10 Films You May Not Know Were Based on a Book – Part II

Metropolis Book CoverI. Metropolis (1927) 

Metropolis” is a famous German expressionist science-fiction film by Fritz Lang. However, some may not know that Lang’s wife – Thea von Harbou – actually first wrote the book “Metropolis” which then became a movie. Von Harbou wrote the book with the intention for it to become a movie, but this does not detract from the fact that once “Metropolis” was a book. The production was along the lines of – the novel – the script – the movie, giving strength to the idea that all great things flow from books.

Requiem for a Dream Film PosterII. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Requiem for a Dream” is an infamous in its depressing content and visual presentation film by Darren Aronofsky, which follows a number of lives in Brighton Beach. In this film, drug addiction and hopelessness fuse, and the soundtrack by Clint Mansell stressed the never-ending-drug-loop and the illusion of happiness. However, the script is actually based on the 1978 novel of the same name by Hubert Selby Jr. The book and the movie should be viewed as being even more chilling since Selby drew from his own traumatic past experience, including his relationship with drugs, when penning his book. 

Forrest Gump PosterIII. Forrest Gump (1994)

This film is a winner of six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and, in the story, we meet a naïve, simple man Forrest Gump who tells about his unusual life. The film is so well-known that it now overshadows the 1986 book “Forrest Gump” by Winston Groom. The interesting fact here is that, in 1995, Groom published a sequel to his book titled “Gump and Co.” in which he suggests that Forrest was affected by the movie that was made about him.

There Will be Blood Poster 2IV. There Will Be Blood (2007) 

This film by Paul Thomas Anderson could really be considered a cinematic masterpiece with the great performance by Daniel Day-Lewis. The story is set during the late 19th century California oil boom and centres on a prospector Daniel Plainview. The movie also features the performances by Paul Dano (“Youth” (2015)) and Ciaran Hinds (“Silence” (2016)). However, few probably know that the film is loosely based on a book “Oil!” by Upton Sinclair. For the great essay comparing the two, check out this NY Times article.  

04 Spellbound_Mark copyV. Spellbound (1945) 

This movie by Alfred Hitchcock is a nice romantic drama, with the psychoanalysis focus, and a detective story all in one. Featuring a very good performance by Ingrid Bergman and a not-so-convincing performance by Gregory Peck, the film is actually based on the novel by John Palmer and Hilary A. Saunders – “The House of Dr. Edwardes“. This is a psychological thriller novel of 1928 which is now overshadowed by its more famous counterpart.

Shrek PosterVI. Shrek (2001)

Everyone knows this animated film of DreamWorks, but few probably know that it was the children’s picture book “Shrek” (1990) which gave the inspiration for the main character and plot. In this book by William Steig, as in the animation, an ogre goes on a journey and ends up saving a princess. Regarding the character Shrek, it is the playfulness of horror (expected) and humour (unexpected) which is probably the winning combination here.

Leave her to Heaven Movie PosterVII. Leave Her to Heaven (1945)

This novel is well-known, but it will do no harm to give it more visibility, and emphasise the fact that it became the basis of the Academy Award-winning film “Leave Her to Heaven” with Gene Tierney in the leading role. In the story, Richard Harland, a writer, falls for alluring Ellen, not even realising that her hold of him goes beyond normality or human need. Even if you have seen the movie, the book is well-worth a pick-up and read. The internal thoughts and dialogues are incorporated into the film, and the story is still no worse than the film in that it is suspenseful enough.

Crouching Tiger Hidden DragonVIII. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000)

This is a well-known wuxia film directed by Ang Lee, which scooped four Oscars in 2001, but do you know that it was a novel first? “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” is the fourth book in the series of the Crane Iron Book Series written by Wang Dulu. The series is about four generations of  hero folk warriors, but the film is only a very loose adaptation of the story. What is also striking is that the first book in the series was written in as far back as 1938. 

IX. Dances with Wolves (1990)Dances with Wolves Poster

Despite it being an epic Western, Kevin Costner’s “Dances with Wolves” received a critical and commercial success shortly after its release. It is a convincing film of the journey of one Lieutenant, who gets too close to a group of Lakota Indians in 1863. The film is based on a 1988 novel of the same name by Michael Blake, who wrote it with the possibility for it becoming a movie. However, there are some major differences between the novel and the film, and the novel by Blake feels like a creative rip-off of a short story by Dorothy Johnson “A Man Called Horse” (1950).  

Suspicion PosterX. Suspicion (1941) 

Suspicion” is a film about hope, lies and ultimate revelations by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine, but it is also a movie that is based on a novel by Anthony Berkeley Cox (aka Frances Iles) “Before the Fact” (1932). As with some other Hitchcock’s book-to-film adaptations (see “The Birds” (1963)), with some changes, the story in the novel is intelligently transmitted into the film. As also with Hitchcock’s “Rebecca” (1940), the endings of the book and the film are different, and that fact alone may warrant the read of the book.

If you missed, see also Part I – 10 Films You May Not Know Were Based on a Book.

14 thoughts on “10 Films You May Not Know Were Based on a Book – Part II

  1. Great post! oh man, relieved I didn’t live Selby’s life. Requiem for a Dream is powerful film but nice to go back to my normal life afterwards! Fascinating to learn Metropolis is a book by Lang’s wife, have you read it? I love Lang’s film, a visual masterpiece.
    Costner did an interview on Graham Norton Show about the author Michael Blake which stayed with me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XT2S1OkSld4


    1. Nah, I did not read Metropolis, though I imagine it is a very interesting read. That interview with Costner is nice, of course, but what is now staying with me is that idea that his “pal”-screenwriter probably had at his disposal a copy of Johnson’s “A Man Called Horse” besides a pen and a paper in hand 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Some I knew, some I didn’t. I did know about Forrest Gump and Shrek. The really surprising one for me was Metropolis.

    Here is a question: does finding out a movie is based on a book increase or decrease your opinion of a film, or do you remain neutral?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. An interesting question. I love books almost as much as I love my films so – at least subconsciously – perhaps my respect for a film may increase if I find it was once a book. Some absolute classic “must-see” movies were books once and that maybe because there is something special about ideas which first originated from books.That maybe something no screenplay can match, for example, a particular narrative structure, character development or a “serious” literary concept.


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