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Best movies that came from books

  • Greg Williams/Eon Productions via Getty Images
    1/ Greg Williams/Eon Productions via Getty Images

    Best movies that came from books

    It might seem like we live in an age where every movie is based on an already existing piece of work, but the truth is Hollywood has been adapting prose and other pre-existing material for more than a century. There are only so many original screenplay ideas out there, no small percentage of which are based on previous ideas and formulas. “Art is theft,” as Picasso reportedly said, but at least Hollywood dispenses credit every now and then.

    Without exceptional books there would be far fewer impressive films. Just ask directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, and Francis Ford Coppola, all of whom based some of their finest films on novels. Every talented director delivers their own take on the work, often to the author’s chagrin. Look no further than Stephen King’s openly critical stance on Kubrick’s adaptation of “The Shining.”

    Putting the printed page up on the big screen is a tradition as old as cinema itself. Today, Stacker is honoring that tradition by listing the top 100 movies based on books. We looked to IMDb user ratings to drive our list, focusing on films released in the U.S. with more than 50,000 user votes. Check out the films and then read the books, or vice versa, after which you can decide for yourself whether the book is always better.

  • Fred Silverman Productions
    2/ Fred Silverman Productions

    #102. In the Heat of the Night

    Year: 1967

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    Based on the novel by John Ball, “In the Heat of the Night” is about an African American detective, played by Sidney Poitier, investigating a homicide in a racist southern town. To adapt the novel for the big screen, screenwriter Stirling Silliphant and director Norman Jewison shifted the focus toward the relationship between Poitier’s character and the local sheriff. Much of the film was famously shot in Illinois, so as to avoid racist encounters, proving that the story might have been fiction, but the themes were all too real.

  • BSB
    3/ BSB

    #101. Being There

    Year: 1979

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    Peter Sellers stars in director Hal Ashby’s “Being There,” a poignant satire about a simpleton who’s mistaken for a genius, thereby influencing some truly powerful people. Both the book and script were written by Jerzy Kosinski, a Jewish writer who once escaped an oppressive Soviet regime by convincing them he won an American grant that didn’t actually exist

  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
    4/ Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

    #100. Doctor Zhivago

    Year: 1965

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    A sweeping novel and film alike, “Doctor Zhivago” tells the story of a Russian physician and poet who experiences romance, violence, and drama during World War I and the October Revolution. When adjusted for inflation, this is the eighth highest grossing movie of all time, bringing in $111.72 million at the box office, which would be $1.14 billion today. 

     

  • M.C. Productions
    5/ M.C. Productions

    #99. The Manchurian Candidate

    Year: 1962

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    A former POW is brainwashed into becoming an assassin in “The Manchurian Candidate.” Based on a thriller novel by Richard Condon published in 1959, the film stars legendary crooner Frank Sinatra, who reportedly nailed almost every scene on the first take. Other notable actors include Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh, and Angela Lansbury.

  • Rossen Films
    6/ Rossen Films

    #98. The Hustler

    Year: 1961

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    Before turning his attention to the lives of pool sharks, multi-talented author Walter Tevis was primarily interested in science fiction. In fact, shortly after writing “The Hustler”upon which this classic 1961 film is basedTevis returned to his sci-fi roots by churning out “The Man Who Fell to Earth.” In 1984, Tevis switched gears again and wrote “The Color of Money,” a sequel to “The Hustler” that would end up being adapted by director Martin Scorsese.

  • Harris-Kubrick Productions
    7/ Harris-Kubrick Productions

    #97. The Killing

    Year: 1956

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    Director Stanley Kubrick was certainly no stranger to prose as many of his best films were based on books. An early example is “The Killing,” about a racetrack robbery recounted from various perspectives. The film was based on a book by hard-boiled crime writer Lionel White, who would additionally serve as a major influence behind Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs.”

  • C.V. Whitney Pictures
    8/ C.V. Whitney Pictures

    #96. The Searchers

    Year: 1956

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    Based on a novel by Alan Le May, “The Searchers” presents John Wayne playing a Civil War veteran on a quest to save his niece from the Comanches. During the shoot, a Navajo child fell sick and John Wayne used his own private plane to get the child to a hospital, thereby earning the name ‘The Man With the Big Eagle’ among the Navajos.

  • Warner Bros.
    9/ Warner Bros.

