Having made nearly £5 billion at the box office and proving itself to be a massive hit with those who read the books (and those who didn’t!), it felt only right to include the Harry Potter film franchise at the top of our list. Although some say the adaptations stuck too rigidly to the original books, we say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” The eight movies are brilliantly cast – our favourites include the late Alan Rickman as Professor Snape and Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall – and perfectly capture the magic of the wizarding world and the personality of Hogwarts (almost a character in itself). There was also something special about watching the young actors grow and develop with each movie, just as the characters do in the books.
Even die-hard fans of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series agree that the movies were faithful re-workings of the much-loved books. There are certain elements missing from the films – such as Carlisle’s backstory and the fully developed friendship between Alice and Bella – but unfortunately that is sometimes inevitable with adaptations. On a more positive note, the movies were generally more fast-paced and action-packed than the novels, and the love story between Bella and Edward surprisingly believable. In fact, we think the stellar acting of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson played a big part in the saga becoming such a hit.
The globally successful Hunger Games movies were particularly true to the details and events of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, while at the same time expanding the world of Panem and offering us other perspectives than just Katniss Everdeen’s – for example, when we see The Hunger Games control room or President Snow at home. Jennifer Lawrence steals the show as Katniss, so it’s nice to know that the author was heavily involved in this casting – The Hunger Games director, Gary Ross, even said that Lawrence was more integral to the making of the first movie than he was! The films get top marks for their stunning visuals – from costume design to the ampitheatres of Panem – which are as impressive as anything a reader could imagine themselves.
Despite receiving mixed critical reviews, director Neil Burger’s version of Veronica Roth’s best-selling sci-fi series was a big financial success, going straight to the number one box office slot during its opening weekend. It was always going to be a tricky adaptation because much of the book is internalised through protagonist Tris, but the movie includes some decent action sequences and gets our vote for its quality production and special effects. This first movie was followed by Insurgent in 2015, with Allegiant due for release later this year.
Based on John Green’s colossal bestseller, this adaptation was also a phenomenal success and opened in theatres straight at number one – pretty impressive for a difficult teen movie about cancer. Interestingly, John Green was on set for the most of the filming to give advice to the cast; which is perhaps why Hazel and Gus – Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort – are played with real tenderness and sensitivity. We were especially pleased that the script writers kept in one of the best lines from the book, spoken by Hazel: “I fell in love with him the way you fall asleep: Slowly, and then all at once.”
There aren’t many movie adaptations that were written and directed by the author of the book, which is exactly what happened with Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Despite not being a massive hit in financial terms, netting just $33.4 million (£24 million) in box office sales, this adaptation of the 1999 novel only cost $13 million (£9 million) to produce, so it certainly wasn’t a ‘flop’. And it’s not just about the money, of course; the film and its actors – including Harry Potter star Emma Watson – received public and critical acclaim for their roles, making it an indie hit.
Some fans of James Dashner’s dystopic novel The Maze Runner were put off by the numerous changes director Wes Ball made for the screen. For example, Alby and Thomas’ relationship is much less antagonistic in the movie, the maze itself is constructed differently, and Teresa has a more prominent role in the film, even providing some comic relief. Nonetheless, we think the film’s energetic pace and visually impressive maze scenes more than make up for these discrepancies, and the battle finale is unmissable.
Fans of C.S Lewis’ classic The Chronicles of Narnia books won’t be disappointed with these big budget adaptations, produced over a period of five years yet starring the same brilliant young cast throughout. Tilda Swinton also shines as a perfectly sinister yet enchanting White Witch. Apparently, C.S Lewis never sold the film rights to the Narnia series while he was alive, believing that no adaptation could portray the fantastical elements well; but when his stepson and literary executor Douglas Gresham saw the proposed CGI footage of Narnia’s animals, he gave his official seal of approval. The next film in the series, The Silver Chair, is currently in production.
Based on the collaborative novel written by Rachel Cohn and David Leviathan in 2006, this adaptation stays true to the format of the book in that it tells the story through the alternating perspectives of Nick and Norah. This alone makes for an interesting watch, but the romantic comedy also has a few other bonus points – it has a real indie feel to it, is a bit more light-hearted than the original book and, as you might expect, has a great soundtrack. Fun fact: the two authors actually star briefly in the movie – see if you can spot them!
Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series sparked a renewed interest in Greek mythology among many young readers, and although the movie adaptations have received mixed reviews, we think they will go down well with action and fantasy fans. Some elements of the book appear to have got lost in translation, with fans of the series being upset that some characters and plot moments were left out of the big screen version; but those concerns aside, it is interesting to see a director – Chris Columbus, who directed the first two Harry Potter movies – take a risk by veering away from the original content of the book. Whether or not he pulls it off is for you to decide!
This adaptation of Louis Sachar’s 1998 YA novel of the same name, starring Shia LaBeouf, made only $71 million (£50 million) at the box office; but ask most YA audiences and they’ll tell you it should have been a bigger hit. Bizarre, unique and very funny, this isn’t your average feel-good family movie; it’s a multi-dimensional story with fantastical elements and frightening secrets, and director Andrew Davis perfectly captures the dusty isolation described in the original book. The casting is as quirky as the movie itself, featuring Jon Voight, Sigourney Weaver and legendary star Eartha Kitt.
With Martin Scorcese in the director’s seat, it’s little wonder that this adaptation of Brian Selznick’s imaginative New York Times bestseller, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, was nominated for 11 Oscars and won five – including Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction. This moving and extravagant film is a visually stunning experience, much like the original book which was half prose, half graphic novel. We have a particular soft spot for Dickens-lover Isabelle, who says to Hugo: “This might be an adventure, and I’ve never had one before – outside of books, at least.”
It’s hard not to love anything with Jim Carrey in it, and he is particularly brilliant in his multiple roles as Count Olaf, Dr. Stephano and Captain Sham in the movie adaptation of Daniel Handler’s (aka Lemony Snicket) dark comedy series. Other winning performances in this gothic, Tim Burton-esque film come from Meryl Streep as the maudlin and irrational Aunt Josephine, and Billy Connolly as Dr. Montgomery Montgomery. If you loved the movie and were disappointed that the rest of the series was not adapted, you’ll be pleased to know it is currently being made into a Netflix TV series.
Action, adventure, sci-fi, fantasy: this adaptation of the first book of Cassandra Clare’s best-selling The Mortal Instruments series has it all! There’s certainly an element of Twilight here with vampires, werewolves, attractive actors and a whopping $60 million budget – not to mention the romance narrative that runs throughout – with the key difference being the urban Manhattan setting. Lily Collins stars as protagonist Clary Fray, and is joined by two other rising British actors – Robert Sheehan and Jamie Campbell Bower.
Based on Markus Zusak’s best-selling book, this touching movie tells the story of a young girl living with her adoptive family in Nazi Germany, who starts ‘borrowing’ books to read to the Jewish refugee taking shelter in their home. Young Sophie Nélisse won numerous awards for her portrayal of Liesel Meminger, and Geoffrey Rush gives a heart-warming performance as her kind foster father. The music is provided by Oscar-winning composer John Williams, and adds a poignant note (so to speak) to the narrative. Fun fact: director Brian Percival also worked on the Downton Abbey TV series!