The Best Book-to-Movie Adaptations (Yes, Seriously)

Every once in a while, a special book will enter our library and leave us thinking, “Why isn’t everyone talking about how amazing this book is?!” We then have that compelling urge to brag about its glory to our friends, family, roommates, strangers on the bus, anyone who will listen. Sadly, the book may not gain any momentum until it hits the big screen, and most all bibliophiles dread that commercialized moment. Whether it’s the transformation of a beautiful story into a different movie entirely or an awesome novel drawn out into a franchise, one fact remains to be true: the movie is never as good as the book. But don’t worry: the Hothouse staff has compiled a list of nine movie adaptations that truly live up to their works of inspiration.

bleakhouse_book45years_movie  dune_book persepolis_book psycho_movie

Persepolis

Persepolis is a wonderful case where the story and its transition to film is executed beautifully and with care. Persepolis, originally released as a three-part graphic novel in 2000, is the autobiographical story of a young woman, Marjane Satrapi, coming of age during the Iranian Revolution. It follows her from her childhood through her adolescence as the Revolution comes to a head and her eventual immigration to France. The film stays true to the graphic novel, animated almost entirely in black and white; Satrapi has said this minimalist style was chosen intentionally to both make it more relatable and to show how the story told in this country could happen anywhere. The film was nominated in 2008 for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, but it lost to some movie about a rat who can cook. In any case, if you’re looking for a beautiful, thought-provoking movie to watch this week, Persepolis is the perfect choice. Don’t forget to read the graphic novel, too!

~Jennifer Velazquez, Nonfiction Board

Jumanji

While many young folk may faintly remember Jumanji as that old Robin Williams movie with the lion, it was originally a 1981 children’s book of the same name authored by Chris Van Allsburg. The movie Jumanji, released in 1995, involves the mystery of a board game of the same name which can cause the events of the game to happen in real life. Roll the dice, move to a new space, and suddenly a stampede of jungle animals is streaming out your front door. Jumanji is a fun, adventurous movie but not at all hard on the heart. It’s a good movie to watch if you’re feeling down in the dumps and need a pick-me-up.

If you remember the movie from your childhood, it’s definitely worth a trip down memory lane. If you’ve never seen it before, it’s worth checking out. And if you have young family members or children of your own, it might be worth picking up the book off the shelf as well.

~Morgan Southworth, Nonfiction Board

American Psycho

Adapted to film in 2000, Bret Easton Ellis’s novel American Psycho is very applicable to the contemporary society that we live in today, using narration from the perspective of Patrick Bateman to unveil the façade of those who are perceived to be living the American dream. As Bateman is portrayed as a highly respected and successful businessman, we are able to see that everything in our world has flaws, even if they are not openly presented or seen by others. This film is definitely worth seeing, and it really changes your perspective on how well you know the people around you, leaving you wondering if that one friend or classmate is really as perfect as you think.

~Xavier Richardson

To many, Christian Bale will always be the best Bruce Wayne to be put on the big screen in an impressively successful Dark Knight Trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan. However, prior to being the Caped Crusader, Bale played one of his darkest and most twistedly brilliant roles as wealthy Manhattan investment banker Patrick Bateman in the film adaptation of American Psycho, directed by Mary Harron. The book of the same title was written by literary Brat Pack author and self-proclaimed satirist Bret Easton Ellis, who released his first novel at age 21 (the controversial bestseller Less Than Zero). Harron’s adaptation of American Psyhco was consistent with the stream-of-consciousness style of the novel, with Bale’s voice as a background narration throughout certain scenes in the movie. Amplifying the nature of Bateman’s character, Bale was in prime physical condition, a testament to his character’s narcissism and God-complex. The film (and novel) follows Bateman and his lavish lifestyle, which he isn’t afraid to flaunt. His loveless engagement, his coke riddled “friends,” and his casual murderous escapades are all compartmentalized and kept separate, eventually leading to careless deterioration after he murders a fellow colleague, of whom he was jealous . The resulting devolution into madness is captured flawlessly by Bale and directed in similar fashion by Harron. I must warn, however, that this film is not for the faint of heart, and viewer discretion is highly advised. Despite that, it is one of the better book-to-film adaptations of its genre and is well deserving of its wide cult success.

~Joe Lozano, Fiction Board

Fight Club

Mischief. Mayhem. Soap. The film adaption of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club is a 90s cult classic directed by David Fincher and is definitely one for the books–or movies, shall we say? The film follows a young man (the unnamed narrator in the novel) who attends various group therapy meetings to help him sleep at night. Whilst suffering from his insomnia, he meets Tyler Durden, a rebellious and hyper-masculine figure that breaks down the monotonous routine of white-collar jobs and introduces him to a world of recreational fighting. Although the film’s plot is a simplified version of the novel’s, which focuses more on social expectations and the rejection of those norms, the adaptation does an amazing job of still presenting a thorough and completed storyline, while keeping some of the novel’s themes. I don’t want to talk about the movie too much, considering the first rule of Fight Club is to not talk about it, but I will say that Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, and Helena Bonham Carter all have amazing chemistry, and the drugs, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll vibes are enough to keep anyone entertained. So when you have a moment to spare and want to watch both an intellectually stimulating and downright sexy movie, Fight Club should do the trick.

