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10 Best Book-to-Movie Adaptations

Thankfully, the film adaptations of these beloved books (mostly) lived up to expectations! Featuring standalone sensations and spellbinding sagas, see below for some of the most popular book-to-movie adaptations, ordered from lowest to highest review scores. Did any of your favourite films make the list?

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10. The Shining (1980)

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Directed by Stanley Kubrick | Based on The Shining by Stephen King

Rotten Tomatoes: 87% | Metacritic: 61

In Stephen King's dark, unsettling novel, 5-year-old Danny is a 'shiner', someone who possesses telepathic abilities and can experience premonitions. When Danny moves into the Overlook Hotel, where his father has taken a job as a caretaker, his visions grow out of control - for the hotel seems to be drenched in its own blood-soaked past...

Stanley Kubrick's eerie film adaptation has gained very positive reviews from critics. Ben Walters, writing for Time Out, calls the film 'a masterpiece', and Emma Dibdin, writing for Digital Spy, believes the film 'proves itself genuinely timeless in its terror... as compelling and frightening as it's ever been'. One of few criticisms concerns Jack Nicholson's performance as Jack Torrance, Danny's father, which some critics (including Stephen King himself) deem too theatrical. However, others - such as Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian - consider Nicholson's performance admirable, Bradshaw calling it 'a thrillingly scabrous, black-comic turn'.


9. The Color Purple (1985)

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Directed by Steven Spielberg | Based on The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Rotten Tomatoes: 88% | Metacritic: 78

Set in the American South between the wars, Alice Walker's haunting novel stars Celie, a young black girl born into poverty. Abused by the man she calls 'father', she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie, and becomes trapped in an ugly marriage. But everything changes when Celie meets the glamorous Shug Avery, a singer and magic-maker - a woman who commands her own destiny.

The film has been praised for its outstanding cast (including Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey) and for its direction by Steven Spielberg. Film critic Roger Ebert calls the film 'a great, warm, hard, unforgiving, triumphant movie, and there is not a scene that does not shine with the love of the people who made it'. Tim Robey of The Telegraph praises the director, writing: 'Spielberg's handling of Walker's story is sober and impassioned without being cripplingly reverential.'


8. Howl's Moving Castle (2005)

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Directed by Hayao Miyazaki | Based on Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Rotten Tomatoes: 87% | Metacritic: 80

The thrilling, amusing novel by Diana Wynne Jones is set in the fantastical world of Ingary, where young Sophie Hatter is put under a terrible curse by the malevolent Witch of the Waste and made to look like an old woman. In Sophie's efforts to find a way to break the spell, she will go on all sorts of adventures in a magical, moving castle, accompanied by the charismatic Calcifer the Fire Demon, the formidable Wizard Howl and Howl's apprentice, Michael.

The film adaptation has received great reviews which praise its stunning, uncomplicated art style and its gentle, dreamlike quality. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian praises the director's 'gentleness, his visual exuberance, and his unshowy intelligence and emotional literacy'. David Stratton of ABC commends the art and animation of the film, writing: 'the fact that this is old-fashioned, hand-drawn animation - no digital effects - makes the result even more wondrous.' Philippa Hawker of The Sydney Morning Herald concludes that it is 'seriously enchanting and full of grace and gravity'.


7. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

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Directed by Frank Darabont | Based on Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption in Different Seasons by Stephen King

Rotten Tomatoes: 91% | Metacritic: 80

Unjustly convicted of murder, Andy is sent to Shawshank Prison, where he is befriended by Red (the narrator of Stephen King's engrossing novella), a convict who helps him adjust to the terrifying realities of prison life. Previously a banker, Andy becomes increasingly useful to the prison's staff and inmates as he carries out financial tasks, from filing guards' tax returns to laundering money. But such activities may reduce his chances of ever leaving Shawshank - unless, of course, he escapes...

Frank Darabont's gripping and moving film adaptation has been widely praised by critics. Betty Jo Tucker of Reel Talk Reviews praises the 'top-notch performances' of the cast members, the 'exceptional cinematography' and the 'masterful direction by Frank Darabont', all of which 'combine to make the film something special indeed'. Film4 calls the film '[p]owerful, poignant, thought-provoking and finally irresistibly uplifting'.


6. Trainspotting (1996)

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 Directed by Danny Boyle | Based on Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

Rotten Tomatoes: 90% | Metacritic: 83

Mark Renton is a young man with few prospects and a heroin addiction. Not only do he and his friends enjoy the blissful high of the drug, but also the thrills involved in financing their addiction, the only excitement in their otherwise monotonous lives. However, Mark decides to ditch the drug after one too many scrapes with the law. He moves from Edinburgh to London, where he finds a job and a flat and starts to live a 'normal' life. But when his three friends show up on his doorstep, it can only mean one thing: falling back into a life of drugs and crime...

Critics have loved this riveting film, praising it for its raw, honest portrayal of drug addiction in Edinburgh, as well as for its humour. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian writes that Trainspotting is 'supercharged with sulphurous humour and brutal recklessness', whilst Neil Jeffries of Empire Online calls it 'an unprecedented and unrivalled piece of entertainment'. Wendy Ide of The Guardian believes the film is 'inarguably ahead of its time'.