    #95. All the President's Men

    Year: 1976

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    Director Alan J. Pakula’s “All the President’s Men,” based on a book by reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, stars actors Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford, respectively. The movie follows the two journalists as they uncover the Watergate scandal, which would eventually force President Nixon to resign.

  • Corona-General
    10/ Corona-General

    #94. Papillon

    Year: 1973

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    “Papillon” is far more than just a harrowing prison escape movie, it’s the story of a convict who flees from imprisonment repeatedly. Supposedly, it was all based on a true story by French writer Henri Charrièrewho died the year the movie was releasedthough many people claim Charrière took some extreme liberties when writing his book.

  • Warner Bros.
    11/ Warner Bros.

    #93. Strangers on a Train

    Year: 1951

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    No list of best movies born from books is complete without Alfred Hitchcock, who frequently used novels as the basis for his films. “Strangers on a Train” was no exception. Before debuting on the big screen, the story of two men who swap murder duties was the subject of Patricia Highsmith’s brilliant novel. Highsmith is also the mastermind behind the character that inspired the film “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”

  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
    12/ Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

    #92. A Christmas Story

    Year: 1983

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    If you celebrate Christmas and have a television, then it’s likely you’ve seen “A Christmas Story,” director Bob Clark’s loving ode to Jean Shepherd’s nostalgic novel. In addition to writing the book, Shepherd co-wrote the screenplay. He also provides the voice of the narrator, and even makes a cameo in the famous mall Santa scene.

  • Warner Bros.
    13/ Warner Bros.

    #91. JFK

    Year: 1991

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    One might watch Oliver Stone’s “JFK” and think the conspiracies put forth are simply too wild to be true, but the film was based on the real life account of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, who’s played by Kevin Costner in the film. Does that mean Garrison is indisputably correct in his assertions? Of course not, but it certainly lends support to Stone’s perspective.

  • Warner Bros.
    14/ Warner Bros.

    #90. The Iron Giant

    Year: 1999

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    Before signing on with Pixar to write and direct “The Incredibles,” filmmaker Brad Bird adapted a 1968 children’s book called “The Iron Man” by Ted Hughes, changing the name to “The Iron Giant.” In the film, a young boy befriends a huge robot giant and then does his best to stop it from being destroyed by the government. A financial disappointment upon its initial release, the animated movie earned a huge following over time.

  • APJAC Productions
    15/ APJAC Productions

    #89. Planet of the Apes

    Year: 1968

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    An astronaut played by actor Charlton Heston lands on what he perceives to be a distant planet ruled by talking apes in “Planet of the Apes.” Not only was this classic film based on a novel by Pierre Boulle, but “Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling co-wrote the screenplay.

  • William Castle Productions
    16/ William Castle Productions

    #88. Rosemary's Baby

    Year: 1968

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    Widely considered one of the best horror films of all time, “Rosemary’s Baby” is about a woman who thinks she’s been impregnated by the devil. Needless to say, filmmaker Roman Polanski makes expert use of Ira Levin’s original novel, though he tones down some of the overtly religious aspects. Levin, meanwhile, was happy to help out during production, even providing layouts of the apartments in which much of the action takes place.

  • Robert Wise Productions
    17/ Robert Wise Productions

    #87. The Sound of Music

    Year: 1965

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    Few know Hollywood’s smash hit “The Sound of Music” was loosely based on Maria Von Trapp’s memoir. The memoir, “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers,” was about Von Trapp’s experiences raising an aloof man’s unruly children before falling in loveand having childrenwith the man himself. Published in 1949, the book first inspired a West German film called “The Trapp Family,” which in turn influenced a Broadway musical called “The Sound of Music,” ultimately leading to the legendary film. The narrative had changed by the time the story made it onto the big screen, but many core themes remained intact.

  • Warner Bros.
    18/ Warner Bros.

    #86. Dog Day Afternoon

    Year: 1975

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    Proving truth is often stranger than fiction is director Sidney Lumet’s “Dog Day Afternoon,” about a man who robs a bank in order to finance his partner’s sex change operation, was based on actual events taking place 1972. The film was nominated for six Oscars and won Best Original Screenplay. 

  • Tig Productions
    19/ Tig Productions

    #85. Dances with Wolves

    Year: 1990

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    According to legend, author Michael Blake was working as a handyman and dishwasher when asked to adapt his novel into a screenplay. That novel was “Dances With Wolves,” about a Civil War lieutenant who befriends Native Americans and wild animals at a remote, western outpost. The subsequent movie would go on to win no less than seven Academy Awards, including Best Adapted Screenplay. 

