Trying to choose the best book to movie adaptations can be difficult. It can be extremely subjective depending on the criteria a movie is being judged on. Is it a list generated based on movies that are the truest to the books, or are there other factors taken into consideration?
I’ve created my own criteria to judge what makes a book to movie adaptation worth watching. I’m calling on my degree in English to judge how true the movie is to the book, as well as positive changes the movies made to make the narrative work for a visual format.
Let’s get started!
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Plot: Charlie, an awkward high schooler used to living life on the sidelines befriends two free-spirited seniors at his school who teach him about love, friendship, and the value in living your life to the fullest.
Why It Made This List: This is one of those rare occasions (possibly the only occasion) where I enjoyed the book more than the movie. The author of the novel wrote the screenplay for the film, so everything important from the book makes it into the film. The visuals used in the movie are powerful, the acting is excellent, and it actually improves on the story that had already been created.
The Hunger Games
The Plot: In a dystopian world to assert control, every year two tributes are chosen from all 12 districts to participate in the Hunger Games, a brutal reality show where the goal is to be the single player to emerge alive.
Why It Made This List: I was pleasantly surprised at how good the Hunger Games film adaptations were. For the most part, everything important from the three novels made it into the four films, likely because the final book was split into two movies. The film medium also allowed us to get a closer look at the media coverage within the story of Hunger Games, which was extremely interesting.
The Silence of the Lambs
The Plot: As part of the search for a serial murderer nicknamed "Buffalo Bill," FBI trainee Clarice Starling is given an assignment. She must visit a man confined to a high-security facility for the criminally insane and interview him. That man, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, is a former psychiatrist with unusual tastes and an intense curiosity about the darker corners of the mind.
Why It Made This List: This book begs to be a movie, and the movie is beautifully done. Of course, no movie is going to be a perfect representation of a novel, but this one certainly tries. I personally am not a huge fan of politics, so glossing over the FBI politics in the film was actually a bonus for me. The tone of the novel is perfectly suited for the screen. Plus Anthony Hopkins is delightfully disturbing as Hannibal.
The Fault In Our Stars
The Plot: Hazel was diagnosed with cancer from a young age, and her terminal diagnosis has forced her to miss out on many amazing life opportunities. When she meets Gus, a cancer survivor who lives life to the fullest, they fall deeply in love very quickly. But as you can imagine, any story with cancer in it has to end in tragedy.
Why It Made This List: The movie amplified the emotional stakes of the novel in a way I didn’t think was possible. The casting was done very well -- each character displays raw emotion throughout the film that can overwhelm you with grief. The book was hard enough to read, but watching what these characters go through on screen makes it hurt even more.
A Long Way Home (Lion)
The Plot: At only five years old, Saroo Brierley got lost on a train in India. Unable to read or write, he survived alone for weeks before ultimately being transferred to an agency and adopted by a couple in Australia. Despite his gratitude, Brierley always wondered about his origins. Eventually, with the advent of Google Earth, he had the opportunity to pore over satellite images for landmarks of India he might recognize. One day, after years of searching, he miraculously found what he was looking for and set off to find his family.
Why It Made This List: I originally discovered this memoir only because I saw it on Netflix when I was looking for something to watch. And what a breathtaking story it was. As you can imagine, the book goes into a great amount of detail about the author’s life while the film’s focus is on several main events. It’s the visuals and the acting of the film that really makes it stand out. The tale is heartbreaking, inspiring, and uplifting, whether you read it or watch it. I recommend doing both.
What are your favorite book to movie adaptations? Let me know in the comments!