17 Oscar Winning Book Adaptations

There have been 86 Best Picture Academy Award winners, 40 were book adaptations. Here are some of our favourites.

1. The Godfather Part I & II (1972 & 1974)

Mario Puzo adapted his own book with director Francis Ford Coppola for both films, and even convinced Coppola to allow his sister, Talia Shire to audition for the part of Connie Corleone.

Words cannot express the perfection of these movies.

Quite, Michael. Quite.

3. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Seemingly the only person not happy with this adaptation was the author. Ken Kesey was so incensed with the changes made (the book is from Chief Bromden’s perspective) that he vowed never to watch it and even sued the producers.

5. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Thomas Harris’ second Lecter novel, The Silence of the Lambs, was adapted after Red Dragon was release as Manhunter (worth watching just FYI). Jodie Foster had originally tried to buy the rights herself but was beaten to it by Gene Hackman. Endlessly quoted.

7. No Country For Old Men (2007)

The Coen Brothers adapted Cormac McCarthy’s novel for the screen, but unusually took the action, sometimes word for word from McCarthy’s book, in the same order. The only thing they really changed was decreasing the dialogue for the film.

9. The English Patient (1996)

Michael Ondaatje worked closely with the filmmakers on the adaptation of The English Patient, and Anthony Minghella made 20 drafts of the screenplay before it was finally signed off. The sweeping, romantic drama gives you just a taste of the brilliance of the book. Swoon. Sob. So many feels.

11. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

After the first two films missed out on the Oscar, the adaptation of the final book of Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings got it’s just desserts. Largely loved by LOTR enthusiasts and civilians alike, yes there are 7 or so endings, but after such a big journey, there was a lot to tie up.

13. Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Based on a series of short stories under the name Rope Burns, these are now published under the title of the film Million Dollar Baby. This sport drama packs a punch (excuse the pun), and will give you all kinds of feels from start to finish.

15. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

The Danny Boyle movie was adapted from Q&A by Vikas Swarup. Swarup was inspired by changing class-barriers in India and the accusation of Major Charles Ingram of cheating on the UK version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, the movie was a sleeper hit but topped the worldwide box office following its Academy Awards success.

17. 12 Years a Slave (2013)

Thank goodness for Steve McQueen’s wife: had she not pressed 12 Years a Slave by Samuel Northup into the director’s hand we wouldn’t have this adaptation of a most important memoir, and true account of slavery. A well deserved win and joyous celebration on the night.

19. Schindler’s List (1993)

The Booker prize-winning Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally, which Schindler’s List was based on, was inspired by Holocaust survivor Poldek Pfefferberg. Pfefferberg had tried to interest screen-writers in the story of Oskar Schindler before meeting Keneally. He continued his work to get the story adapted into a film by pursuing Steven Speilberg through his friendship with his mother.

21. Forrest Gump (1994)

According to author Winston Groom, the movie made Forrest a softer character, he envisioned him being played by John Goodman. Although the film is largely faithful to the source material it omits Forrest’s time with NASA, his time with the cannibals and the ape named Sue. The mind boggles.

23. Midnight Cowboy (1969)

An American classic, Midnight Cowboy is a largely faithful adaptation of James Leo Herlihy’s novel of the same name. The film was daring for it’s time with it’s gritty portrayal of the life of a wannabe-gigolo. One studio exec suggested cleaning it up and making it an Elvis Presley vehicle. Imagine.

25. The French Connection (1971)

Forever remembered for the hair-raising car chase, some of which was filmed without permits, or traffic control, this thrilling cop caper was adapted from Robin Moore’s non-fiction account of the drugs scheme, The French Connection: A True Account of Cops, Narcotics, and International Conspiracy.

27. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Pierre Boulle’s novel of the same name takes the Burma Railway as its setting, but it was Boulle’s experience as a prisoner of war in Thailand that he drew some of his characters from. Boulle was listed as the screenwriter due to Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson being blacklisted. Credit was changed posthumously in the 1980s.

29. Gone With The Wind (1939)

The sweeping epic that rainy Sundays were made for wowed the Academy and the public. The original novel’s author Margaret Mitchell approved of Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara, but did not like the grandness of Tara. After her views were ignored on the matter she kept her opinions to herself.

31. Rebecca (1940)

Based on Daphne du Maurier’s classic gothic romance, Rebecca was adapted for the screen by Alfred Hitchcock, and with great success. The film does differ, however, from the book which due to the Hollywood Production Code slightly toyed with Rebecca’s fate.

Trivia provided with help from IMDB.com

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