When it comes to making movies based on books, it is a work of art itself. It has been done many times in Hollywood and other industries all around the globe.
Many of the greatest movies ever produced are book adaptations.
Each year we see many new movies based on books, usually followed by the success of a book. However, not many movies based on books turn out to be a big hit due to the delicacy of the task.
It may sound easy to adapt a book to the big screen but it is no child’s play. Since it is impossible to adapt the complete and faithful storyline of the author so filmmakers usually take some liberties. It takes a lot of well-planned effort and creative intellect to truly capture the essence of a book. Otherwise, we have also seen many book adaptations fail miserably.
If you are among the people who enjoy watching their favorite books get turned into a movie then look no further. We have made a list of the best book to movie adaptations. Here are our top 40 All-Time Favorite Movies Based on Books.
List of 40 Movies Based On Books
The movies included in this list are the best movie adaptations of books. This list not only includes the best movies based on fictional books but we have included some movies based on non-fiction stories as well.
So let us begin our list.
40. The Godfather (1972)
The film Godfather is based on the novel of the same name by Mario Puzo. The novel is a gripping dark thriller that intrigues, horrifies, and entertains the reader.
The first two films adapted from the novel by Francis Ford Coppola elevate the tragic story and capture the feel of the novel perfectly. The movies are even regarded as two of the best films ever made by some.
Both films were nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.
39. Goodfellas (1990)
Goodfellas is based on Nicholas Pileggi’s novel titled Wiseguy. Pillegi collaborated on the script of the movie with Martin Scorsese that they ended up sharing a writing credit.
The film recreates the events narrated in the novel to create a high-speed, thrilling cinematic experience.
The book and movie are different from each other but have the same base and they both provide a unique experience. We can conclude that both—the novel and its movie adaptation are masterpieces.
38. No Country For Old Men (2007)
No Country For Old Men is based on a book written by Cormac McCarthy. The novel explores the concepts of right and wrong, as well as the idea that these differences are meaningless.
When it comes to movies based on books, No Country For Old Men is a more faithful adaptation.
The movie is directed by The Coen Brothers.
It is so faithful to the novel that if you read the book, each line will visualize in front of you since you would have already seen it in the movie.
37. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a drama movie directed by Milos Forman. It is adapted from Ken Kasey’s book of the same name. When we discuss books that are turned into movies, this movie falls under the unfaithful adaptation category.
The movie adaptation flips the spotlight from the towering, silent Chief— the novel’s narrator to Jack Nicholson’s unpredictable McMurphy.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest manages to make the story still memorable even if it is very different from the book. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards.
36. To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
The movie adaptation of Lee Harper’s classic novel is directed by Robert Mulligan. To Kill A Mockingbird is definitely a faithful adaptation. The director has done an amazing job bringing the characters like Atticus Finch, Scout, and Boo Radley to life.
The original story uses slow-paced storytelling but it has a very satisfying ending. The movie adaptation follows in the footsteps and combines many elements from the book to create what many people consider as one of the best movies.
35. Psycho (1960)
The 1959 novel by Robert Bloch is considerably different from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 movie adaptation of Psycho.
Hitchcock successfully transformed Marion Crane, a minor character from the novel, into one of cinema history’s greatest MacGuffins, while transforming Norman Bates into something creepier and more deadly than the drunken, middle-aged version in the book.
All the changes worked in favor of the movie along with Anthony Perkins’ mind-blowing acting.
Although both Bloch’s novel and Hitchcock’s adaptation are excellent, it is the picture that is more memorable.
34. The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
The Silence Of The Lambs is an iconic movie directed by Jonathan Demme. Based on the novel by Thomas Harris, this movie is considered a classic because of two factors. These factors are the chilling performances given by Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins.
Due to the memorable performance given by these actors, this movie has cemented itself as an iconic pop-culture hit. Even though it is based on a gritty and twisty thriller novel, it has captured the hearts of people who do not even like horror movies.
33. A Clockwork Orange (1972)
A Clockwork Orange is a controversial movie adapted from the dystopian crime novel written by Anthony Burgess. It is directed by Stanley Kubrick.
Even though, the movie was criticized for its depiction of violence and sex at the time of its release. It is now considered a cult classic.
Kubrick brings the story to life using his eccentric filmmaking skills. He beautifully captures the vibe of the book’s environment. Also, the amazing performance given by Malcolm McDowell has won the hearts of many people.
