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15 Amazing Movies Based on Books 29 December, 2020   

The movies in this list have surpassed the author’s vision of their story in their screen adaptations. These movies are so epic that all of them have been nominated for multiple awards, and some have also won awards and accolades from the press and critics. Read on to see if you agree with them on this list of amazing movies based on books:

01. The Godfather Trilogy

The Godfather movie trilogy is adapted from Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. It has been described as one of the most influential films of all time, especially in the gangster genre. It is the greatest set of movies based on a book.

The first movie, the Godfather, sheds light on the inner workings of the Mafia world. It shows the Corleone family's Patriarch, Don Corleone brokering deals for victims of a failed system overcome by corruption, dispensing his version of tough justice. We are introduced to the family’s code of honor – absolute loyalty.

The Don would do anything for those loyal to him, including murder. His world is surrounded by death. Through the intrigues and the power struggles within the mafia world, we also see power shifting from father to son, signaling the theme for the sequel, Godfather II.

Godfather II sees a very different leadership style in Don Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino. It’s probably where the famous phrase, “Keep your friends close and enemies closer, “originated. As he carries the Corleone name to new heights, he ushers in a brutal phase in the Godfather history. Explaining Michael’s current state, we are also treated to the past of his father and how he became the Don of Godfather I, giving credence to the saying that the father's sins are invited on the son.

Godfather III sees an aged Michael Corleone, so burdened by the past sins that he even walks with a stoop. The world is changing into one beyond his control, and there is immense pressure on him to train an heir. There seem to be no easy answers, and the movie's trend of change and decay seems to aptly end with Michael falling dead at the end of the movie, alone.


02. The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption, directed by Frank Darabont, is based on the book of the same name by Stephen King. It’s a movie about a prisoner locked away and how he finds redemption through that process. Time passes by without event or meaning, and the inmates are constantly dragged down into darkness and routine monotony. Enter Andy Dufresne, who enters the prison and tries to break this cycle and improve his fellow prisoners' life. In the end, we see the remarkable triumph of good over evil, hope over fear. 


03. Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park is rightly known as Director Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece, based on Michael Crichton's book. Don’t be misled by the word “park’. The movie applies Murphy’s law to what happens when we play with nature's laws, which means dinosaurs are being brought to life through genetic engineering. 

It isn’t just another monster movie. This is a ground-breaking visually and technically spectacular movie, enhanced by stellar performances from Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Laura Dern, and Sam Neill, among others.


04. Goodfellas

Goodfellas, directed by Martin Scorsese, is a riveting movie based on the book “Wiseguy” by Nicholas Pileggi. It follows the life of a normal American guy (Ray Liotta) and his descent into the Mafia underworld's depths. It uses a narrative style that helps us see the world through the protagonist, Henry. As the movie progresses, Henry sees all his Mafia dreams come true: power, money, influence. Before he knows it, he’s in over his head. What follows is his descent beyond the point of no return, earning Goodfellas a place in this list of the best movies based on books.


05. Forrest Gump

Directed by Robert Zemeckis, Forrest Gump is a great movie based on the novel by Winston Groom. It centers around the simple, intellectually-challenged but kind-hearted Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) and the remarkable life he proceeds to lead. He is brought up by a loving mother (Sally Fields). He can’t achieve by intelligence (which is most things); he does by sheer hard work. That, and his larger-than-life personality and heroic stoicism through circumstances that would’ve broken a lesser person make this light-hearted movie a must-watch and one of the many fantastic movies based on books.


06. The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs was directed by Jonathan Demme, based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Harris. It’s primarily about the battle of wills between an incarcerated serial killer Hannibal Lecter (played by Anthony Hopkins) and FBI trainee, Clarisse Stirling (played by Jodie Foster). The movie is a great thriller, with suspense artfully woven between scenes. The story centers around Clarisse interviewing Hannibal Lecter to catch another serial killer, Buffalo Bill. With Clarisse’s continued interaction with Lecter, we are given a look into his gruesome past and cannot help but shudder as their paths are set to collide.


07. Schindler’s List

Schindler’s List is directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the book of the same name. It is a touching and poignant account of the horror and persecution the Jews faced under Nazi oppression in World War 2 and how one man dares to save as many victims as he can while putting himself in clear and present danger. Oskar Schindler (played by Liam Neeson) starts as a seemingly selfish man, only interested in himself, and transitions into a kind, compassionate human being as the movie progresses.


08. Lord of the Rings Trilogy

The epic Lord of the Rings Trilogy, directed by Peter Jackson, is a masterpiece for the ages. It is based on the fantasy books by JRR Tolkien.

The movies started with The Fellowship of the Ring continued with The Two Towers and concluded with The King's Return.

There’s a little history about the wars that had taken place between various races (Humans, Orcs, Dwarves, Elves) and factions on Earth, and how they banded together to defeat Sauron, the greatest evil on Earth. Sauron is presumed dead, but he is also shown pouring his evil, malice, and contempt for all life into a ring, which becomes the first movie's focus. 

