In recent years, several films have given book adaptations a bad name (*cough* Da Vinci Code *cough*) but here at the Weekly Gravy, we’ve dug up several exceptions to this unfair rule. Just because a film’s genesis was a best-selling novel doesn’t mean that it’s destined to be a schlocky film and here’s why:
1. American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis’ stunning and terrifying novel has a good deal to say about consumption and how we perceive violence. But it wasn’t until Christian Bale became the face of Patrick Bateman that this delicious satire hit home. The lean observations of the novel only benefited from this stark depiction of a psychopath.
2. Mystic River – Not everyone knows that Clint Eastwood’s film about three friends who grew up in the South Boston projects was first a novel from the gifted Dennis Lehane. But Eastwood’s adaptation captured all of the intrigue and mystery that this quintessential Boston drama conveyed in the pages of the book. And Sean Penn’s performance lent an emotional magnitude that the source material only brushed on.
3. Silence of the Lambs – Who would Thomas Harris be if it weren’t for Anthony Hopkins? The book that follows Clarice Starling hot on the trail of the serial killer Buffalo Bill became a multiple Oscar-winning film, introducing the world to Sir Anthony Hopkins and adding another dimension to Jodie Foster’s extraordinary career. The chilling tale definitely pushed the envelope, making it a vital piece of filmmaking today.
4. Dr. No – Sure, many would probably be aware of James Bond even if Ian Fleming’s books were never adapted. But seeing Sean Connery in a tuxedo and charming exotic women truly marked the dawn of the beloved secret agent.
5. Sin City – Before Robert Rodriguez’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel, Miller was known only to a small readership. With this film adaptation, Rodriguez gave Miller a mythic status in the realm of visual storytelling, as well as reinventing the comic book film for all time.
6. The Stepford Wives – Forget the Nicole Kidman version, we are referring to the 1975 rendering of the Ira Levin novel. As a commentary on gender roles and domestic terror, this one’s ferocious. But perhaps it’s the gritty resolution of a 1975 Stepford that makes this nightmare seem possible.
7. No Country for Old Men – Cormac McCarthy is an astounding novelist with a bleak and insightful voice, but when the Coen brothers adapted one of his best stories, all of McCarthy’s ideas had finally found a vision equally as challenging. Xavier Bardem, Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones fill the Southwestern thriller with a credibility few films can achieve.
8. Jurassic Park – This was the novel that had everyone buzzing. A half-baked theory that posited the re-creation of prehistoric life. Forget the scientific implications, we’re talking dinosaurs. If you’re making a pop culture cocktail designed for everyone, take a novel centered on dinosaurs terrorizing an island, then add Steven Spielberg (who at this point was the father of Jaws, E.T, The Goonies and Indiana Jones) and you’ve got a recipe for both box office records and worldwide acclaim.
9. Blade Runner – This sparkling neo-noir began in the mind of the writer Philip K. Dick, but with a new name and ’80s hard-boiled visuals, this story had found a whole new audience. And it wouldn’t be the only Dick adaptation, by a long shot.
10. The Shining – Stephen King’s haunted hotel story about a father fighting his alcoholism and the spirits of a snowy resort offers readers an enthralling story. But when Stanley Kubrick took on this idea, it became an epic and cerebral journey into one of filmmaking’s greatest minds. King’s narrative cannot hold a candle to an elevator full of blood.