There is an age-old debate about the topic of the famous book to movie adaptations. Some say that it is completely unfair to adapt it on-screen while some say that adapting it on-screen helps reach a diverse audience base. Well, this debate has no end since both points hold equal value and importance. It is quite true that the books that you have so loved and admired sometimes lose their essence when portrayed on-screen. This happens most frequently because the directors tend to improvise on the storyline of the book by deleting or adding several scenes into the movie. This strategy used in the book to movie adaptations can spoil it for the avid reader who is through with every other scene in the book and can quote dialogues directly. It is sure to disappoint them!
On the other hand, it is absolutely correct that not many have the time and patience to read the book until the end. They prefer movies over books any day. For such people, movies are a great medium to portray a story that they could have read but did not. It gives them a chance to explore the world of literary fiction without much effort. This is also an opportunity for a book to reach a wider audience base and gather their admiration and love.
However, the book to movie adaptations has a supreme pressure of living up to the expectations of the book. There are few books that have been adapted so well on-screen that they surpassed the book itself. Well, this clearly states how the debate may never come to an end. The ball keeps shifting from one court to the other you see.
If you are looking for the best book to movie adaptations to binge-watch at home, then here you go!
1. To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird revolves around the aspects of gender inequality, innocence, kindness, cruelty, love, hatred, and pathos. It was first published in 1960. As soon as it was published, the book garnered rave reviews all over the world. It also won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. Lee considered this to be an extremely simple story but today, it is regarded as a masterpiece by everyone around the globe.
Based in a fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, the USA in the 1930s, the story takes place around the time of the Great Depression. Atticus Finch, a struggling lawyer, and a widower lives with his two young children, Scout and Jem. The story is narrated by Scout Finch. It also has a number of other characters including Dill, their friend, and Boo Radley, their mysterious neighbour. All is well in Maycomb until a black man, Tom Robinson is accused of raping a white girl named Mayella. Atticus Finch is appointed to the case as Robinson’s lawyer. Atticus being a firm believer of truth and justice tries his best to prove that Robinson is innocent and the accusations are merely out of discrimination that prevails towards the Black in the country. But will Finch be able to set Robinson free? Will his constant practice affect the residents of the town and make them see his point? Will the trial be unbiased?
To Kill a Mockingbird is a heart-wrenching story on discrimination based on caste, color, and gender. It carries a strong message that every human being should be treated equally without bias and everyone should have the freedom to live with their head held high.
This book adapted to movie turned out to be just as moving. The movie was directed by Robert Mulligan and starred Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, and Robert Duvall in the leads. The movie was a massive success and won three Academy Awards. Lee praised the movie and its storytelling herself. The movie brought the character to life on-screen. However, the focus shifts from Scout to Atticus in the movie and several characters from the book are omitted or given very less screen time. Still, it is one of the best books to movie adaptations to ever exist. It stays with you for a long time. This is a worth watch if you like the book.
2. Little Women
Published in 1868, this book by Louisa May Alcott derives inspiration from her early life itself. The story takes place around the time of the Civil War in England. Time and again, this masterpiece is appreciated among readers and literary critics because of its flawless writing style. The writing style is such that it brings all the characters to life and the March sisters become a part of our life.
The story revolves around the March sisters and their troublesome time during the Civil War. They are often worried since their father is away from home and their mother is distracted most of the time though she tries her best to take care of her daughters. The main characters include the tomboy, Jo who tries her best to impress everyone with her writing. Next, we have the most beautiful of the sisters, Meg, and the sweet and kind Beth. The youngest sister is Amy who is the most spoiled among them. The novel showcases an unbreakable bond between the sisters that unites them together in a situation like the Civil War. The love and affection keep them together at all times and they swear to face it together. The tale of the March sisters is timeless and pure. It warms your heart and puts a smile on your face.
Due to the immense popularity of the novel, it had about six book to movie adaptations. But the recent adaptation in 2019 stands out. Directed by Greta Gerwig, it stars Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlen in the leads. Greta has twisted a plot of the story to make it more remarkable and real. In the movie, Jo is the author of the novel, Little Women. This completely changes the story into a tale of passion. She has also used the strategy of going back and forth in time to enhance the connection with the audience. In conclusion, the book adapted to movie turned out to be as appealing. Do watch it if you haven’t!
3. Gone Girl
This book was published in 2012 and became immensely popular instantly. It received a lot of critical acclaims worldwide and also became the New York times bestseller. It sold more than 18 million copies worldwide and became the most talked-about book in recent years. A lot of literary critics have given this book rave reviews.
