A Novel Idea . . . Goes to the Movies!

How often do you finish reading a book and think ‘That would have made a great movie!’? Perhaps it did. Or, watch a movie and wish it were a book. Again, perhaps it was. Let’s take A Novel Idea to the movies (we’ll be back to our book review format next month) and check out books that were adapted to film. Some may be familiar; some may be surprising. (Disclaimer: This is an extremely short listing of book adaptations. Hopefully, some of your favorites are mentioned!)


There’s as much history about the making of Gone With the Wind as the actual film. Adapted from Margaret Mitchell’s 1939 epic American novel, David O. Selznick’s film version is in a class by itself.

The movie To Kill a Mockingbird was adapted from Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Originally published in 1960, the novel has never been out of print.


The Godfather saga was adapted from Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. For fans, a recent television documentary on the behind-the-scenes drama is enlightening.

Forrest Gump was based on a novel by Winston Groom. Although it was reported that Tom Hanks did not want to make a sequel; there is a second Gump book in print, Gump & Co.

Shawshank Redemption is based on Stephen King’s novelette, Rita Hayworth & the Shawshank Redemption from his short stories Different Seasons (1982).

Million Dollar Baby was adapted from Rope Burns by F. X. Toole (aka Jeremy Boyd). These short stories were based on Boyd’s experiences while working as a boxing trainer.


Dances with Wolves was based on the 1988 novel, Dances with Wolves, by Michael Blake.   Blake also won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.


MASH was adapted from the 1968 book, MASH, written by Hiester R. Hornberger, Jr. over an eleven-year period under his pseudonym, Richard Hooker. The book is based on his personal experiences as a surgeon with a MASH unit in Korea.

The Parent Trap was based on the German novel, Lottie and Lisa (Das doppelte Lottchen) by Erick Kästner written in 1949.

Mrs. Doubtfire was based on British author Anne Fine’s book Alias Madame Doubtfire. The film’s storyline was quite true to the plot of the book.

Christmas with the Kranks is based on Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. Published in 2001, this lighthearted novel is a departure from Grisham’s typical novels – funny, poignant, and not an attorney in sight.


From Here to Eternity was adapted from James Jones’ novel From Here to Eternity. Jones was actually stationed in Hawaii prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The movie Patton utilized two sources – a biography, Patton: Ordeal & Triumph by Ladislas Farago and A Soldier’s Story, Omar Bradley’s autobiography.


The list of novels by Stephen King transitioned to films is long. A few memorable films include Carrie, The Shining, IT, Misery, Cujo, Stand by Me, and Children of the Corn.

Psycho was based on Robert Bloch’s novel, Psycho. Alfred Hitchcock bought the film rights in 1959 for $9,500 and people have faced taking showers with trepidation ever since.


Die Hard was based on the novel, Nothing Lasts Forever, by Roderick Thorp, published in 1979. The book is actually a sequel to his 1966 novel, The Detective.


The Sound of Music was based on Maria von Trapp’s remarkable life as depicted in her memoir, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. Although the film ended with their escape, the book takes their journey all the way to their life in America.

South Pacific was loosely adapted from James A. Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum and published in 1900, was adapted to film as The Wizard of Oz in 1939. The film was nominated for Best Picture and lost to Gone With the Wind.


The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling was adapted from seven novels into eight films.

The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer transitioned from four novels to five films. Were you Team Edward or Team Jacob?

The Hunger Games trilogy written by Suzanne Collins translated into four films.

Clearly, books are an inspiration to the film industry. Enjoy reading and then viewing their film versions. Bring on the popcorn!



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