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The Best Movies based on Novels

Most of the best movies of all time are based upon great novels. Yet in nearly all cases the movie pales in comparison to the original novel. The few that achieve this feat – being arguably as good as or better than the original novel – are cinema classics.

So in time for the Christmas holidays here are six of the best films based on novels. You can buy them, watch them on TV, or stream on Netflix.

The Godfather by Mario Puzo

The greatest gangster movie of all time. Starring Al Pacino and Marlon Brando and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather was originally a novel by Mario Puzo.

The Godfather tells the story of an Italian American crime family led by Don Vito Corleone (played by Marlon Brando). It follows the rise to power of his youngest son, Micheal Corleone (played by Pacino).

I first read the novel in a hostel in New Zealand in 2008. It’s a great read but for me the cinamatography, musical score and so many acting masterclasses make this film unmissable.

Stand by Me by Stephen King

Stand By Me, the classic 1980s movie, is based on a novella (short story) by Stephen King, The Body. King’s stories have produced countless classic movies: The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Shining, and IT. But for me Stand By Me is the best.

Stand By Me is the tale of four twelve year old boys who live in Oregon, USA in 1959. Hearing rumour of a missing boy believed to have been hit by a train, they embark upon a journey across the State to find him.

Stand By Me evokes strong memories of childhood and innocence. It reminds you of the joys of being young and carefree. River Phoenix shines above the rest in this feel good tale of childhood innocence. A great film to watch any time of the year, but especially at Christmas.

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

It surprises me how few people know that the exceptional cult classic of the late 1990s, Fight Club, was based on an equally exceptional novel by Chuck Palahnuik.

Fight Club tells the story of an unnamed protagonist with insomnia who meets the charasmatic Tyler Durdan and spirals into a world of chaos and misery built around the secret society known as Fight Club.

I have loved this film ever since I saw it as a teenager. Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter are superb. The movie is gripping, funny and at times disturbing and has undoubtedly one of the best twists in film history.

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlam

The awesome Bourne trilogy starring Matt Damon is based upon a series of three novels from the 1980s by Robert Ludlam. The films are quite different from the novels.

Jason Bourne is a man with no memory who is on the run from unknown assailants who are trying to kill him. Bourne has to discover what the people chasing him want and what his own role was in the mysterious black ops program known as Operation Treadstone.

Although the novels are truly great, the film’s modern adaptation of the novels is remarkable. Action-packed with great twists. James Bond on steroids is how one friend described them to me and I agree (well, prior to the Daniel Craig Bond films, that is). Watch the trilogy.

I Am Legend by Robert Matheson

I Am Legend, the fantastic post-apocalyptic horror from 2007 starring Will Smith, was based on a classic science fiction novel by Robert Matheson.

After a virus wipes out the human population and turns them into monsters, our protagonist Neville is left alone in New York City. Immune from the virus, he works hard to find a cure and save what remains of mankind.

The film is very different from the novel. In the novel, set in California rather than New York, Neville is surrounded by vampires who can talk and stalk him through the city. The film achieves a rare feat by arguably improving the original story and making it scarier and more compelling. A hard thing to achieve with a story by fiction genius Robert Matheson.

Forest Gump by Winston Groom

Another film that very few people realise was based on a novel from the 1980s.

Directed by the great Robert Zemeckis (who brought us the Back to the Future films), Forrest Gump tells the story of the life a simple but kind man who unwittingly influences several defining moments in US and world history. It is a comedy, a tragedy and a romance all at once.

Tom Hanks is superb in this movie (for which he won the Oscar for Best Actor). And although you have to take with a pinch of salt the likelihood that Forrest Gump could stumble through one major world history event to another – it’s a movie, it doesn’t have to be realistic – this is a true classic of modern cinema.

Enjoy a cinema night in

So there you have it: six of the best movies based on novels. There are several more movies where the film is arguably better than the novel but the list is not extensive.

So put your feet up. Grab a mince pie, a box of chocolates and your favourite beverage. Cuddle up on the sofa with your loved one and watch these wonderful movies. Alternatively, the headings above provide links to the DVDs on Amazon if you’re thinking of Christmas gifts.

If you liked this article, check out my other articles on my homepage (CLICK HERE). And also look out for my new short story, which will be published by a British publisher in the coming months. Finally, you can CLICK HERE to read my last publication from earlier this year : the satirical fantasy short story, The Infinite Woes of Being a Hero.