When Hollywood isn’t making a sequel, prequel or a reboot of a previous film, they’re probably adapting a book to the big-screen. The last decade or so has seen a run of young adult novels given a chance in the theater, some of which have hit it big (Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Twilight). We got to asking ourselves what movies we like the best that are based on a book? A lot of films of this makeup get some slack for not sticking closely enough to the book. Others stick so close they lack any defining things that sets it apart. You can’t please everyone, but here are the ones that pleased us.
Harry Potter Series: Up until seeing The Half-Blood Prince, I just watched these casually. After seeing that in theater, I was hooked. We bought the books and within the next year read the entire series. This has now become both my favorite book and movie series even to the point of replacing both the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. There are so many Christian themes throughout the series, especially that of the power of love and sacrifice.
I am Legend: The world has suffered a huge epidemic, killing millions and changing many others into zombie like creatures. Scientist Robert Neville(Will Smith) discovers that he is immune to the disease, so he takes it upon himself to create an antidote. After seeing the movie I liked it so much that I decided to read the book it was based on. Wow, the only thing that they used from the book was the title. Well, not quite the only thing, but pretty close. The book is good, but it is about vampires, not zombies. In general, I typically recommend the book over the movie, but in this case I would suggest you just watch the movie.
Bridge to Terabithia: I watched this movie several years ago, before I knew it was based on a book. I can’t quite put in words why I like it so much, but I really like this story. The movie does an excellent job of following the book. Major themes are the importance of friendship, family, death, and kindness. This is one of the few movies that has ever made me tear up.
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe: C.S. Lewis left what was probably his biggest imprint on the world when he wrote the Narnia series. I hadn’t read any of these until I was an adult. I appreciated that the movie made concerted efforts to stay consistent with the book(s). You’re dealing with a classic, not just the next in a line of young adult fantasy novels. The movie itself doesn’t make any of my usual “top” lists but I thought it was tastefully done and painted a good picture of what Narnia was like in my head. And let’s face it, Liam Neeson was born to be the voice of Aslan. One of my favorite lines is when Mr. Tumnus says of Aslan, “He’s not a tame lion.” To which Mr. Beaver replies, “No, but he is good.” True of Aslan, true of God.
The Princess Bride: This is one of my favorite movies from my childhood. This movie has everything you could want; a castle to storm, a maiden to save, giants to fight, cliffs to scale, swords to cross and horses to ride. In a word it all seems, “Inconceivable!” I can learn as much about a person based on whether they like this movie or not than I can after having a ½ hour conversation with them. I am however ashamed to say that I have never read the book. Romance novels just aren’t too high on my reading list. But, I have watched an old man read it to his grandson while he stayed home from school sick!
The Godfather: Not much needs be said here. Mario Puzzo’s classic novel has enjoyed not just one of the best book-to-movie adaptations, but one of the best movies ever, period. There isn’t a single actor that leaves you thinking they just weren’t right for that part. The movie is suspenceful, dramatic, violent and I love it!
The Shawshank Redemption: The first movie that I can recall walking out of and thinking, “Now that stuck to the book.” It’s a rough movie emotionally, has harsh language, and some pretty intense scenes; but it does a great job dealing with resilience and standing for what’s right. If we connect that to the early Church and all the persecutions that they went through, we see their resilience in standing strong for the truth.
Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief: I was eager for this movie to come out. Being a sixth-grade teacher it is one if the books I like to read to my students. I have read all 7 books… (Yes, there are actually 7 currently out with the second story line)… and eagerly await the 8th coming out in October. Percy struggles fitting in, struggles in school, and has family problems, which reminds me a lot of my childhood. He learns a great deal about himself and becomes a hero for his friends and family. Now there were some things that didn’t adhere to the book, but it was a good translation. I think about how Percy was judged at school for having learning disabilities and being ADHD and just didn’t fit in. Then he goes to camp and is accepted for who he is. God is like our camp. He doesn’t judge us for how we look or struggles we suffer through, he accepts and loves us for who we are. He sees the person we truly are, just as the campers see Percy for who he truly is.
Holes: once again a book we read in my classroom. There were a few, and I mean very few, liberties taken in the movie that changed from the book. You once again have a person accused of something he didn’t do, Stanley Yelnats, and is judged and punished for it. Stanley makes the best of his situation though. He looks out for his new friend, Zero. Then when there seems to be no hope, he finds some in the idea of finding a treasure. We as Christians find ourselves in what seems like hopeless situations, just like Stanley. However, we have hope in a treasure that will get us through the toughest of situations. God’s promise of heaven to faithful Christians is the greatest treasure we could ever hope for.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: As far as I know, no movie has ever come closer to accurately representing the contents of a book than this one. The frantic pace, the drug-induced paranoia, and the sights and sounds of an LSD trip. As sad as it is, this is reality. But lest we, as Christians, begin to think that we ourselves are superior (and, in the process, conveniently forget our own issues), we see that it is not just the druggie main characters that are helpless and depraved, but also those ‘good people’ seeking the heart of the American Dream – to get rich quick in Las Vegas. The main protagonist even shouts to some of the ‘decent’ people in one scene who are yelling at him that they “killed Jesus,” much like Peter did in his sermons in Acts when speaking to fellow Jews. In this, the protagonist was right. I hope that if I were there, I would be more of a Good Samaritan with helping hands rather than a Pharisee with distancing arms Well … he would need to drop the hammer first. The point is, a little compassion for the lost can go a long way. Needless to say, this is not a movie for the family to watch together. And it will make you feel weird. Also, Johnny Depp does an amazing job as the late Hunter S. Thompson, the author of the book and main character of the movie (who also makes a brief cameo in the movie).
Jurassic Park: This movie is perfect for the age of movie special effects. Cool plot, big dinosaurs, and some deep questions of life (such as whether it is moral to create life ourselves … or, forget morality for a second: is it a practical idea or too dangerous? Can we really “control” life?) make this a great movie, and a great book. *BOOK SPOILER ALERT* My favorite part about the movie is that Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) doesn’t die in the movie! Oh, and good news: Jurassic Park 4 hits theaters in 2015.
The Silence of the Lambs: You know how the book is almost always better than the movie? (Well, that’s what people say, even though that is comparing apples and oranges.) I’m not going to go on record and say that I think the book is better than the movie, or that the movie is better than the book. But what I will say is that Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter is certainly better than what I had imagined when reading the book. The best part about this book adaptation is Hopkins’ Oscar-winning performance as the cannibal psychiatrist. Lecter is pure evil – a demon wrapped in the skin of a debonair and cultured gentleman. In reality, he is a madman who kills others for reasons of taste, including a bad violin player whose great sin was playing the wrong notes. He believes life is his for the taking – his superior intellect has somehow qualified him as Judge, Jury, and Executioner. The movie did a great job and relaying the most chilling qualities of Lecter, but Hopkins upped the ante.
There you have it! What did we miss? Tell us some of your favorite films inspired by a book.