The story starts on the 5th Anniversary of Nick and Amy Dunne when Amy suddenly disappears. Her diary reveals that her husband Nick may be the reason of her agony and disappearance. Amy’s diary has a close revelation of the dirty secrets about their marriage. Investigations start at full swing in the first half of the novel when all the suspicion lands on Nick. The husband of the year turns to a murderer in no time. But is that the whole truth or just half of it? Was Amy killed or kidnapped by her husband? We can just steer clear of one answer, Amy and Nick’s marriage was never perfect and had its own set of problems.
This psychological thriller received an adaptation in 2014. Directed by David Fincher with Rosamund Pike, Ben Affleck, Neil Patrick Harris in the leads, the movie was appreciated commercially and critically. Rosamund was nominated for numerous Academy Awards, Golden Globe awards, and BAFTA awards among others. The movie lives up to the writing of Gillian Flynn with its chilling scenes that reinforce the psychological and thrilling elements of the book. The movie keeps you at the edge of your seats for the whole duration of it. The second is as twisted and dangerous as the book. This book to movie adaptations is one of the best to exist. It is worth your time!
4. Call me By Your Name
Call Me By Your Name is a romantic novel by Andre Aciman which was published in 2007. As soon as it was released, it received a fairly great response from the readers as well as the critics. The sales went marginally high thereafter and it is one of the best sellers of America in recent years. The reviews also revealed no negative or mixed ones but only reviews that accolade the book. It also got a sequel in 2019 titled, Find Me. Aciman captures the essence of romance and attraction with its utmost details. The writing style is almost poetic and extremely appealing.
The book revolves around a seventeen-year boy named Elio Perlman who falls head over heels in love with a twenty-four-year-old American scholar named Oliver. Elio’s parents would take a scholar every year into their house in the summers for six weeks. The scholar would assist Elio’s father with his work in exchange for the stay. Oliver is this house guest. The story takes place in the 1980s in Italy. We see the whole story through Elio’s perspective. Elio fantasizes about Oliver all the time, metaphorically, literally, romantically, and sexually. The description of the love that builds between the two characters is so powerful that you will feel drowned in these emotions. The whole story is bittersweet, lovely, and very honest.
The book got an adaptation for the screen in 2017. The movie was directed by Luca Guadagnino. The movie starred Timothee Chalamet as Elio and Armie Hammer as Oliver. Both the characters shared amazing chemistry on screen making this movie a hit among the viewers, the movie, however, has several differences from the book. It is basically a flashback that follows the point of view of Elio. The book adapted to movie is an absolute treat to the viewers. It was nominated for many Academy Awards and even won one. It is one of the most poignant book to movie adaptations.
5. The Perks of Being A Wallflower
First published in 1999, this book is one of the best teen fiction novels to ever exist. Written by Stephen Chbosky, this is a coming of age based on contemporary fiction. The book follows a series of letters written by Charlie, our protagonist, and wallflower exploring the simple themes of his life. Wallflower usually refers to an introvert who spends his life observing things and people rather than actually participating in life.
The story is based on the letters that Charlie writes about his day-to-day life. The main character Charlie knew that he was not particularly like the other kids of his age. A whole part of him was locked inside and no one tried to intrude as well. When he befriends Patrick and Sam, the world turns upside down for him. He gets a brand new perspective in life which makes him feel alive and worthy. In a scene from the book, we see the three friends sharing a perfect moment when they felt “infinite”. The story takes you back to your high school days and makes you explore your inner self.
Chbosky received a lot of movie offers and considered it to be his life-long dream but awaited the perfect offer that he thought would do justice to his book. The movie starred Logan Lerman as Charlie, Emma Watson as Sam and Ezra Miller as Patrick. The movie was first released in the Toronto Film Festival in 2012 and later in the theatres in the same year. It received a good response from the critics. Though a number of scenes from the book are deleted in the movie, it still remains a fairly successful book to movie adaptations to date. The movie beautifully captures the essence of adolescence and the happiness or pathos that follows.
6. Harry Potter Series
Harry Potter consists of about seven books in their series written by J.K. Rowling that have immense popularity all over the world. The first book, Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone was published in the year 1997. The last book of this series came out in 2007 and was titled, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. From the time it was first released, it was both commercially and critically appreciated. It was a turning point for Rowling as an author. The books have been translated into almost eighty languages. It is still the best selling book series in the history of Literature.
The Harry Potter series has a number of themes including fantasy, drama, mystery, thriller, horror, and romance. The story’s central characters are Harry Potter, a young wizard, and his friends namely Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Harry becomes a student of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft wherein he meets Ron and Hermione. The main story starts from here. As Harry grows through age, he overcomes several problems that he is faced with. From friendship, romance, and infatuation to stress, depression, and anxiety, Harry deals with all of it. Parallelly, we see him getting better at witchcraft. Each novel comprises a year of his life. Rowling makes use of a number of magical elements including magic wands, flying broomstick, magic potions, plants, and so on. The main story is focused on the conflict between Lord Voldemort, a dark wizard, and Harry who intends to defeat him before he subjugates all wizards and muggles.