32. The Invisible Man (1933)
The Invisible Man is a sci-fi, horror film. It is directed by James Whale and is an adaptation of H. G. Wells’s novel.
This Claude Rains starrer is a splendid adaptation of the novel written by the genius named H. G. Wells. It translates the humor and the scary elements of the novel perfectly.
Even though the film is made in the early days of cinema, it has some amazing visual techniques/effects to sell the idea of an invisible man.
Owing largely to its impressive visual effects, the movie is regarded as a classic.
31. Doctor Zhivago (1965)
Directed by David Lean, Doctor Zhivago is a movie based on a book written by Boris Pasternak. The movie depicts the events written in the book in a unique style while remaining true to the source material.
Doctor Zhivago focuses on the love story of the titular character, with fluid cinematography that the movie will please your eyes and soul.
It is a very beautiful film that is based on a book. Both the book and the movie are worth your time.
30. Trainspotting (1996)
Trainspotting is directed by Danny Boyle. He has done a remarkable job in capturing the spirit and tone of the difficult-to-read novel written by Irvine Welsh.
The movie starts off with hints of crude humor but it has a gritty undertone but everything is very well-balanced. Danny Boyle uses surreal imagery and logic to create this thrilling yet entertaining movie. Also, the performance given by the main cast is phenomenal.
29. Room (2015)
It is very rare to see that the author of the film has also written the screenplay for the movie based on the book. That is the case with Room.
The movie is directed by Lenny Abrahamson. This extremely faithful movie based on the book delivers the claustrophobic tone of the book gracefully.
The movie features Brie Larson as the protagonist of the movie. Jacob Trembly has won the hearts of millions with his portrayal of Jack. Everyone praised him when the movie was released.
28. The Green Mile (1999)
The Green Mile is based on the book by Stephen King and directed by Frank Darabont. This movie is a tear-jerker.
The movie does a great job of bringing the characters to life and connects the viewers to those characters. The story is faithful to the book, only losing details that were not important to the story in the first place.
This book to movie transition is a piece of cinematic history that will keep making its way into the masses’ hearts.
27. Fight Club (1999)
Chuck Palahniuk’s novel would appear to be impossible to turn into a movie. But director David Fincher not only adapted it to the big screen but managed to remain faithful to the source material.
Fight Club has managed to keep most of the elements of the book intact while adding some of the director’s own ideology into the mix. The end result is a masterpiece that is still discussed among movie geeks.
26. Shutter Island (2010)
Shutter Island is a psychological thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Martin Scorcese has directed this film. Surprisingly the movie remains true to the book written by Dennis Lehane.
It is a brilliant thriller story and has been turned into an entertaining and thought-provoking movie. While it is not a complete page by page adaptation, the additional elements work for the better.
It is a very interesting movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
25. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is based on a book written by Stieg Larsson but directed by David Fincher has put his signature on the story. The movie has a mystery oriented plot which keeps most of the elements from the book.
The movie’s pacing is very suitable for its premise. David Fincher is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to making movies based on books.
24. The Princess Bride (1987)
The Princess Bride can be a masterclass for screenwriters to understand how to adapt a hefty novel on the big screen. The film is directed by Rob Reiner and the screenplay is written by the author himself.
Goldman, a seasoned screenwriter, adapted his own work and was well aware of what he was doing. The outcome is a wildly entertaining tale of love and adventure that stays true to the novel while being simplified for the screen.
23. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)
Peter Jackson brought the mystical and magical world of J.R.R Tolkein to the big screen by directing The Lord Of The Rings trilogy.
Peter Jackson is sometimes accused of simplifying the original story a great deal but in my opinion, it all worked in favor of the film. The movies had groundbreaking visual effects and memorable performances.
The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy is one of the best film franchises ever made.
22. Harry Potter Series (2001-2011)
It is impossible to discuss film franchises based on book series without mentioning Harry Potter.
The movies are directed by multiple directors but it is fascinating to see that all the 8 movies in the franchise remain true to the source material.
Harry Potter movies and books hold a special place in the hearts of many people (including me).
The magical world of Hogwarts provides an unmatched magical experience.
21. The Wizard Of Oz (1939)
The Wizard Of Oz is a truly revolutionizing film. Even though some people wrongly regard it as the first movie made in color, it is the first movie to use color as a way to progress the story.
