This week’s Top Ten over at The Broke and the Bookish is Top Ten Book to Movie Adaptations. This is an easy one since my shelves are full of these movies, and, especially since I was very recently watching the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice and being amazed all over again at how good it is.
So, assuming P&P counts as a movie (it’s a miniseries), here’s my list.
Pride and Prejudice, the Colin Firth/ Jennifer Ehle miniseries. It does not get better than this. I love how much emotion the characters are able to convey within the limitations of how they can interact together. Also love the humor, especially as it relates to Mr. Collins and Lady DeBurgh. Finally, love the way this movie is shot to please us ladies – Colin Firth in the bathtub, Colin Firth in wet white shirt, Colin Firth sweating as he rides, fences, etc. Need I say more? This is one of the best books and one of the best movies of all time.
Nobody’s Fool, by Richard Russo, movie starring Paul Newman. This is my “you won’t have heard of it” pick. Richard Russo is an outstanding writer and this is a great book. It’s about a small, sleepy New England town, fallen on hard economic times. Sully is an old man estranged from his family but with so much character (most of it cranky and mean) he’s actually very much loved by his friends. This is a great book but a BETTER movie – Paul Newman even manages to bring out acting talent in Bruce Willis and Melanie Griffith, he is that good. Love how Paul Newman plays this character as old and crotchety and mean. He’s one of the rare male actors that got old and PLAYED old (compared to say, Michael Douglas or Robert Redford).
Those two were easy. Now I’m struggling with what comes next. I know I’m going to miss a lot of great ones but here goes.
Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin, miniseries starring Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis. This movie brought to life all the fun and 70s-cheesiness of the novel. Linney and Dukakis are perfect, but so are all the supporting characters. I fell in love with Mouse and Brian from the movie, not just the book. Although I saw and read this around the same time so it’s hard to separate them.
The Princess Bride by William Goldman. I’m shamelessly stealing this one from What Red Read’s list, but it really is an amazing book and a perfect adaptation. There is no part of this movie I don’t quote on a regular basis.
Now, for fantasy and children’s lit (there are so many bad adaptations, so few good ones):
Lord of the Rings. Sure there are flaws, but Jackson took on an impossible task and even improves on the books in some ways, by cutting out some of the unnecessary stuff, and yes, increasing the role of women in the story. I might wish the movie had more of Eomer, Eowyn and Faramir, but otherwise can’t complain. Okay, one complaint – Frodo’s pained “ring” expression and his “I love you Sam” expression get really old after 12 hours. But that’s all I can pick on.
Harry Potter. Not books 1-3, although I love Branagh in #2. But the movie versions of 5 and 6 really did justice to the books, and I almost want to say movie #4 actually improved upon the book.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder. Yes, it has some flaws, like the drug-induced tunnel scene and the addition of fizzy bubbles. But that Charlie kid will always be Charlie to me, and Gene Wilder pulls off Wonka as much as anyone could. Plus, picking this movie also gives me a chance to note my WORST literary adaptation of all time, which is the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp version. That movie was a travesty. (Second worst might be Where the Wild Things Are, but that’s a list for another time.)
The Wizard of Oz. You know I have some issues with the tacked-on ending and the I’ll-never-leave-home-again moralizing. But consider that this movie was made in the 1930’s and it still had flying monkeys, apple-throwing trees, and a broom-riding, fire-throwing Wicked Witch (who melts very dramatically). And even after a gazillion times it’s still thrilling to watch.
And finally, wanted to give some credit to that most challenging of genres, the modernization. These aren’t the best movies I ever saw but deserve a lot of credit for cleverly tying classic literature to modern day life.
Clueless. Emma by Jane Austen, modernized to 90s LA. Clever, funny, and with all the heart of the book, which is one of my favorites. I haven’t seen a traditional movie version of Emma I really love, but I do love this movie.
Ten Things I Hate About You. I know, dumb teen movie, but it’s better than most of them, and it (a) had Heath Ledger; and (b) was a pretty clever interpretation of The Taming of the Shrew. Julia Stiles was good too.
Bridget Jones Diary, which is a two-fer, an adaptation of a book which is an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (Austen again). If for no other reason, this is on my list just for the nerviness of getting Colin Firth to reprise his role as Darcy AND wear a reindeer jumper. And the movie kept the essential Britishness of the book (I think, since I’m not British) even though it cast Renee Zellwegger – who wasn’t horrible and thankfully was not thin and gorgeous.
If you’re counting, that’s actually 11. But then everything’s better when it goes to 11.