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The Guardian's 50 Greatest Literary Adaptations

MUBI

almost 3 years ago

This is the first in an ongoing series of Film Lists on MUBI – which will be taken from (or created by) a variety of different sources on all topics related to cinema – with the intention of igniting a dialogue between all you passionate users in the forums.

Check out the full list here

With Lynne Ramsay’s adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin premiering at Cannes earlier this month and another adaptation of Jane Eyre hitting theatres earlier this year, we here at MUBI were wondering, “What exactly are the best book-to-film adaptations?” In browsing the web, we came across a few different lists, but chose the one from The Guardian for both its inclusion of the readers and its length (the more titles, the bigger the dispute!). As the list was compiled by The Guardian‘s readers in summer of 2006, you should note that films like No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Children of Men, Winter’s Bone or The Diving Bell and the Butterfly weren’t in the running. Bearing that in mind, what were some of the glaring omissions from their list? Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard, Philip Kaufman’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter, Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-up (Hey, if they included Brokeback Mountain, we can include this one), Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, David Lean’s Great Expectations, David Cronenberg’s Crash, Jane Campion’s The Portrait of a Lady, Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs, Lynne Ramsay’s Morvern Callar, Jacques Rivette’s Wuthering Heights or even Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park?

In addition to the omissions, which of the 50 didn’t belong there? Charlie and the Chocolate Factory over Willy Wonka (perhaps some of the readers mistakenly wrote the Tim Burton version down)? Or which surprised you? American Psycho certainly wasn’t expected, nor Jan Švankmajer’s Alice, though I was rather pleased to see that particular one on the list. What about Get Shorty over Jackie Brown? And should Sin City really be above Jaws?

What does one consider when thinking of the best film adaptations of novels? How good the book was? How faithful the director/screenwriter was to the material? The level of difficulty it took to bring the novel to the screen (think Naked Lunch in terms of content or The Lord of the Rings films in terms of scale)?

Give us your take on the list, or just the subject in general. Looking forward to your responses. –Joe

David Ehrenst​ein

almost 3 years ago

To begin with they don’t say which “Maltese Falcon” or which “1984”

“Brokeback Mountain” on the list indicates that it’s a popularity contest, not to be taken seriously.

efe

-moderator-
almost 3 years ago

Maybe it’s just because I watched it again last night, but Battle Royale belongs to any list of great literary adaptations..

David Ehrenst​ein

almost 3 years ago

The biggest omition, IMO : Raul Ruiz’s brilliant adaptation of Marcel Proust’s “Time Regained.”

Carlos Figueir​edo

almost 3 years ago

Also Raul Ruiz adaptation of Camilo Castelo Branco’s “Mistérios de Lisboa”.

Malik

almost 3 years ago

It was polled by the readers David. It’s John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon and the 1984 adaptation of 1984. I’m surprised only 1 Disney film made it on the list. Since Sin City made it on the list I’d include Akira and Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade.

efe

-moderator-
almost 3 years ago

oh yes.. Time Regained
perhaps we should start a MUBI’s 50 Greatest Literary Adaptations in a week or so after this discussion.. that certainly won’t include Brokeback Mountain.

Malik

almost 3 years ago

I can’t believe I forgot Vidas Secas.

Where’s Rosemary’s Baby? And The Dead?

David Ehrenst​ein

almost 3 years ago

Manoel de Oliveira’s “Francesca” and “Le Soulier de Satin.”

David Ehrenst​ein

almost 3 years ago

Correct me if I’m worng but so far that hasn’t been a complete adaptation of “Wuthering Heights” All the films use only the first few chapters.

Love thr Rivette, Wyler, Fuest, and Bunuel versions.

Nathan M.

almost 3 years ago

I’m surprised that Rebecca made the list but not Vertigo.

Alex K

almost 3 years ago

Interesting to see Catch-22 make the list. It’s certainly one of my favorite adaptations, but I thought it had a rather poor reputation among critics and filmgoers.

David Ehrenst​ein

almost 3 years ago

“Catc-22” is underrated. It was quite an elaborate production, very Fellini influenced. It’s failure caused Nichols to rethink his filmmaking methods and one sees a rather sharp move towards a simpler style thereafter.

MASH stole the films’ thunder.

Craig Harshaw

almost 3 years ago

Off the top of my head. I would say Bill Forsyth’s adaptation of Maryilenne Robinson’s HOUSEKEEPING, the aforementioned Dos Santos adaptation of G. Ramos’ VIDAS SECAS, Stanley Kubrick’s fascinating adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle into his film EYES WIDE SHUT, Visconti’s THE LEOPARD and DEATH IN VENICE, Fassbinder’s adaptation of Theodore Fontaine’s Effi Briest, Pasolini’s adaptation of his own Teorema, Ruy Guerra’s Erendira an adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s story from his novel 100 YEARS OF SOLITUDE, John Huston’s THE DEAD adapted from the final short story in Joyce’s DUBLINERS, Alan Bridge’s adaptation of Rebecca West’s THE RETURN OF THE SOLDIER, Hu Sang’s adaptation of Xun Lu’s short story NEW YEAR SACRIFICE, Lee Grant’s adaptation of Tille Olsen’s TELL ME A RIDDLE, and Nicolas Roeg’s adaptation of Dahl’s THE WITCHES.

toodead

almost 3 years ago

when does an adaptation cross the line into ‘inspired by’?

