23 Movies You Probably Didn't Know Were Based On Books
The book isn't ~always~ better than the film.
We hope you love the products we recommend! Just so you know, BuzzFeed may collect a share of sales from the links on this page.
1. Die Hard (1988)
Based on: Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp
Not only is the Bruce Willis Christmas classic based on a book, but Nothing Lasts Forever is actually a sequel to The Detective, which was made into a 1966 movie starring Frank Sinatra. They made a few changes to the story so it wouldn't clash with the original movie – for example, in the book the main character's name is Joe Leland, not John McClane.
2. Forrest Gump (1994)
Based on: Forrest Gump by Winston Groom
Forrest Gump the novel was not at all well-known before it became the massively successful, Oscar-winning movie. It was also pretty different – in the book, Forrest uses profound language, and the author originally wanted him to be played by John Goodman.
"No one believes me when I tell them Forrest Gump was a book that was way out there with him going to space with a monkey and crash landing back on an island with cannibals that he has to beat at chess to escape being eaten."
3. Mean Girls (2004)
Based on: Queen Bees & Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman
Tina Fey read Queen Bees & Wannabes – a self-help book for parents whose daughters are going through high school – and thought it had the potential to be turned into a movie. Obviously, though, the book is nonfiction, so Fey came up with the story and characters herself.
4. Jurassic Park (1993)
Based on: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
The book version of Jurassic Park actually originated as a screenplay, which author Michael Crichton wrote about a student who recreated a dinosaur. He decided to change the story after he decided that recreating dinosaurs would be an unrealistic academic venture, and would only make sense if it came from "a desire to entertain".
5. Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
Based on: Howl's Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones
The Studio Ghibli classic was actually based on a novel by British author Dianna Wynne Jones – the novel is the first in a series of three. There are several differences between the film and the book, as the author had nothing to do with the film's production. She did say it was "fantastic", though.
6. Shrek (2001)
Based on: Shrek! by William Steig
You'd be forgiven for thinking Shrek – and its many, many sequels and spinoffs – was an original DreamWorks creation, but nope. It's based on a picture book in which a terrifying ogre kind-of-accidentally saves a princess. The movie won the first ever Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, which is amazing.
7. Legally Blonde (2001)
Based on: Legally Blonde by Amanda Brown
Yup, the Reese Witherspoon classic was actually based on a novel. The author, Amanda Brown, wrote the book about her experience studying at Stanford Law School. That's the big difference between the book and the movie – the book is set at Stanford, not Harvard. Can you imagine? It definitely wouldn't be the same.
8. Pitch Perfect (2012)
Based on: Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory by Mickey Rapkin
Similar to Mean Girls, Pitch Perfect was based on a nonfiction book. It was written by a senior editor at GQ, who spent a season following collegiate a cappella groups around the country on their quests for success. The Bellas were loosely inspired by the Divisi, an all-female a cappella group from the University of Oregon.
9. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Based on: Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine
The film adaptation of Madame Doubtfire follows Anne Fine's young adult novel pretty closely – with one important exception: In the book, the two eldest children immediately recognise their new nanny as their father in disguise. Only their younger sister and mother are convinced it's actually ~Madame Doubtfire~.
10. Goodfellas (1990)
Based on: Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family by Nicholas Pileggi
The gangster classic Goodfellas is actually based on a nonfiction book written by journalist Nicholas Pileggi. It tells the story of Henry Hill, an informant who was once a member of the Mafia. Director Martin Scorsese believed the book to be the most honest portrayal of real-life gangsters he'd ever read.
11. The Parent Trap (1998)
Based on: Lisa and Lottie by Erich Kästner
Yep, both versions of The Parent Trap were based on Lisa and Lottie, a kids book that was originally written in German. The story has actually been adapted into a whooole bunch of different movies in countries all over the world, but the Disney versions are without a doubt the most well-known.
12. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
Based on: Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf
The movie version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is based very loosely on the book – in the book, rather than the animated cartoon stars of the movie, the characters are well-known comic strip characters, like Snoopy. Disney bought the rights to the novel almost immediately after it was published in 1981.
13. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Based on: Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King
The mega-acclaimed movie was actually based on a short story by Stephen King – you can find it in Different Seasons, a collection of four novellas. Oh, and one of the other stories in the collection was adapted into the classic coming of age movie Stand By Me.
14. The Princess Bride (1987)
Based on: The Princess Bride by William Goldman
"I grew up loving The Princess Bride more than any other adventure, romance, or comedy, and finding out that it was originally a book, and that the book heavily satirised the genres while blending them even more brilliantly than is shown in the film, was a shock."
15. The Polar Express (2004)
16. Psycho (1960)
Based on: Psycho by Robert Bloch
Even though Alfred Hitchcock's movie is without a doubt the most famous iteration of Psycho, Robert Bloch's novel was actually the original. It's said to have been based on the crimes of serial killer Ed Gein, but the novel was almost finished by the time Gein was arrested – any similarities are coincidental, although Bloch did include a reference to Gein's crimes in one of the final chapters.
17. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
Based on: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? by Henry Farrell
The movie was nominated for a crazy number of Oscars, but did you know it was actually based on a book? It's actually a pretty accurate adaptation of the novel, and with the TV show Feud currently on air, now's the perfect time to read up on the story.
18. Clueless (1995)
Based on: Emma by Jane Austen
Yup, teen classic Clueless is ~actually~ based on a Jane Austen novel. Obviously, it's a modern retelling of Emma set in '90s Beverly Hills rather than 19th-century England, but it's cool to read the book and see what connections you can make with the movie that defined so many of our childhoods.
19. The Help (2011)
Based on: The Help by Kathryn Stockett
"I watched the movie first and, of course, it's fantastic – I mean, it stars Viola Davis AND Emma Stone! Come on, people. But when I found out it was also a book, I read the shit out of it (pun intended), and it was equally as brilliant as the movie."
20. Stardust (2007)
Based on: Stardust by Neil Gaiman
"My dumb ass had no idea of the genius that is Neil Gaiman when this movie came out. A few years later I learned it was based on a book and was so surprised! I made up for it by reading all of Gaiman's books, and he's now one of my top three favourite authors."
21. How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
Based on: How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
The adorable DreamWorks animated movie was actually based on a children's book by Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, who is definitely a real person. The plot of the movie is basically completely different to the book, though. Oh, and the audiobook is narrated by David Tennant.
22. It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
Based on: The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern
The Greatest Gift is just a short story, but was the basis for the widely beloved Christmas classic It's A Wonderful Life. The film's director, Frank Capra, read the story and immediately bought the rights to make the film. You won't recognise much of it, though – most of the characters were renamed, and some were given totally different personalities.
23. Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs (2009)
Based on: Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs by Ron and Judy Barrett
Though the animated movie version is ~technically~ based on the picture book of the same name, it's basically completely different: In the book, an elderly grandfather tells his grandchildren a bedtime story about food falling from the sky. In the movie, a young inventor creates a machine that actually makes it happen.