of the Spirits
I read the book and saw the movie. I love Isabel Allende’s books! The House of the Spirits is a remarkable story and has a stellar cast with no less than Jeremy Irons, Meryl Streep, Glen Close, Winona Ryder, and Antonio Banderas. If you haven’t seen this one yet, please watch it 🙂 You won’t regret it.

33. Of Love and Shadows
This is by far my favorite book by Isabel Allende, although I love all her stories. Of Love and Shadows is a drama, filmed in the US, Chile, and Argentina, again with Antonio Banderas and Jennifer Connelly in the leading roles.

34. Hidden Figures
The book and movie tell the true story of mathematicians Katherine Johnson, Catherine Vaughan, and Mary Jackson who worked on the US Space Program in the 1950s. This is a sincere story that sheds light on the struggle of black women to be seen as intellectuals, a story of triumph over adversity.

The End

Many of those are classics, and some of the newer movie adaptations have also turned into great box office hits.

Which ones of this list have you seen? Are there any that you have not watched yet or do you have any suggestions to add to this list? Maybe now during lockdown is a good time to plan a nice evening with some homemade popcorn and a great film.

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28 thoughts on “34 Books that Have Turned Into Great Movies

  1. There is a lot of Stephen King featured here. What an excellent author. My brother used to love Stephen King so much, so even as a very young lad my brother had to share these Stephen King horrors with me as soon as it became dark lol.

    What an easy way for Hollywood producers to make money as they do not even have to come up with the movie ideas themselves.

    1. Hi Schalk,

      So true! What an easy way indeed for Hollywood directors to make money, the story is already there! They still have to write the script, though, but considering that there are many more books than the ones on this list that have turned into movies, it may have lessened the movie directors`work on many occasions.
      Stephen King seems to be a favorite here, I hadn’t even noticed. I like his books, but there are some I really did not enjoy at all. Some of his books are amazing, and others (mostly the newer ones) are very longwinded. He is a great story-teller, though.

  2. Great list of some fantastic movies — many award winners in this list! I recently watched Forrest Gump and was pleased to see that it still holds up as a great movie even after all these years. 

    I was also very impressed with the visuals in the Harry Potter series of books. It’s a true testament to a director who can make a world with such magic look as impressive as I’d imagined it in my head. 

    1. Yes, it still is, after all these years. 

      The visuals in Harry Potter are indeed impressive. What is even more amazing is how similar the film characters’ physical appearances to the book characters are – with few exceptions. Ginny’s hair was flaming red in the books and in the movie it was not, but besides that and a few other minor differences, the resemblances between book and film characters was pretty much on point. 

  3. Even though I’m a big reader, I haven’t read many of the books from your list but seen more than half of the movies. My favorite ones are Forrest Gump, Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption but I also loved The Lord of the Rings and Hunger Games. 
    I have a problem that when I read a great book, I usually don’t like the movie because you can never express everything written in the book in a movie in such detail. That’s why I never wanted to watch One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest because I liked the book. 
    Out of the other movies I haven’t seen yet I would like to see Goodfellas and To Kill a Mockingbird, which is such a legendary movie and I think I need to watch it one day.
    Thank you for this wonderful list!

    1. Hi Lenka,

      One thing where movies indeed fail at is demonstrating the character’s thought processes which are better expressed in the books. I have to agree with that. 

      I highly recommend both Goodellas and To Kill a Mockingbird. To Kill a Mockingbird is a wonderful film and the actors give great performances. 

  4. Hi, Christine,

    “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

    I love literature and movies. That being said, I’ve always thought that books are far superior to movies in most cases. When they adapt books, they usually skip some parts for the sake of time or because it’s not viable to make some scenes. Take Juan Rulfo’s works as an example. How would you film passages from Pedro Paramo that talk about death in such a surreal way? It’s impossible or nearly impossible.

    I’ve seen many of the movies you mentioned or read the books they’re based on, my favorites being The Wizard of Oz, The Chronicles of Narnia, The DaVinci Code, The Godfather, and Jurassic Park.

    I would add Gone with the Wind to the list. It’s a true adaptation of the book. No wonder the movie is nearly 4 hours long! Anyway, both the book and the movie are classics and a must-watch for any cinephile. A masterpiece with the superb actress Vivien Leigh.

    It was a very interesting read. There are some movies I haven’t seen but sound interesting. I’ll make sure to watch them.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Enrique,

      Yes! Gone With the Wind is a must on this list! Absolutely! Thank you for mentioning that.
      Although there are some great movie adaptations, it is true that they often skip or delete certain scenes because they do not fit in the movie. That is one disadvantage that may disappoint many book lovers.

  5. This was a fun and nostalgia-inducing article, Christine! I have seen many of the movies on this list (I’ve actually read “How To Kill A Mockingbird,” “The Color Purple,” and the first two “Harry Potter” books. Haha), and I must say that the movie adaptations of these classics did not disappoint! I am SO HAPPY that you did not include “Twilight” on this list (I’m sorry. I thought that the book and movie were overrated garbage. Just my opinion. Haha). Given these cold fall nights, I will definitely pop some popcorn, grab some hot chocolate, and watch some of my all-time favorites! God bless you!

    1. Oh believe me, Twilight will definitely not make it to my list. I never read the books, I had no interest in it, and I only watched the movie, because my students were begging me to after exams were over and we had some free time. I hated it. When I convinced myself to watch the second movie – not sure why I did that, lol – I turned it off after only 20 minutes, I couldn’t bear any more of it.

