Thursday, June 9, 2011

100 Greatest Literary Film Adaptations

Actress Mary Badham and author Harper Lee
of To Kill a Mockingbird, voted
the best literary adaptation in film

This all started with a Guardian film poll, listed here at MUBI (I’ve copied the list below, which is a public poll in England, hence some obscure, though excellent, films like Kes, Brighton Rock, and Remains of the Day, and the unlikely inclusion of Goldfinger)

The Guardian Film Poll

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird (Robert Mulligan) 
  2. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Forman)
  3. Blade Runner (R. Scott)
  4. The Godfather (Coppola)
  5. The Remains of the Day (Ivory)
  6. Kes (Loach)
  7. Apocalypse Now (Coppola)
  8. The Shawshank Redemption (Darabont)
  9. L.A. Confidential (Hansen)
  10. Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee)
  11. A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick)
  12. Doctor Zhivago (Lean)
  13. The Maltese Falcon (Huston)
  14. Fight Club (Fincher)
  15. The English Patient (Minghella)
  16. Brighton Rock (J. Boulting)
  17. Trainspotting (Boyle)
  18. Rebecca (Hitchcock)
  19. Oliver Twist (Lean)
  20. Schindler's List (Spielberg)
  21. The Railway Children (Jeffries)
  22. Breakfast at Tiffany's (B. Edwards)
  23. Dangerous Liaisons (Frears)
  24. Orlando (Potter)
  25. Empire of the Sun (Spielberg)
  26. Goodfellas (Scorsese)
  27. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Neame)
  28. The Talented Mr. Ripley (Minghella)
  29. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (Ritt)
  30. Lord of the Flies (Brooks)
  31. Pride and Prejudice (Wright)
  32. Sin City (F. Miller)
  33. The Vanishing (G. Sluizer)
  34. Jaws (Spielberg)
  35. Watership Down (M. Rosen)
  36. 1984 (Radford)
  37. The French Lieutenant's Woman (Reisz)
  38. Catch-22 (Nichols)
  39. Lolita (Kubrick)
  40. Tess (Polanski)
  41. Get Shorty (Sonnenfeld)
  42. The Jungle Book (Reitherman)
  43. Alice (Svankmajer)
  44. American Psycho (Mary Harron)
  45. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Burton)
  46. Devil in a Blue Dress (C. Franklin)
  47. Goldfinger (Hamilton)
  48. The Day of the Triffids (Seileky)
  49. The Hound of the Baskervilles (Lanfield)
  50. The Outsiders (Coppola)
[The only film listed I haven't seen is Brighton Rock]

They actually did a pretty good job, most of these are excellent films, with perhaps a few very literate adaptations overlooked, and some mediocre b-movies got included, like Day of the Triffids.

The glaring omissions to me are both Mira Nair's The Namesake, and James Ivory's A Room With a View (Forster's novel) - I mean, if Trainspotting is #17, Breakfast at Tiffany's #22, Sin City is #32, The Vanishing #33, and Get Shorty is #41 - c'mon people - these 5 aren't that great, are they? Also overlooked were Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons, Bertolucci's The Conformist, Women in Love, The Grapes of Wrath, No Country for Old Men, Ben-Hur, and Bondarchuk's massive 7-hr Russian War and Peace..

Apparently Shakespeare isn't 'literary', they must mean novels.. so no Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, Henry V (all Branagh's)..

My Own 50, er.. 100 Selections
* = my additions 73 total
[I've decided to expand the list a little, to make it more literate, if I do say..]