  • Universal Pictures
    20/ Universal Pictures

    #84. Scent of a Woman

    Year: 1992

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    “Hoo-wah!” exclaims Al Pacino in “Scent of a Woman,” where he plays a blind man who dispenses sound advice to the naive prep school student assigned to watch over him. The movie was loosely based on the Italian novel “Il buio e il miele” by Giovanni Arpino, and by “loosely” we mean that the two stories start with the same basic premise before veering off in different directions.

  • Lawrence Turman
    21/ Lawrence Turman

    #83. The Graduate

    Year: 1967

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    Considered a zeitgeist for its time, “The Graduate” is about a young man who’s romantically torn between an attractive girl and her seductive mother. Meanwhile, the Charles Webb novel upon which it was based was published in 1963, making the book ahead of its time. Webb was only 24 when the story was published, and while he would go on to write a number of other successful novels, his personal life suffered numerous financial and psychological setbacks through the following decades.

  • Warner Bros.
    22/ Warner Bros.

    #82. The Exorcist

    Year: 1973

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    Few movies cause a stir the way “The Exorcist” did upon its 1973 debut. In fact, the film about a young girl being possessed by a demon caused audience members to faint or burst into hysterics. The book by William Peter Blatty that inspired the film was no less harrowing or controversial at the time. It’s even reported that many people who owned the book stored it separately from the rest of their home library.

  • Warner Bros.
    23/ Warner Bros.

    #81. Mystic River

    Year: 2003

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    Before helming “Million Dollar Baby,” Clint Eastwood churned out “Mystic River,” a Boston-based saga about three men whose traumatic past comes back to haunt them after one of their daughters goes missing. The film was based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, who’s seen a fair amount of his work adapted for the big screen, including “Gone Baby Gone” and “Shutter Island.”

  • Columbia Pictures Corporation
    24/ Columbia Pictures Corporation

    #80. Big Fish

    Year: 2003

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    Director Tim Burton brings a Daniel Wallace novel to vivid life in “Big Fish,” which is about a father with a knack for telling seemingly tall tales. Among the film’s stars is an 8-year-old girl named Destiny Cyrus, now better known by her nickname, Miley.

     

  • Summit Entertainment
    25/ Summit Entertainment

    #79. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

    Year: 2012

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    Not only did Stephen Chbosky write the book upon which “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is based, he also wrote the screenplay and directed the film. Suffice to say, the artist’s stamp is all over this one, about a sheepish freshman who’s taken under the wings of two seniors. Emma Watson signed on after Chbosky promised her she’d have the “summer of her life and meet some of [her] best friends” while filming.

  • Zanuck/Brown Productions
    26/ Zanuck/Brown Productions

    #78. Jaws

    Year: 1975

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” is such a seminal film that it’s hard to imagine a book inspiring the same level of shock and awe. Nevertheless, Peter Benchley’s bestselling novel is indeed renowned for inducing a perennial sense of engagement and terror. Benchley was reportedly inspired to write the book after reading about two separate incidents: one was a series of deadly shark attacks that occured in New Jersey in 1916, and the other was a fisherman who caught a 4,500-pound great white shark in Montauk in 1964. 

  • Greg Williams/Eon Productions via Getty Images
    27/ Greg Williams/Eon Productions via Getty Images

    #77. Casino Royale

    Year: 2006

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    Daniel Craig steps into the shoes of James Bond for a game of high stakes poker in 2006’s “Casino Royale,” which portrays the iconic spy on his first mission as 007. The film was based on Ian Fleming’s novel of the same name, which introduced the world to Bond in 1953. But did you know that Fleming’s initial idea was to name his main character James Secretan? What’s in a name, indeed.

  • Putrefactory
    28/ Putrefactory

    #76. The Revenant

    Year: 2015

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    “The Revenant” is harrowing enough on its own, until you realize it’s supposedly based on true events. In the film, Leonardo DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, a real life pioneer who reportedly wrangled with a grizzly bear before struggling to survive in the wilderness. The film used a book by Michael Punke as its source, though a 1939 book called “The Oregon Trail” also detailed Glass’ amazing adventure story.

