It is no secret that Hollywood has a tendency to turn to books when they are on the quest for the next hot film project. And why shouldn’t they? Book-based films offer movie producers the security of a built-in audience of fans who love the original story and are eager to see how a director applies his or her vision. These days, it’s easy to trace the journey of popular books as they head to the silver screen; look no further than “The Hunger Games,” “The Help,” or “The Descendants” for confirmation. But what about popular movies that were, unbeknownst to most, originally based on books? Here are our top seven picks.
“How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days” (2003)
Though romantic comedies are not our go-to movie genre,we take exception when it comes to the likable flick “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” Not to mention, the book that inspired the film is as funny as they get. Michele Alexander and Jeannie Long teamed up to produce fifty hilarious pages featuring stick figures illustrating the universal don’ts of dating. It’s simple, effective, and utterly hilarious. Also, it’s reassuring to note that director Donald Petrie consulted the original source material when casting his movie. Doesn’t Kate Hudson bear a striking resemblance to the main stick figure with a flop of curly hair?
Fresh off the success of “North by Northwest,” Alfred Hitchcock found his next film project while thumbing through the New York Times Book Review. Knowing he had come across something truly compelling, Hitchcock promptly paid Psycho novelist Robert Bloch $9,000 for the rights, then proceeded to purchase as many copies as possible to keep the ending a secret. Inspired by the true story of notorious serial killer Ed Gein, Bloch’s Psycho encountered only minor changes by the time Hitchcock’s version was released to theaters. Most notably, Hitchcock changed the character of Norman Bates from a fat, middle-aged peeping tom to a handsome, charismatic young man that you can’t help but feel empathic toward.
Proving the timelessness of Jane Austen, ’90s favorite “Clueless” is loosely based on the classic book about unlucky-in-love matchmaker, Emma. When Paramount studios requested that director Amy Heckerling write a movie about teenagers, she returned to one of her favorite books from high school for inspiration. Though there is a difference of nearly two hundred years between the two, “Clueless” remains very faithful to the plot of Jane Austen’s original novel.
“10 Things I Hate About You ” (1999)
William Shakespeare remains one of the most influential literary sources for film and television adaptations. We happen to much prefer his comedy over tragedy, especially when those comedies are re-imagined through the perspective of teenagers. Enter “10 Things I Hate About You,” a wonderful retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Despite the fact that “10 Things I Hate About You” is set in modern times, there are multiple references to Shakespeare sprinkled throughout the movie. Our favorite is English teacher Mr. Morgan’s hip hop rendition of Sonnet 141, followed by the declaration that “I know that Shakespeare is a dead white guy, but he knows his sh*t.”
“Die Hard” (1988)
Yippee ki yay, action movie fans. It surprised us to learn that Bruce Willis’ magnum opus is, in fact, based on Roderick Thorp’s 1979 novel, Nothing Lasts Forever. The framework of the plot remains consistent from book to film: federal agent (John McClane in the movie, Joe Leland in the book) fight terrorists when they take over an office building in Los Angeles during a corporate Christmas Party. Though the book is a thrilling read, we prefer the movie for one important reason: the character of Hans Gruber (brilliantly played by Alan Rickman) is considerably more charismatic on screen than on the page.
“Slumdog Millionaire” (2008)
In 2008, a little indie film that could called “Slumdog Millionaire” captured the hearts of moviegoers across the globe. Danny Boyle’s tale of slumdog Jamal’s unexpected success on India’s version of “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire” was inspired by Vikas Swarup’s 2005 novel, Q&A. Boyle retained the novel’s basic framework, but drastically altered Jamal’s (Ram in the book) motivations for getting on the quiz show. In Slumdog, the driving force behind many of his decisions is to reunite with lost love, Latika, hoping she will be watching him on the show. Ram’s motivations in the book are more based on seeking fame and fortune.
“Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964)
Stanley Kubrick had a fondness for turning books into movies, as evident from his most popular projects like “Lolita,” “The Shining,” and “A Clockwork Orange.” However, since his adaptations were so loosely based on the source material, authors were frequently upset with the finished product. Peter George’s 1958 novel Red Alert, about the imposing threat of nuclear war, served as the inspiration for Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr. Strangelove, though as was often the case, differed almost entirely from the book. The main distinction between the two is that George’s book was not a comedy, and he was outraged that his serious novel was satirized.
Now it’s your turn. Tell us about your favorite movie that you were surprised to learn was originally based on a book or short story.