Links can be clicked for our review, we'll eventually do all of our list
  1. To Kill a Mockingbird (Robert Mulligan)
  2. The Namesake (Mira Nair)*
  3. Jean de Florette/Manon of the Spring (Berri, one novel, two films)* France
  4. A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick)
  5. Apocalypse Now (Coppola)
  6. Dangerous Liaisons (Frears)
  7. The Conformist (Bertolucci, Italy)*
  8. Babe (G. Miller, Australia)*
  9. Walkabout (Roeg) Australia*
  10. The Shawshank Redemption (Darabont)
  11. The Godfather (Coppola)  [AA]
  12. Women in Love (Russell)*
  13. A Room With a View (Ivory)*
  14. The Maltese Falcon (Huston)
  15. Schindler's List (Spielberg)  [AA]
  16. Heat and Dust (Ivory)*
  17. Goodnight Mister Tom (Jack Gold)*
  18. Minority Report (Spielberg)*
  19. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Forman)  [AA]
  20. The Grapes of Wrath (Ford)*
  21. The Last Picture Show (Bogdanovich)*
  22. Blade Runner (R. Scott)
  23. Lord of the Flies (Peter Brooks)
  24. Atonement (Wright)*
  25. A Christmas Memory (Frank Perry, tv)*
  26. Doctor Zhivago (Lean)
  27. Goodfellas (Scorsese)
  28. No Country For Old Men (Coen Bros.)*  [AA]
  29. The Black Stallion (Ballard)*
  30. The Prestige (Nolan)*
  31. The Man Who Would Be King (Huston)*
  32. The Graduate (Nichols)*
  33. Seven Days in May (Frankenheimer)*
  34. Midnight Cowboy (Schlesinger)*
  35. An Education (Scherfig)*
  36. The Silence of the Lambs (J. Demme)*  [AA]
  37. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Neame)
  38. Kes (Loach)
  39. The Railway Children (Jefferies)
  40. War and Peace (Bondarchuk, Russia)*
  41. Zelary (Trojan) Czech Republic
  42. Tess (Polanski)
  43. The Magnificent Ambersons (Welles)*
  44. Field of Dreams (P.A. Robinson)*
  45. L.A. Confidential (Hansen)
  46. The Motorcycle Diaries (Salles) Brazil*
  47. Diva (Jean-Jacques Beineix)France*
  48. Oliver Twist (Lean)
  49. A Passage to India (Lean)*
  50. Ben-Hur (Wyler)*  [AA]
  51. The French Lieutenant's Woman (Reisz)
  52. Terms of Endearment (James Brooks)*  [AA]
  53. Empire of the Sun (Spielberg)
  54. All Quiet on the Western Front (Milestone)*  [AA]
  55. Winter's Bone (Granik)*
  56. The Wings of the Dove (Softley)*
  57. Under the Sun (Nutley), Sweden
  58. The English Patient (Minghella)  [AA]
  59. The Red Badge of Courage (Huston)*
  60. Mephisto (Szabo) Hungary*
  61. The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Kaufman)*
  62. Hud (Ritt)*
  63. The Remains of the Day (Ivory)
  64. The Grifters (Frears)*
  65. Le Plaisir (Ophuls)*
  66. Pride and Prejudice (Wright)
  67. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (Peter Hunt)*
  68. The Paper Chase (J. Bridges)*
  69. Whistle Down the Wind (Forbes)*
  70. Perfume (Tykwer) Germany*
  71. Gone With the Wind (Fleming)*  [AA]
  72. From Russia With Love (T. Young)*
  73. A Christmas Story (B. Clark)*
  74. The Loved One (Tony Richardson)*
  75. Fight Club (Fincher)
  76. Shane (G. Stevens)*
  77. Mary Poppins (Rob't Stevenson)*
  78. The Talented Mr. Ripley (Minghella)
  79. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (Rob't E. Miller)*
  80. Smoke Signals (Chris Eyre)*
  81. The Thin Man (W.S. Van Dyke)*
  82. The Mosquito Coast (Weir)*
  83. Orlando (Potter)
  84. The Cider House Rules (Hallstrom)*
  85. The Constant Gardener (Merielles)*
  86. Carrie's War (Coky Giedroyc)*
  87. The Wizard of Oz (Fleming)*
  88. The Kite Runner (Forster)*
  89. Elmer Gantry (Richard Brooks)*
  90. The Thin Red Line (Malick)*
  91. The Age of Innocence (Scorsese)*
  92. Revolutionary Road (Sam Mendes)*
  93. The River (Renoir)*
  94. Rebecca (Hitchcock)  [AA]
  95. The Natural (Levinson)*
  96. Witness For the Prosecution (Wilder)*
  97. Emma (Doug McGrath)*
  98. To Have and Have Not (Hawks)*
  99. And Then There Were None (Clair)*
  100. The Reader (Daldry)*
  101. Sin City (F. Miller)
Special Mention to:
Adding in tv miniseries, that were all novel adaptations (I would rank all these as well):
Notes: 1. The best Larry McMurtry screenplays and films are The Last Picture Show, Hud, and Terms of Endearment, not Brokeback Mountain, which ironically was the first one he adapted not from his own work but someone else’s story, and he won his first screenwriting Oscar; go figure..

