Let’s face it, it’s tough for any film to recreate the spirit of a novel. But once in a while, a film perfectly brings the magic of a book to the big screen. On the other hand, a film can also completely destroy a classic piece of literature. In honor of International Literacy Day, DMG Entertainment reviews the five best and five worst book to film adaptations.
THE TOP FIVE
JURASSIC PARK (1993)
Plot: A prehistoric theme park becomes overrun by dinosaurs.
Although Michael Crichton’s JURASSIC PARK became a bestseller in 1990, Steven Spielberg had acquired the film rights in 1989 for $1.5 million. In 1993, Universal Studios released Spielberg’s adaptation of the novel JURASSIC PARK. The film was a Hollywood game changer through its groundbreaking use of CGI and animatronics. JURASSIC PARK not only became one of Spielberg’s personal triumphs, but also sparked multiple sequels to the beloved classic.
THE SHINING (1980)
Plot: A haunted hotel convinces a father to kill his wife and psychic son.
Stephen King’s horror novel THE SHINING hit the bookshelves in 1977. Inspired by his own struggles with alcoholism, King’s novel quickly became a bestseller and solidified his status as a prominent horror writer. Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson adapted THE SHINING for film and released the movie in 1980. Although THE SHINING was a tremendous success, launching Jack Nicholson and Stanley Kubrick into fame, King publicly detested the film, believing it was unfaithful to the book.
THE GODFATHER (1972)
Plot: The boss of an organized crime family gives his position to a hesitant son.
Crime novel writer Mario Puzo THE GODFATHER made it to book stores in 1969. The novel was an eye-opener for American audiences, providing new insight into the history of the New York mafia. Hollywood was eager to make THE GODFATHER into a movie, allowing Puzo to team up with Francis Ford Coppola to write the film version. Paramount Pictures released THE GODFATHER in 1972 and became an American cinematic essential, considered the second greatest American movie by the American Film Institute.
Plot: A team of mismatched heroes set out to stop a great white shark’s murder spree.
Inspired by a string of shark attacks along the New Jersey Coast, Peter Benchley published JAWS in 1974. Through a successful marketing campaign, JAWS sold millions of copies and was on the bestseller list for 44 weeks. Before the book was published, Steven Spielberg and Richard D. Zanuck bought the film rights. Universal Pictures released JAWS in 1975 and shocked the nation. Spielberg’s JAWS became the first summer blockbuster and forever changed the way we think about the deep-sea.
FORREST GUMP (1994)
Plot: A lovable simpleton stumbles his way through a series of historical moments to find his true love.
Winston Groom had his book FORREST GUMP published in 1986. The enchanting novel touched the hearts of readers and caught Hollywood’s interest. Paramount Pictures released the movie adaptation in 1994. Although Hollywood changed some parts of the story, such as Forrest’s NASA mission and primate companion, FORREST GUMP was a box office triumph. The film earned six Academy Awards and landed a spot on the American Film Institutes’ 100 Years…100 Movies list.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
BATTLEFIELD EARTH (2000)
Plot: In the year 3000, a group of enslaved humans fight back against a technologically superior alien species.
Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard published BATTLEFIELD EARTH in 1982. Although the book received mixed reviews by critics, it became a New York Times Best Seller and sold over 150,000 copies. John Travolta, a strong supporter of Scientology, was eager to create the film version of Hubbard’s novel. After a series of financial and distribution problems, Franchise Pictures released the film version of BATTLEFIELD EARTH in 2000. Between the film’s bad acting, horrible CGI, and terrible writing, the film earned seven Razzies. Although the studio considered a sequel, the idea was quickly scrapped due to the poor reception and Franchise Pictures’ bankruptcy.
THE SCARLET LETTER (1995)
Plot: In 1666, an affair between a pastor and a woman tears apart a New England puritan community.
THE SCARLET LETTER was an 1850s romantic novel written by Nathaniel Hawthorne that went on to become a timeless classic of American literature and the bane of high schoolers everywhere. Although THE SCARLET LETTER made it to the big screen multiple times, the most notorious was Roland Joffe’s “freely adapted” version that hit theaters in 1995, starring Demi Moore, Gary Oldman and Robert Duvall. The film received brutal reviews and critics were quick to declare the movie as the worst adaptation of classic literature of all time. THE SCARLET LETTER earned a Razzie for “Worst Remake or Sequel”.
GULLIVER’S TRAVELS (2010)
Plot: A writer takes an assignment abroad, but finds himself on an island inhabited by tiny people.
GULLIVER’S TRAVELS was a satirical novel written by Jonathan Swift in the 1700s, which quickly gained popularity as a hilarious spoof of the common “traveler’s tales”. The widespread success of GULLIVER’S TRAVELS inspired many to bring Gulliver’s adventures to the big screen, however one rendition proved disastrous. 20th Century Fox released Rob Letterman’s modernized GULLIVER’S TRAVELS in 2010, starring Jack Black, Emily Blunt and Jason Segel. Movie critics slammed GULLIVER’S TRAVELS and it only grossed $6.3 million at the U.S box office. Jack Black’s performance in GULLIVER’S TRAVELS earned him a Razzie nomination for Worst Actor.
DR. SEUSS’ THE CAT IN THE HAT (2003)
Plot: A charismatic cat takes two bored children through a series of wild antics.
Theodor Geisel’s (also known as Dr. Seuss) THE CAT IN THE HAT is a classic children’s book that has enchanted children since 1957. The novel’s colorful characters and playful language quickly made the book one of the best-selling children’s books of all time. While various media outlets have adapted the book, the most infamous adaptation was Bo Welch’s DR. SEUSS’ THE CAT IN THE HAT starring Mike Myers, Alec Baldwin, and Dakota Fanning. Critics trashed the film and it was nominated for ten Razzies, but only won one for “Worst Excuse for an Actual Movie”.
JOHN CARTER (2012)
Plot: An American civil war veteran tries to save a princess on Barsoom, a desolate planet populated by warring aliens.
Pulp fiction writer Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote A PRINCESS OF MARS in 1917. The book was the first of Burroughs’ spellbinding BARSOON collection, a Martian myth series that inspired writers such as Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, and Carl Sagan. In 2012, Walt Disney Studios released the film adaptation of Burroughs famous series. JOHN CARTER, directed by Andrew Stanton and starring Taylor Kitsch, flopped in record proportions. JOHN CARTER became one of the biggest money-losing movies of all time, leading to Walt Disney Studio head Rich Ross’ resignation.
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