Traumstadt is the best film i’ve seen recently that captures the atmosphere of the novel. and such an atmosphere.

what about the bernanos adaptations of bresson and pialat? i know guardian readers are clearly xenophobic anglophones, but to even miss out those?

i’m also fond of menzel/hrabal collaborations…

not forgetting omirbaev’s wonderful tolstoy adaptation Chouga

toodead

almost 3 years ago

and henning carlsen’s Hunger of course…

Jaspar Lamar Crabb

almost 3 years ago

Eeghad! That list appears to be someone’s favorite films (that happened to be a book first)….glad to see the likes of KES, JAWS & NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN…

Here’s my list…in oder of how they floated through my head

1. Great Expectations (Lean)
2. Elmer Gantry (Brooks)
3. Oliver Twist (Lean)
4. The Maltese Falcon (Huston)
5. Day of the Locust (Schlesinger)
6. The Go-Between (Losey)
7. Tess (Polanski)
8. LOTR [trilogy] (Jackson)
9. The Dead (Huston)
10. Howards End (Ivory)
11. Being There (Ashby)
12. They Shoot Horses Don’t They (Pollack)
13. Lolita (Kubrick)
14. Frankenstein (Whale)
15. Slaughterhouse Five (Hill)
16. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (Miller)
17. All the King’s Men (Rossen)
18. Advise & Consent (Preminger)
19. Purple Noon (Clement)
20. The Conformist (Bertolucci)
21. 1984 (Radford)
22. A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick)
23. Death in Venice (Visconti)
24. To Kill a Mockingbird (Mulligan)
25. Jane Eyre (Stevenson)
26. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (Stuart)
27. The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Kaufman)
28. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Kaufman/Siegel)
29. The World According to Garp (Hill)
30. The Trial (Welles)
31. Remains of the Day (Ivory)
32. The Magnificent Ambersons (Welles)
33. No Country for Old Men (Coen Bros)
34. All Quiet on the Western Front (Milestone)
35. Schindler’s List (Spielberg)
36. Last of the Mohicans (Mann)
37. Wuthering Heights (Wyler)
38. Red Badge of Courage (Huston)
39. Ossessione/Postman Always Rings Twice (Visconti/Garnett)
40. The Grifters (Frears)
41. Fahrenheit 451 (Truffaut)
42. The Wizard of Oz (Fleming)
43. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Forman)
44. Trainspotting (Boyle)
45. The Day of the Jackal (Zinnemann)
46. After Dark, My Sweet (Foley)
47. The Man with the Golden Arm (Preminger)
48. Diary of a Chambermaid (Bunel)
49. Sophie’s Choice (Pakula)
50. The Mosquito Coast (Weir)

Joe Bowman

-moderator-
almost 3 years ago

Yes, I do wonder how many of those who voted can say they read the book and saw the film?

Patapon

-moderator-
almost 3 years ago

Bernard’s Les Miserables (1934) should be #1

also: Woman in the Dunes (teshigahara), The Face of Another (teshigahara), Rashomon (Kurosawa), Silence (Shinoda), The Sea and Poison (Kumai), With Beauty and Sadness (Shinoda)

looks like no one on the Guardian reads Japanese literature, or watches Japanese films

Polaris​DiB

almost 3 years ago

Street of Crocodiles .

Not because it’s close to the story of the book.

But because it hits the feeling of the book spot on.

—PolarisDiB

ZED

almost 3 years ago

I don’t see The Innocents on that list. How could that be?

Francis​co

almost 3 years ago

Kurosawa’s High and Low is not on the list? WTF.

Kate

almost 3 years ago

2001

Kate

almost 3 years ago

I haven’t seen The Dead but is hard for me to imagine how any film adaptation could even approach the original, especially when you consider what makes that story is the language and the protagonist’s inner thoughts.

Kenji

almost 3 years ago

The Dead is a very good film, but usually there’s not much correlation between standard of source and the film- pulp can be made into classic film, and great novels are rarely done justice by films.

The Guardian readers obviously don’t know much about non-Anglophone cinema. The newspaper has dumbed down a bit on the cinematic front. Mizoguchi should have featured of course. Kurosawa and other Shakespeare adaptations might have been expected to appear. Good to see mentions above of With Beauty of Sadness, an impressive Japanese film that doesn’t get much attention, from a fine novel, and the Quay bros’ Street of Crocodiles, though i’ve not read the book. I find familiarity with decent book or film can undermine enjoyment in the other medium. Oliveira’s Abraham Valley was adapted from a Portuguese novel transposing Madame Bovary (a book which otherwise hasn’t been done justice). The African film Hyenas made me think of European theatre, which in fact it did come from,

toodead

almost 3 years ago

African film Hyenas made me think of European theatre, which in fact it did come from

dürrenmatt! (that drove me nuts earlier, i had to google it) are adaptations from dramatic works allowed in this discussion? we could be here forever…

what about polanski’s the tenant (topor), les enfants terribles (melville/cocteau), this filthy earth (kötting/zola), les dames du bois de boulogne (bresson/diderot), crime and punishment (kaurismaki) medea (pasolini/von trier etc etc) the piano teacher (haneke/jelinek)…too many to go on…

toodead

almost 3 years ago

don’t be mad dim, honestly i’ll get to zorba at some point :P (both film and novel)

i just remembered another fantastic one – the quay’s again with institute benjamenta. (robert ♥ walser)

Laali

almost 3 years ago

Has everyone forgotten that Solaris was a novel by STANISLAW LEM???

toodead

almost 3 years ago

i had. and i love lem. this is the kind of helpless thread that will keep me shouting through the night.

in that case i’ll add the strugatsky brs and stalker :P