The Ten Best Films Adapted From Literature

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The Independent Culture

1 BICYCLE THIEVES
Vittorio De Sica, 1948, from the novel by Luigi Bartolini

No subplots, no tertiary characters, no overwrought dialogue, this is the very cradle of direct, simple filmmaking that has inspired me and many others. The ending is arguably the most emotional, heart-rending, and moving of all time. A brilliant film.

2 THE GODFATHER I AND II
Francis Ford Coppola, 1972 and 1974, from the novel by Mario Puzo

These films both encapsulated a specific immigrant experience and reinvented a genre making them the benchmark for family epics. They put a face to violence; what's more, it's a face we sympathise and identify with.

3 GONE WITH THE WIND
Victor Fleming, 1939, from the novel by Margaret Mitchell

This adaptation offered the escape of lavish sets and larger than life dialogue. But what's greater is, without patronising them, he offered his audience genuine sympathy in their struggle through war and financial depression.

4 FORREST GUMP
Robert Zemeckis, 1994, from the novel by Winston Groom

A remarkable adaptation which brought to life the witty nescience of the title character. This epic delicately weaves together complex social commentary with broad, unalloyed emotion.

5 ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST
Milos Forman, 1975, from the novel by Ken Kesey

Forman sensibly refrained from making an overly clinical film about insanity, embracing instead the core of the source material, examining the mechanics of free will and non-conformity. It's not dated because Forman also saw fit to capture in it the timeless human qualities of stubbornness, courage, and dignity.

6 GOODFELLAS
Martin Scorsese, 1990, from the novel 'Wiseguy' by Nicholas Pileggi

Henry and Karen's entrance to the Copacabana club is the stuff film school is made of and while the real-life Henry Hill is now making money selling "Goodfella" cookbooks, the pistol-whipping mobster we remember in wingtips lives on in cinema history.

7 A CLOCKWORK ORANGE
Stanley Kubrick, 1971, from the novel by Anthony Burgess

This film is unlike anything else Kubrick has made and he achieved this versatility by listening to his source material. Burgess's book is so successful because it makes such strong use of its invented language (Slavic in its roots). But Kubrick couldn't make the narration work as is on the screen. Instead, he translated Burgess's wholly textual style into a new cinematic style - the definition of filmic adaptation.

8 THE CRANES ARE FLYING
Mikheil Kalatozishvili, 1957, from the play by Viktor Rosov

This stylistically and narratively perfect film is why I love cinema. The train station scene, the bombed out building, the forest swamp are just a few amazingly realised set pieces in a gripping and beautiful film.

9 PSYCHO
Alfred Hitchcock, 1960, from the novel by Robert Bloch

While countless films have repeated almost all of Psycho's inventions to the point of cliché, one trait remains inimitable - Psycho's dirty little secret is that it has a radical structure. No other film has played with audience sympathy and expectations this much to such a popular reception.

10 THE DECALOGUE
Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1987, from the Ten Commandments in the Book of Exodus

This is a series of 10 one-hour films based on the Ten Commandments. All tales take place in a block of flats in Poland. A complex web of characters is woven through and between the stories. Pop the disc into the DVD player and I defy you just to watch one without staying up all night to watch them all. Addictive.

Vadim Perelman is the director of 'House of Sand and Fog'

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