The Harry Potter film series is one of the best books to movie adaptations to grace the screen and entertain the viewers. The first movie based on the first book came out in 2001 and it was concluded with the last book in 2011 with the movie Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows – Part 2. The last book was made into two complete feature films. The series involved four directors and two credited screenwriters with Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson in the leads. The movies are, however, very much faithful to Rowling’s writing and portray the character development and plot in the best way possible. The books adapted to movies turned out to be as thrilling. Hence, they are the ideal adaptation for all the Potterheads out there.
7. The Devil Wears Prada
Published in 2003, The Devil Wears Prada is a coming of age novel that talks about a variety of themes. Written by Lauren Weisberger, this novel draws inspiration from her real life. Weisberger was a personal assistant for American Vogue’s chief editor. There are several events in the book that have a real-life significance for Lauren. The book received commercial success and became the New York Times bestseller for a long time. The book gathered more popularity after the release of the movie with the same name in 2006. The book also has a sequel, Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns which was published in 2013.
The story is about a young woman named Andrea Sachs who has recently graduated from Brown University with a degree in English. She moves to New York in search of better opportunities. As a result, she is hired as a personal assistant to Miranda Priestley, the head of Runway magazine. When Andrea is thrown into this fashion world that she has no idea about, every day becomes a nightmare for her. Moreover, Miranda is a hard nut to crack and Andrea has a difficult time dealing with the same. Her personal life is a mess as well as she struggles to maintain her professional life. The book is humorous, witty, and sarcastic. The writer has done a terrific job with the prose.
This book received a screen adaptation in 2006 with the same name. The movie was appreciated whole-heartedly by the audience as some even said that it was better than the book. The movie was directed by David Frankel. The movie adaptation had Meryl Streep play Miranda Priestley and Anne Hathaway as Andrea Sachs. The movie also starred Emily Blunt as the co-assistant. The movie received various nominations in Academy Awards and Golden Globe. Since the movie was set in the fashion world, it became the most extensively costumed book to movie adaptations in recent years. It is one of a kind and a must-watch!
8. Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption
Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption is a novella by Stephen King. It was published in 1982 in his collection of stories titled “Different Seasons: Hope Springs Eternal.” Originally a writer of the horror genre, this story is completely different from the stories that he has written in the past. This is one of the genres that many writers fear writing in, but then again King’s writing proof why he is the master of words. The writing is so effortless yet elegant that it keeps the reader hooked until the very end.
The Shawshank Redemption is basically a story narrated by our prime character, Red. Red is a prisoner at the fictional Shawshank Prison in Maine. The story focuses on Andy Dufresne, Red’s friend, and a fellow prisoner. Andy, a former banker is found guilty of the murder of his wife and her lover. He is falsely accused of a crime he never committed. Prison-life is a nightmare for him. From violence to humiliation, he faces it all without a word. Andy refuses to break down even after facing relentless torture from his fellow prisoners. He befriends a few and lives his life as calmly as possible. Nevertheless, he clings to the hope of being a free man, to live his life in solidarity.
The Shawshank Redemption was made into a movie in 1994. It is one of the most celebrated book to movie adaptations to ever exist. It was commended at both greatly by the critics. The film starred the legendary Morgan Freeman as Red and Tim Robbins as Andy. The movie holds the record for being the most positively rated movie on IMDb. It was also nominated for seven Oscars at the 67th Academy Awards. This movie definitely deserves your time.
9. The Fault in Our Stars
The Fault in Our Stars derives its name from Act 1, Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s Play, Julius Caesar. The phrase is narrated by Cassius to Brutus. This book remains one of the most popular books by John Green to date. Published in 2012, this book opened to a massive success both commercially and critically. It remained the New York Times bestseller for the longest time. It is Green’s most heartbreaking, painful yet magnificent creation.
The story is narrated by a sixteen-year-old named Hazel Grace Lancaster who suffers from a rare condition of thyroid cancer that has, in turn, affected her lungs. Her days are numbered and her happiness follows the same route. But one day, like a breath of fresh air Augustus Waters enters her life and changes it forever. Augustus is a seventeen-year-old who lost his right leg while struggling with osteosarcoma and is currently in remission. They strike a bond immediately and start talking to each other on a daily basis. The friendship slowly blossoms into love before they know it. This story will make you laugh and cry at the same time. But one thing is guaranteed, this book will stay with you for a long time. The characters will carve a niche in your heart and you will find yourself googling their dialogues in the middle of the day.
The Fault in Our Stars was adapted into a movie in 2014. It was directed by Josh Boone. The main characters were played by Shailene Woodly and Ansel Elgort. The movie received immensely positive reviews from both the critics and the viewers all over the world. The book adapted to movie turned out to be as appealing to the viewers. The actors have portrayed the characters brilliantly on screen and henceforth, adding to the charm of the movie. If you want to experience a rollercoaster of emotions that only goes up, then this should be on your watch list!