  • Universal Pictures
    29/ Universal Pictures

    #75. The Bourne Ultimatum

    Year: 2007

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    Robert Ludlum’s bestselling trilogy received the big screen treatment in the early-to-mid-naughts, leading up to 2007’s “The Bourne Ultimatum.” Starring Matt Damon in the title role, the film pits unwitting spy Jason Bourne against the CIA. The result is a hyperkinetic action movie that veers drastically from the source material. Specifically, the book focused primarily on a showdown between Jason Bourne and an elusive assassin known as 'The Jackal.'

  • Black Bear Pictures
    30/ Black Bear Pictures

    #74. The Imitation Game

    Year: 2014

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    During World War II, genius mathematician Alan Turing tries to crack the German enigma code and revolutionizes technology in the process. The film was based on a biography by Andrew Hodges, a gifted mathematician and gay rights activist in his own right, who depicts Turing as eccentric, but also charming. For dramatic purposes, the movie chooses to portray Turing as an outsider with no patience for compromise.

  • Twentieth Century Fox
    31/ Twentieth Century Fox

    #73. The Martian

    Year: 2015

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    Andy Weir’s massively popular novel “The Martian” provided the source material for Ridley Scott’s 2015 film. The story follows an astronaut who learns to survive on Mars after being stranded by his team. Weir was neither a professional scientist nor a professional writer when he sat down to tackle the novel.

  • Warner Bros.
    32/ Warner Bros.

    #72. Slumdog Millionaire

    Year: 2008

    IMDb rating: 8.0

    “Slumdog Millionaire” tells the story of a young game show contestant who recounts his experiences in order to explain why he’s answering all the questions correctly. Based on the book “Q&A” by Vikas Swarup, the movie was a full-blown sensation upon its theatrical release. To think, it almost went straight to DVD.

  • Universal Pictures
    33/ Universal Pictures

    #71. All Quiet on the Western Front

    Year: 1930

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    German novelist Erich Maria Remarque detailed the horrors of World War I in “All Quiet on the Western Front,” which was turned into a similarly harrowing film. Both the book and film were subsequently banned by the Nazis after they ascended to power in the 1930s. To this day, both works are heralded for their uncompromising perspectives.

  • Otto Preminger Films
    34/ Otto Preminger Films

    #70. Anatomy of a Murder

    Year: 1959

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    A man pleads temporary insanity while on trial for murder, but is it all just an act? So goes “Anatomy of a Murder,” which was based on a book by John D. Voelker writing under the name Robert Traver. The film was quite controversial in its day, primarily because it openly used crude terminology that audiences simply weren’t used to at the time.

  • Twentieth Century Fox
    35/ Twentieth Century Fox

    #69. The Grapes of Wrath

    Year: 1940

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    John Steinbeck’s epic novel about the misfortunes of a family during the Great Depression became the basis for an award-winning film of the same name. That film, “Grapes of Wrath,” would go on to reap tons of acclaim. In fact, it’s currently No. 21 on AFI’s list of “America’s 100 Greatest Movies”

  • Columbia Pictures
    36/ Columbia Pictures

    #68. It Happened One Night

    Year: 1934

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    Starring Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable, the 1934 film "It Happened One Night" is based on Samuel Hopkins Adams' short story "Night Bus," published the year prior. The story traces the cross-country travels of a spoiled socialite (Colbert), whose confusion creates a convoluted love triangle featuring a gold-digger pilot and sincere newspaper reporter (Gable). 

  • Frenesy Film Company
    37/ Frenesy Film Company

    #67. Call Me by Your Name

    Year: 2017

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    Still fresh on the minds of cinephiles is 2017’s “Call Me by Your Name,” about the budding romance between a 17-year-old student and an older man in 1980s Italy. Based on a book by André Aciman, the film would go through multiple directors and writers during development, before landing in the hands of director Luca Guadagnino, and screenwriter and filmmaker James Ivory.

  • Universal International Pictures (UI)
    38/ Universal International Pictures (UI)

    #66. Touch of Evil

    Year: 1958

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    Filmmaking legend Orson Welles draws upon a novel by Whit Masterson and delivers some of his best work in “Touch of Evil.” It tells the story of crime and corruption in a small Mexican border town. Enthusiasts and experts alike consider the film’s opening long take to be one of the best sequences in cinematic history.

