The 13 Best Book-to-Movie Adaptations of the 21st Century

Not all book-to-movie adaptations are made equal. In advance of the release of my own suspense thriller novelThe Trojan Conspiracy on July 15, I continue to think about the books (and movies) that have influenced my writing style. Here are the 13 best book-to-movie adaptations released since the year 2000… in the comments section, tell me what I forgot to include!

13. The Road (2009)

Cormac McCarthy’s uber-depressing The Road is one of the best books I’ve ever read (though I forgot to include it in my list of 10 great books you have to read), and the underrated Viggo Mortensen-starring movie—which inexplicably never received much of a domestic release—is surprisingly good. Not nearly as good as the book, but still good.

12. No Country for Old Men (2007)

Another Cormac McCarthy movie adaptation, this suspense thriller is masterfully brought to life by the Coen Brothers, featuring a star-making performance by Josh Brolin and an even better one by Javier Bardem. I still hate the ending, but it is what it is.

11. Drive (2011)

I only recently learned Drive was a book before it was a movie, but the Ryan Gosling-starring thriller is either one of the most beautiful, engaging and gripping movies you’ve experienced, or one of the most boring. I fall into the former’s camp, obviously.

10. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

A movie that should be required viewing for every junior high and high school student, Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream will make you think twice before sticking a needle in your arm.

9. Casino Royale

An adaptation of the Ian Fleming novel and a reboot of the James Bond franchise, director Martin Campbell managed to make the superspy relevant again—and prove that 007 doesn’t need to have dark hair. The book is terrific, and the movie does a superb job of staying true to its core elements—a well executed poker sequence and the tragic conclusion.

8. Atonement (2007)

Some of my friends called me crazy for liking Atonement so much, but this surprisingly suspenseful and dramatic film about misinterpretation, poor decisions and lost love is incredibly captivating, largely thanks to skillful direction by Joe Wright and a unique score.

7. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Following the decent-but-conservative The Hunger Games, newly installed director Francis Lawrence notches things up a level with a smarter, sleeker and more exciting sequel. Whereas the second Suzanne Collins book in the series was a decent follow-up, Catching Fire the movie is a serious upgrade.

6. The Bourne Supremacy

The Bourne Supremacy is one of the best action movies of all time, and the Robert Ludlum book is one of the best suspense thrillers of all time. And yet, the only thing the two products share is the title. Despite the movie completely disregarding the entirety of the book’s material, the Paul Greengrass thriller makes this list for the simple fact that it kicks ass.

5. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

No book adaptation list is complete without listing The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson’s masterful interpretation of the J.R.R. Tolkien novels. Simply adapting the epic books to screen was quite the achievement; delivering Oscar-winning movies entirely another.

4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

As good as The Lord of the Rings adaptations were, Warner Bros. managed to successfully adapt seven hugely popular books into eight excellent movies that got better as the series progressed. However, it was the third book, The Prisoner of Azkaban, that transformed the movie series from being a children’s franchise to something much grander—largely thanks to the daring hire of director Alfonso Cuarón, whose previous film had been the Spanish-language sex comedy-drama Y Tu Mama Tambien.

3. Children of Men (2006)

Speaking of Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity), he also adapted the P.D. James novel and delivered one of the most underrated and overlooked drama-thrillers of all time. This beautifully shot, mesmerizing and ultimately inspiring film, highlighted by one of the most impressive tracking shots you’ll ever see, is a must-see.

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Just two years after Sweden adapted the Steig Larsson’s trilogy to critical acclaim (and which turned Noomi Rapace into somewhat of an international star), Hollywood decided to make an English-language version. The David Fincher version was a box office disappointment, but the adaptation was, somehow and amazingly, an incredible upgrade from the original Swedish films.

1. The Prestige (2006)

One of my favorite movies of all time, The Prestige, a suspense thriller Christopher Nolan made in between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, is engrossing, unique and extremely well acted.

Don’t forget, my book The Trojan Conspiracy debuts on July 15. Read the first chapter here.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: Action Movies, Crime Films, Featured, Thriller Movies, Top 10 Movie Lists