Apart from the technical aspects of the film, it also remains faithful to the book written by L. Frank Baum.
Director Victor Fleming has done an incredible job capturing the feel of the book. It will not be wrong to call him a filmmaking genius.
He breathed a new life in the fantasy genre of films.
20. Ready Player One (2018)
Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ernest Cline may not be 100% faithful to the novel but everything works together wonderfully. This science-fiction movie has great world building and character development.
You can almost feel the renowned filmmaker sitting next to you as you watch “Ready Player One,” laughing at the references, excited by the action, and munching on his popcorn.
To conclude, the whole movie is a great experience and it packs a punch of nostalgia.
19. Blade Runner (1982)
Blade Runner is the epitome of sci-fi cinema as considered by some. It may not adapt the book completely but it captures the vision of the legendary writer.
Ridley Scott takes many liberties while adapting Philip. K Dick’s book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
The movie’s additional elements blend perfectly with the vision of Philip. K Dick. The movie feels like it takes place inside the mind of the author.
It does a wonderful job of capturing the mood of the dystopian world created by the author and still managing to be entertaining.
18. Pride and Prejudice (2005)
Pride and Prejudice is an adaptation of the Jane Austen novel. Joe Wright is the director of this historical drama.
His understanding of the key themes of the book keeps the film intact and mostly faithful to the novel. The historical period is changed from 1813 to 1790 but the set pieces feel historically accurate.
Eventually, Joe Wright’s loyalty to realism and his postmodern romantic style paid off.
17. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012)
Stephen Chbosky wrote the teen romantic novel named The Perks Of Being A Wallflower which eventually became successful among teenagers.
The beautiful part about the movie adaptation is that Chbosky himself directed it. Due to which it has caught the theme and basic elements of the movie perfectly.
The book dealt with various mature themes which are surprisingly common among teenagers. The movie delivers the subtle message surrounding those themes, making it stand out from other teen movies of that time.
16. The Color Purple (1985)
Another Steven Spielberg movie on this list. The Color Purple. The movie perfectly captures the struggles and grievances of the protagonist from Alice Walker’s novel. This movie based on the book is extremely faithful to the novel.
Steven Spielberg has brought the best performances out of his actors in this heartbreaking film. The phenomenal acting from the cast makes this film a must-see.
15. The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Lauren Weisberger’s novel The Devil Wears Prada was picked up by a film studio before even being published. The novel is great and all but the film enhances the character of Miranda Priestly and lifts things up a notch.
The movie, directed by David Frankel, is a great adaptation and can be even called an improvement over the movie due to its better character development and satisfying ending which brings the characters to a full circle.
14. The Notebook (2004)
The Notebook is a treat for all the romantic story fans. It is based on a book written by Nicholas Sparks which in turn was inspired by real life events.
The movie is directed by Nick Cassavetes, who has translated the book’s romance into a movie with grace. He has conveyed the ideas of the author perfectly while also bringing his own ideas into the mix.
To summarize, it is a very enjoyable and emotionally powerful movie. It will not be an exaggeration to call it an emotional rollercoaster.
13. Schindler’s List (1993)
Based on the life of Oscar Schindler, the book is written by Thomas Keneally. Steven Spielberg adapted the book into a black & white film. This film vividly shows one of history’s most awful events, serving as a strong reminder of how far mankind can fall.
Spielberg took his liberty and cut parts of the book here and there but the result is a masterpiece. The movie depicts the terrors of the holocaust in contrast with how a single man’s determination brought a change to people’s lives.
12. The Social Network (2010)
The Accidental Billionaires is a book written by Ben Mezrich, based on the founding of the popular social media website Facebook. The book was adapted into a movie by David Fincher.
The book and the movie are a thorough and well-researched examination of the events that surround the founding of Facebook.
The director additionally combines extraordinary visual style with modern technology with brilliant storytelling to deliver a movie that defied expectations.
11. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
This autobiography, penned down by Chris Gardner gives us a comprehensive look at the career of this businessman as he went from rags to riches.
The movie directed by Gabriele Muccino changes a few things here and there to add movie magic to the film. But every change works well within the film’s world and makes it a heartfelt and emotional journey.
Additionally, Will Smith delivers an amazing performance that showcased his range as an actor.
