Below, we’ve compiled for you our top 10 novels that were made into movies.
If you’ve made it to this article, you’ve probably seen a book-to-film adaptation at some point.
Although book lovers prefer the literary version of certain works, the truth is that there are movies based on books that also made history in the world of cinema.
Bringing a novel to the big screen is no easy task, especially because of the way the script must connect with the story to show it visually in an average time of 90 to 120 minutes.
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The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
The first novel on our list belongs to American author Edith Wharton. It was published in 1920 and a year later received a Pulitzer.
The novel tells the story of Newland Archer, a high society lawyer who lives a quiet, conventional life with May, his fiancée.
However, everything changes when he meets Olenska, May’s uninhibited and rebellious cousin who returns to New York after a scandalous trip to Europe. Newland will risk everything to live a free love with her.
Its first film adaptation dates from 1924 and was produced by Warner Brothers, with Wesley Ruggles as director.
Ten years later the second adaptation of the novel was released, this time starring actors John Boles and Irene Dunne. The third adaptation was directed by Martin Scorsese and released in 1993.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
It is the most prominent novel by American writer Harper Lee, and the one that earned her a Pulitzer Prize. Published in 1960, the novel has established itself in the category of classics of American literature.
The play revolves around a case of injustice and racism against the main character, Tom Robinson, an African-American man accused of raping a white woman from Maycomb, Alabama.
The novel is set in the 1930s, when prejudices surrounding race eliminated any safeguards for people of color.
The novel was brought to the big screen in 1962 under the production of Paramount Studios and starred Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch (lawyer).
The film became a box-office hit and won three Oscars, including Best Adapted Screenplay.
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
Published in 1969, The Godfather is one of the most successful stories of the crime novel genre.
Its pages tell the story of the Sicilian mafia living in New York, whose main leader is Vito Corleone, nicknamed the big boss.
Corleone’s life of dirty business, as well as that of his heir, form the basis of the novel’s plot.
The release of this work caused a great stir, as it was the first time that a fictional story was told that masterfully portrayed the life of the Mafia from the grassroots up.
Subsequently, the writer of this novel would become the screenwriter of the trilogy of films based on this book.
The Godfather is one of the best films in Hollywood history and was released in three parts, in 1972, 1974 and 1990.
The first two films are considered transcendent masterpieces in the world of cinema and contributed to the diffusion of the image of its director, Francis Ford Coppola.
The Maltese Falcon by Daniel Hammett
Published in 1930, this crime novel is a Daniel Hammett classic. The title of the novel, The Maltese Falcon, is a statuette-like figure of a falcon that was awarded to Charles V in 1530 by the Knights of the Order of Malta.
The story is set in San Francisco, California, where several traffickers are tirelessly searching for the jewel.
John Houston was in charge of making the film, which was released in 1941 and starred Mary Astor, Humphrey Bogart and Pete Lorre.
It was the third time that a work by Hammett was made into a film, and it is considered the work that paved the way for the so-called “film noir” worldwide.
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Written by Russian Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago is a novel published in Italy in 1957, and later in the Soviet Union (1988).
The author received the 1958 Nobel Prize in Literature after writing the novel, but was forced to refuse the award due to political pressures in his country.
The main character of the novel is a witness of the darkest time of Russia. His tragedy represents the tragedy of hardened revolutionaries in the face of war.
Much of the plot projects a high level of Yuri Zhivago’s mysticism and idealism. The work has been recognized as a masterpiece and is one of the bestsellers of the last decades.
The film adaptation of this romantic and historical tale was directed by David Lean and the screenplay was written by Robert Boll, a two-time Oscar-winning British writer.
As of 2016, Doctor Zhivago was the eighth highest-grossing film in history in Canada and the United States. The film won 5 Academy Awards, including Best Adapted Screenplay.
Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally
Schindler’s Ark is a historical novel written by Australian author Thomas Keneally and published in 1982.
The story deals with the life of Oskar Schindler, a member of the Nazis who risked his life and money to save 1,200 Jews from dying in Nazi concentration camps.
As a result, Schindler ends up becoming the hero of the story.
Keneally’s work would be adapted to the cinema in 1993 under the name Schindler’s List. The film was directed by Steven Spielberg and was a total success.
The film won 7 Oscars, including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Picture and Best Score. The protagonist of the story was Liam Neeson, who played the role of Schindler.
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
Fight Club is Chuck Palahniuk’s most successful novel. Published in 2016, the story revolves around an anonymous protagonist who rails against consumerism and the American view of masculinity.
In order to overcome these beliefs, he decides to form an underground fight club that serves as therapy.
Palahniuk’s novel was adapted to film in 1999, with David Fincher as director. Following its adaptation to the screen, the story has become a popular culture hit in the United States and around the world.
The novel has also been at the center of criticism due to its scenes with a high content of violence.
A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar
This novel is based on the unauthorized biography of John Forbes Nash, mathematician, economist and winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economics.
The work is a review of the intellectual’s biography, especially his years as a student at MIT and Princeton, his family life, his childhood and his suffering from schizophrenia.
The work earned a Pulitzer nomination and received a National Book Critics Circle Award in 1998.
The genius of Nasar’s descriptions led this work to top The New York Times bestseller list.
The genius of Nasar’s descriptions led this work to top The New York Times bestseller list.
The biographical drama based on the novel by Sylvia Nasar was released in 2001 under the direction of Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman.
The film starred Russell Crowe as John Forbes Nash and had a successful release, grossing at least $313 million worldwide. It won four Oscars, including Best Adapted Screenplay.
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Heart of Darkness is a short novel published in 1899 and written by Joseph Conrad. Its pages deal with colonialism, racism, cultural strife and the violence of people.
It is the author’s best known work and one of the most critically acclaimed. The author was inspired by his own experience traveling to the Congo to write the novel.
The play tells the story of the journey that Marlow, the main character, makes in search of Kurtz through the colonized lands of the Congo.
Crossing the boundary between good and evil, the protagonist plunges into a world where a great number of atrocities are committed.
Among the films based on books on our list, this is the only one directed by a Spanish-speaking director.
Venezuelan Román Chalbaud was the director of this film, released in 1990, which deals with the challenges faced by Europeans in the Congo jungle during their journey to Africa between 1890 and 1914.
Breakfast at Tiffanys by Truman Capote
Breakfast at Tiffanys was published in 1958 and tells the story of friendship between the protagonist and an unknown narrator who wishes to become a writer.
The plot takes place in Manhattan, specifically in a building where the two characters live together. Holly, the main character, is the star of the most sophisticated New York life.
Tiffany’s is the name of the famous jewelry store Holly keeps dreaming about.
The novel is a mix of innocence, cunning and mischief, with a protagonist detached from people and a lifestyle full of provisionality.
The adaptation of this work was premiered in 1961 under the name Diamonds for Breakfast in Latin America and Breakfast at Tiffany’s in Spain.
The romantic comedy was directed by Blake Edwards and starred Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard. The film was well received, and won two Oscars in 1961.
We hope you enjoyed this list of the best novels adapted into movies. We encourage you to read the books.
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