“Read the book, see the movie” was a popular catchphrase in commercials and posters at one time, and that slogan still holds true. Books both popular and niche continue to serve as the basis for major films today; to tip our hat to the adaptation process, here are some noteworthy examples from the past 10 years of how the written page can find new life up on the big screen.
The most recent filming of Jack London’s classic adventure story uses modern technology to depict the adventures of canine Buck across the Yukon. His encounters along the way cover the entire spectrum of human nature, from a benevolent Harrison Ford to a wicked Dan Stevens.
Based on John Preston’s 2007 novel and inspired by real events, this richly photographed drama stars Oscar nominees Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes in the tale of a young widow whose property becomes the site of a burial mound excavation that explodes into a discovery of national significance.
Jane Austen’s oft-adapted romantic comedy of manners has led to versions starring Gwyneth Paltrow and (unofficially) Alicia Silverstone, while this most recent one casts Anya Taylor-Joy as the well-to-do matchmaker whose tampering with other people’s affections ends up affecting her own future in unexpected ways.
Rosamund Pike earned both acclaim and an Oscar nomination for her riveting performance here as Amy, the children’s book author whose husband (Ben Affleck) is thrown into a whirlwind of twists and turns when she goes missing. Gillian Flynn adapted her own 2012 novel for the screen (a process she repeated for the HBO series Sharp Objects) with director David Fincher keeping her closely involved throughout the entire filmmaking process.
A 2009 novel by first-time writer Kathryn Stockett about the experiences of African American maids at the cusp of the Civil Rights Movement in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi, served as the basis of this Oscar-winning film, which earned nominations for its performances by Viola Davis and Jessica Chastain, with Octavia Spencer winning for Supporting Actress.
Before she stole the show at the 2021 Academy Awards, Glenn Close earned a Supporting Actress nomination for her virtually unrecognizable performance here as Mamaw, the matriarch of a struggling Appalachian family. Adapted by Vanessa Taylor from J.D. Vance’s 2016 memoir, the film is told in flashback by a man looking back at his adolescence with a mother grappling with mental instability.
Suzanne Collins’ bestselling 2008 young adult novel and its sequels spawned four films beginning with this first entry, which made Jennifer Lawrence into a global star. The futuristic saga of Katniss Everdeen and her quest to compete in a nationally watched competition to the death, as well as an eventual revolt against the entire government, became a sensation with its blend of social commentary and kinetic action sequences.
Charles Brandt’s 2004 book I Heard You Paint Houses, a sprawling look at the true story of purported Mafia hitman Frank Sheeran and his role in the fate of Jimmy Hoffa, became an epic crime saga in the hands of director Martin Scorsese. Robert De Niro goes from his teenage years to life as a senior citizen over the course of the film, which features Al Pacino and Joe Pesci in Oscar-nominated performances among its 10 total nominations including Best Picture.
Among its six Oscar nominations (with a win for Costume Design), this time-skipping approach to Louisa May Alcott’s beloved literary classic earned a nod for the adapted screenplay by writer-director Greta Gerwig. The story of four sisters at different stages in life is given a fresh spin here fragmenting the timeline to show the development of fledgling writer Jo (Saoirse Ronan) amidst her family’s fair share of drama.
Trying to crunch down Charles Dickens’ sprawling 600-plus-page novel has been a challenge ever since the silent era, and one of the most creative variations came in the form of Armando Iannucci’s stylish take featuring Dev Patel as the young man who grows from a child in an abusive home and a workhouse into an aspiring gentleman with the help of some very colorful characters along the way.
Author Emma Donoghue adapted her own 2010 novel for this acclaimed character study about a young mother, Joy (Brie Larson), who brings up her young son (Jacob Tremblay) while being held captive and must help him adapt to exposure to the real world. Larson took home an Academy Award for her unforgettable performance.
The late Robert B. Parker created much-loved figures in hard-boiled crime fiction with Spenser and Hawk, crime-solving friends who operate amid Boston cops and criminals over the course of 40 novels. The basis for a successful 1980s mystery TV series, the characters are brought back here (played by Mark Wahlberg and Winston Duke) for a tale of deceit and murder originating with the slayings of two police officers.