Adapting books to films might seem like a shortcut taken by filmmakers and screenwriters who don’t have the time to come up with unique tales, but it’s never an easy task. Because most good books are inherently detailed, certain plots or scenes normally get left out or changed so that the movie can have a more reasonable and streamlined running time. Most of the time, authors tend to get furious about this. One of the most notable cases of author dissatisfaction came after the release of The Shining: Stephen King hated everything about the film, but fans and critics loved it. Today, its legacy as one of the greatest horror films remains intact.
In cases where authors aren’t the biggest fans of adaptations of their work, their views make sense because they put blood, sweat, and tears into crafting the tales. Everything is deliberate in their writing, hence why they don’t want to see their stories tweaked. Thankfully, there are a few instances when filmmakers honored the work put in by the original creators, leaving them very pleased. Some either kept things as they were in the source material or made little clever improvements that left the authors awed.
Here are 15 movie adaptations the authors of the original book said they loved.
15 Empire of the Sun (1987)
Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun is based on J. G. Ballard’s semi-autobiographical novel of the same name. The film follows a young English boy, Jamie Graham (Christian Bale), who gets captured and separated from his family when the Japanese invade China during World War II. While he is under captivity, an American sailor, Basie (John Malkovich), becomes a father figure to him.
J. G. Ballard’s Reaction
Ballard loved Spielberg’s adaptation and had a lot of appreciation for the casting. During a sit-down with the reporter Adam Pirani, the author claimed that Bale (who was 12 at the time) “looked almost exactly like me when he was that age” (via Ballad’s website). It’s not a surprise that he had enjoyed the film, as the director had been very nice to him, offering him a cameo role and even inviting him on set (though he declined the latter). Empire of the Sun would go on to be one of Spielberg’s least successful films at the box office, but it is held in high regard by critics and cineastes. Rent on Apple TV
14 Fight Club (1999)
- Release Date
- October 15, 1999
David Fincher’s Fight Club revolves around an unnamed disgruntled white-collar employee (Edward Norton) who suffers from insomnia. After bumping into soap salesman Tyler (Brad Pitt), the two become friends and start living together. Shortly after, they form a fight club as a way to make their lives more meaningful, but their friendship is put to the test when a woman (Helena Bonham Carter) comes into their lives. The film is based on Chuck Palahniuk’s 1996 novel of the same name.
Chuck Palahniuk’s Reaction
Speaking to DVDTalk, Palahnuik admitted that Fincher’s film was one of those adaptations that was better than the book. He was impressed by the philosophical discourse in the dialogue, and even went on to single out one amazing section, saying, “There is a line about ‘fathers setting up franchises with other families. I never thought about it.” Much credit for that goes to screenwriter Jim Uhis, who regrettably walked away from Hollywood later in his career. His only other known project is the sci-fi flick, Jumper. Rent on Apple TV
13 Psycho (1960)
- Release Date
- June 22, 1960
- Anthony Perkins , Vera Miles , John Gavin , Martin Balsam , John McIntire , Simon Oakland
Alfred Hitchcock enjoyed adapting books more than writing his own scripts, and one of the best decisions he ever made was buying the rights to Robert Bloch’s novel. Pyscho — which centers around the activities of the murderous motel proprietor, Norman Bates (Antony Perkins) — would go on to become a cinematic masterpiece from which other directors would draw inspiration.
Robert Bloch’s Reaction
During an interview with Jean-Marc Lofficier, Bloch gave the movie a major thumbs-up: “It was about 90% from my book… the characters, the setting, various devices, all came from the book, right down to the last line,” he said. Hitchcock made one major change, which arguably made the movie much better; Norman Bates was depicted as a 20-something-year-old rather than a mid-40s man as is the case in the novel. This made his Oedipus Complex much more believable. Rent on AppleTV
12 Hidden Figures (2016)
Hidden Figures is the little-known story of three Black women mathematicians — Katherine Goble Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) — who overcame racial discrimination and sexism while working at NASA during the ‘60s space race. The film is loosely based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s book of the same name.