5. Blade Runner (1982)

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Directed by Ridley Scott | Based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Rotten Tomatoes: 89 | Metacritic: 89

This chilling tale is set in the eerie world of Los Angeles, 2019, where 'replicants' - human-looking robots formed from organic material - have been created to take the jobs that humans don't want. However, four of them are now on the run. Former replicant hunter Rick Deckard is forced to resume his old job - but not before he falls in love with Rachael, a replicant girl. When Deckard is asked to hunt down Rachael too, he will have to decide whether to kill the girl he loves, a girl he knows is actually a bioengineered being.

The film was a commercial flop upon release, but has gained many fans and wide acclaim ever since. Roger Ebert commends the production of the film, calling its technologically-advanced Los Angeles setting 'one of the most extraordinary worlds ever created in a film'. Beth Accomando of KPBS believes the film 'displays a striking visual style' and 'has only gotten better with time', still possessing the power to 'dazzle and amaze'.


4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)

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Directed by David Yates | Based on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

Rotten Tomatoes: 96% | Metacritic: 87

In the last gripping adventure of the Harry Potter series, no-one is safe as Hogwarts hosts the final tumultuous battle between good and evil. Harry, Hermione and Ron must destroy the final Horcruxes and take on Voldemort for the very last time - but in the end, Harry must face the Dark Lord alone, in a gruelling, spectacular duel to the death...

Out of all the Harry Potter films, this one has received the best reviews. Catherine Kast of People Magazine sums it up as '[g]rim, beautiful and unabashedly emotional', and, all-importantly, 'the first to re-create the feeling of reading [the books]'. Ryan Gilbey of New Statesman writes that devotees will be 'richly satisfied', and Laremy Legel of MTV praises the film for its 'legitimate character development and complex motivations', sure to 'keep even the shortest of attention spans satiated'.


3. No Country for Old Men (2007)

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Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen | Based on No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

Rotten Tomatoes: 93% | Metacritic: 91

In Cormac McCarthy's chilling novel, Llewelyn Moss - out hunting antelope near the Rio Grande - discovers bullet-ridden bodies, several kilos of heroin and a caseload of cash. Choosing to take the money and run, he knows everything will change. So begins an adrenaline-fuelled pursuit, in which Moss is chased not only by the disillusioned Sheriff Bell, a man who hopes to protect Moss but who is struggling with his own dark secret, but also by a merciless killer named Anton Chigurh, who often decides the fate of his victims through the toss of a coin.

The edgy and gripping film adaptation has gained wide acclaim. Philip French of The Guardian writes that 'the brilliance here lies in the narrative drive, the use of the landscape, the detail of incident and character, the wit and spare poetry of the heightened language and the reflections on ageing, death, fate and changing times'. Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly writes that the film is 'excitingly tense, violent yet maturely sorrowful', with 'almost painfully gorgeous images of turf, sky and blood'.


2. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

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Directed by Peter Jackson | Based on The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien

Rotten Tomatoes: 96% | Metacritic: 88

In the second part of Tolkien's fantasy trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, Frodo and Sam doggedly plough on towards Mordor. Their guide is Gollum, a creature tortured by his own obsession with the One Ring, or 'the preciousss'. The remaining members of the Fellowship of the Ring - including Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf, Pippin and Merry - must overcome great obstacles, including saving the city of Rohan from Saruman's clutches and defending Helm's Deep against impossible odds, to protect Middle-earth and enable Frodo and Sam to get closer to Mount Doom...

The film adaptation of this epic adventure has gained the best reviews of all the Lord of the Rings films. Christopher Tookey of The Daily Mail calls it 'more spectacular, more exciting, more emotionally rewarding' than its predecessor, 'a bravura piece of storytelling'. He praises the impressive use of geography and concludes that '[t]his is, I can say without fear of exaggerating, one of the great films of all time'. Mark Monahan comments on the immersive quality of the film: 'it lifts you from your comfy, popcorn-encrusted seat and hurls you into another time, place, and existence.' 

1. The Godfather (1972)

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Directed by Francis Ford Coppola | Based on The Godfather by Mario Puzo

Rotten Tomatoes: 99% | Metacritic: 100

In Mario Puzo's white-knuckle novel, the influence of Don Corleone extends into every level of American society. Tyrant, blackmailer, racketeer, murderer, Don Carleone comes across as a friendly, reasonable man, but behind that facade, he is a part of the perilous 1940s criminal underworld, his family at the core of the American Mafia. This shocking classic features corruption, murder and family values, and truly is an offer you can't refuse.

The film adaptation of this striking book has been popularly hailed as one of the greatest films of all time. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times writes that the film is 'overflowing with life, rich with all the grand emotions and vital juices of existence, up to and including blood', and features 'exceptional ensemble acting'. Wanda Hale similarly praises the acting abilities of the cast, writing for Daily News: 'Each performance is a vignette that fits beautifully into the whole exciting picture.' She deems the film an altogether 'stunning production'.

Our recommendation: check out these films - but it's always best to read the book first!