No book-to-movie adaptation is perfect. There will always be scenes left out for space, dialogue added for clarity, and other subtle changes. But, some movies stay true to the book, while others stray far away.
If you’re looking for some big-screen adaptations gone right, check out these five. All of them are close to the books that inspired them.
Roald Dahl’s classic Matilda nailed it in movie format. This 1996 film starring Mara Wilson as Matilda absolutely captured the essence of Dahl’s book.
Matilda’s parents don’t realize how bright Matilda really is. They’re so absorbed in their own activities and lives that they just don’t pay much attention to their little girl.
When Matilda arrives at school for the first time, she immediately connects with her teacher, Miss Honey. At school, Matilda also meets Miss Trunchbull, the nasty headmistress. The headmistress takes pleasure in executing horrible punishments for children who step out of line.
With life at both school and home becoming more painful, Matilda formulates a plan to take care of Miss Trunchbull.
The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins created a dystopian world in her popular trilogy, The Hunger Games. Written for a teenage audience, I wasn’t sure how the movie could capture the violence while still being appropriate for the very people it was meant for.
Watching the first movie was pleasantly surprising. The adaptation was well done, and kept out the gore. There was still death—the story revolves around teens killing each other in a national competition, after all—but it was not done in an over-the-top manner.
Viewers will feel the pain of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and walk away ready to watch all four of the movies.
When the author of the book also creates the screenplay, you can bet the resulting movie will stay true to the book. Such is the case with Holes. The talented Louis Sachar wrote both versions.
Watch Stanley Yelnats (Shia LaBeouf), a teen wrongfully accused of theft. Unfortunately, his family is used to things going wrong, since they were cursed several generations back by Madame Zeroni.
For his crime, Stanley is sent to a camp for troubled youth. There, his daily assignment is to dig a hole of a certain dimension. The staff claims it’ll build character. But, Stanley soon realizes that they’re digging for a purpose, trying to find something for the warden. It’s up to Stanley to solve the mystery.
To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee penned a classic when she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird in the 1960s. It didn’t take long for the movie version to make an appearance. But when it did, it was very well done.
The Finch family lives in Maycomb, Alabama, during the Great Depression. The kids learn some important lessons about race as the plot unfolds, and the importance of not judging too quickly.
Life of Pi
This book by Yann Martel, which follows the struggles of Pi Patel after he’s shipwrecked and alone, except for a tiger, would have seemed impossible to bring to the screen in a way that stayed true to the essence of its emotional story. But this is another book-to-movie adaptation that nailed it.
By taking out just enough of the details to keep the story moving, director Ang Lee did a brilliant job of staying true to the structure of the novel. Adding in 3D elements was a huge bonus to improving the film. Viewers will be shocked by the struggles Pi Patel faces in the middle of the ocean.
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