25 Movies that came from Great (Gatsby?) Books

May 7, 2013
Source: Warner Bros. Pictures

Almost ninety years after its original publication date, "The Great Gatsby" is still making headlines. This time it's in the form of a new film adaptation from Baz Luhrmann, the man who directed "Strictly Ballroom," "Romeo + Juliet," and "Moulin Rouge."

The jury's still out on Luhrmann's take on F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic. It certainly looks stunning, although the marketing focus on dazzling aesthetics and wild parties betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the author's intent. Still, we have hope that it'll be something great, owing to how great the original book was.

Let's hope it follows in the footsteps of these twenty-five films, all of which were adapted from novels and some of which even surpassed their source material in quality.


Films directed by Peter Jackson

Books by J.R.R. Tolkien

All three films were shot simultaneously, so it seemed fair to lump these together as one entry. It was certainly keeping in the spirit of the original books, which were intended to be a single novel (which took Tolkien twelve years to write) but released in three separate volumes.


Source: Paramount Pictures

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Book: The Godfather by Mario Puzo

Even though the book was a huge bestseller, the movie still eclipsed it both in terms of popularity and renown within its genre. Elements of the original novel also appeared in the movie's sequel, in particular the backstory of Vito Corleone.


Directed by John McTiernan

Book: Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp

Believe it or not, one of the biggest action blockbusters of all time was not only based on a novel, but a sequel to a novel that had already been adapted into a film (The Detective starring Frank Sinatra). Although the lead character was changed a bit and some liberties were taken with the source material, "Die Hard" maintained the general plot along with many of the action sequences and dialogue from the book.


Directed by Ted Kotcheff

Book by David Morrell

People who have a passing familiarity with the "Rambo" franchise probably think first and foremost of an oiled up Sylvester Stallone mowing down enemies in the jungle. Before it got to that point, "First Blood" and the book it was based on were actually thoughtful (but still suspenseful) ruminations on the trouble Vietnam vets had in re-acclimating to American society.


Source: United Artists

Directed by Martin Scorcese

Book: Raging Bull: My Story by Jake LaMotta

The story of bull-headed, troubled middleweight Jake LaMotta was based on his autobiography, as told to (re: actually written by) Joseph Carter and Peter Savage. Although LaMotta's tale alone was intriguing, it was Scorcese's touch and De Niro's performance that made it transcend its source material.


Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Book: The Short-Timers by Gustav Hasford

Kubrick was particularly fond of adapting his favorite books into some of our favorite films. Novelist Gustav Hasford based a lot of The Short-Timers on his own experiences during the war, although certain elements were exaggerated for the sake of making a statement on the nature of war. Kubrick removed and toned down some of those elements, but kept the theme itself intact and was more or less faithful to the source material.


Directed by Curtis Hanson

Book by James Ellroy

People probably best know this movie as the one that launched the careers of then-unknown actors Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce. Sadly, even though Ellroy is one of the best American novelists alive today, "L.A. Confidential" is the only film adaptation of his work that has seen any real critical or commercial success.


Source: Miramax Films/Paramount Vantage

Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen

Book by Cormac McCarthy

No Country for Old Men is one of the best books in Cormac McCarthy's catalogue and reads as if it's tailor made to be a film. That's because it was, initially, a screenplay that McCarthy shopped around Hollywood. He didn't have any luck then, but thankfully the Coens saw the potential and made a kick-ass movie out of it.


Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Book by Robert Bloch

The film "Psycho" was released roughly a year after the book was published, back when it was common for best-selling books to get fast-tracked into feature length motion pictures. This often yielded decidedly mixed results. Thankfully, the rush to get "Psycho" made didn't have a negative impact on the quality of the film, owing largely to the late, great Alfred Hitchcock.


Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Book by Arthur C. Clarke

Although this is considered an "adaptation," the film and book were actually produced simultaneously and intended to be companion pieces. The novel, as it turns out, wasn't even published until after the film's release.


Directed by Ridley Scott

Warner Bros.

Book: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Philip K. Dick

Even though it's only loosely based on the novel, "Blade Runner" made Philip K. Dick's stories into some of the most sought after properties in Hollywood. Later films adapted from his work include the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle "Total Recall" and "Minority Report" with Tom Cruise. Dick later said that he thought the film "Blade Runner" was an improvement on his novel, although it's been said that during production he was very critical of the film's direction.


Directed by Andrew Dominik

Book by Ron Hansen

The film and book are a fictional telling of the final months of Jesse James life and the relationship he had with Robert Ford, his former accomplice and friend. It's one of those rare films that actually feels like you're watching a novel (in a good way).


Source: Warner Bros.

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Book by Stephen King

King was initially perturbed at the direction of Kubrick's version of "The Shining." Unlike the book, the movie puts emphasis on Jack's mental instability rather than on the supernatural forces on the hotel. However, that decision to make the story more grounded for film may have contributed to its success.


Directed by Brian De Palma

Book by Elliot Ness

The story of badass G-man Elliot Ness and the crew he assembled to take down Al Capone was based on Ness's memoir, ghost-written by Oscar Fraley and published just after Ness died in 1957.


Directed by Robert Mulligan

Book by Harper Lee

Like the novel it's based on, this film is considered an American classic and was entered into the National Film Restry in 1995. Few films adapted from books become as cherished and revered as their source material, and this is one of them.

What are some of your favorite books turned to film? Let us know in the comments!