Margot Lee Shetterly’s Reaction
This particular film proved that disloyalty to the original work isn’t always a bad thing. Despite the fact that director Theodore Melfi made several changes to Shetterly’s book, the author loved the end-product, mainly because Johnson’s family loved it as well. “I’m so happy with what the filmmakers did. One of the biggest compliments to the book and the movie is that Katherine Johnson and her family were very highly complimentary. The real test, the real award, came from Katherine and her family loving it,” she told The Independent. Stream on Disney+
11 A Clockwork Orange (1971)
A Clockwork Orange
- Release Date
- December 19, 1971
- Malcolm McDowell , Patrick Magee , Michael Bates , Warren Clarke , John Clive , Adrienne Corri
Stanley Kubrick might have drawn Stephen King’s ire after making The Shining, but he triggered smiles from Anthony Burgess after adapting the author’s 1962 novel of the same name. Set in a dystopic England, A Clockwork Orange follows the criminal Alex (Malcolm McDowell), whose life takes a turn for the worst when the state forces him to undergo an experimental psychological conditioning procedure known as the “Ludovico Technique.” He gets released once the two-week procedure is complete, but he realizes he has developed a strong hatred for violence, making him unable to defend himself from other criminals.
Anthony Burgess’ Reaction
Burgess never liked his own book in the first place. He considered it poorly written and even advised people not to buy it. He was, therefore, surprised when Kubrick developed an interest in it. According to The Guardian, he was full of praise after watching the film, describing it as“a remarkable work, probably already a classic.” He appreciatedA Clockwork Orange’s deeper themes and enjoyed the sad ending even more, acknowledging that his version of the conclusion was too politically correct. Rent on AppleTV
10 Blade Runner (1982)
- Release Date
- June 25, 1982
Events in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner take place in a dystopic Los Angeles where Replicants (synthetic humans) are bio-engineered by the evil Tyrell Corporation to provide manual labor on space colonies. When a group of Replicants flees, the reluctant lawman Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is tasked with hunting them down. The film is adapted from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? a novel by celebrated science fiction author Philip K. Dick.
Philip K. Dick’s Reaction
Dick was more than thrilled with what Scott and Ford did with the project. He wrote a long letter to the studio, praising the heads behind the film for honoring his work and improving on it. His final sentence of the letter was even more iconic: “My life and creative work are justified and completed by Blade Runner. Thank you … It will prove invincible,’ Sadly, Dick died shortly before the premiere and never got to see the kind of cultural impact it made. Rent on Prime Video
9 Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
In Crazy Rich Asians, Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is initially unaware of how influential her boyfriend is in his home country of Singapore. When she accompanies him to attend a friend’s wedding, she realizes his family is rich and that he is thought of as one of the most desirable celebrity bachelors. She is now forced to deal with aggressive socialites who want him, nosy relatives, and his mean mother. The screenplay is based on Kevin Kwan’s novel of the same name.
Kevin Kwan’s Reaction
“I sat there in a darkened room by myself and was just in absolute awe of what director Jon Chu achieved. It was amazing,” Kwan revealed to Business Insider. Kwan had an extra reason to be happy since he never thought Hollywood would make a rom-com with an entirely Asian cast. The fact that the movie became a reality was a reason enough to celebrate. And the door has fully opened now. At the moment, Kwan’s latest book, Sex and Vanity, is also being developed into a movie. Stream on Hulu
8 Stand by Me (1986)
Stand By Me
- Release Date
- August 8, 1986
In 1986, director Rob Reiner finally made a movie that Stephen King really liked. Based on King’s novella, The Body, Stand by Me centers around the adventures of four boys as they search for the body of a person who recently went missing in the area. While on their mini-adventure, several misfortunes keep popping up.
Stephen King’s Reaction
There are numerous accurate Stephen King adaptations, but the author has always insisted that Stand by Me is his favorite. King told Rolling Stone that the film was “true to the book and faithful to the story’s emotional gradient.” Apparently, he even gave Rob Reiner a hug after a private screening at the Beverly Hilton. Months after the movie’s release, King’s Maximum Overdrive would premiere. The author had directed the movie himself, and it turned out to be a bad idea as it was critically panned. Stream on Netflix
7 The Rainmaker (1997)
The Godfather eclipsed all other movies that Francis Ford Coppola ever made, yet they are all quite brilliant. The Rainmaker, specifically, is an amazing legal drama that sees the attorney Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon) fighting for a woman whose dying son has been denied insurance benefits. The events are primarily based on those of John Grisham’s similarly titled novel.
John Grisham’s Reaction
Alongside J.K. Rowling and Tom Clancy, Grisham is one of only three authors to have sold over 2 million copies in their first print. Like King, he is also an author lucky enough to have had all his books made into movies and television shows. Interestingly, he isn’t torn about which adaptation is superior. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, he described The Rainmaker as “the best adaptation of any of my books.” Grisham didn’t go into details, but critics praised the performances and the pacing. Stream on Paramount+
6 Interview with a Vampire (1994)
Anne Rice’s best-selling novel was turned into a movie by Neil Jordan in 1994, with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise in the lead. In Interview with a Vampire, Louis (Brad Pitt) narrates his life as a vampire to a reporter, detailing how he turned into a blood-sucker and how one of his friends (Cruise’s Lestart) largely influenced his decisions.
