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Great Books and the Movies They Inspired

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Expectations are always high for the movie version of a book. Long before there was TV or internet, literature was the main source of entertainment. Books, as we know today, have been around since the 15th century, when Gutenberg invented the printing process. So it is natural that filmmakers use literature as source material, especially when the book is a best-seller.

Take Les Misérables for example. Originally published in 1862, Victor Hugo’s epic novel has been adapted to film countless times.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Les Misérables
By Victor Hugo
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If people like the story, they will go to the cinema, right? Well, not necessarily.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train
By Paula Hawkins
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It’s a common practice in the publishing world to sell movie rights before a promising book is even published. That was the case with The Girl on the Train, whose rights were sold to Dreamworks in 2014, a year before it hit the top of New York Times best-sellers list.
But the fame that made the book a sure-shot for film producers didn’t live up to expectations. Even though it didn’t perform badly in the box offices, the film bombed with critics and disappointed fans for its shallow melodrama in place of the tense atmosphere of that made the book an instant hit.

Sometimes a book has several takes on the big screen, and still, none of the versions lives up to the source material. That’s the case with The Great Gatsby, which has been adapted to the big screen five times (and counting). Every version fails to capture the spirit of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic.

So, what does it take to make a good film adaptation of a great book? Well, if we knew the answer we probably would be working in Hollywood.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby
By F. Scott Fitzgerald
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It’s a common practice in the publishing world to sell movie rights before a promising book is even published. That was the case with The Girl on the Train, whose rights were sold to Dreamworks in 2014, a year before it hit the top of New York Times best-sellers list.
But the fame that made the book a sure-shot for film producers didn’t live up to expectations. Even though it didn’t perform badly in the box offices, the film bombed with critics and disappointed fans for its shallow melodrama in place of the tense atmosphere of that made the book an instant hit.

Great Books That Inspired Great Movies

Contrary to the solitaire work of a writer, a film is the result of teamwork. A good team alone do not guarantee good results, though. Sometimes all it takes is a good ensemble cast playing by the book (pun intended). That was the case with The Help, which tackles the delicate theme of racism in Mississippi in the 1960s. A faithful adaptation of the book, it was a box-office hit and won several awards, including the Octavia Spencer’s Supporting Actress Academy Award.

The Help by Kathrynn Stockett

The Help
By Kathryn Stockett
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That was the case with The Help, which tackles the delicate theme of racism in Mississippi in the 1960s. A faithful adaptation of the book, it was a box-office hit and won several awards, including the Octavia Spencer’s Supporting Actress Academy Award.

Blade Runner by Philip K. Dick

Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)
By Philip K. Dick
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Not so common is the case of a movie that is considered superior to its source material. Blade Runner was the first film based on the books of Philip K. Dick. Released in 1982, shortly after the death of the author, it was a box-office flop and received mixed reviews. But it was a sleeper-hit, becoming a cult classic in the following years, and drawing renewed attention to K. Dick’s work. But while a brilliant creator of worlds, the author is also known for his harsh writing style, leaving readers often disappointed.

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Kim Do

Kim is the digital marketing manager and a writer at hibooks. She grew up in Oklahoma CIty, but really took to the woods in the Pacific Northwest with its lush cedar forests and trails in the Cascades.She is an audiobook lover and knowledge junkie with a penchant for nonfiction. She also loves getting a good chuckle with a comic memoir.

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