Top 5 Book to Film Adaptations

There has been a big media frenzy this last couple of weeks with the last Harry Potter film being released, which I for one am excited about. I’m looking forward to the film, even though I can’t help but complain about all of them. The films can’t begin to live up to the book and they have turned Harry Potter into something else, a franchise, rather than books to spark the imagination of children all of the world. Children no longer have to conjure up their own personal ideas of the characters, they simply have to picture Daniel Radcliffe.

There have been some terrible film to book adaptations. And I don’t actually think Harry Potter is that bad compared to some of them. It must be extremely difficult to take a good book and turn it into a decent film. Even if you manage to cast the film with brilliant actors and have budget high enough to fill the sets with the perfect props and clothes, there is still so much to think about. So much of the dialogue must be cut down and many scenes scrapped. In fact I think it must be such a daunting task, I’m not sure why anyone would even attempt it!

Here are a few examples of films that I think have been adapted excellently.

The Lord Of the Rings – J.R.R Tolkien 

What a difficult task Peter Jackson took on with this. I have read the books many, many times over the years since I first entered the world of Tolkien with The Hobbit (I am eagerly awaiting that film too!). Before watching The Fellowship of the Ring, my stomach was filled with butterflies, I was so excited. But I was also nervous; could they really pull it off? Well, thanks to a very enthusiastic team, they got as close as anyone can get.

My favourite of the three films is, without a doubt, The Fellowship of the Ring. The cast has been chosen perfectly and the few times it does stray from the book, I think were understandable. The second two films added a few unnecessary scenes, which I found disappointing, but certainly not enough to stop me watching them over and over again.

The Motorcycle Diaries – Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara 

The memoirs of the young medical student, Che Guevara, before he became a famous guerilla leader. Along with his friend Alberto Grenado, Che travelled by motorbike (‘The Mighty One’) across South America. The film is full of beautiful scenery and captures the political unrest of the time. Gael García Bernal is excellent as Che.

Watership Down – Richard Adams

I enjoyed reading the adventures of the unlikely heroes, Hazel and Fiver and seeing them come to life in the 1978 animation was incredible. I remember sitting on the sofa in front of the TV in a trance. The film was, if it is possible, even more sinister and unnerving than the book. While reading about the rabbits being trapped in their new holes under the big tree, I was very upset and worried, watching it was equally scary. And of course General Woundwort was downright terrifying.

Possibly not a film to let young children watch unattended, but a must see.

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Gainsbourg did an outstanding job as Jane in this adaptation. There have been many films of Jane Eyre, but I have always enjoyed this the most. Of course, I still prefer to curl up with the book – no film can be quite as captivating as following Jane’s  life through the words of Charlotte Brontë.  However, this film is similarly atmospheric in the setting of Thornfield Hall and the mysterious noises coming from the attic are just as spine-chilling!

David Copperfield – Charles Dickens  

This drama was first shown on the BBC back in 1999. Being my favourite Dickens’, I was pleasantly surprised with this adaptation. It boasts a brilliant cast of British actors and the script was very well adapted. Nicholas Lyndhurst does a particularly incredible job as the slimy, creepy Uriah Heap. I could not have imagined him better myself. This is perfect for watching snuggled up by the fire in the middle of winter.

8 thoughts on “Top 5 Book to Film Adaptations

  1. I honestly didn’t particularly enjoy the 1996 version of Jane Eyre – I found William Hurt a little flat as Rochester. Have you seen either the BBS 2006 miniseries or the recent 2011 film? Both are absolutely stunning and I couldn’t recommend them enough if you are a fan of the story like I am. I’d be interested to hear whether you still have a high opinion of the ’96 version after seeing either of these!

    And yes, David Copperfield is brilliant! Nicholas Lyndhurst gave me a serious case of the creeps!


    • You know, I’ve actually been meaning to see the 2006 mini-series, I have got it on my laptop, so will make sure I watch is sooner rather than later. I think I love the 2006 one because I found it really creepy, when I was younger I was terrified by the scary mystery in the loft.

      I’ll watch the other adaptations though and see what I think. I’ve heard a lot of good things about them!


  2. Good choices. I might also add Gilliam’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and Richard Lester’s “Three Musketeers” and “Four Musketeers” (1973 and 1974). “Watership Down” is a great choice and Martin Rosen adapted another Richard Adams work with “The Plague Dogs” which was also a great adaptation (watch the British cut).


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