Everyone loves a good book, and everyone loves a good movie, but sometimes when our favorite books are made into movies, they don't translate as well on-screen as they do on paper. Sometimes I go in to see a movie based on a book I've read and the movie appears to be only mildly inspired by the book and falls a bit flat. This week, I decided to sit down and pay tribute to 5 of my favorite book-to-movie adaptations. These are movies that I think are among the best of the best when it comes to book-to-screen translations and that are sure not to disappoint you if you ever decide to read the book then watch the movie (or vice-versa).
1. A Room With a View
E.M. Forster's A Room With a View is arguably my all-time favorite movie (and a movie that no one my age seems to have ever seen or heard of, tsk tsk). I first saw it when I was 11, and I was immediately taken by Lucy Honeychurch, an 18-year-old girl living in the Edwardian era who has gone to Florence, Italy with her cousin Charlotte and who falls in love with a man who is "beneath her status" while there. The story is a satirical commentary on social life during the Edwardian era and on the empowerment of young women, which are both recurring themes throughout Forster's novels.
I read the book a while back and was quite surprised to find that the book and the movie are, in fact, very much in line with one another. Entire passages are taken from the book and inserted into the movie, and, interestingly, title-cards bearing the name of the chapter from which the scene is derived from are inserted before each scene starts. The main difference between the book and the movie is that some of the political commentary has been removed from the movie, but, overall, the film adaptation is incredibly faithful to the book.*
*I'd also like to mention that Howard's End, another Merchant-Ivory film based on the Forster novel, is just as faithful to the book as A Room with a View is. I didn't think it would be quite fair to dedicate a whole section to it, but I also didn't want to leave it off, as it is another favorite of mine.
2. Fight Club
Ah, Fight Club. A movie that everyone sees as overly-violent (though it is no more violent than other movies that came out at the same time, it's just that this one has a more violent title) and, yet, can't stop watching once they've started. The story follows an unnamed narrator who works for a car company and, due to having to travel frequently and being constantly jet-lagged, develops insomnia and begins posing as a sick person in various support groups so that he can cry and, therefore, sleep. However, a woman named Marla Singer does the same thing he does and, as "her lie reflects [the narrator's] lie," he once again loses his ability to cry and, therefore, his ability to sleep. He then meets Tyler and, after an altercation, they decide to form an underground fight club, and thus the story takes off. This story is a commentary on society, masculinity, and capitalism (among others -- these are the main ones).
The book and the movie do have their distinctions -- namely in the way that they end and in the way that some of the plot points are either diluted or changed completely, but the overall message remains intact, and Chuck Palahniuk himself has said that the movie is "an improvement" on his novel, and, for that reason, I just had to break the first rule of Fight Club and include it on this list.
3. The Godfather
If you ask me, The Godfather is a classic that never, ever gets old or goes out of style. The book tells the story of a made-up Mafia family who live in New York City and Long Beach and who are headed by Vito Corleone. The novel spans 10 years (1945-1955) and provides Vito's back-story from childhood through adulthood.
The main difference between the movie and the book is that some of the family's back-story was left out and that the book had a much happier ending than the movie did. Otherwise, it is a brilliant adaptation, and the book is worth a read if you are a fan of the movie.
A childhood classic, Holes is a movie that I have seen probably 100 times and always want to watch it again. I read the book for the first time in 5th grade and I remember very distinctly that it was one of my favorites that we ever read in my fifth grade reading class. Holes is about a boy, Stanley Yelnats, who is sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention camp, after being wrongly convicted of stealing a pair of shoes. There, he discovers a tube of lipstick marked "K.B." and learns the story of Kate Barlow, a story that, along with that of Stanley's ancestors, is revealed threw flashbacks throughout the story.
The book and the movie are indeed very, very similar, with minor changes made throughout to make it more suited for the big screen. It makes sense that the movie would fall right in line with the book, as Louis Sachar wrote both the book and the screenplay.
5. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
I couldn't finish off the list without including a Harry Potter movie, now could I? As with the last one, I am going to take the liberty of assuming that most of you know what the book/movie is about and am going to spare you the plot recap and jump right into telling you why I think this one deserves a spot on this list, if that's alright with you (*wink wink*).
Of all the Harry Potter movies, I think that the Chamber of Secrets (and the Sorcerer's Stone right behind it) is the best book-to-movie adaptation of the series. This movie followed the book the most closely, in my opinion (and has the time-stamp to prove it), and the things it did leave out or condense didn't take away from the original plot in any way. Thought it is pretty long and drags in places, it is very faithful to its source material, and for that I think it deserves a shout-out and a place on this list.
These are a few movies that are as close to perfect as they can come in terms of book-to-movie adaptations. These movies manage to maintain the essence of the book while still translating well onto screen, and, in my opinion, they deserve recognition for that.
As always, thank you for reading!
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