Among book lovers, you’ll often hear the cliché, “The movie was fine, but I really preferred the book.” And while Hollywood is littered with films based on well-known books (Lord of The Rings, Twilight, Hunger Games), here are some of Tinseltown’s most successful films that you may not have known were based on books.
1. The Shawshank Redemption
It’s a lot to ask of people to remember that a novella launched a movie that now sits at the very top of IMDb’s list of the Top 250 user-voted movies of all time. This is especially true when the novella is simply one of dozens of legendary stories written by one of the most prolific and successful writers of all time: Stephen King.
Nevertheless, it was a legal book that first told the story of how Andy Dufresne tunneled through the walls of Shawshank Prison, using nothing more than a tiny rock hammer from his buddy Red, and the determination of a man wrongly convicted of a crime he didn’t
Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel is gradually becoming a footnote to one of the most iconic films of all time, but it was no throwaway paperback. The novel Jaws spent more than 40 weeks on the bestseller list and sold over 20 million copies. Interestingly, in later years, the author came to regret his portrayal of great white sharks as vicious man-eaters, and became an ardent ocean conservationist.
Early titles for the book included The Stillness in the Water, Leviathan Rising, and then The Jaws of Death and The Jaws of Leviathan. Ultimately, the world came to know the classic and terrifying story as simply, Jaws.
3. Gangs of New York
Somehow, in 1970, Martin Scorsese came across a 1928 book titled The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld. The famous director was enthralled with the description of the nineteenth-century criminal underworld, and started to visualize an epic movie.
Of course, at the time he encountered the book, he wasn’t the wildly successful director he is today. It wasn’t until 20 years later that the vision became a reality. And while Daniel Day-Lewis’s much-awarded performance will not soon be forgotten, few now know of the book that inspired it all.
4. Witness for the Prosecution
This legal book actually became a movie in three steps. First Agatha Christie wrote the gripping short story, which was published in 1925 under the title Traitor Hands. Then, Peter Saunders produced a theatrical adaptation for the stage. And after that, the story became the Academy-Award-nominated classic film.
The original ending, in which a murderer escapes justice, was ultimately found unsatisfactory to Christie. Her solution? In later versions, he is stabbed to death at the end of the story.
5. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
The 1981 novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit is largely unknown, but it was the basis of the wonderfully lively and inventive movie named above. We aren’t aware how Gary K. Wolf came up with a story in which a murder mystery is launched when a cartoon strip character’s speech balloon is found at the scene of his murder. But we assume that, given the creativity involved in telling the story in movie format, it must have been quite a feat to pull it off using words alone.