2. It's hard to believe they overlooked the epics Gone With the Wind, Ben-Hur, and War and Peace, while including The English Patient and Empire of the Sun, even though the latter two are the less long-winded and best-paced of the five

3. They included one good James Ivory film (Remains of the Day) and overlook two better ones (Heat and Dust, A Room With a View)

4. Since Dangerous Liaisons was based on a French play, why no Shakespeare? or any other plays, such as Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I'm assuming plays were ineligible.. or I might include some.. (The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, and My Fair Lady, for instance)

5. The highest ranked ones I deleted on my list were Brokeback Mountain (10), Trainspotting (17), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (21), The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (28, which is dreary in both media), Sin City (31), which I liked but don’t consider this a literary adaption; if it is, then add American Splendor about 10 places above it, which is also based on graphic underground comics

6. Goodnight Mister Tom is one of the best films no one has seen. Only 1000 have rated it at IMDB, but it has one of the highest average viewer ratings for any movie at Netflix (4.3, where 4.0 is almost unheard of, Lawrence of Arabia has 3.8). Here's the IMDB page, rate it if you've seen it..

Of the 28 titles in agreement (on both lists), here’s a combined ranking (I deferred ties to the poll), these are all excellent:
  1. To Kill a Mockingbird 1-1 = 2
  2. Apocalypse Now 7-5 = 12
  3. A Clockwork Orange 10-4 = 14
  4. The Godfather 4-11 = 15
  5. The Shawshank Redemption 8-10 = 18
  6. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest 2-19 = 21
  7. Blade Runner 3-22 = 25
  8. The Maltese Falcon 12-14 = 26
  9. Dangerous Liaisons 23-6 = 29
  10. Schindler's List 17-15 = 32
  11. Doctor Zhivago 11-26 = 37
  12. Kes 6-38 = 44
  13. Goodfellas 26-27 = 53
  14. Lord of the Flies 30-23 = 53
  15. L.A. Confidential 9-45 = 54
  16. The Railway Children 21-42 = 63
  17. Oliver Twist 16-48 = 64
  18. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie 27-37 = 64
  19. Empire of the Sun 25-41 = 66
  20. The Remains of the Day 5-63 = 68
  21. The English Patient 14-58 = 72
  22. Tess 40-42 = 82
  23. Fight Club 13-75 = 88
  24. The French Lieutenant's Woman 37-51 = 88
  25. Pride and Prejudice 32-66 = 98
  26. Orlando 24-83 = 107
  27. The Talented Mr. Ripley 29-78 = 107
  28. Rebecca 15-94 = 109
These were the Guardian poll choices I didn't agree with enough to add:
Trainspotting, Watership Down (not bad, just not outstanding), The Vanishing (gimme a break), Jaws (a big rubber machine, right..), Get Shorty, Alice (just plain bizarre), American Psycho, The Jungle Book, Devil in a Blue Dress
- Brokeback Mountain (ironically McMurtry finally wins an Oscar for someone else's work and not his superior Hud, The Last Picture Show, and Terms of Endearment; not one of Ang Lee's best either)
- 1984 (as bleak as the novel, so accurate at least, not great cinema)
- Lolita (one of Kubricks least outstanding films, as bland as the Nabakov novel)
- Breakfast at Tiffany's (one of the weakest Capote adaptations, A Christmas Memory is the best)
- The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (one of the weakest Le Carre adaptations)
- Sin City (it's a graphic comic, not 'literature', or do we include Batman as well?) listed at #101
- Catch-22 (a far cry below the novel, one of the worst films from a great novel)
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (gimme the original over this one)
- Day of the the Triffids (bad sf still makes bad sf films)
- Goldfinger (there are better Bond films: From Russia, With Love and On Her Majesty's Secret Service, for two)
- The Outsiders (not very memorable for a Coppola film, the man who gave us the Godfathers, Apocalypse Now, The Conversation, Peggy Sue Got Married, Youth Without Youth)
- Hound of the Baskervilles (the Rathbones are so weak vs the Jeremy Brett BBC versions, and this is nowhere near Doyle's best, The Gang of Four)
Have not seen: Brighton Rock


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the lists and brief reviews. Feels good to know what's to watch!

Anonymous said...

I looked at the list and do I agree with most , however, where is the Movie Gone With The Wind.
based on Margaret Mitchell's book.
This was truly a wonderful movie and book and yes it did win a Academy Award in 1939. Has anyone young read this novel. I am in my early 70'a . I hope someone will agree with me.

José Sinclair said...

Gone With the Wind is 71st on MY list.. even though the book is a long-winded soap opera, the film did a credible job condensing it into a long-winded soap opera film with some great acting from the lead actresses.. even though Hattie McDaniel won a well-deserved Oscar, Olivia de Havilland's performance may have been the best in the film - at least she was nominated..
I guess in England, they don't consider this film in their top 50 - in fact, the critics had a poll of most overrated films of all time and Gone With the Wind was at the top..
-- Jose

Anonymous said...

I always wonder why the 1935 adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities never makes lists like these. I love that movie. Have you seen it?

Anonymous said...