Anne Rice’s Reaction
Rice had conflicting opinions during the pre-production and post-production stages. She first hated the casting of Cruise in one of the two lead roles and even suggested alternative actors. However, after watching the final product, she was impressed, so much so that she even called Cruise to apologize. “That Tom did make Lestat work was something I could not see in a crystal ball,” she told the Los Angeles Times, a testament to the actor’s skill. Stream on Hulu
5 The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Dream jobs don’t always go well. After landing a position at Runway magazine, college graduate Andy (Anne Hathaway) finds life increasingly difficult as she works as an assistant for the powerful editor Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep). The Devil Wears Prada‘s screenplay is based on Lauren Weisberger’s novel of the same name.
Lauren Weisberger’s Reaction
Weisberger explained to People Magazine that she was pleased with how Meryl Streep humanized the character. “The movie version of Miranda Priestly was a real person, while, in the book, she was just straight evil.” Streep’s tweaking of the character from a straight-up-villain to a comical mean boss made sense given the film’s genre. Thanks to her incredible performance, Streep received both Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. Stream on Max
4 The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Events in The Silence of the Lambs play out in the same manner that they do in the Thomas Harris novel. Fresh out of Quantico, young FBI recruit Clarice Starling (Jodie Forster) is tasked with interviewing the jailed cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter (Antony Hopkins). Smelling her naivety, Hannibal engages her in deadly mind games.
Thomas Harris’ Reaction
It took a long time for Harris to give his opinion because he had refused to watch the movie when it was first released. This had nothing to do with Hopkins or the production team; he just didn’t like the work Michael Mann had done in the ‘80s while adapting Red Dragon into Manhunter, so he feared he would be disappointed again. According to The Wrap, Harris accidentally found the movie being screened on cable and decided to watch it. To his surprise, he realized it was quite the masterpiece critics had made it out to be. Stream on Max
3 L.A. Confidential (1997)
L.A. Confidential covers corruption that takes place inside a Los Angeles precinct. As soon as popular mob boss Mickey Cohen gets taken down, the captain tasks his officers with making sure no one else takes over his spot. Dirty secrets eventually emerge, linking some law enforcement officers to the city’s underworld. The film plucks its plot from James Ellroy’s 1990 novel.
James Ellroy’s Reaction
Initially, Ellroy had low expectations, and he has been quoted as saying that authors should always take the paycheck and shut up, despite how the movie turns out. However, when it came out, he was impressed, telling SPLICED, “The most startling thing about it is seeing a work of art that I created out of thin air, metamorphose into a compatible work of art that is recognizably my work, yet is something that I couldn’t have imagined in a million years.” And director Curtis Hanson sure deserves to be lauded for turning a 500-page novel into a summarized 135-minute movie without leaving any major detail out. Stream on Netflix
2 Mystic River (2003)
- Release Date
- January 1, 2003
Mystic River follows ex-con Jimmy Marcus (Sean Penn) as he investigates the murder of his daughter. As the homicide detective, Sean (Kevin Bacon), hunts down leads, he singles out a specific neighborhood man as a suspect and considers conducting street justice. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the movie is based on a novel by Dennis Lehane.
Dennis Lehane’s Reaction
According to the Havard Crimson, Lehane’s only wish was for the director to not opt for a happy ending, and Eastwood kept his promise. This was a decision Warner Bros disagreed with, so the studio only provided half of the funding. This didn’t bother Eastwood, who maintained his stance and created something wonderful. At the Academy Awards, the film was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Adapted Screenplay. Rent on AppleTV
1 Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
Robert Zemeckis’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit? combines live-action and animation, and is set in an alternate 1940s Hollywood, where humans and animated characters (“toons”) co-exist. The story — based on Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf — follows the P.I. Eddie Valiant, as he tries to help a toon framed for murder.
Gary K. Wolf’s Reaction
Despite the movie only being partially based on Wolf’s book, the author enjoyed everything he saw. During an interview with I’m Not Bad, Wolf acknowledged that he had no problem with the changes because they “were done to support the movie story.” Besides that, he was glad that someone from the book’s publishing house had sent a copy to Disney, admitting that he would “kissed them full on the lips” if they had found out who it was. Stream on Disney+