Reader Friday: Best-Ever Film Made from a Book?

BY Kathryn Lilley, TKZ FOUNDER

So many films have been inspired by novels–most of them, unfortunately, were Not So Good. Can you name ONE film that was as good as the novel it was based upon (or even better?)

Following are listed some of my personal favorite novel-to-film creations.














In honor of our leprechaun fans.

31 thoughts on “Reader Friday: Best-Ever Film Made from a Book?

  1. Having known Jeffrey Chaucer personally, before he wrote his Canterbury Tales, I must say that of those tales that movie made back in 2001 with Heath Ledger, with Paul Bettany playing Chaucer, most aptly captured the man at least in his relative youth, more than any book he ever wrote. He was the only regular-like human who could almost, not quite but very almost, out drink me. But he had no leprechaun luck whatsoever. Till he straightened up that is, got a respectable job and then wrote all those storyes me and my brothers tolded to him on our friday gamblin’ nights. Boy…the late 14th century sure was a hoot.

    • OH….and in case yer checkin’. The one story in the Canterbury Tales titled “The Friar’s Tale”….totally true. Friar’s real name was Bernard, although his monastic acquaintances called him Bernie The Wicked behind his back.

  2. Oh…well, it’s like a movie in my own head that’s fer sher. Like the inside of my skull is a cinema of the past, it is. Well. Maybe I shouldn’a talk of the long dead that way.

    But he was a stinker he was, yah.

  3. Boys…go to bed. It’s late and folks here are not looking for nonsense. We are thriller writers after all.

    For me, of all things, I had read Ivanhoe as a teen and loved the story, but when I saw the 90’s adaptation to film from BBC, I was struck much harder than I was with the book.

  4. A tough act to follow here, so… I won’t even try~


    I’ll offer up:

    The Godfather
    The Andromeda Strain
    Lonesome Dove (OK, it was a miniseries, but…)

    That’s all I can come with before coffee…

  5. “The English Patient” was better than the book. It shortened and changed a plot in a way, but as I think a better way. The story remained the same and was told better in the movie.

  6. Well I’m not much of a movie watcher so don’t have any ideas. Although I have only read the first book in the series, I will say I was very impressed with how closely the Hunger Games movie version held to the book. In my limited books-to-movie experience, they’re not usually very good at keeping close to the actual story in the book.

  7. Never thought I’d live to see Fifty Shades of Gray mentioned in the same list as To Kill a Mockingbird….

    The Maltese Falcon
    The Best Years of Our Lives
    The Wizard of Oz
    Double Indemnity
    The Grapes of Wrath

  8. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Louise Fletcher, Jack Nicholson, the rest of the cast and production team knocked it out of the park.

    • Would have been fun to see the Broadway play starring Kirk Douglas. He was never able to get the film made, so gave the rights to his son, who produced the movie.

  9. Glad you chose THE SILENCE FO THE LAMBS. I think the movie version is far superior to the book. In fact, the book disappointed me after the genius of the first book, RED DRAGON (which had two film adaptations, neither of which managed to capture the book).

  10. Agree about Hunger Games, and the others.

    The one that pops into my head is “The Help,” which in the book is very heavy on inner landscape (three first-person narrators, you’d think that would be almost impossible to translate to film… but they pulled it off. I’m sure the actors get as much credit for this as the screenwriter and the director.

    Which, if you will allow me to pull out my soap box for a moment… is a great little analogy for novelists: we have to be ALL THREE of those: screenwriter, director, and actor, to bring all the senses and dimensions of our story world into vivid reality for our readers. Thanks for this fun and useful post!

  11. On the kids side, Holes matched the book’s brilliance, and possibly surpasses it. Also Mary Poppins. That book was …. strange.

  12. I would say the following:

    THE GODFATHER (1972)
    THE KILLING (1956 — from CLEAN BREAK by Lionel White)
    JAWS (1975)
    KING CREOLE (1958 — from A STONE FOR DANNY FISHER by Harold Robbins)

  13. The Whoopie Goldberg movie Burglar, based on the Lawrence Block novel. I once heard him speak at a bookstore where someone asked him how he felt about Hollywood messing up his book. He said, “Isn’t that how you pictured Bernie Rhodenbar? Actually the movie didn’t mess up my book.” He picked up a copy and continued, “It is still available right here just like I wrote it.”

    Seriously, I thought the Robert Parker westerns made the transition to film quite well.

  14. Forrest Gump is one of the few examples where I enjoyed the movie much more than the book.

  15. One often overlooked, in my opinion, is the English version of The Girl the Dragon Tattoo. (The Swedes thought so little of the book trilogy that they produced made-for-TV movies from the novels, though Noomi Rapace is a cutie but Michael Nyqvist might as well done the acting in his sleep.)

    But thank goodness, no one that I remember here called these . . . film.

  16. THE SHINING with Jack Nicholson. The movie was very well done, and it was based on a book.

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