Friday, April 21, 2006

BOOKS: Top 50 Movie Adaptations

Heeeeey, I think the folks at The Guardian are on to us book people. They know we're total freaks for lists, which is why they've published yet another one: Top 50 Movie Adaptations.

Organized by The Guardian, a panel of experts (though the article doesn't say who these experts are or what their qualifications are) came up with the longlist below, which will be voted on by the general public. The winner will be revealed at the Guardian Hay literary festival at the end of May.

Here's what the so-called experts came up with:

Alice in Wonderland
American Psycho
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Brighton Rock
Catch 22
Charlie & the Chocolate Factory
A Clockwork Orange
Close Range (inc Brokeback Mountain)
The Day of the Triffids
Devil in a Blue Dress
Different Seasons (inc The Shawshank Redemption)
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (aka Bladerunner)
Doctor Zhivago
Empire of the Sun
The English Patient
Fight Club
The French Lieutenant's Woman
Get Shorty
The Godfather
Heart of Darkness (aka Apocalypse Now)
The Hound of the Baskervilles
The Jungle Book
A Kestrel for a Knave (aka Kes)
LA Confidential
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Lord of the Flies
The Maltese Falcon
Oliver Twist
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
The Outsiders
Pride and Prejudice
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
The Railway Children
The Remains of the Day
Schindler's Ark (aka Schindler's List)
Sin City
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
The Talented Mr Ripley
Tess of the D'Urbervilles
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Vanishing
Watership Down
This list caused me a few surprises. No Howard's End? No Lord of the Rings? And I didn't know The Railway Children (written by one of my favourite children's authors, E. Nesbit) had been made into a movie. Can any of you tip me off as to its quality? And speaking of quality... er, Get Shorty? It made the cut?

According to The Guardian's film editor, who was on the panel, "There was some vigorous debate." What? Book nerds and movie nerds getting pissy about a "best of" list? You don't say.

The old-timers among you may remember back when I published my own list of the best film adaptations last November. Let's dig into the vault and see how my (much shorter) list compares to The Guardian's.

Howard's End - The "experts" passed it over. Boo!
Jaws - Made the list.
The Shining - Denied!
Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory - Again denied! (I'm assuming that when the list refers to Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, they mean the recent version starring Johnny Depp.)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - Guess what? Denied!
Clueless - You guessed it. Denied.
I added Adaptation in the comments section as soon as I realized that I'd foolishly forgotten it, not that it matters. It didn't make The Guardian's list, either (though that might have more to do with the fact that it's based on a non-fiction book, and therefore doesn't fit the criteria for the selection committee).

So only one of my picks made the list. Tell me, book and movie nerds: who sucks? Me? Or The Guardian? Or possibly both, but then where does that leave us?

(Mondo ups to Karen for the link. She knows everything before I do, which is why I love visiting her site every day. If you love books, music, gadgets, food, lists, and funny stories, I recommend you do the same. No, no, no... thank me later.)


Anonymous said...

I like how they just list "Pride and Prejudice" (although it may be the article and not the original list). which one? The old black and white one? The BBC adaption (clearly the best) or the recent, ampersanded, one?

landismom said...

I'm also curious which version of Charlie & the Chocolate Factory they're using--Gene Wilder, singing his psychedelic, tuneless tunes? or Johnny Depp, a la Michael Jackson?

There are good adaptations on both lists, but theirs seems to have more clunkers, IMO.

Anonymous said...

The Railway Children movie is quite excellent -- I believe it's a BBC production from the eighties. Having re-read the book quite recently, I really want to see the movie again...

Anonymous said...

No "Gone With the Wind"?

who ARE these freaks?

Anonymous said...

Can't believe The Princess Bride was left off. Good adaptation, imho.

Mike said...

Which Alice in Wonderland are they counting? Because I've yet to see a good one -- and I'm counting the Disney version in my list of "yet to see a good one" too.

While I've been sick, I tried watching all three of those hobbit movies and I've gotta tell you: that's a lot of hobbits. I fell asleep almost at the beginning of the second disc of the second movie and woke up in time to realize that I still hadn't slept through all of those battles.

Also, The French Lieutenant's Woman would have to make a better film than a novel, because as a novel it's almost completely unreadable.

Anonymous said...

Completely unrelated to the post (sorry) but:

Anonymous said...

What about "High Fidelity"? It captured the tone and the spitit of the book perfectly, and it was set in a completely different country.

And Summer, I totally agree - no Princess Bride?

Em said...

No I Capture the Castle? I still think that's the best adaptation I've seen, taking into account the facts that I'm very young and don't watch a lot of TV or movies.

And Ivanhoe was just campy '50s fun.

Anonymous said...

I'd have to add the miniseries of Anne of Green Gables on PBS. Maybe it doesn't count because it was a miniseries, but I remember absolutely looooooving it when I was in elementary school and middle school, after having loved equally much the books. And I seem to also recall that it was fairly faithful to the originals.

Anonymous said...

Imdb shows that 'The Railway Children' has been made a few times, but the only one I can recommend is the one from 1970. It stars a young Jenny Agutter and it is really wonderful. (The end never fails to make me cry.)

There is also a 2000 version with Jenny Agutter as the mother, but I recommend the 1970 version, and I would imagine that's the one they're talking about too.

Anonymous said...

What about "The Grapes of Wrath"? But I was thrilled that one of my favorites, "Dangerous Liaisons," made the list. I'm going to teach a course on Film and Literature in the Fall, and am having the best fun trying to decide -- do I do great novels that became great films? great novels that got made into bad films? so-so novels that became great films? Just hope I can get the list to 10 or so by August. Thanks for making my job easier!

Matthew E said...

I'm surprised that The Shawshank Redemption and The African Queen weren't on there. I personally would also vote for Wag the Dog, although I guess it isn't high-profile enough for this list.

Anonymous said...

The Guardian List is like other lists, interesting and incomplete. Having said that I would add The Quiet American, a most excellent book, which was turned into a pretty darn good movie starring Michael Caine....Kman

Anonymous said...

I would add The Virgin Suicides. Great adaptation of what I thought was an unadaptable book.

Anonymous said...

The 1970 version of The Railway Children is one of my all time favourite movies. You should definitely watch it if you get chance. It's a fabulous adaptation.

Anonymous said...

I am really surprised that Sense and Sensibility or Emma didn't make it onto the list - both were very true to the feel of the original novels, even including much of the original dialogue. Gee, is it obvious that I'm a sucker for a good costume drama?

Anonymous said...

Breakfast at Tiffany's?! the book was only a bajillion times better. the movie was awful! awful i say!
Valley of the Dolls?
The Godfather?

Anonymous said...

oh hell. there's The Godfather, my rage is subsiding.

Adam807 said...

The Shining is a great movie, but it's a crap-ass adaptation. It bears almost no resemblance to the book! Perhaps that's smart, considering how bad most Stephen King movies are, but maybe that's why it didn't make the cut?

miriam said...

I don't know if anyone will see this, but here goes:

Mike, I'm with you about Alice in Wonderland.

Which 1984 - the 1956 one with Edmond O'Brien, or the 1984 one with John Hurt? (I hope it's not the first.)

Two corrections:

Wiseguy (aka Goodfellas)
Tess of the D'Urbervilles (aka Tess)

And now the omissions:

What, no Moby Dick?
What, neither of Joseph Strick's Joyce movies, Ulysses and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man? I thought those novels were unadaptable until I saw the Strick films.