I‘m a bit of a book nerd and will forever have a sour taste in my mouth when the page is taken to the screen.A few of my favorites have been thrashed by directors who thought they could put their own creative spin on it. Most of the time, it’s not what readers want. However, I will always give them a chance because every once in a while there is one that really works and gains my respect. The key is to at least seem like you’ve read the book before drafting the screenplay. You don’t want to go so off base that you lose the audience from the very beginning. While we’re never going to get an exact copy of the novels we love, a movie can entertain in a different way. I’ve gathered here a list of my ten favorite book to movie adaptations, the films that actually get the story right.
Anyone who has graduated high school has surely read (or at least pretended to have read) this William Shakespeare classic. You’ve also probably been forced into watching the 1968 movie version, which was very dull and slow. To some people this may be an accurate representation of how to perceive the play, a period piece with costumes and old English to match, but I beg to differ. Baz Luhrmann’s take on Romeo and Juliet is more accurate to the shock value of the content, something that was experienced back in 16th century England. While our society has been desensitized to the subtle jokes and insults that were essential to Shakespeare’s work, the 1996 version makes it possible to enjoy both the language and violence of the original. Keeping the original dialogue adds to my love for this film, as it is you don’t hear words spoken in such a way anymore.
Never before have I seen a film that stuck so close to the original novel, from scene to scene I was in awe of how brilliantly Johnny Depp portrayed this out of control partyer. Depp’s Raoul lumbers through some very tense situations, made all the more treacherous under the influence of various drugs such as acid, mescaline, and cocaine. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is one of the rare films I saw before reading the book, but while reading it you could tell how perfectly Johnny Depp was cast to portray the eccentric character. Thompson’s hand is clearly shown in the creation of this unique work. Once I read the book I decided to take a closer look at the motion picture and you could follow it page by page. It’s really stupendous to watch.
Once one of my favorite children’s books, I have fond memories of my mother reading The Polar Express to me around Christmas time. So naturally I was delighted to see it come to life with Tom Hanks at the helm. Merging the simple plot of a kid’s book with the gorgeous animation of Castle Rock was a stroke of brilliance. Using performance capture Robert Zemeckis is able to animate the actor’s performance by placing them in front of a green screen and using a computer to fill in the blanks. This was the only way to capture the brilliance of Chris Van Allsburg’s oil illustrations from the original book. It was extremely refreshing to see a beautiful homage to such a classic story.
The fashionista in me has always loved this book and since its 2003 publishing date I have read The Devil Wears Prada countless times. I was very excited to hear that they were going to transform it into a feature film. Starring the ever-flawless Anne Hathaway as Andrea Sachs, a recent college grad looking for a serious job in journalism. Unfortunately, as anyone entering the work force can tell you, there aren’t that many choices available to young graduates. Whatever offer you get, no matter how degrading the occupation may be, is going to be taken. For Andy this spot happens to be inside the walls of a popular fashion magazine, working as an assistant to the editor-in-chief and Queen of the haute couture world – Miranda Priestly. Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway work perfectly together as these opposing forces and really bring the story to life while only changing a few things.
In sixth grade we were required to read The Outsiders, and from that point on I fell in love with the 60s. I wanted to be a part of the cool and dangerous world of the Greasers. When I found out there was a film adaptation which featured Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, and Emilio Estevez I couldn’t believe my luck. Upon watching it I felt no buyers remorse because it was so incredible. Following the story line pretty much to a tee, you could easily get away with watching this in place of reading the novel and still get a good grade on your book report. The old story of rival gangs fighting over girls and turf comes to life through the words of Ponyboy and Dallas. It shows the real way boys would react to the tough situation they are put into.
Never before have I had a book bring me to tears like My Sister’s Keeper one did, not to deter you in any way, it’s just so real and the subject so universal that these characters could be anyone you know. What if you found out the only reason you were born was because your older sibling was sick and they needed someone who was a perfect donor match? How would you feel if your life was created in a petri dish? I’d have to say I would react in roughly the same fashion as Anna Fitzgerald, who decides to file for legal emancipation from her family. That kind of decision doesn’t come lightly, or without consequence. From the pages of Jodi Picoult’s heart-wrenching novel to the big screen, this story translates perfectly with the help of Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, and Alec Baldwin.
For all those Where the Wild Things Are movie haters out there, I have to disagree with your opinion. I feel like Spike Jonze’s version is how Maurice Sendak would’ve wanted his story translated. From his own illustrations the monsters were designed and a plot was formed, a plot which many thought held too dark of concepts. Some of my friends even claimed that it scared them. People seem to forget how sad of a story it actually is, feeling so isolated that you run away and imagine a whole world of your own. Jonze truly captures those emotions. There was another adaptation of the book, written by Dave Eggers, which is where the basis of the film was formed. Eggers was asked by Sendak to write the novelization of his story, which was of course a more matured version. In turn Jonze asked Eggers to write the screenplay, which is how we were given this beautiful film.
Having an aunt (by marriage) who is fully Japanese has always kept me very interested in the customs and traditions that they hold in that country. I was mainly focused on the Geisha and their beautiful kimonos. It was a privilege growing up with my aunt, and she always gave me authentic Japanese gifts. One of the things she gave me was a copy of Memoirs of A Geisha, which she said was one of the most brilliant stories of her culture. It is shocking that such a beautiful story of Japan could be written by an American. Once I started reading there was no putting the book down until it was finished, and even then I wanted more. In 2005 it was turned into a motion picture, and what an incredible film it turned out to be. Ziyi Zhang, best known for her role in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, plays Sayuri and she brought the character to life better than my imagination. Zhang’s quiet confidence shines through the large cast.
This was another one of the rare occasions where I watched the movie before reading the novel. I was probably persuaded by Leo DiCaprio’s baby blues. Containing a very confusing story that slowly reveals itself as each layer unfolds, it would be hard to imagine Shutter Island lending itself to the big screen. However with the mastermind Martin Scorsese behind the wheel, anything is possible. Creating a stunningly accurate backdrop, this scary tale tricks your mind into believing one thing but then shows you another side. If I were Dennis Lehane I would be hugging Scorsese on his ability to make a film out of a plot that takes place mainly inside the heads of the characters. It follows the novel very well, only taking liberties when it was necessary to bring inner monologues out for the audience to hear.
The Halloween Tree is a little different, because Cartoon Network’s adaptation of this Bradbury classic makes more of a children’s story out of the plot. In involves taking the character list from nine to five as we follow their travels through different times and places, learning about the meaning behind our different Halloween traditions. What makes this all the more interesting is the inclusion of Ray Bradbury himself as the narrator. No one can tell the story better than the guy who wrote it, right? Balancing the right amount of education with enough fun to keep my young mind entertained, we’re shown the mummies of ancient Egypt and the dead walking the earth in Mexico. After being transported to Notre Dame Cathedral, where the gargoyles come to life, we’re brought to my personal favorite time of the Celtic druids to learn about witchcraft. Truly a fun adventure for all ages, this is certainly a classic I’ll be passing along to my future generations.
That finishes up the list, and I think it really says something that Leonardo DiCaprio made two appearances (I hope the directors out there take note of that). What are your favorite books turned movies? Comment below.