Top 10 Films Adapted From Books (That I’ve Read)

This week I saw The Great Gatsby, something I’ve deeply regretted ever since. You can expect a less-than-complimentary review in the bear future, brace yourselves. I was thoroughly disappointed with the film, mostly because I’d read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel last year in preparation for the film, and really rather enjoyed it. This got me thinking about the best films adapted from books. However, the potential candidates for such a list would include roughly half of all films ever made, if not more, so I slimmed it down somewhat in the only manner I knew how, by making it about myself. Therefore, this is a list of my favourite films adapted from books that I’ve actually read, a list of books nowhere near long enough in my opinion, but with so many films to watch how can I hope to find the time to read more?

Anyway, the list is comprised of books I read before the films came out, some I was drawn to by the film, and others I read upon finding out the film was to be released, as was the case with Gatsby.

Honourable MentionJurassicParkAs much as I’d love Jurassic Park to be on this list, at present I’m only halfway through Michael Crichton’s so far excellent novel, so alas the best I can do is say the first half of Jurassic Park is my Honourable Mention. In terms of complete books, there are some adaptations that have done a stellar job in maintaining the themes and style of their source material – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is impenetrable and muddy, The Time Traveller’s Wife is bland and queasy, Touching The Void is gripping yet informative – whereas others have differed greatly from where they began – There Will Be Blood covers only a fraction of Upton Sinclair’s Oil!. I think I’ll settle upon Fight Club as my official honourable mention, and it remains the book I’ve read the fastest – in one sitting at that – and quite possibly in the same amount of time as it would have taken to watch the film. It is a rather slim book, you see, but well worth a read if you’re even a passing appreciator of the film.
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Into the Wild

Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) has a very promising future ahead of him. Considering Harvard Law school after graduating from college, with a healthy savings fund and parents willing to buy him a new car, he’s set to make a name for himself in middle class middle America.
But alas, this is not the life he wishes to lead, refusing to make the same mistakes his parents made – marrying the high school sweetheart, living in an unhappy, abusive marriage for the sake of appearances – he gives his savings to charity, dumps his car, burns his ID and cash and changes his name to Alexander Supertramp, pledging to live life alone, “no watch, no maps, in the wild.”
Told through letters to his sister, accounts from those he met along the way and excerpts from his own diary, this true story, directed by Sean Penn, is at times joyous, tense and heartbreaking. There isn’t a weak link in the cast, but the standouts are easily William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden as the confused parents left behind as their ideal son wanders for years with no communication, not even a letter goodbye.
Penn at times drifts too far into Terrence Malick territory (Malick previously directed Penn in the Thin Red Line), with elegiacal shots of admittedly beautiful scenery, poetic, philosophical pontificating and a meandering style, flitting between Alex’s journey across America and his time spent living in an abandoned ‘Magic’ bus he finds in Alaska, but the story and performances pull it through. You get the feeling the journey is exactly how Alex had hoped, finding the people he would have preferred knowing when growing up; the parental fellow travellers Jan and Rainey (Catherine Keener & Brian Dierker), girlfriend (Kristen Stewart), boss (Vince Vaughn), friends (the semi-nudist random Swedes) and kind hearted, lovably cantankerous grandfather (Hal Holbrook). The soundtrack is amazing too.
Choose film 8/10