Best Books Made Into Movies
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Best Books Made Into Movies

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February 4, 2014

The Notebook' (2004)

Released in 1996, The Notebook was the first of a slew of books by Nicholas Sparks (Message in a BottleA Walk to Remember, Nights in Rodanthe) that seemed to effortlessly translate to the big screen. Still, it was The Notebook, teeming with palpable chemistry between stars Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams that was the most successful. She plays a rich girl, he a working-class boy. They meet picturesquely over the summer, fall in love, and then threaten to fall apart. The actors would go on to date for two years after filming the movie -- even recreating that sweep-her-off-her-feet kiss for the MTV Movie Awards. Fans so adored the romanticized couple that when Gosling and McAdams split, “Women were mad at me,” he later commented. “Like, ‘How could you? How could you let a girl like that go?’”

One Day' (2011)

If you loved British author David Nicholls' funny, heartbreaking 2009 novel, chances are you'll dig the film adaptation. Nicholls himself wrote the screenplay, and the premise is nothing if not catchy: Breezy womanizer Dexter (Across the Universe's Jim Sturgess) and bookish Emma (Anne Hathaway) hook up on the night of their college graduation in 1988, then go their separate ways. But they're not done with each other yet. One Day checks in on them on the same day -- St. Swithin's Day, to be exact -- for the next 20 years, chronicling the enduring strength of the unlikely bond they formed that first night. It's a story that's by turns funny and sad... but always beautiful.

Stand By Me' (1986)

Stephen King is most associated with his mind-bending horror stories. His 1982 novella The Body not surprisingly kicks off with a cadaver discovered by four boys, then it unfolds into a moving coming-of-age drama about preteens from troubled upbringings. Director Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me makes hopeful the dreary futures facing these kids, acted without pretense by (from left) Wil Wheaton, Jerry O'Connell, Corey Feldman and River Phoenix. Though Wheaton played the lead role, it was Phoenix who stole the movie as a well-intentioned kid from a family of felons who meets an untimely demise. The actor, himself from an unconventional upbringing, radiated stardom in what was only his second movie role. This took on a whole other air of tragedy after his death in 1993.

'To Kill a Mockingbird' (1962)

It was no easy feat casting for Atticus Finch, the Abe Lincoln-esque patriarch of To Kill a Mockingbird. After all, the hugely successful, Pulitzer Prize-winning book byHarper Lee (published two years before the film) was, upon its release, a sounding board about racial injustices. But Gregory Peck truly brought the story about an African-American man accused of raping a white woman to life. Though the part came to him midway through his career, the actor would be forever associated withMockingbird, which also won him an Oscar for best actor. Upon hearing of the actor’s death, the reclusive Lee declared, “Gregory Peck was a beautiful man. Atticus Finch gave him an opportunity to play himself.”

'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone' (2001)

In dark theatrics and stunning effects, the Harry Potter movies are so potent that the term “spoiler alert” need not apply. Of course we know how each of J.K. Rowling’s books end: Yet as the first filmic installment reminded us, sometimes the path -- how the drama unfolds -- is just as important as the end destination. The smartly cast Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint became insta-stars after appearing in theSorcerer’s Stone ten years ago (the book came out three years before that), requiting our long-awaited desire to attach human faces to the Rowling’s fantastical wizards. And watching them grow up with each subsequent film has further invested us in both their real and fictitious lives.

Bridget Jones' Diary' (2001)

Helen Fielding’s 1996 novel about an everyday Englishwoman’s disastrous love life was so adored that seemingly every actress considered the role: Cameron Diaz,Kate Winslet, Rachel Weisz among them. Ultimately, director Sharon Maguire -- a friend of Fielding’s -- cast the immediately likable Renée Zellweger as a luckless aspiring journalist, an eyebrow-raising move that earned criticism over the actress being both American and impossibly svelte. Zellweger responded by packing on 20 pounds and perfecting her British accent. By the time she hit the screen, she had the goodwill of fans and critics alike, who commended her portrayal opposite Hugh Grant and Colin Firth as being more crafty that she'd led on. Her Jones was cute without being cloying, downtrodden without being desperate -- and perhaps more clever than the heroine of the book itself.

'The English Patient' (1996)

The late Anthony Minghella wrote and directed this sweeping drama based on the Booker Prize-winning 1992 novel from Michael Ondaatje. What won the latter the prestigious award was that his book is beguilingly elaborate -- tricky in narrative, specific in imagery, ambitious in breadth. Though he couldn’t possibly capture every detail, Minghella more than compensated with atmosphere. Here, Ralph Fiennes plays a Hungarian explorer who begins an affair with a British woman (Kristin Scott Thomas) in the ’40s, against the backdrop of a washed-out expanse of Saharan desert. The latter is so sensuous, you could almost feel the sweat. That the man's story is told on his deathbed and in flashback supplants the tragedy with a sweet wistfulness.

'Precious' (2009)

Push, the 1996 novel by the writer Sapphire, told the story of an overweight, illiterate teen who’s a victim of both physical abuse and incest, the latter resulting in two pregnancies and an HIV diagnosis. On the page, it’s a harrowing, challenging read; on screen, there were many ways Precious’ extreme circumstances could have teetered on absurdity. Credit Gabourey Sidibe’s (pictured with costar Mariah Carey) repressed intensity in the lead role andMo’Nique’s Oscar-winning bipolar take on her mom which left us on edge, just waiting for her next explosion. Sure, Precious is a character study at its extreme, alternately backlit by fluorescent lights and sludgy shadows. But it’s also a tragedy peppered with crucial glimmers of hope in the sheer tenacity and sweet adolescent fantasies of its baby-faced protagonist.

The Devil Wears Prada' (2006)

Upon its release in 2003, Lauren Weisberger’s best-selling roman à clef about her time working at Vogue was met with some indignation. (The steely boss of the book was a less than thinly veiled criticism of that magazine's editrix, Anna Wintour.) But how salacious it was! While no less intriguing, the big screen’s Prada was also smarter than its source material: Confident performances by Meryl Streeptransformed Weisberger’s tormentor, Miranda Priestly, into a complicated career woman whose unreasonable demands uponAnne Hathaway’s Andrea Sachs could alternately viewed be as tough love. The picture, directed by Sex and the City alum David Frankel and outfitted by that show’s costumer Patricia Field, was immediately accused of being SATC-lite. To the contrary, this was a Sex and the City with more soul.

The Help' (2011)

Kathryn Stockett's 2009 novel about racial discrimination in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi, boasts an all-star cast worthy of its acclaimed source material. Comic actress Emma Stone flaunts her dramatic chops as recent college grad Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, a writer who befriends black housekeepers Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) and Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) -- a.k.a. the titular "help" -- and documents their stories of discrimination. With Bryce Dallas Howard on board as the town's bigoted ringleader and Stockett's childhood pal Tate Taylor directing, the film does the book justice.

Which movie based on a book is your favourite? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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