10. The Namesake
The Namesake is the debut novel by award-winning author, Jhumpa Lahiri. Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her work. Several other accolades in her name include The New Yorker Debut of the year, the PEN award, and so on. In Namesake, the author explores a lot of themes including immigration, clash of cultures, arranged marriage, and the generation gap.
The story revolves around Ashoke and Ashmina Ganguli, who is a newlywed couple. They have immigrated to Boston from Calcutta so that Ashoke can pursue his PhD from MIT. Ashmina finds it hard to adjust to the American culture and finds a network of Bengalis for herself. Soon, Ashmina gives birth to a baby boy away from home. As they await a letter from Ashmina’s grandmother with the baby’s name, it never arrives and they name the baby Gogol after a Russian writer who saved Ashoke’s life in a fatal accident.
Gogol is chosen as his pet name and Nikhil as the name for the school. Gogol grows particularly distant from the Indian culture and Bengali customs. He is more American than he is an Indian. Moreover, he despises his nickname. The book talks about the experiences of American Indians and how the conflict between the two cultures tend to create a rift between the parents and their children. Parents try their best to inculcate the values of their homeland in their offsprings, but the kids tend to detach themselves from their parents.
The book to movie adaptations took place in 2006. It was released across the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and India. It was directed by Mira Nair. The movie featured Irrfan Khan as Ashoke Ganguli, Tabu as Ashmina Ganguli, and Kal Penn as Gogol. The movie gained a lot of critical acclaim throughout the world. It received a number of nominations for various awards including Best Picture. The book adapted to movie turned out to be unique.
11. The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby was published in 1925 by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The novel draws inspiration to Fitzgerald’s real life. He attended numerous parties while visiting Long Island’s North Shore. All these form the backbone of his story. When first published, his book did very poorly and Fitzgerald died knowing that his work was a failure. However, times changed during the World War and The Great Gatsby gained massive popularity overnight. It was also included as a part of the school syllabus in the USA.
The story of The Great Gatsby revolves around the life of Jay Gatsby, a young and mysterious man who throws extremely fancy parties at Long Island. The story is a great portrayal of the American Dream. Everyone loves to come to the parties that Gatsby throws except no one actually knows him. At one of his gatherings, we realize that Gatsby is in love with Daisy Buchanan, a beautiful young lady but married. Nick, the story’s narrator, and Jay’s friend reconcile Daisy and Jay. Daisy is Jay’s lost love since she chose luxury over love and married Tom. Fitzgerald paints a descriptive picture of the Upper Class through his words. The relentless trying of individuals to fit-in and not being lonely to people preferring money over anything, this book covers it all.
The book to movie adaptations is about four due to the book’s popularity. Most popular and noted is the 2013 adaptation that starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan with Toby Maguire in the leads. The movie was directed by Baz Luhrmann. It was one of the highest-grossing movies by him. The movie received mostly positive reviews from the critics. It also secured several awards at The Academy Awards.
12. Crazy Rich Asians
Crazy Rich Asians is the debut novel by Kevin Kwan that came out in 2013. It is outrageously humorous, witty, romantic as well as satirical. The novel was an immediate commercial success and became a bestseller in no time. According to Kevin, the book takes inspiration from his own childhood in Singapore. This novel was also followed by two sequels namely, China Rich Girlfriend in 2015 and Rich People Problems in 2017.
The book talks about three supremely rich Chinese families. The writer gives us a deep insight into what goes inside these families from gossip to defaming and backbiting. Our protagonist Rachel Chu is a professor of economics at New York University. She is an American-born Chinese or ABC. When her boyfriend, Nickolas Young, also a professor, asks her to join him to spend the summer in Singapore with his family, she can not refuse. Well, when she gets familiar with all the facts, the world turns upside down for her. Nick’s family is lavishly wealthy. Rachel’s days are spent in private jets and palaces. Moreover, being the girlfriend of Asia’s most eligible bachelor is not a cakewalk either. Rachel becomes an easy target for all.
Crazy Rich Asians was adapted for the screen in 2018. Due to the immense hype about the book and the cast, the movie received a fairly good response by the viewers. The movie had Henry Golding, Constance Wu, Gemma Chan, and Lisa Lu among others for the lead. Directed by Jon M. Chu, this was among the rare Hollywood flicks to include a majority of Asian descent actors in the lead. The movie was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and high praise from the viewers and critics. The book to movie adaptations of such books is always a hit. If you like romantic comedies, then this should be on your watch list!
If you enjoyed this list, check out the best books of the 20th century as well, and let us know which ones among your favourites should be adapted to movies!