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

Metropolis Book CoverI. Metropolis (1927) 

Metropolis is a classic 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 film. Von Harbou wrote the book with the intention for it to become a cinematic material, but this does not detract from the fact that Metropolis was once a book. The production was along the lines of – the novel – the script – the film, 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 infamous in its depressing content as the film by Darren Aronofsky 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 film should be viewed as being even more chilling since Selby drew from his own traumatic past experience, including his relationship with drugs.

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 a 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 film by Alfred Hitchcock is a nice romantic drama, with a psychoanalysis focus, and a detective story all in one. Featuring a brilliant performance by Ingrid Bergman and a not-so-convincing (in my opinion) performance by Gregory Peck, the film is actually based on a 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 read. The internal thoughts and dialogues are incorporated into the film, and the story is still no worse than the film.

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 eventually a film. 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 Comments Add yours

  1. Sam Simon says:

    Interesting, I actually didn’t know about many of these movies! Thanks! :–)


  2. Richard says:

    Shrek was a surprise!

    Some great films here.


  3. Jane says:

    You’re right, I didn’t know of any of them!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. nsfordwriter says:

    Had no idea these were based on books!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Chris says:

    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. dbmoviesblog says:

      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

  6. Keith says:

    Fun post. A couple there I certainly didn’t realize were based on books. Shrek??? Interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. John Charet says:

    Great post 🙂 I just want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dbmoviesblog says:

      Thank you very much! And I wish you the same, all the best! 🙂


  8. ianthecool says:

    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. dbmoviesblog says:

      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.


      1. ianthecool says:

        Interesting. I think that is a good argument, though I get touchy if people are too tied to the book and complain about the movie not being the same.


  9. Really interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Knew about There Will Be Blood, but Shrek, Requiem… and Crouching Tiger really suprised me!

    Liked by 1 person

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