So many of the novels voted for in our Top 100 books have been made into movies and television series – some good, some great and some not so good – and many have made it to the big screen numerous times. But which are best? Here are our staff picks…
Price & Prejudice has to be one of the most adapted of all the books on the list – and some are good and some are better. I know it’s heresy to say it but I loved one of the earlier ones that comes in for a lot of flak – the 1940 adaptation starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson. Okay, it’s very dated, silly and doesn’t adhere to the plot and, worst of all, apparently MGM even moved the historical setting so the costumes would be more flattering to its stars! However, sorry to upset Colin Firth fans, but the smouldering, over-the-top Laurence Olivier is much closer to the Darcy in my mind.
Jane Eyre is another one of those novels that seems to have had had endless screen adaptations. I recall a BBC version starring Timothy Dalton as Rochester. The actress – Zelah Clark – who played Jane is the un-Hollywood plain Jane type that she should be.
To Kill A Mockingbird has to of of course be one of the most successful book-to-movie adaptations. The wonderful Gregory Peck is unforgettable as Atticus Finch.
I haven’t seen the whole of the BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall yet but I managed to catch some earlier in the year in the UK. Once I’d gotten over the fact that the lead actor was not how I imagined Mantel’s Cromwell to be, I started to love it – almost as much as the book. Can’t wait to see more when the series is on the ABC.
It’s been a long time since I watched it, but I can’t forget Judy Davis as Miles Franklin in the movie adaptation of My Brilliant Career.
Worst.. Well, more heresy, but I fell asleep in the cinema when I went to see Lord of the Rings.
Still Alice – Julianne Moore was the perfect choice for Alice and her understated performance was one of the best in recent years. Cloudstreet, the Australian TV series, captured Winton’s sense of place wonderfully and the entire cast was excellent. The Notebook – we can all be snobs about this one but the film is very watchable and most of us have seen it more than once!
Worst.. Sorry I can’t say I’ve seen any that I’ve hated 🙁
Pride & Prejudice (the 1995 BBC adaptation): This four-hour adaptation is everything a Janeite could hope for. Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth [pictured] lead an amazing supportive cast (though my favourites have to be Julia Sawalha as Lydia and Alison Steadman as Mrs Bennet), and large portions are quoted directly from the novel.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish): Another adaptation that follows the books quite closely. This is one of my favourite mini-series, and I’ve watched them probably three or four times each since they were released. Noomi Rapace IS Lisbeth Salander. It’s also one of the only movies I rewatch that my partner will happily join me for, and he hasn’t even read the books!
Pride & Prejudice (the Keira Knightley version): The Bennet family would not have had pigs! When studying Jane Austen at uni, I couldn’t put my finger on why I hated this one, and then the lecturer pointed out all the goofs. I’m also not a fan of Keira Knightley.
I’ve only actually seen one from this list: Life of Pi! (Which I would say was beautifully shot and packed with intriguing and gorgeous images which held me entranced.)
I am, though, eagerly awaiting a loan of the Wolf Hall DVD from a friend who promises me it is every bit as good as the book.
Other honourable mentions… The recent Australian television adaptation of Kate Grenville’s The Secret River was wonderful. And Christos Tsiolkas described the television adaptation of his searing novel 2008 The Slap as one of “the collaborative highlights of my life.”
To look out for in the future.. Plans are afoot for movies of The Rosie Project and Jasper Jones.