As professional bookworms we’re obliged to say that the book is always better than the film. But even we have to admit that there have been some pretty brilliant films based on books in recent times.

Here’s our pick of the movies based on classic novels that are definitely worth taking your nose out of a book for. 

 

 

Ted Chiang's Arrival

Arrival, the title story in this collection of eight diverse stories, was adapted into the blockbuster film Arrival directed by Denis Villeneuve and starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. The film was nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. 

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Emma Donoghue’s Room

Brie Larson's Oscar-winning performance as Ma in this highly faithful film adaptation of Emma Donoghue's bestselling novel is astonishing.  Watching five-year-old Jack and his mother escape from captivity is emotionally taxing, but it’s ultimately an uplifting story that stays with you for a very long time.

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Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho

Christian Bale brilliantly and terrifyingly brings Bret Easton Ellis’ charismatic Wall Street psychopath to life in this black comedy about a wealthy New Yorker leading a double life as a serial killer.

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Craig Davidson’s Rust and Bone

Loosely based on Craig Davidson’s short-story collection, Jacques Audiard’s beautiful but brutal film exists in the same savage world, where it explores violence, masculinity and life on the most extreme of margins. 

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Matthew Quick’s The Silver Linings Playbook

Jennifer Lawrence won an Oscar for her role in David O. Russell's sweet and eccentric film adaptation of Matthew Quick’s story about mental illness and life not going to plan.

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Cormac McCarthy’s The Road

A post-apocalyptic tale of a man and his son trying to survive by any means possible. One of the most terrifyingly believable visions of the world's end ever put on screen.

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Jon Ronson’s The Men Who Stare At Goats

The true story of a secret unit established in 1979 by the most gifted minds within the US Army. Defying all known military practice – and indeed the laws of physics – they believed that a soldier could adopt a cloak of invisibility, pass cleanly through walls, and, perhaps most chillingly, kill goats just by staring at them. Jon Ronson went to meet them.  

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Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary

Famously putting on the pounds to play the role, Renée Zellweger received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress as Bridget and charmed even those critics who approached the film expecting to be unimpressed. Helen Fielding’s pissed, chain-smoking London thirty-something is as endearing today as she was the first time you met her.

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Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn

Colm Tóibín’s Costa Award Winning novel is brought to life by Saoirse Ronan as Eilis, a young woman who moves from the Irish town of Enniscorthy to New York in the 50s for promise of a better life. A beautiful, slow-burning gem of a film.

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Peter Benchley's Jaws

Spielberg’s 1975 adaptation of Peter Benchley’s novel of the same name has endured as a classic thriller. Telling the story of a giant man-eating white shark attacking beachgoers in a fictional U.S. town Jaws inspired a worldwide sea-fearing epidemic. With the tagline 'you’ll never go in the water again', it’s not hard to see why.

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James Sallis's Drive

Set mostly in Arizona and L.A., Drive is, according to author James Sallis, 'about a guy who does stunt driving for movies by day and drives for criminals at night'. Ryan Gosling captured cinema goer’s attention as the lead role in that unforgettable gold satin jacket complete with embroidered scorpion appliqué.

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Cormac McCarthy's No Country For Old Men

Llewelyn Moss, hunting antelope near the Rio Grande, stumbles upon a transaction gone horribly wrong. Finding bullet-ridden bodies, several kilos of heroin, and a caseload of cash, he faces a choice – leave the scene as he found it, or cut the money and run. The Coen Brothers’ adaptation of the eponymous McCarthy novel won four Oscars including the Best Supporting Actor statue for Javier Bardem’s portrayal of the ruthless and relentless hit man Anton Chigurh.

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Shusaku Endo's Silence

The film adaptation of Shusaku Endo's story of an idealistic Jesuit priest's journey to Japan, and into the hands of those who would crush his faith had been a passion project of Martin Scorsese’s for years. 

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 Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden Figures

The film adaptation of Margot Lee Shetterly's bestselling book stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, and was nominated for three Oscars, including Best Picture. Before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as Human Computers’, calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts, these women used pencil and paper to write the equations that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

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Saroo Brierley's Lion

Based on Saroo Brierley's heartbreaking true story of the lost little boy who found his way home twenty-five years later, Lion starring Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman and Rooney Mara was nominated for six Academy Awards.

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Coming soon . . .

Not one, but two Tim Winton novels are being adapted for the big screen:

 

Tim Winton's Dirt Music

Tim Winton’s 2002 novel Dirt Music, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, is being adapted into a film starring Kelly MacDonald as Georgie Jutland and Garrett Hedlund as Luther Fox. This is the story of Georgie Jutland, isolated physically and emotionally in rural Western Australia with a man she doesn’t love, and the stranger who turns her life upside down.

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Tim Winton's The Riders

The Riders, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 1995, is to be adapted into a film for Scott Free, Ridley Scott’s film and TV production company. Fred Scully awaits the arrival of his wife and daughter to start a new life in Ireland. But when the plane lands, only his daughter is on it. The novel follows Fred Scully’s subsequent journey across Europe, searching for the wife he now realises he never really knew.

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