a guest post by Sarah Murray

It can often be hard to watch a beloved book brought to life on the big screen. The characters never look like you imagined and often large parts of the novel are left out. Sometimes however, you’ll find a rare gem, a movie that’s just as good, if not better, than the novel it was based on. Such adaptations are hotly debated however, but here’s some that made my top five. Chosen because of their faithful adherence to the book or because they became iconic in their own way, these are my top five book to film adaptations.

5. The English Patient

Winner of nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Michael Ondaatje’s epic love story is often regarded as one of the best book to film adaptations. Set during World War II, the film follows the story of an English patient (Ralph Fiennes) who was badly burned after an accident. As he recovers, he reveals the journey that led to his accident in a series of flashbacks. Weaving two love stories across time and space, The English Patient is definitely a lesson in effective film adaptation.

4. The Lord of the Rings

Anyone who’s ever read J.R.R. Tolkiens The Lord of the Rings probably thought it would make a great movie, but never thought it would get made. Three books and over a thousand pages, transforming the trilogy into a movie was a daunting task for even the most adept director. Enter Peter Jackson who tirelessly worked for over 4 years to bring the epic novel to the big screen. While the film did leave out large chunks of Tolkien’s original work, the sheer scale of the adaptation makes it a top five adaptation.


3. The Shining

Stephen King’s thrilling novel based in the Overlook Hotel introduced a plethora of memorable quotes to the public conscience. Although Stephen King reportedly didn’t like the adaptation, the film is frequently voted in the top movie polls of all time. Employed as caretakers over the winter, Jack Torrence (Jack Nicholson) and his family uncover the hotel’s dark past. Although there are a number of differences between the book and the film, director Stanley Kubrick managed to maintain the spirit of King’s book while creating a film that has become iconic enough to stand on its own.

2. Apocalypse Now

Number two in the countdown is controversial as it isn’t technically a book adaptation. Associated with Jasper Conran’s novel Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now transfers the themes of colonialism and racism from 19th Century Africa to the Vietnam War. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture and winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, Apocalypse Now follows a special ops army officer sent on a mission to kill another special op army officer, presumed to have gone insane.

1. The Godfather

The Godfather

Often voted as one of, if not the, best movie of all time, Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Mario Puzo’s classic novel about the powerful Corleone mafia family in New York is surely one of the most skillful adaptations of a well-loved book. Featuring stand out performances by Al Pacino and Marlon Brando, The Godfather chronicles the rise of reluctant mafia boss Michael Corleone. Mario Puzo assisted with writing the screenplay and also helped with other production tasks which no doubt helped the seamless translation to the screen.


Author bio: Avid reader Sarah Murray works for Appliances Online. When she’s not trawling through second hand bookshops she loves organizing her bookcase and reading the latest crime novel.

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