Enter the Hobbits of the Shire. When Bilbo Baggins comes into possession of a ring, his nephew, Frodo(Elijah Wood )and friends, are sent by Gandalf the grey (Wizard) on a quest to destroy the ring, which puts them in great danger. 

The Two Towers starts in the mountains, with some hobbits captured, and with Sauron acting through the corrupted wizard, Saruman. Golem makes an appearance as a damaged creature obsessed with the ring, trying to attack Frodo, the Hobbit. The band of heroes faces great challenges as they land up in the middle of a great battle with humans, elves, and dwarves on one side and the Uruk-hai orcs on the other.

The Return of the King is the conclusion to the other two movies and the culmination of all the events that lead to the triumph of good over evil.


09. 2001: A Space Odyssey

Directed by Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey is based on the book by Arthur C Clarke. It’s a musical symphony of commentary on humankind’s progress, or lack thereof, since the dawn of time. The movie is divided into three parts. We start with the time of the apes, wandering around in a bewildered manner before a monolith comes and automatically makes them more intelligent, with myriad results and consequences.

In the second part, the monolith appears again, this time on the moon, ushering the dawn of a new age for a man.

In the third part of the movie, we encounter a spacecraft operated by an advanced crew, headed towards Jupiter. What follows is another statement that becomes a recurring theme through the movie, about the relationship between human beings and technology and humankind’s folly. Is it a masterpiece, a parable, or a science fiction epic? Perhaps, all three, but as an abstract take on the science fiction genre, it is definitely worth watching.


10. Jaws

There are very few movie buffs who haven’t heard of Steven Spielberg’s ‘Jaws.’ The movie, based on Peter Benchley's novel, was one of the first movies to gross more than $100,000,000. This epic, about a murderous shark, inspired generations of people and beachgoers to “stay out of the water.” Certain cinematic tools have been artfully employed to create suspense, including the fabulous score and not showing the shark till the first half of the movie. No matter how many creature features have been made since then, Jaws will always have a special place in cinematic history, and due to Steven Spielberg's brilliance, and is one of the most amazing movies based on books.


11. The Green Mile

The Green Mile is directed by Frank Darabont and based on the book of the same name by Stephen King. It’s a poignant portrayal of the story of a beleaguered prisoner on death row, from the perspective of a correctional officer (portrayed excellently by Tom Hanks). It tackles the sensitive subject of wrongful incarceration and the struggles that death row inmates face, especially when seen against the backdrop of 1950’s America. There’s a charming mouse in the movie too.


12. To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird, directed by Robert Mulligan, is based on the book of the same name by Harper Lee. It is a study in contrasts. Of black versus white, truth versus lies, the innocent make-believe of childhood is faced with adulthood's stark reality. This movie's themes are particularly significant as it was released in 1962 when race relations in America were tumultuous, and African Americans were fighting for equal rights after years of subjugation and discrimination. It is perhaps, apt then, that against the backdrop of the deeply-divided South Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), a lawyer with two children, fights the case of a black man falsely accused of raping a white girl. As he fights his case in court, so do his children get into fights in school, as they are taunted and bullied on account of their father’s black client. Many themes can be related to, even today, and the movie is a must-see as a parable of the triumph of human will over injustice, and how light exists even in the darkest of circumstances and is one of the most memorable and touching movies based on books.


13. Remains of the Day

Remains of the day were directed by James Ivory and based on the book of the same name by Kazuo Ishiguro. It examines the relationship between a member of the British Gentry, Lord Darlington, and his butler, Stevens (Anthony Hopkins), in the 1930s. It is also a commentary on how the British gentry lived before the Second World War loomed over the horizon.

This finely crafted film explores this relationship as a metaphor for how the English working class (represented by Stevens) regarded England (represented by Darlington Hall). 

Apart from the repressed emotions that have always represented the British stiff upper lip, we see a different side to Stevens when he goes on holiday and travels around the English countryside.


14. Doctor Zhivago

Doctor Zhivago is directed by David Lean and is based on the book by the same name by Boris Pasternak. It is set against Romanov Russia's backdrop and is an epic tale that spans three decades before the Russian Revolution. The protagonist, Zhivago, is played by Omar Sharif. The movie follows his happy childhood, his loves and losses, and his quiet perseverance and idealism through all circumstances. His life and attitudes seem to reflect those of the Russian people of the time. There are also notable performances by Geraldine Chaplin and Julie Christie. The film is beautifully picturized with a powerful, and at times melancholic score. It brings the book to life, making it one of the most amazing movies based on books.


15. Ben-Hur

Ben-Hur, directed by William Wyler, is based on the book “ Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ” by Lew Wallace. This movie was of such epic proportions in its time that it won 11 Oscars, the most won by any movie before “The Titanic.”

The movie follows the changing relationship between the Roman, Messala (Stephen Boyd), and Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston), the Jew. While on the one hand, the movie is about redemption and vengeance. On the other, it has also been described as a religious film featuring many appearances by Jesus Christ and questions of faith. 

There are many movies based on books. This lift features some of the most outstanding offerings that did justice to the books and went above and beyond to deliver a spectacular cinematic experience. When you can, do give this list a try, and treat yourself and others to these most amazing movies based on books.

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