  • Peregrine
    39/ Peregrine

    #65. Barry Lyndon

    Year: 1975

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    Stanley Kubrick makes his second appearance on the list with “Barry Lyndon,” which was adapted from an 1844 novel by William Makepeace Thackeray. It tells the story of an Irish rogue who finagles his way into aristocracy in 18th-century England. Striving for authenticity, Kubrick famously restricted the use of artificial lighting during the shoot, relying on candlelight and sunlight instead.

  • Warner Bros.
    40/ Warner Bros.

    #64. The Maltese Falcon

    Year: 1941

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    Mystery writer Dashiell Hammett’s most well-known novel makes for one of Humphrey Bogart’s most iconic films: “The Maltese Falcon.” In the movie, private Sam Spade takes on a case that involves outmaneuvering criminals and tracking down a valuable statuette. Fun fact: this was actually Warner Bros’ third big screen adaptation of the source material.

  • Hell's Kitchen Films
    41/ Hell's Kitchen Films

    #63. In the Name of the Father

    Year: 1993

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    Based on Gerry Conlon’s gripping autobiography, “In the Name of the Father” stars Daniel Day Lewis as Conlon, who’s sentenced to prison for an IRA bombing that he didn’t commit. In spite of the film’s authentic vibe, many British lawmakers accused it of embellishing or oversimplifying numerous facts.

  • The Weinstein Company
    42/ The Weinstein Company

    #62. Lion

    Year: 2016

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    A 5-year-old Indian boy loses sight of his family and embarks on a harrowing journey, eventually being adopted by two Australians in “Lion.” The name of the main character is Saroo Brierley, and it was his memoir, “A Long Way Home,” that the movie starring Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, and Rooney Mara, was based on.

  • LightWorkers Media
    43/ LightWorkers Media

    #61. Ben-Hur

    Year: 1959

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    Sword-and-sandal movies don’t get much more iconic than “Ben-Hur,” which tells the story of a Jewish prince who is betrayed and then sold into slavery. The 1880 novel by Lew Wallace upon which the film was based is widely considered the most influential Christian book of the 19th century.

  • Columbia Pictures Corporation
    44/ Columbia Pictures Corporation

    #60. Stand by Me

    Year: 1986

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    Based on a Stephen King novella called “The Body,” director Rob Reiner’s “Stand By Me” so effectively captures the summer of 1959 in small town Oregon that it makes you nostalgic for an era you may have never experienced. Accordingly, the film about four friends who go searching for a dead body in the woodspermeates with youth. Helping drive that spry spirit home are standout performances and plenty of killer oldies tunes.

  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
    45/ Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

    #59. The Wizard of Oz

    Year: 1939

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    It took but one man, L. Frank Baum, to write “The Wizard of Oz” before a small army of screenwriters and directors adapted the novel for the big screen. It all paid off in the end, whereas the filmabout a young girl trying to get back home after waking up in a fantasy worldis considered a true landmark in cinematic history. Lesser known is a creepy 13-minute silent film called “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” from 1910, which ends with Dorothy deciding not to go home.

  • Act III Communications
    46/ Act III Communications

    #58. The Princess Bride

    Year: 1987

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    Based on a 1973 novel by William Goldman, “The Princess Bride” is a film 14 years in the making. Directors to express early interest in adapting the book were François Truffaut and Robert Redford. Ultimately, the job went to Rob Reiner, with Goldman himself tackling the script. Goldman came upon the idea for the book after asking his daughters what his next novel should be about. One daughter answered, a princess” while the other answered, “a bride”.

  • DreamWorks
    47/ DreamWorks

    #57. The Help

    Year: 2011

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    Kathryn Stockett’s bestselling novel “The Help” became a 2011 smash hit of the same name. Telling the story of 1960s race relations in Mississippi from the perspective of the housekeepers, the film opened to near universal acclaim and substantial box office numbers. Ironically, Stockett’s book was reportedly rejected 60 times before being published.

  • Paramount Vantage
    48/ Paramount Vantage

    #56. There Will Be Blood

    Year: 2007

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    Loosely based on the novel “Oil!” by Upton Sinclair, Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood” centers on a ruthless magnate who will stop at nothing in order to build an empire of black gold. Bolstered by brilliant performances and a haunting soundtrack, the film provides a parable about religion, greed, and desire in America.

