So, a couple of weeks ago I was reading a post from The Perpetual Page Turner she created a list of her top ten book to movie adaptations and, yes, it has taken me this long to create my list...mostly because there are soooooooo many good ones from which to choose, I made a big list and then narrowed it down to these 10. Four of these I didn't know were books until after I watched them.
The Talented Mr. Ripley This is the only movie I have ever watched EVER that is better than the book and not just because of Jude Law and Matt Damon (although those are reasons enough). I fell in love with Tom Ripley. He is the prototype for charactes like Dexter, you know those characters that do evil, horrible things and, yet are human and, well, endearing, gosh darn it! And, maybe it's because I watched the movie first (I didn't know it was a book, swear!) that the book didn't seem as fast-paced, the scenes weren't as vivid (seeing Italy is wayyy better than reading Italy), Dickie Greenleaf seemed only pompous and Tom, well, there was all the calculation, but none of the feeling. Tu Vuo' Fa l'Americano? Definitely not in the book. This movie is just so mid-century pretty, I forget all about the murdering.
The Time Machine (1960) and (2002) I think I like these movies because I love, love, love, love, love (add 40 more) the book. It is the first science fiction book I remember reading on my own and when I found out there was a movie (when they showed it on the Disney Channel) I was so excited I could not contain my delight. In the 1960s version, I especially like the scene where we can tell the time machine is moving forward because of the changes in the fashions on the mannequins (what fun that must have been to film!). Flashforward about 17 years, I'd learned that the novel was Dystopic, I'd learned about Steam punk, I'd grown and to match my growth a new adaptation comes out. The Morlocks are scarier, the Eloi prettier, the action sequences louder, what a great movie!
The Maltese Falcon I enjoy Film Noir...a good way to pass the time is to watch "39 Steps", "Laura" (especially the 1944 version) and this movie. I didn't read the book until 7th grade, but I remember watching this movie with my grandfather and in later years, with my mother. Humphrey Bogart, good times.
A Kiss Before Dying (1956) and (1991) The 3rd..."I didn't know this was a book" movie. I spent my freshman year of high school reading lots of Ira Levin. I started with Sliver, then read The Stepford Wives, The Boys from Brazil and ended with A Kiss Before Dying. As if on queue, AMC aired the original film with Robert Wagner and Paul Newman's beautiful wife Joanne Woodward, probably in preparation for the 1991 film release with Matt Dillon. Both are good, but if you want to be truly filled with suspense stick with the '56 version and watch that scene where Ellen finds out her sister was murdered and you know she's going to be next.
AtonementIan McEwan made me angry when I read his novel many years before, I'd forgotten how angry until the movie came out and I had to watch Briony ruin the lives of two perfect people and proclaim forgiveness only after she was terminally ill. The cinematography of this movie is amazing and I'm so glad that Keira Knightley's green dress has now become the stuff of legends. The acting is some of the best of people from my generation, the scene with the broken vase is electrifying, the scene in the apartment is still painful, the last meeting of Cecilia and Robby in the coffee shop acting out by James McAvoy and Knightly fills me with anguish and longing just thinking about it. The ending still makes me want to punch Briony in the kidney. I love to hate this movie as much as I love to hate the book.
The Shawshank Redemption This movie is 2 hrs. and 22 mins. and I spent all of it sitting cross-legged on the floor of my dorm room in college enthralled. This is the final I didn't know this movie was a book movie and I was amazed that Stephen King could write something so wonderful and full of life that I bought the book and read all the stories. Just when I thought Andy DuFresne and I couldn't take anymore there he "crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side." Most brilliant twist to a plot ever and the best ending.
Wonder Boys The main characters in this book are so endearing casting them with such acting greats as Michael Douglas, Elijah Wood, Francis McDormand, Katie Holmes and Robert Downey Jr. makes for a great movie that I couldn't stop talking about it for about two years. Yes, two years. There are so many heart-warming scenes (Marilyn Monroe's jacket, the shooting of the dog, when Grady finds out his girlfriend is pregnant) that are rendered in the exact way I imagnined them.
A Few Good Men Ok, so this is technically a play, but...I couldn't help it. This movie, like The Shawshank Redemption had me hooked from the first second! Aaron Sorkin is one heck of a writer and if you watched this before watching the West Wing you can see what makes that show so perfect. Characters come in and out of scenes, there's just enough sexual tension to make it interesting, the poignant comments and the acting 'sweet caroline' the acting...Kevin Pollack, Demi Moore, Tom Cruise (in his best role EVER) and the master of every scene he's in Jack Nicholson. After watching this I couldn't help but love JAG, The West Wing and all things Navy.
Little Children I love this book sooooooooooo much that I was afraid to watch the movie, however the second the voice over started and we pan in on Sarah, I knew this movie wasn't going to fail me. Jackie Earle Healey is amazing, so amazing, in fact, that my friends all think he's a pedophile in real life. And, Patrick Wilson deserves a shout out as the frat boy turn loser husband who's forgotten how to live after he finds out it takes more than looks to pass the Bar Exam. Sarah (like Madame Bovary) is the woman I am afraid of becoming and Kate Winslet shows us what it would be like if we begin to live only for our families, she looks like the mousey Sarah, not-so-good at being anything including a house wife.
The Godfather and The Godfather II It takes two really great movies to adapt one friggin' amazing book. These movies are truly part of the foundations of American Cinema. My mother remembers watching this movie on a date with my father and talking about how graphic it was afterward. There are more bloody scenes on CBS, nowadays. I haven't read other Puzos, just looking at the covers I can tell they don't match the depth and breath of these movies or the novel they encompass. PS. I enjoy when SPIKE TV shows these two movies in sequential order.
And, there you have it. Ten movies that are the best adaptations.