Seven Must-Watch Book-to-Movie Adaptations


Molly Rawat

Senior Josephine Olderog reads “American Psycho”, the source material for one of her favorite movies of the same name.

Molly Rawat, Feature Editor

The general consensus is that the book is always better than the movie, but that may not be the case in all circumstances. In no particular order, these are some of the best book-to-movie adaptations in which the movie is either almost as good as its source material, equally as good or even better.

“Lolita” (1955) to “Lolita” (1997)

Though controversial, Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 novel “Lolita” remains one of the best works of its time. Nabokov’s exceptionally beautiful yet disturbing writing style makes the book worthwhile despite the disturbing pedophilia exhibited in the storyline. The 1997 film adaptation stays mostly true to the novel’s plot and accurately depicts the main character’s unacceptable desire for his adolescent step-daughter. Though nobody is a match for Nabokov’s dark comedy and flowery language, the film makes up for that by blessing its audience with luscious cinematography and wardrobe reminiscent of the late ‘40s.

“Perks of Being a Wallflower” (1999) to “Perks of Being a Wallflower” (2012)

The 1999 coming-of-age novel “Perks of Being a Wallflower” is a teenage fan-favorite for its braveness in covering the trials and tribulations of high school, including sensitive topics such as sexual assault trauma. The 2012 movie starring several big names such as Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Paul Rudd and many more does not disappoint. The adaptation embodies the teenage spirit of the book perfectly with its soundtrack including “Teen Age Riot” by Sonic Youth, “Asleep” by The Smiths, “Pearly-dewdrop’s Drop” by Cocteau Twins, “Temptation” by New Order and plenty more phenomenal ‘80s hits. 

“Pride and Prejudice” (1813) to “Pride and Prejudice” (2005)

Leave it to Jane Austen to write some of the most swoon-worthy romances capable of simultaneously having strong female protagonists. Her 1813 novel “Pride and Prejudice” popularized the beloved enemies-to-lovers trope in romantic fiction, and fans were able to see the main characters’ hilarious yet endearing banter in the 2005 adaptation starring period drama queen Kiera Knightley. Paired with stunning cinematography and shots of nature, this film is bound to melt the hearts of the emotionally cold and further raise the expectations of hopeless romantics.

“Fight Club” (1996) to “Fight Club” (1999)

David Fincher’s 1999 film “Fight Club” is such a great success, many do not even realize that it is based off of the 1996 novel of the same name written by Chuck Palahniuk. It remains so true to the original text that with the addition of anarchy-spirited cinematography and remarkable performances by Edward Norton and Brad Pitt, the movie exceeds the book’s delivery of the plot’s anti-consumerism messages. With an impressive original motion picture score and inclusion of other rock hits such as “Where is my Mind” by Pixies, this is one of the best movie adaptations of an otherwise less popular novel.

“Under the Skin” (2000) to “Under the Skin” (2013)

Michel Faber’s 2000 science fiction novel “Under the Skin” follows a female alien being who takes the form of a human and takes home unsuspecting men to drug them and send them back to her homeland. The theme of the story is a bit ambiguous, but the 2013 film adaptation leaves audiences far more confused. This is not a bad thing but, rather, an example of a filmmaker taking artistic liberty to create another extraordinary piece of art. The eerie atmosphere and experimental cinematography succeed in making viewers uncomfortable to effectively convey a message about the human nature of the search for identity in oneself.

“American Psycho” (1991) to “American Psycho” (2000)

In the dark comedy and satire “American Psycho,” author Bret Easton Ellis does not shy away from violent descriptions of murder and abuse to truly portray main character Patrick Bateman’s double life as a murderer and investment banker. While the 2000 film adaptation differs from the novel in many ways, it retains the text’s defining aspects, such as the dark humor and satirical commentary on yuppie culture. Scenes of extravagant restaurants, Bateman’s cold, colorless apartment and other traits defining the era reflects society’s responsibility in raising rich men who feel entitled enough to commit murder.

“Mysterious Skin” (1995) to “Mysterious Skin” (2004)

Gripping and absolutely heart-wrenching, Scott Heim’s coming-of-age novel “Mysterious Skin” follows two different teenage boys’ response to childhood trauma, with their stories ultimately intertwining in unexpected ways. Equally as harrowing, the 2004 movie adaptation starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Brady Corbet takes audiences along the same journey, but this time, they get to experience the pain with a background of a haunting original soundtrack and dreamy yet depressing shoegaze classics, such as “Golden Hair” by Slowdive.

Though everyone should read the books first, watching these movie adaptations right after is a must.