From Page to Popcorn: Our Favourite Literary Adaptations

Image by Patrick Tomasso

Image by Patrick Tomasso

Let’s get one thing straight—the book is always better than the movie.

However, we’re willing to admit that there’s something about seeing our favourite characters brought to life right on the silver screen that feels like magic. And since it’s the time of year when the nights are longer, and cuddling up with a great flick is the perfect end to a chilly day, we’re giving you the lowdown on our all-time favourite literary adaptations.

Start popping that popcorn, sugar!


Extraordinary Tales (2013)

extraordinary tales.jpg

Extraordinary Tales is an animated anthology of five stories originally penned by the great American writer Edgar Allan Poe. Including such famous gothic favourites as “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar”, each tale is uniquely animated and so much fun to watch. The best part? Aside from the incredibly stylized visuals, the stories are narrated by none other than the famous voices of Christopher Lee, Guillermo del Toro, and Bela Lugosi. Extraordinary Tales is the unexpected and highly entertaining literary adaptation you didn’t know you needed!

A Room of One’s Own (1991)

Watch a very young Helena Bonham-Carter be wooed by an eccentric and angular young gentleman with odd manners and a deep well of feeling in the Italian city of Florence (and its accompanying countryside—see the cult-status kiss in the meadow scene). This coming-of-age story, first written by E.M. Forster, has all the young-American-girl-in-Europe fun of A Portrait of a Lady without the hoodwinking and unhappy marriage. And honestly, no one’s buying Nicole Kidman as Isabel Archer, are they?  

Sense and Sensibility (2008)

Hattie Morahan as Elinor Dashwood and Charity Wakefield as Marianne Dashwood.

Hattie Morahan as Elinor Dashwood and Charity Wakefield as Marianne Dashwood.

This is not the version you think. Yes, Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet did a stand-up job of the 1995 edition, but this stunning mini-series remake, set on the coast of north Devon, removes the glamour and silliness and injects real soul into the story in a way, we suspect, that would both surprise and delight its author Jane Austen.

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Bleak House (2005)

This epic, eight-hour long series adaptation of Charles Dickens’s arguably most complex and intricate novel is a masterpiece in every way: from the cinematography to the wardrobe to the cast, every scene is gripping and charged with intensity. Gillian Anderson delivers what may be the performance of her life as Lady Deadlock (yes, the names are consistently some of Dickens’s best), Carey Mulligan is angelic as the unlucky-in-love Ada Clare, and Anna Maxwell Martin is incredible as the huge-hearted orphan Esther Summerson. This series is well worth a few evenings’ watching, and if you haven’t read the book, you’re in for some major surprises.

Jane Eyre (2011)

Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester and Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre

Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester and Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre

Indeed, there are plenty of film adaptations of Charlotte Brontë’s famous novel, Jane Eyre, however, it’s our opinion that the 2011 version takes the cake. Starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender, this adaptation gets huge points for perfectly capturing the melancholic and enigmatic undertones in Brontë’s novel. Coupled with the intense on-screen chemistry and the beautiful landscapes of the English countryside and you have a delightfully moody experience. This is, however, one of the more stylized and cinematic adaptations out there (thanks to an enormous budget). If you have more time to invest, the BBC’s 2006 mini-series with the incredible Ruth Wilson (who plays Alice in Luther) and the gruff but handsome Toby Stephens is another remarkable effort.

Hamlet (1996)

Nothing goes together quite like a Shakespeare adaptation and Kenneth Branagh, and such is the case for the 1996 release of Hamlet directed and starring the man himself. If you’re one to find Shakespeare a bit of a snooze, this film is sure to change your mind. With excellent acting on the parts of both Branagh and Kate Winslet, who plays the tragic Ophelia, and a moodiness that will put even your angstiest teenage moment to shame, it’s a great flick if you’re up for something dark. The artful cinematography compliments the themes of death and revenge in ways that will make you glad you’re not a part of Denmark’s royal family.

Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

Kenneth Branagh as Benedick and Emma Thompson as Beatrice

Kenneth Branagh as Benedick and Emma Thompson as Beatrice

Emma Thompson! Keanu Reeves! Denzel Washington! Michael Keaton! Kate Beckinsale! Kenneth Branagh again!! If that’s not the cast to end all Shakespeare casts tell us now. Seriously, we want to know. This tragi-comedy of errors is so much fun from start to finish—feisty, frivolous, and hilarious—whether it’s the first time you’ve watched it or the fiftieth.


We’ll be honest, we could do this all day long. Stay tuned for another instalment of From Page-Turner to Popcorn Time!


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KATE JUNIPER   Editor, Writer & Founder of JEC. She's inspired, most often, to write about writing and how women (writers) can fix the world. She has a lot of opinions, actually.

KATE JUNIPER

Editor, Writer & Founder of JEC. She's inspired, most often, to write about writing and how women (writers) can fix the world. She has a lot of opinions, actually.

HAYLEY EVANS   Hayley is Copy Editor/ Editing Ninja for JEC. She is also an arts journalist for several online publications including  Scene 360  and  Illusion Magazine .

HAYLEY EVANS

Hayley is Copy Editor/ Editing Ninja for JEC. She is also an arts journalist for several online publications including Scene 360 and Illusion Magazine.

GEORGIA RUDELOFF   Georgia is JEC's Content Writer, a published poet, and past Poetry Editor for  This Side of West,  Modern and Contemporary Genre Editor for  The   Albatross , and Contributing Writer for  The Martlet  and  Saltern Magazine.

GEORGIA RUDELOFF

Georgia is JEC's Content Writer, a published poet, and past Poetry Editor for This Side of West, Modern and Contemporary Genre Editor for The Albatross, and Contributing Writer for The Martlet and Saltern Magazine.

JAIME CLIFTON-ROSS   Jaime is a Research Curator at Royal Roads University and as such knows a thing or two re: communications. She is JEC's Communications Specialist.

JAIME CLIFTON-ROSS

Jaime is a Research Curator at Royal Roads University and as such knows a thing or two re: communications. She is JEC's Communications Specialist.