Just because some people aren’t big on reading doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy the best stories. Thanks to Hollywood, we are able to experience some of the most thought-provoking, heartwarming tales that have made the jump from page to screen.
Not all movie adaptations are created equally. Because books tend to be lengthier, a whole new screenplay usually needs to be created in order to create a movie version.
Then, there are the creative liberties taken by screenwriters, directors, producers, and even the actors themselves for a unique spin on what was presented in the book.
25 Best Movies Based on Books
While you may sometimes hear a disgruntled viewer mumble something about how “the book was so much better than the movie,” these 20 movies based on books are unforgettable gems in their own right.
1. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
This adaptation of the classic novel by Harper Lee is one of the most spot-on portrayals of Atticus Finch, his daughter Scout, and the village hermit Boo Radley. The film effectively captures two of the strongest elements in the book.
2. Little Women (2019)
Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women has been taken to the big screen a few times, but the 2019 adaptation uses a unique perspective: it imagines Jo as the author of the novel, which transforms the story into a powerful tale of passion, creativity, and achievement.
3. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
This The Wizard of Oz movie has played a powerful role in the lives of children, especially during that generation. It was the first clear picture portraying the author’s imagination of the wonderful land of Oz.
Although the quality of cinematography has improved by astronomical proportions since then, the movie is full of colorful visuals that made it revolutionary during its time, and kept it memorable throughout the years.
4. Sense and Sensibility (1995)
This 1995 adaptation of one of Jane Austen’s classic works, starring Hugh Grant, uses creative license to make adjustments in the characters.
Thankfully, the changes make them more relatable and appealing to the modern viewer, while staying true to the tensions and joys of the book.
5. Forrest Gump (1994)
The film Forrest Gump overshadowed the novel it was based on, written by Winston Groom, by winning 6 Oscars, including Best Picture.
But the source material obviously formed part of its strength, making it a creative and ambitious story, and gifting film audiences with one of the most beloved characters in cinematic history.
6. Schindler’s List (1993)
This Steven Spielberg adaptation of Schindler’s List brought Thomas Keneally’s novel of the same name to new heights as one of the most emotionally impactful movies ever made. It portrays one of the most horrific times in history: the Holocaust.
The movie adaptation did not follow the chronology of the book, and also skipped many parts. Still, its amplifications of the horrors of that time has affected viewers across generations.
7. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)
This film adaptation of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis amazed fans around the world with its excellent visual representation of the magical world of Narnia.
Although the movie left out many scenes, it stayed true to the main theme and motivations that made the classic novel a favorite among children and adults alike.
8. Harry Potter (2002-2011)
Adding to the skyrocketing popularity of the book series by J.K. Rowling, the Harry Potter film series exploded to a similar level of fame.
Although the movie had to trim down dramatically on the lengthy books, the breathtaking portrayal of many of the fantasy elements makes the movies an art form in their own right.
9. The Perfect Stranger (2005)
Based on the modern novel Dinner with a Perfect Stranger by David Gregory, this independent film entitled The Perfect Stranger changed the main character. In the novel, the protagonist is a man named Nick Cominsky.
The film adaptation features a woman named Nikki, but stays true to the overall feel as the main character receives a strange invitation and ends up having dinner with Jesus.
10. Great Expectations (1947)
The long Charles Dickens classic required a lot of cutting and trimming to make it the right length for a screen adaptation.
Fortunately, this adaptation by David Lean appears to have successfully squeezed the main contents into two hours while remaining faithful to the story presented in the book.
11. Pollyanna (1960)
This 1960 Walt Disney film adaptation of Pollyanna is faithfully consistent with Eleanor Porter’s classic novel. The dialogue itself feels very reminiscent of the actual conversations shown in the book, which features an orphan named Pollyanna who goes through life with a positive outlook.
12. The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Based on the modern novel written by Lauren Weisberger, the film version has a much more attractive appeal for viewers.
For one thing, the film ends on an entirely different note, and it also sharpens the main character’s personality, making her and the story more relatable.
13. The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003)
Despite the sheer volume of content in J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy trilogy, Peter Jackson’s movie series captures the adventures of the hobbits near-perfectly.
However, one absence that was felt by many viewers was that of Tom Bombadil, who had a larger presence in the book.
14. The Social Network (2010)
This movie about Mark Zuckerberg and the founding of Facebook was based on Ben Mezrich’s nonfiction book The Accidental Billionaires.
The excellent research that went into the novel played a big role in the screenplay, but the movie powerfully builds an even more solid character for viewers to sympathize with.
15. Wonder Boys (2000)
Based on Michael Chabon’s novel, the film tells about a writer struggling to finish his second book. After cutting a huge portion of material and having Michael Douglas play the lead role, the film brought this story to new heights of fame.
16. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
This highly-detailed, captivating film about mathematician and Nobel Prize winner John Nash was based on a bestselling novel of the same title by Sylvia Nasar.
With Russel Crowe starring as Nash, A Beautiful Mind grossed more than $313 million worldwide, winning several Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
17. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
This film adaptation reflects so much of the suspense of the novel written by Thomas Harris, but the well-known names that played its main characters helped boost its appeal for the general audience.
Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster, who play Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling respectively, have propelled this film into a pop culture icon.
18. Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
This satirical romantic comedy novel was published in 2013, with the movie adaptation released 5 years later, becoming an instant sensation.
The film was acclaimed for its portrayal of Asian Americans, who have largely been portrayed in either secondary or very stereotypical roles until recently.
19. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
This young adult novel was released in 1999, and more than 10 years later, the author’s dream of seeing it on the screen was finally realized.
Producer John Malkovich helped put the major themes into a film that even the most strict book loyalists love. The all-star cast, including Emma Watson, likely added to the appeal of the movie.
20. Children of Men (2006)
This film, based on the 1992 dystopian thriller written by P.D. James, effectively portrays the world on the edge of collapse in the year 2027. The film version changes many of the characters but stays true to the story and theme.
21. Gone with the Wind (1939)
This classic movie has captivated fans across all generations, although not all of them have read the book. Both the film and the novel by Margaret Mitchell effectively portray the intricacies of human emotion through one of the most tumultuous times in American history.
Protagonist Scarlett O’Hara remains alluring and scheming, and her love-hate relationship with Rhett Butler adds a hint of spice to this fascinating portrayal of the South.
22. The Godfather (1972)
This classic written by Mario Puzo about an American crime family comes to life in this movie adaptation directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and effectively portrays the struggles and passions of the Corleone family.
23. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Master storyteller Stephen King wrote the book which inspired the movie Shawshank Redemption, starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins.
The Academy Award winner effectively leads us through the story of a banker falsely accused of murdering his wife and her lover.
24. The Princess Diaries (2001)
Meg Cabot’s funny storytelling shines through in the movie adaptation of The Princess Diaries, starring Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway.
Enjoy the learning curve that awkward teenager Mia Thermopolis is thrown after she discovers she is the princess of Genovia, a small European country.
25. Heaven Is for Real (2014)
In the book Heaven Is for Real, Todd Burpo shares his 3-year-old son Colton’s experience in heaven during an emergency appendectomy.
The film version zooms in on the father’s struggle in sharing his son’s story with the world.
What Books Are Becoming Movies in 2020?
There are a number of books being adapted for the screen this year, which we hope to be able to add to this list.
To learn more about what you can expect at the theater, check out our list of books becoming movies in 2020.
What is your favorite movie based on a book? Is there a book you’d like to see adapted for the screen? Share it with us in the comments below!