  • Paramount Vantage
    49/ Paramount Vantage

    #55. Into the Wild

    Year: 2007

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    The story of Christopher McCandlesswho abandoned his earthly possessions and decided to live and die in the wildernesswas the basis for Jon Krakauer’s novel “Into the Wild,” and then Sean Penn’s big screen adaptation. In spite of the movie’s built-in warning about the dangers of trying to survive in the wild, hordes of people still retrace McCandless’ steps in real life, thereby embarking on perilous journeys of their own.

     

  • Regency Enterprises
    50/ Regency Enterprises

    #54. 12 Years a Slave

    Year: 2013

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    In “12 Years a Slave,” a 19th-century well-to-do northerner named Solomon Northup is sold into slavery down south, where he struggles to survive at the mercy of his masters. While the events in this film are so tragic that you simply don’t want them to be true, it was all based on an actual memoir written by Northup, published in 1853. After gaining freedom, Northup became an active member in the abolitionist movement, helping to pave the way for widespread emancipation.

  • DreamWorks Animation
    51/ DreamWorks Animation

    #53. How to Train Your Dragon

    Year: 2010

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    A naive young Viking befriends a wild dragon in the 2010 animated classic, “How to Train Your Dragon.” The immensely popular flick was adapted from a children’s book, which was one in a 12-part series. The franchise is still going, with a third film slated for 2019.

  • Fox Searchlight Pictures
    52/ Fox Searchlight Pictures

    #52. The Grand Budapest Hotel

    Year: 2014

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    Inspired by the works of Stefan Zweig, acclaimed auteur Wes Anderson directed “The Grand Budapest Hotel." The film highlights the many adventure of a concierge at a fictional hotel during World War I and World War II. According to Anderson, both the narrator and main character are modelled in part after Zweig.

  • Warner Bros.
    53/ Warner Bros.

    #51. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

    Year: 2011

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series made for some genuinely iconic film adaptations, and ended on a high note with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.” The audience views the world-famous wizard and his companions squaring off against Voldemort in the biggest battle of their lives. After director David Yates shouted his final ‘cut,’ stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint all burst into tears.

  • DreamWorks
    54/ DreamWorks

    #50. Catch Me If You Can

    Year: 2002

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    Frank Abagnale Jr. was the world’s most slippery con man before being finally caught by the FBI. His next bold move was offering his services in return for a reduced sentence. He also penned a memoir called “Catch Me If You Can,” which became the basis for this 2002 film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role.

  • Twentieth Century Fox
    55/ Twentieth Century Fox

    #49. Gone Girl

    Year: 2014

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    “Gone Girl” is based on a book by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the screenplay. The popular film sticks closely to the source material, telling the story of a woman who may or may not have been killed by her cheating husband. Thanks to director David Fincher, the movie does carry its own distinct tonality, one that intentionally plays with the built-in absurdity of its own premise

  • Paramount Vantage
    56/ Paramount Vantage

    #48. No Country for Old Men

    Year: 2007

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    Anyone who reads Cormac McCarthy is aware that his brilliant prose can be hard to decipher, let alone put up on the big screen. That didn’t stop the Coen brothers from adapting “No Country for Old Men, which is about a man who comes upon a load of drug money before finding himself being hunted by a seasoned killer. While minor differences abound, the award-winning film is for the most part a faithful adaptation.

  • Universal Pictures
    57/ Universal Pictures

    #47. Jurassic Park

    Year: 1993

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    For a bestselling book like Michael Crichton’s “Jurassic Park,” only the most epic of film adaptations would suffice. And who better to helm than Steven Spielberg, a veritable king of the blockbuster. As one might expect, Spielberg brings Crichton’s pages to life with breathtaking precision, though he did make several key changes. Chief among those alterations was the decision not to include a number of the book’s scenes involving a Procompsognathus dinosaur.

  • Paramount Pictures
    58/ Paramount Pictures

    #46. Shutter Island

    Year: 2010

    IMDb rating: 8.1

    Author Dennis Lehane is primarily known as the writer of modern day mystery novels, which made “Shutter Island” a departure of sorts upon its publication. Likewise, the subsequent film saw director Martin Scorsese stepping slightly outside his normal wheelhouse. The story takes place in 1954 and centers on a man who’s sent to a secluded insane asylum to investigate a woman’s disappearance, or so he thinks. To say another word is to give too much away. 

