Posted by: Elen C | July 15, 2011

Top Five Book to Film Adaptations

Books are brilliant. They are my favourite form of escape. But films come a very close second. My love of the movies began with childhood outings to watch Children’s Film Foundation flicks at my local flea-pit in Wrexham. The big kids sat in the balcony throwing popcorn at us littlies below. We all cheered and whooped as be-flared children on choppers built space rockets in their grandad’s potting sheds. We ate slush puppies and hotdogs so big we could hardly hold them. Those Saturday morning outings were the start of a passion.  So, considering my two great loves, what could be better than a good film of a good book? It was agony to choose just five for this list, but in the end I managed. So, for those who like their stories to come in 24 frames a second, here’s my top five:

5. The Lord of the Rings, written by J.R.R. Tolkien, directed by Peter Jackson

One ring, forged in the fires of Mount Doom and so on and so forth, for hundreds of glorious pages. If you haven’t read it, and watched the films (the extended editions, mind) then you are missing a real cinematic treat. I know it might not be a children’s book, but I couldn’t choose The Hobbit as they haven’t finished making it yet.


4. Coraline, written by Neil Gaimen, directed by Henry Selick

Coraline’s parents are nice enough, but they just don’t seem very, well, interested. Coraline’s Other Mother seems to be an ideal alternative, until her intentions with the sewing needle become clear… The film adaptation revels in the grotesqueries: flyblown burlesque performers; dogs stuffed almost before they’re dead; the Beldam disintegrating like Jeff Goldblum in The Fly. And all in 3D. This was my first new-generation 3D experience and it remains the best.


3. Alice in Wonderland, written by Lewis Carroll, directed by ??

The classic story has been adapted for cinema and TV many times. So, which version to choose? If this article was about kids’ books inspiring films for grown-ups then it would have to be Jan Svankmajer’s version, with the taxidermied white rabbit. However, that’s not great family viewing. The 2010 version did have Johnny Depp, but it played too fast-and-loose with the text for my liking. I saw a French version when I was a small child and adored it, but can’t remember any of the details. So, my Best Alice Award goes to Disney’s 1949 version.


2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, written by J.K. Rowling, directed by Alfonso Cuaron

Convicted murderer, Sirius Black, has escaped from Azkaban and is coming after Harry in the third in the series. Of all the Harry Potter books, this one is my favourite. And the same goes for the film. It is tightly plotted and deliciously darker than its predecessors. The Dementors are actually scary and Azkaban, like the unholy child of a breeze-block and an oil rig, really is a monstrous prison. A proper family film that moves at a fantastic pace.


1. The Princess Bride, written by William Goldman, directed by Rob Reiner

The course of true love never did run smooth, especially when your true love is killed in the opening sequence by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Maybe the book isn’t really for children (though, in my defence, it is shelved in the YA section in many libraries. I checked.) But the film most certainly is. The adventure, the humour, the romance all combine to put it firmly at the top of my list. It’s a film the whole family can quote at each other for years to come (“My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die…” “Stop saying that.”).

Did I miss out your favourite? What else should have made my top five?



  1. I’m a bit of a film buff myself Elen. I particularly like “The Railway Children” (the first version, directed by Lionel Jeffries, who played the granddad in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”), “Millions” directed by Danny Boyle, “Matilda” directed by Danny de Vito. “The Wizard of Oz” is a pretty magical film too.
    I agree with you about Lord of the Rings and Coraline.

  2. The Railway Children would be in my top ten, for sure! ‘Daddy, my daddy…’

  3. “The Once and Future King”! Best book ever written. And I so agree with you about “The Princess Bride”. As would my kids ~ they each have a copy and my daughter Kirsty has set up a business making jewellery (among other styles) with quotes from it. “As you wish…” “You killed my fazzer ~ prepare to die!” Magic!

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