Books and movies have a relationship that’s as old as Hollywood itself. Together, writers and filmmakers have given us everything from great adaptations to huge disappointments, and some truly weird interpretations in between. But that comes with the territory of turning our favorite words into live action pieces of cinema. If you’re a fan of both books and movies, check out these eight books that inspired adaptations.
The Color Purple, Alice Walker
The Color Purple won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983 and went on to inspire the classic 1985 Steven Spielberg film of the same name. With apologies to Spielberg, Walker’s novel remains the definitive version of the story. Walker’s book uses a technique that film just can’t accommodate. The book uses a series of letters to paint a picture of the lives of black women in the 1930s South.
Kramer vs. Kramer, Avery Corman
Kramer vs. Kramer featured Meryl Streep’s first Oscar-winning performance and took home another four statuettes in other categories. But don’t skip Corman’s original novel, which depicts divorce through striking writing that includes dialogue so realistic and powerful that it almost feels like a movie itself.
Sophie’s Choice, William Styron
The film version of Sophie’s Choice netted Meryl Streep an Oscar for Best Actress (her first win in the category) and remains an all-time classic. Styron’s original novel was similarly decorated: it won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1980. A disturbing and unforgettable novel about the emotional trauma of a Holocaust survivor, Sophie’s Choice is as gut-wrenching to read as its film version is to watch.
Blending fiction and history, Ron Hansen’s book inspired the film of the same name—starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck. Famed outlaw Jesse James and his gang were some of the most notorious criminals in the 1800s. But that all changed when Robert Ford, the younger brother of one of the gang members, joined and decided he didn’t want to share the spotlight.
Casino Royale, Ian Fleming
Fleming’s James Bond novels were successful and, in the end, overshadowed by their Hollywood counterparts. Fleming has long since left us, but Bond is still with us on screen (and in occasional books by other writers). But we wouldn’t have the iconic film franchise without Casino Royale, Fleming’s first novel. Interestingly, it took until 2006 for the film series to adapt Casino Royale, which by then had already been turned into a 1950s TV episode and a 1960s comedy film.
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
If you somehow missed the Gone Girl mania when it struck a couple years back, catch up by reading the book before you see the movie. Both versions feature thrilling twists and turns, but it’s in Flynn’s book that the story’s stunning reveals and disorienting shifts really shine. Flynn’s use of unreliable narration is a great reminder that there are some things that books can do that films simply can’t.
No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy
You’d be hard pressed to find a book and movie pairing with the quality of this one. No Country for Old Men is a fast-moving and unforgettable novel from one of our greatest living novelists, and the movie version is an Oscar-winning effort from the Coen brothers, who are among our greatest living directors. McCarthy’s dialogue-heavy book reads almost like a movie script – and the film version treated it that way, preserving key lines word for word.
The Shining, Stephen King
Among the countless book-versus-movie debates, the argument over The Shining has a special prominence. Both the film and novel version of The Shining are all-time horror classics and highlight the careers of all-time greats, author Stephen King and director Stanley Kubrick. But King has made no secret of hating the film version, which is very different from the novel in key ways. In the end, both are essential, and maybe that’s what we should take away from the book-versus-movie debate: it’s possible to enjoy both the book and the movie on their own merits.