  • Buster Keaton Productions
    59/ Buster Keaton Productions

    #45. The General

    Year: 1926

    IMDb rating: 8.2

    On April 12, 1862, the Union Army hijacked a train called The General and took it northward, causing tremendous amounts of damage before getting caught by Confederate forces. The ordeal became known as the Great Locomotive Chase, and it was the basis for a book by a man named William Pittenger, who was actually involved in the raid. It was also the subject of Buster Keaton’s “The General,” considered one of the greatest silent films of all time.

  • Selznick International Pictures
    60/ Selznick International Pictures

    #44. Rebecca

    Year: 1940

    IMDb rating: 8.2

    “Rebecca” is the story of a woman who moves in with her new husband, and is then psychologically tortured by the presence of his deceased former wife. Alfred Hitchcock directed the classic film, and it was his only effort to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Equally worthy of noting was the book it was based on, which sold millions of copies over the course of decades and never went out of print. Author Daphne du Maurier would later maintain that “Rebecca” is ultimately a study in jealousy.

  • Jalem Productions
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    #43. Cool Hand Luke

    Year: 1967

    IMDb rating: 8.2

    Paul Newman plays an easy-going southern inmate in “Cool Hand Luke.” The film was based on a novel by ex-convict Donn Pearce, who co-wrote the screenplay as well. In spite of his involvement, Pearce would later express disappointment in the final product, claiming they “screwed it up 99 different ways.”

  • Columbia Pictures Corporation
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    #42. The Bridge on the River Kwai

    Year: 1957

    IMDb rating: 8.2

    In “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” a group of British POWs are forced to build a bridge while their allies secretly plan to destroy it. The film was based on a French novel by author Pierre Boulle, who appears earlier on this list. Due to heightened Cold War tensions around the time the film was made, the original screenwriters were accused of being communists and thereby robbed of credit. As a result, Boullewho didn’t even speak Englishnot only received credit for a script he didn’t write, but he went on to win an Academy Award.

  • Brooksfilms
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    #41. The Elephant Man

    Year: 1980

    IMDb rating: 8.2

    Sir Frederick Treves formed a relationship with a disfigured man named John Merrick, and wrote about the experience in a 1923 book called “The Elephant Man And Other Reminiscences.” The book would later be adapted into a play, followed by a film adaptation from legendary auteur David Lynch. While the movie takes a few liberties, viewers might be shocked to discover just how faithful it is to Merrick’s true life story.

  • Mirisch Company, The
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    #40. The Great Escape

    Year: 1963

    IMDb rating: 8.2

    “The Great Escape” was based on a nonfiction book by Paul Brickhill about a group of POWs who escape from a German camp during World War II. The book was in part a firsthand accountBrickhill was a POW in German-occupied Poland, where the escape took place. While the author did help out during the famous escape, he didn’t actually flee down the tunnel due to severe claustrophobia.

  • MGM
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    #39. Gone with the Wind

    Year: 1939

    IMDb rating: 8.2

    Based on the novel by Margarett Mitchell, "Gone with the Wind" was a star-studded and incredibly successful film. A complicated love story set during the Civil War and subsequent Reconstruction, the film featured Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Leslie Howard, and Olivia de Havilland and would go on to earn eight Academy Awards, including the historic first win for an African-American when Hattie McDaniel won for Best Supporting Actress.

  • Element Pictures
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    #38. Room

    Year: 2015

    IMDb rating: 8.2

    Author Emma Donoghue adapted her own novel when writing the script for “Room,” in which a woman and her son plot their escape from captivity. One of the challenges facing Donoghue was deciding how much voiceover to include because the book is told entirely from the young boy’s point of view. Ultimately, the author pared down the voiceover, giving the film its own striking personality and perspective.

  • Chartoff-Winkler Productions
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    #37. Raging Bull

    Year: 1980

    IMDb rating: 8.2

    Based on boxer Jake LaMotta’s own memoir, Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull” offers a stunning glimpse into LaMotta’s rugged, violent world. Playing the lead is Robert De Niro, who turns in a noteworthy performance. Upon seeing the film, LaMotta asked his wife, “Was I really like that?” To which she replied, “You were worse.”

