Everywhere you turn, there’s a top ten list of best movies that were adapted from books. The Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay is one of the highest honours a writer can dream of, and every time readers fall in love with a book, they expect to see it made into a movie. Below is my absolutely personal top ten books that were turned into movies that were (almost) just as good as the original work.
This is one of those rare instances where I don’t know whether I liked the book or the movie more. Nicole Kidman is magnificent as the tormented Virginia Woolf, while Julianne Moore brings Laura Brown to life in a manner that is simply exquisite. All topped by Meryl Streep, of course. The movie managed to capture the essence of a book in a way I couldn’t believe possible, particularly because the novel doesn’t feel too cinematographic, given its structure.
Pride and Prejudice
Released in 2005, this is my favorite cinematographic version of Jane Austen’s novel. I like Keira Knightley in almost anything, but I do believe this is the movie where she truly shone. Matthew Macfadyen is great as Mr. Darcy, but I couldn’t help but feel Colin Firth should have been in this, just to make things truly perfect.
Gone With the Wind
While I’m not the biggest fan of romance books, I make an exception for “Gone With the Wind,” mostly because it was one of the first novels I read as a child (maybe not the best read for a six-year-old, but anyway). This was almost three decades ago and I remember how fascinated I was by Scarlet O’Hara and her fiery personality. A couple of years after I read the book, I found out about the existence of the movie, and I watched it probably 20 times. While many people wouldn’t find a movie from 1939 too tempting, I still believe it’s a great adaptation of an iconic book.
Black female mathematicians who work for NASA in the ’60 is not your regular theme for a movie. I found “Hidden Figures” a mesmerizing story about racial and gender segregation. Based on a real story, the book/movie tells the story of Katherine Goble Johnson, who worked as a human computer together with other brilliant African American women. Her skills in analytical geometry made her the first woman to be on a team that sent a rocket into space. Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer are stunning, and it was strange to see Jim Parsons as a totally unlikeable character.
The Silence of the Lambs
Another title that in retrospective I believe it’s not entirely appropriate for an eight-year-old, “The Silence of the Lambs” was a book I “borrowed” from my mother’s room and read in one sitting. I still remember the mix of curiosity and terror vividly. Years later, I saw the movie and fell in love with Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Hannibal Lecter. Even though I haven’t reread the book, I do believe that in this case, the movie was better than the original work.
An iconic book that made a cult movie, “Trainspotting” is my favorite book about people involved in a drug scene. Maybe it’s because of the entire Edinburgh setting, but I liked the book better than “Junkie” by William S. Burroughs or “Requiem for a Dream” by Hubert Selby. The film is the extraordinary result of a terrific book, and Ewan McGregor shines in it.
The Remains of the Day
Kazuo Ishiguro is one of my favorite writers, and Anthony Hopkins one of my favorite actors, so, obviously, “The Remains of the Day” is a film I watched at least 10 times. This is one of those situations you can’t possibly imagine someone else for the role. Hopkins IS Stevens, and he is magnificent as the loyal butler who sacrifices everything for his master only to discover in the end that wasn’t actually the best idea.
No Country for Old Men
The Coen brothers did justice to Cormac McCarthy’s book, and Javier Bardem entered history with his brutal portrayal of Anton Chigurh. I think Chigurh is one of the best-portrayed psychopaths ever to grace a film, and Bardem’s haircut was truly something else.
I read Annie Proulx’s story after I watched the movie, and loved them both equally. “Brokeback Mountain” is a story about two gay men, Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, beautifully portrayed by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, who struggle to come to terms with their sexuality in the American West of the ’60s. Moving and memorable, the film also stars Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams, and was done such a terrible injustice at the 2006 Oscars, where it lost “Best Picture” to “Crash.”
A dark movie about a dark period, “The Pianist” is, in my opinion, the best film about the Holocaust there is. While not as popular as “Schindler’s List,” the adaptation of Wladyslaw Szpilman’s autobiography, “The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man’s Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945” is directed by controversial Roman Polanski, but this doesn’t stop the movie to be truly remarkable. Adrien Brody is stunning as Szpilman, and I don’t think he’ll ever be able to top that performance.