Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Book to Movie Adaptations

It's Tuesday again and that means another list. This week's theme from The Broke and the Bookish is Book to Movie Adaptations. Like many other bibliophiles, I often find movie adaptations fall far short of the original source. That said, there have been some that are equal to the book and in a few rare cases an improvement. Here, then, is my list, given in order from oldest to newest.

1. Dodsworth (1936, Starring Walter Huston, Mary Astor)
This is one where I have not read the novel, written by Sinclair Lewis. An American businessman takes his wife on a tour of Europe and his eyes open to her true nature. A remarkable movie then and now.

2. The Wizard of Oz (1939, Starring Judy Garland)
What can I say! My all time favorite movie since I was a little girl peeping out at the Wicked Witch of the West from behind the sofa.

3. A Christmas Carol (1951, Starring Alastair Sim)
There are many versions of Dickens's classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge's redemption. None are as fine as this production. (Okay, Mr. Magoo's version is also wonderful but it's not a movie.)

4. Women in Love (1970, Starring Alan Bates, Glenda Jackson)
In my teens and twenties I was a huge fan of D.H. Lawrence and read every novel he wrote, including Kangaroo and Aaron's Rod. I haven't seen this movie in a while so I wonder if it lives up to my memory. I seem to recall a delicious scene where a naked Alan Bates wrestles another man in front of a roaring fire.

5. Housekeeping (1987, Starring Christine Lahti)
For this one, I saw the movie before reading Marilynne Robinson's prize-winning novel of the same name. I have to say, in this case I preferred the movie. Two young girls are left with a succession of relatives until an eccentric aunt comes to care for them. One sister is similar to the aunt, the other longs for a more conventional upbringing.

6. The Witches (1990, Starring Angelica Huston)

Okay, I admit Roald Dahl's book is much better than the movie. Still, I thought the movie overall remained true to Dahl's vision. Except when it came to the ending. The director tacked on a feel-good resolution instead of sticking with Dahl's much darker version.

7. Short Cuts (1993, Directed by Robert Altman)
Love Raymond Carver's short stories. Love this movie. Altman takes a bunch of Carver's stories and weaves them into a seamless film of great power. A must see. Really. 

8. Clueless (1995, Starring Alicia Silverstone)
Jane Austin's novels have been adapted to the big screen countless times, and so many of them are excellent. I chose Clueless (loosely based on the novel Emma) because it brings Austin's sensibilities into modern times.

9. Cold Comfort Farm (1995, Starring Kate Beckinsale)
A perfect adaptation of novel to film. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, written in 1934, parodies the hardships and tribulations of rural life. Both novel and movie feature Flora Poste (Kate Beckinsale) a society girl who moves in with her rural kinfolk and proceeds to take over and manage their lives to great comic effect.

10. The Hours (2002, Starring Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep)
I remember reading The Hours by Michael Cunningham in one sitting during a rainy, windswept day. The movie is nearly as good (the exception being that dreadful nose that Nicole Kidman was forced to act in). And Ed Harris--what an inspired performance.

So there you have them, my ten top movie adaptations. What are yours?


  1. Loved The Hours and Cold Comfort Farm--both the books and the films. haven't seen Dodsworth, Housekeeping, or Short Cuts but now intend to do so. Yes, naked men wrestle in Women in Love--a scene to remember. I read Housekeeping twice and wasn't so impressed the first time, much more so the second time, maybe because I'd read and been blown away by her recent novels by then. You might want to give it a second chance.

  2. Hi Catherine,
    I absolutely love The Wizard of Oz. It used to be an annual event, growing up. I didn't read a novel or two from the series until I was an adult. I saw The Hours, but I never read the book. I'd like to see Short Cuts; I'd actually not heard of it, and there is one Raymond Carver story in particular, that put me in tears the first time I read it. Two of my favorite adaptations are J/YA books: Ella Enchanted, and Howl's Moving Castle. They are both different from the books. The books are more clever than the movies, but the films were done well, and they have their own appeal. I enjoyed aspects of the film, Atonement, and then read the book. I thought it was a faithful, well done film adaptation. I love all of the Lord of the Ring's movies. They are different from the books in many details, but I think they are completely faithful to the tone and the complexity of the novels, and that Tolkien would likely have been pleased.

  3. You've picked some movies I've heard a lot about but not read, like Cold Comfort Farm. I also chose Wizard of Oz and Clueless. For a modern, funny take on Austen I think it's the best.