  6. Girl, you missed “Jaws” by Peter Benchley. Or, maybe I’m dating myself. LOL. Some of the books you mentioned, I really enjoyed the book better than the movie. “The Firm” (which you didn’t mention) is one of them. I loved the book better than the movie. Now, I didn’t know The Godfather was a book. The movie was at least 3 hours long, so I can’t imagine how long the book must have been. LOL. Anyway, great reading your list. The Shawshank Redemption was an awesome movie, but I didn’t get to read the book.

    1. Jaws was a great book, I remember reading it! And the movie was awesome! Thank you for adding that suggestion! The Firm was another wonderful movie. I did not read the book, but the movie was great, with a strong cast.

    2. This is a great list that reminded me of my childhood. I used to watch most of these movies with my family when I was younger. Now I don’t have as much time, but there are some movies on that list that I want to watch, such as The Devil Wears Prada.

  7. Hi Christine,

    I love this article as I am a huge book and film guy, especially when books have been adapted into films. My two favourites in your list of 34 are “one flew over the cuckoo’s nest” and “The Shining”. I love Jack Nicholson and his performances in these two films are probably two of the best film performances of all time, in my opinion anyway. His story inspires me too as he came to acting quite late and very quickly became one of the most popular actors in the world.

    Love those books and films.

    Thank you for sharing and keep up the great work.

    All the best,

    Tom

    1. Hi Tom,

      Jack Nicholson is an excellent actor. I also think that his performance in “The Shining” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” was extraordinary. I didn’t know that he came to acting quite late. I love his work, and I especially liked “As Good as it Gets”.

  8. I’m suprised to learn that some of the great movies I have watched were fist books.
    Of course, many I knew, and some I have even read.
    As some of your other comments above reveal, it’s often a dissapointment to watch a movie of a favorite book, as they just cannot do it justice.

    I’ve actually seen twenty-two of the movies that you list above, and read way less of the books….. (I’m not sure what that says about me….) haha

    The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption, and The silence of The Lambs, are among my favorites.
    I also have to confess that I watched ‘Twilight’ (with my nieces) because they convinced me that the books were so good……. Are, to be young and innocent!

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Andrew,

      I think that most of us were coaxed into watching Twilight by nieces or – in my case – students, lol. The girls loved it, the boys did not, and neither did I 😉
      Shawshank Redemption and the Green Mile were amazing movies. I also loved the Silence of the Lambs, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the Color Purple, and many of the others in the list.

  9. It takes a talented director and producer (and film team/cast) to create a great movie from a great book. That’s always the worry, that the movie won’t live up to the book. Do you feel any of these movies weren’t as good as the book? Or visa versa?

    1. Hi Gareth,

      Although I loved the Shining, many – including Stephen King – did not like the changes that were made to the movie. Characters who lived in the book were killed off in the movie, and the personalities of the main characters were also different from the book. For many, it didn’t live up to the book, but I still enjoyed the movie, although I did not like the scary surprise I got in the end when a character that was supposed to live was killed.
      In the case of the Green Mile, the movie absolutely lived up to the book, it felt as if the book had come to life. The Green Mile for me is one of those unforgettable stories.

  10. Hi Christine,

    I’ve watched some of the movies that you listed out here. Among 34 movies, the Davinci Code is my favorite. Since the novel has much archeology, semiotics, and Bible-related elements, the crew did a perfect job of visualizing the plots.
    I remembered the time I went to the cinema and watched this film with my classmates. I cannot leave it when I wanted to go to the toilet so badly, which showed that the movie is enticing and addictive.
    The following movies adapted from Dan Brown is Angels & Demons and Inferno. Both are also good picks for a nice evening.

    Cheers,
    Matt

  11. Thank you so much for this list. It took me back to my childhood. I used to watch a lot of these movies with my family when I was younger. My 2 favorites so far are the maze runner and the jungle book. I have never read the books. I only watched the movies. I don’t like reading fiction anymore though, so I don’t think I will read them in the future. I wonder if there is a non fiction book in the self development genre that has been turned into a movie?

  12. sometimes when I start reading a book that turned into a movie, i start imagining the time that went in to produce exactly that same phrase. There is not one but very many movies that have come from books indeed. This is just a sample list but there are numerous. To kill a mockingbird is a movie that I have watched over and over again, I felt like I should have been part. I watched little women in this very year and Emma Watson was amazing.

  13. Thanks for sharing this amazing article , it is very important that we get to read a lot as it helps us intellectually. These 34 books are really great books and then turning into great movies means that the story is a very good one worthy of being enacted. This is nice, thanks for considering to put it out.

  14. The process of movie creation on its own takes a lot of creativity, when it comes to working from a book it is another ball game on its own. More work and resources is needed as such, there is always room for a little tweaking like you described it. I have read Alice in the Wonderland, for Helena Bonham Carter, you can always trust her at her roles 

    1. Hi,

      True, creating a movie involves a lot of creativity. As for Helena Bonham Carter, she is just great, always excells in her roles 🙂

      Thanks for your comment!

  15. Great list here Christine,

    Gone are those day when I used to spend hours watching movies and reading storybooks.

    Harry Potter was my favourite. I watched it over and over again including “The Head Of Medusa” (not on your list).

    Now, I don’t spend time watching movie, it’s a thing of the past. But I wish I can watch some of your lists here.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Albright,

      I will definitely check out Head of Medusa. The title sounds interesting. I also used to spend hours reading, but now I hardly have time to read. I sometimes make time for it, though, usually during weekends. It always relaxes me.

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