Generally, you love the book or you love the movie, but you don’t love both. I have a short list that has managed to entertain and inspire me equally well, even though I’m predominately a book person. A great book keeps me turning pages and leaves me happy and tearful; a great movie that’s been made from a great book stirs in me a “Ah, yes! That’s what it looks like! That’s just how she seemed!”
Although movies can’t possibly contain all the events of a book or represent completely all the nuances of plot and character, some movie-makers have successfully produced a movie that equals the book. Indulge me as an English teacher and book nerd while I list what I consider non-negotiables for a great book or movie (best books-turned-movies comes right after):
The must-haves for best books and movies:
- Genuine, realistic characters that I care about–they must make me laugh and cry out loud, more than once; I will think about them even when I’m not reading. When the book or movie is over, I will worry about how they’re doing.
- Plot that is suspenseful, unpredictable, riveting, and true to the setting and history of the piece; it gives me hope, shakes me when bad things happen, and astounds me when everything turns out in the end. The end doesn’t need to be storybook, but it can’t throw a cheap punch. If a noble character has to die, I am satisfied so long as the plot supported and required his sacrifice.
- Themes that are culturally relevant, reflective of the novel’s time and my time. In a great story, the characters live for something important and grow into better people. The story needs to be about more than the story.
- The dialogue is quotable and rememberable. The descriptions are visually stimulating on paper and on screen. I find myself repeating lines for days–even years–after I’ve read or watched a fantastic story. These are the movies and books you visit again and again. It’s why I buy books and movies. I intend to return.
And now for the list of my 12 favorite books-turned-movies, in order of my preference:
- Pride and Prejudice–any version; BBC and Kiera Knightly are my 2 faves; (Actually, if I weren’t afraid of being too nerdy, I’d put a few more Jane Austens on this list
- Little Women–1994 version; this story makes me weep
- Gone with the Wind–so epic, there’s only one movie version (only one Clark Gable, too)
- The Princess Bride–who doesn’t say “Inconceivable!” during regular conversation?
- The Secret Garden–my heart just lept thinking about this 1993 version; it literally teleports you to 19th century England. And Maggie Smith stars at Mrs. Medlock, so that’s a plus; and there’s children and English gardens, and now I’m going to have to go watch it again
- The Help–I was totally engrossed in both, laughing and crying
- The Book Thief–brilliant. Not disappointing at all
- The Tale of Despereaux–darling, as a book and a movie. Makes me wish I had written it
- The Giver–I love and know the book so well (I teach it), that I was afraid the movie would disappoint me–it varied slightly (the kids are not teenagers in the book), but I was satisfied
- To Kill a Mockingbird–also never re-made; I teach this story, and I also loved the movie. The story is so powerful, the fact that it was shot in 1962 doesn’t bother me
- The Wizard of Oz–also never re-made; who can compete with Judy Garland’s voice and her dewey-eyed “There’s no place like home”?
- The Great Gatsby–the movie might be better than the book, but I also read it after I saw the movie, so that might account for that. The set is incredible!
I love so many more books and so many more movies, but I usually don’t love them equally. What about you? What are your favorite books-turned-movies? Send them in–let’s see what everyone thinks!