10 Successful Movie Adaptations

by Violet

The Hunger Games

The movie that turned Jennifer Lawrence into a household name, and alerted us that the Hemsworth family have incredibly good genes. The Hunger Games was a New York Times Best Seller for over 100 consecutive weeks, and turning it into a movie fit for a youngish audience was no easy feat.

Lions Gate Entertainment went all-in to secure the rights to the novel, even selling assets to secure the budget, but their efforts certainly paid off. The movie made a total gross of more than $400 million, and saved the studio from bankruptcy.

Jennifer Lawrence portrayed the character Katniss Everdeen flawlessly. Collins herself said that Lawrence was the “only one who truly captured the character I wrote in the book”, and director Gary Ross called it the easiest casting decision of his life. To prepare for the role, Lawrence took archery lessons from Khatuna Lorig, a four-time Olympian in archery, who is now also a fan of the trilogy.

Though the movie had to be suitable for a PG audience, Collins worked closely with the screenwriters to ensure it remained faithful to the original story. It’s a shame that Lionsgate later acquired the studio that bought you the horrors of the Twilight franchise, and the sequel, Catching Fire, rather than capturing the novel’s brilliant political themes, chose to focus on the awkward love triangle between three depressed teenagers.

Life of Pi

Yann Martel’s book “Life of Pi” tells the tale of Piscine Molitor ‘Pi’ Patel’s survival after a shipwreck took his family and left him stranded in the Pacific Ocean for 227 days with only a Bengal tiger as his companion.

In 2012, award-winning director Ang Lee adapted the novel into a 3D, computer-animated feature film that generated more than $600 million in worldwide ticket sales. The film was nominated for eleven Oscars, and won four, including Best Director.

It took a whopping $120 million budget, but with the help of Rhythm & Hues Studio, Lee turned the “impossible movie” into a reality, and the visual effects were stunning. Lee also took his own interpretation to the spiritual elements of the book, and used water as his major inspiration. “I wanted to use water because the film is talking about faith, and it contains fish, life and every emotion for Pi. And air is God, heaven and something spiritual and death. That’s how I see it. I believe the thing we call faith or God is our emotional attachment to the unknown. I’m Chinese; I believe in the Taoist Buddha. We don’t talk about a deity, which is very much like this book; we’re not talking about religion but God in the abstract sense, something to overpower you.”

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

American novelist Stephen Chbosky’s coming-of-age novel is narrated by “Charlie”, an intelligent but alarmingly introverted teenager who struggles with difficult personal issues while simultaneously trying to survive his first year of High School as an unpopular kid.

The novel pays respect to teenagers, and doesn’t belittle the heartbreak and anguish we all experienced in our more innocent years. It will fill you with nostalgia, and the movie does the same. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll think about the first person you ever kissed, and you’ll want to call the person you haven’t talked to in years.

For those who require more convincing, Emma Watson dances around in her underwear. What more could you ask for?

The Lord of the Rings

The movies that finally put New Zealand on the map, and created a boom for our tourism industry, as 20,000 fans flock to visit Hobbiton every year. J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel is the second best-selling novel ever written, with over 150 million copies sold worldwide.

Peter Jackson’s adaptation of the novel was a phenomenal success, and the entire project worked out to be one of highest grossing film series of all time. Together, the three films were nominated for a total of 30 Academy Awards, of which they won 17. The Return of the King was nominated for and won 11 Oscars, a record yet to be broken.

Fight Club


The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary classic about living the American Dream in the Valley of Ashes, is also known as the “Great American Novel”. The story explores themes of decadence, idealism, resistance to change, the hollowness of the upperclass (Fitzgerald may arguably be the creator of the original ‘first world problems’), and is considered one of the greatest works of American literature.

Fitzgerald had a difficult time choosing a title for the novel, and after entertaining choices such as “Trimalchio in West Egg”, “Gold-Hatted Gatsby”, and “The High-Bouncing Lover”, he was eventually persuaded by his wife Zelda and his editor Maxwell Perkins to settle on “The Great Gatsby”. A month before the book was due to be published, Fitzgerald tried to change the title again, but Perkins didn’t allow it. Unsatisfied, he conceded that “the title is only fair, rather bad than good”.

Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 film adaptation received mixed reviews from critics, but was certainly successful from a financial perspective, making $348 million in box office. The soundtrack was produced by Jay Z , and some of the songs were written specifically for the movie, making references to symbols from the novel. Luhrmann bought his distinctive trademark modern twist to the Jazz Age setting of the story, and combined with an A-list cast, the movie is visually stunning. Sadly, still no Oscar for Leo.

Requiem for a Dream

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Henry Rollins once confessed that after reading Hubert Selby Jr.’s novels, he experienced writers block for the first time in his life because “this guy [had] written everything that needs to be written”. The novel examines the lives of four New Yorkers with big dreams who eventually succumb to their addictions and face the disastrous consequences of their choices.

The movie was directed by Darren Aronofsky, who referred to getting the movie completed as a “war”. When given the chance to pursue any project he wanted, everyone told him he was crazy for choosing Selby’s novel. But Aronofsky’s determination paid off, and the film not only received positive feedback from critics, but also landed an Academy nomination for Ellen Burstyn.

Though the film is often categorised as a “drug movie”, Aronofsky intended it to be more about the power of addiction, whether it’s pills, coffee, or even hope. “Ultimately Requiem For a Dream is about the lengths people go to escape their reality, and that, when you escape that reality, you create a hole in your present, because you’re not there. You’re chasing off a pipe dream in the future, and then you’ll use anything to fill that vacuum.”

The Shawshank Redemption

One of the highest rated movies on IMDB, The Shawshank Redemption is based on Stephen King’s  “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption”. In 1976, Stephen King started a program to encourage aspiring filmmakers, and offered them the opportunity to adapt his stories for only a dollar. Shawshank was one of those Dollar Deals.

The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and is currently #4 on Empire Magazine’s “500 Greatest movies of all time”.

Girl, Interrupted

In this deeply personal memoir, Susanna Kaysen shares the experiences from her stay at a psychiatric hospital during the 1960s after being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. The book explores mental illness, the stigma that comes attached, and how hospitalization came to be the popular choice of treatment for wealthy families who wished to distance themselves from the problem.

Kaysen herself despised the changes made to her original story, and described the movie as “melodramatic drivel”, but the entertainment value of the film is undeniable, and Angelina Jolie landed an Oscar for her eerily accurate portrayal of the sociopath Lisa Rowe.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Rolling Stone called him the World’s Most Enigmatic author, Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series became a bestseller when it was published posthumously, and the origins of Lisbeth Salander’s character are still being debated. Larsson was supposedly a witness to a gang rape of a young woman when he was 15, and was haunted by the incident for years, filled with guilt for failing to help her. The incident apparently inspired him to create the character Lisbeth Salander, a strong female character who not only survives sadistic sexual violence and rape, but claims her revenge in terrifying violent ways.

The novel was adapted into a Swedish film in 2009, and the Hollywood version came out in 2011. Noomi Rapace and Rooney Mara both shined in their performances as Lisbeth, and I’ll leave you to decide which you liked better.  The original Swedish title of the book is “Men who hate women”, and the pivotal theme of misogyny is depicted through extreme graphic violence. Be warned, these films are not for the faint hearted.