15 Best Movies Based on Books of All Time

There are a lot of movies based on books but only a few ones worth watching. Below you'll find some of the best book-to-movie adaptions that will not leave you in disappointment.
September 28, 2021 | 12:43
15 Best Movies Based on Books of All Time
Pride and Prejudice (Photo: Letterboxd)

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

The book: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Jane Austen's classic story of love and bad first impressions has been adapted many times over. But this film version, starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, takes a more realistic approach than other film versions. As a result, enemies turned lovers Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy come to life onscreen.

15 Best Movies Based on Books of All Time
Little Women (Photo: Indie Wire)

Little Women (2019)

The book: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

There's a reason Little Women has been adapted for film seven times. Louisa May Alcott's semiautobiographical novel about sisters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy has stood the test of time, and it's still just as relatable in 2021 as it was in 1868, when it was published. The most recent remake stars Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, and Saoirse Ronan and is arguably the best interpretation of Alcott's story.

15 Best Movies Based on Books of All Time
To Kill a Mockingbird (Photo: Hollywood Reporter)

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

The book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The 1962 adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel focuses on the deft character work Lee creates in the book. By bringing Atticus Finch, Scout, and Boo Radley to life and following the novel’s slow-burn plot structure, the film transplants the book’s two strongest elements into a movie we still can’t get enough of.

15 Best Movies Based on Books of All Time
Phôto: The New York Times

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

The book: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Where do we even begin with this one? The fashion! The romance! The drama! Constance Wu and Henry Golding lead the romantic comedy about a Chinese American woman who travels to Singapore to meet her boyfriend's family. Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. His family is one of the richest and well-known families in the country, and his mother is not exactly welcoming of her son's new romance.

15 Best Movies Based on Books of All Time
The Devil Wears Prada (Photo: ABC News)

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

The book: The Devil Wears Prada: A Novel by Lauren Weisberger

Meryl Streep plays the coldest, scariest, most intimidating boss at the fictional fashion magazine Runway. Anne Hathaway's character is clueless and unfashionable and fancies herself a serious journalist. Their characters clash yet somehow find a way to work together. The movie is elevated by the performances, and you might find yourself surprisingly moved at the end.

15 Best Movies Based on Books of All Time
The Remains of the Day (Photo: Hollywood Reporter)

The Remains of the Day (1993)

The book: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel is a beautiful character study, told from the point of view of English butler Stevens, and while James Ivory’s adaptation keeps with the fundamental structure, it also takes a step back. The novel is firmly rooted in Stevens’s point of view, while the film keeps all the characters at equal length, resulting in a more comprehensive view of Stevens’s world. The ending of the film is arguably more subtly tragic and less hopeful than the novel, but it fits with the restrained, almost chilly atmosphere Ivory painstakingly builds.

15 Best Movies Based on Books of All Time
Forrest Gump (Photo: Plugged In)

Forrest Gump (1994)

The book: Forrest Gump by Winston Groom

Forrest Gump won six Oscars, including Best Picture, and remains a divisive film in some ways — you either find it charming and filled with wisdom, or you… don’t. What can’t be argued is that it’s a film that took the strong source material and created an ambitious and creative visual story from it. Winston Groom’s novel is darker and more morally complex than the streamlined character depicted by Tom Hanks, but excising that complexity in favor of a sprawling tour through the 20th century is the key to this film’s power and charm.

15 Best Movies Based on Books of All Time
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (Photo: Boston Globe)

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

The book: To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Laura Jean and Peter Kavinsky's romance is sure to go down as one of this generation's most popular love stories. The trilogy of teen romantic comedy books by Jenny Han turned Netflix movies are popular for a reason. Yes, there are some common tropes used in the plot. However, the film adaptations somehow still feel fresh, unique, and effortlessly heartwarming.

15 Best Movies Based on Books of All Time
The Harry Potter series (Photo: Happy Mag)

The Harry Potter series (2001–2011)

The book: The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Who could have known that the boy who lived would start an international phenomenon? Readers and audiences of all ages have been obsessed with the Wizarding World for decades, and it's easy to see why: The friendship, the magic, the excitement, and the humor are as enthralling in the movies as they are in the books.

15 Best Movies Based on Books of All Time
Schindler’s List (Photo: The Guardian)

Schindler’s List (1993)

The book: Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally

Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Thomas Keneally’s book is one of the most emotionally moving pieces of cinema ever made. The movie powerfully depicts one of the most atrocious events in history, offering a reminder of how far humanity is capable of sinking — and the snippets of goodness that can nevertheless survive. Spielberg rearranged the chronology of the book and cut material mercilessly, but he amplified the horror of the story, a trade-off that renders the Holocaust as a slowly rising wave of terror and genocide captured in ominous, hopeless black and white.

15 Best Movies Based on Books of All Time
Great Expectations (Photo: TCM)

Great Expectations (1946)

The book: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Translating Charles Dickens to the screen is always a challenge; his books are long, contain multitudes, and are often serial in structure. But David Lean’s 1946 production of Great Expectations is still highly regarded, even years later; Lean’s script manages to somehow condense the story and characters into two brisk hours without losing anything. More than seven decades later, the film feels modern and yet faithful to the book.

15 Best Movies Based on Books of All Time
The Lord of the Rings (Photo: The Millennials Life)

The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003)

The book: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Peter Jackson’s trilogy of films is very faithful to J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic epic fantasy novels in a broad sense - Jackson streamlined the story a great deal, but few people complained about not having enough Tom Bombadil in there. What Jackson managed, with the help of groundbreaking CGI, was depicting the most famous fantasy universe ever conceived in a realistic, believable way without losing the beating heart of hope, heroism, and despair at its core.

15 Best Movies Based on Books of All Time
The Shawshank Redemption (Photo: Netflix)

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

The book: Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King

Frank Darabont’s 1994 adaptation of Stephen King’s novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption is a modern classic of cinema, a film rich with symbolism that can be interpreted in different ways. It’s not particularly faithful to its source; King himself didn’t think the story could be a feature-length film, but Darabont expanded the plot and some of the characters without losing the spirit of the story. The final result is a film that shows how the collaborative process of making a movie can sometimes result in something greater than the sum of its parts.

15 Best Movies Based on Books of All Time
The Silence of the Lambs (Photo: Festival de Cannes)

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

The book: The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

Clarice is one of those names that you can't really hear without thinking of The Silence of the Lambs. Anthony Hopkins plays Hannibal Lecter, who famously asks Jodi Foster's character, “Well, Clarice…have the lambs stopped screaming?” If you don't know what that means, there's only one way to find out: Queue up the classic thriller for movie night.

15 Best Movies Based on Books of All Time
Room (Photo: Conversations about Her)

Room (2015)

The book: Room by Emma Donoghue

Emma Donoghue wrote the screenplay adaptation of her novel before it was published because she was certain the story would attract the interest of filmmakers. The result is a tight, extremely faithful adaptation made into something great by the performances of Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. Director Lenny Abrahamson’s decision to use a single set for Room, and to avoid any shots from outside the space until after the escape, matched the novel’s claustrophobic — and horrifying — tone.

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