10. Hidden Figures (2016)
Hidden Figure is another true story based on three African-American mathematical geniuses Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, who worked on the US space program.
The book was penned down by Margot Lee Shetterly and was adapted on-screen by Theodore Melfi. It highlights the significance and impact of black women on American history.
The movie is an intimate and thrilling story of fighting prejudices while simultaneously making a name for yourself. It has a beautiful visual style and keeps things historically accurate.
9. Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)
Based on the life of a Texas congressman named Charlie Wilson, the story is written by George Crile III. It highlights the life of Wilson as he assists the Afghan troops in defeating the soviet invaders.
The movie adaptation is directed by Mike Nichols, who portrays the events of the book while adding some comedic elements to it. The serious nature of the story is not impacted by the comedic instances but they actually make the film more entertaining to watch.
The film also features Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Amy Adams. It is quite underrated so do give it a watch.
8. Zodiac (2007)
Zodiac is a non-fiction book written by Robert Graysmith. It revolves around the murders committed by the mysterious “Zodiac Killer” during the ’60s and ’70s. The story is chilling and was very well-received.
David Fincher was the mastermind behind the adaptation of this true crime book. The director uses his sense of creating a suspenseful thriller to bring the events to screen.
The film feels haunting and the viewer also feels like a detective trying to solve the case by putting the pieces together.
7. Little Women (2019)
Greta Gerwig did an amazing job while creating a movie version of Louisa May Alcott’s beautiful novel. She has translated the feel of the classic novel perfectly.
While remaining faithful most of the time, the director has put a twist in the movie which is not present in the book. However, this twist is quite enjoyable and adds a whole new layer of excitement to the story. It also increases the satisfaction of the movie’s ending.
6. Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
Adapting satire from a book into a movie is a tough job. However, director Jon M. Chu has managed to pull it off.
The 2018 adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s satirical fiction has earned many awards. It does an amazing job of showcasing the lifestyle, intimacies, and inner workings of the higher societies of Singapore.
The movie is genuinely funny and thoroughly enjoyable therefore you will have a great time watching it.
5. The White Tiger (2021)
The White Tiger is a commentary on the classist mindset of people. The adaptation of Aravind Adiga’s book remains mostly faithful. It was recently released on Netflix.
The only changes that are made by the director Ramin Bahrani are to appeal to the current generation.
The White Tiger showcases a beautiful struggle of a person who rises from poverty and makes a name for himself. The film, just like the book, highlights the issues present in our society.
4. Nomadland (2020)
Writer-director Chloe Zhao knits the stories together from Jessica Bruder’s Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century and crafts a film named Nomadland.
The movie won the hearts of critics and audiences alike in spite of its unconventional documentary-like filmmaking.
The book is based on the real-life story of Americans who live in mobile homes, traveling around the country in search of jobs.
The movie adds a sense of sweetness and warmth to the overall story which can feel lonely sometimes. The movie won the Best Picture award at the 93rd Academy Awards.
3. The Shining (1977)
Stanley Kubrick adapted Stephen King’s The Shining into a movie. However, there are sources that tell us that King was unhappy with how Kubrick changed the story of his book.
Nonetheless, it is an undisputed fact that Kubrick’s version of the story was more well-received than the book.
In an attempt to adapt the story, he made the story his own. It is still considered one of the best movies ever made.
2. Forrest Gump (1994)
Director Robert Zemeckis used the story of Winston Groom’s novel as a baseline and created a masterpiece. The movie Forrest Gump won 6 Oscar awards and continues to fascinate people.
The book dealt with more complex emotions and themes but Rober Zemeckis did a great job toning things down. Everything feels fluid and the whole experience is awe-inspiring.
We can not discuss Forrest Gump by giving credits to Tom Hanks for bringing this iconic character to life.
1. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Another adaptation of Stephen King’s work is The Shawshank Redemption, directed by Frank Darabont. While the film can not be considered faithful to the original story, the director has done a great job expanding the story and fleshing out the characters.
When it comes to best films based on books or best films in general, The Shawshank Redemption remains an undisputed classic.
Movies based on books usually attract a wider audience than regular movies, since people already know what to expect. The stories are compelling and the whole tone and feel of the movie are unique.
We hope you found a movie adaptation that might provoke your interest. Do give these movies a watch and read the books as well. It might help you unlock your creative side of the brain.