~Lauren Ponce

Room

Room, by Emma Donoghue, is a riveting novel centered around the lives of a mother and her five year-old child  confined in an 11×11 room. The mother was kidnapped at 19 outside of her college campus, and the child, born as a result of the mother’s capture, lives his life believing that the extent of the world can be measured by a ruler and everything outside of the room is outerspace. The novel is told through the eyes of the child, Jack, as he tries to make sense of the brave new world. The movie, adapted from the novel and directed by Lenny Abrahamson, became a phenomenon and received over 19 film awards. The film’s plot doesn’t correlate closely to the novel’s plot but nonetheless is an incredible adaptation that gives the novel the telling that it rightfully deserves. The film does a good job of bringing to life the characters on the page and transporting viewers into the same brave new world that the mother has forgotten and the little boy marvels at.

~Bianca Perez, Marketing Board

10 Things I Hate About You

As any Shakespeare fan knows, at least one out of 10 book/play adaptations just happen to be a Bard original. However, you shouldn’t let that keep you away from the legend that is 10 Things I Hate About You. The film version is based off of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, a comedy about two sisters–one who is not allowed to date until her stubborn older sister does. The 1999 movie helps eliminate the awkward misogyny present in the play, mainly thanks to protagonist Kat’s predilection for feminist readings and all-girl rock bands. Also, lest we forget the BEST element of this movie–HEATH LEDGER PLAYING PATRICK. Heath Ledger singing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” = enough said.

~Sara Leonard, Nonfiction Board

“In Another Country” and 45 Years

There’s nothing better than a good ghost story. In just a week, Kate and Geoff Mercer are to be celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary. All is well until Geoff receives news that his old lover Katya’s body has been discovered perfectly preserved in a melting glacier which she fell into while hiking over 50 years ago. Writer and director Andrew Haigh (Weekend, Looking) adapts David Constantine’s short story “In Another Country” into 45 Years (2015), a film about the inner workings of a weathered relationship, about how well you actually know the person you are with, and about how much you tell each other. There are no jump scares, no shaky camera moves, no spinning heads, but rather a subdued narrative about an unspoken past lurking behind every corner of a home built and lived in together. Like the written story, the film is short but filled to the brim with stunning performances from Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling, who scored an Academy Award nomination. It’s an explosive character study of nuanced relationships and human feeling. With Andrew Haigh’s ending, it holds itself to be one of the biggest and most subtly jaw-dropping and powerful finales I’ve ever seen, making it one of the best films of the decade. If you’re a fan of precise and evocative dialogue, this is a book-to-film adaptation you don’t want to miss.

~Dan Kolinko

Bleak House

BBC’s Bleak House miniseries is a must-watch for hardcore Dickensians. This adaptation is about as faithful to Charles Dickens’ original book as any book-to-whatever adaptation can get. The screenplay was written by Andrew Davies, who also worked on other Victorian book-to-screenplay adaptations, including Middlemarch (1994), Pride and Prejudice (1995), and Little Dorrit (2008). This adaptation follows the plot quite closely, only occasionally tossing out inconsequential details to expedite storytelling. The actors capture Dickens’ characters magnificently (Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock, anyone?), and a combination of fitting set design, lighting, color, and cinematography all beautifully coalesce to recreate the tones of Bleak House in a palatable visual form.

Still not convinced? Here’s a simple bulleted list to help you decide, “Should I watch this thing?”

  • (yes) if you’re interested in Dickens but NOT interested in trudging through his nearly 1,000-page magnum opus (8 hours of watching TV versus who knows how many hours of reading)
  • (no) if you hate stylized Victorian melodramas
  • (yes) if you love British accents

~Delia Davis

The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince)

When it comes to the stories of our youth and the classics that occupy a special place in our hearts, we tend to be overly-critical of modern adaptations and retellings. This is especially true when the new interpretation comes along and adds things willy-nilly, thereby distorting and corrupting the integrity of the original work. However, Mark Osbourne’s adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 1943 novel Le Petit Prince is a wonderful homage to the heart-warming text, hewing closely to the original story while craftily framing it in a plotline involving The Aviator and a new character, The Little Girl. The movie is beautifully animated; the scenes that draw heavily from the original book are inspired by the youthful style of Saint-Exupéry’s drawings, which juxtapose brilliantly with the rest of the film’s stop-motion animation. It’s also expertly voiced by Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, James Franco, Benicio del Toro, Ricky Gervais, and Paul Rudd. The Little Prince is overall a charming and heartfelt adaptation of Saint-Exupéry’s story, giving us “grown-ups” a chance to reinhabit the mind of a child and experience once again an iconic and imaginative story of our childhood.

~Luis De La Cruz

 

All photos courtesy of Amazon. Intro by Jackie Galindo, Marketing Board member.

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