     

  • Universal Pictures
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    #36. Casino

    Year: 1995

    IMDb rating: 8.2

    Another classic from Martin Scorsese, “Casino” explores Las Vegas through the eyes of the gangsters who controlled it in the 1970s and 1980s. Based on a book by Nicholas Pileggi, the film marks the second collaboration between him and Scorsese. While the movie definitely takes its own liberties, some of the most outlandish sequences are ripped straight out of reality. And yes, the real life Sam “Ace” Rothstein did once tell a chef that every single muffin must have the exact same amount of blueberries.

  • Ladd Company, The
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    #35. Blade Runner

    Year: 1982

    IMDb rating: 8.2

    The work of sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick has led to some seriously wild movies, nearly all of which expand upon the source material. Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” was no exception. The movie takes place in a futuristic society where special bounty hunters are given the task of tracking down replicants, or genetically engineered human slaves. While Dick’s book “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” does share a similar core premise, it primarily concentrates on themes of identity before giving the main character a toad and then calling it a day. The film, by contrast, is more of a neo-noirish thriller.

  • Twentieth Century Fox
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    #34. Die Hard

    Year: 1988

    IMDb rating: 8.2

    “Die Hard”about a cop who squares off against terrorists inside a skyscrapermight seem like the last movie to be based on a book. However, as the credits will kindly remind you, this groundbreaking film was an adaptation of the novel “Nothing Lasts Forever” by Roderick Thorp. One of the tweaks applied by the film is that hero John McClane is a regular cop who gets in over his head, while the book’s Joe Leland has more experience dealing with extreme situations.

     

  • Universal Pictures
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    #33. A Beautiful Mind

    Year: 2001

    IMDb rating: 8.2

    Troubled mathematician John Nash is the subject of “A Beautiful Mind,” which was first a biography and then an award-winning film starring Russell Crowe. Turning the dense book into a movie required cutting certain aspects of Nash’s story, condensing other details, and then improvising the rest. Among the points the movie leaves out are Nash’s reported homosexual experiences, his illegitimate child, and his divorce. Perhaps it was an effort to keep things “beautiful,” or at the least hold on to that PG-13 rating. 

  • Red Granite Pictures
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    #32. The Wolf of Wall Street

    Year: 2013

    IMDb rating: 8.2

    Jordan Belfort’s real life story of decadence, greed, and corruption provided the basis for Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Given Belfort’s slippery reputation, it’s no surprise that one of his closest associates is on record saying that “the book…is a distant relative of the truth, and the film is a distant relative of the book.

  • Warner Bros.
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    #31. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

    Year: 1948

    IMDb rating: 8.3

    More than a classic book and film, “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” is the ultimate parable about honor among thieves, telling the story of a few men who uncover a treasure and then turn on one another. Meanwhile, the true identity of the book’s bestselling author, B. Traven, is a compelling mystery, and his real name and identity remains speculative to this day.

  • Paramount Pictures
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    #30. Double Indemnity

    Year: 1944

    IMDb rating: 8.3

    One might see a movie such as “Double Indemnity” along with the name Raymond Chandler and assume the film was based on one of the famous mystery writer’s books. However, it’s James M. Caina formidable author in his own rightwho wrote the novel upon which the film was derived, with Chandler handling co-screenwriting duties. In the movie, an insurance agent is lured into a murder scheme by a seductive wife. The premise bears a striking resemblance to “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” another Cain novel adapted by Hollywood.

  • Universal International Pictures (UI)
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    #29. To Kill a Mockingbird

    Year: 1962

    IMDb rating: 8.3

    One of the greatest novels of all time received the big screen treatment in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which tells the story of Atticus Finch, a southern lawyer who defends an African American man falsely accused of rape during the Depression era. The character of Finch was based on Harper Lee’s own father, played by Gregory Peck in the film. One day, Lee showed up on set and began crying, moved by how much Peck looked like her father, pointing specifically to his potbelly. The actor explained, “That’s no potbelly, Harper. That’s great acting.”

  • Regency Enterprises
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    #28. L.A. Confidential

    Year: 1997

    IMDb rating: 8.3

    Author James Ellroy is synonymous with pulpy, sordid crime fiction on the grandest of scales, and “L.A. Confidential” is accordingly toned down in more ways than one. The film centers on a trio of cops who investigate a murder and uncover multiple levels of corruption in 1950s Los Angeles. For the movie version, filmmaker Curtis Hanson and screenwriter Brian Helgeland tweaked the characters and put substantial twists on the book’s ending.

  • Natant
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    #27. Full Metal Jacket

    Year: 1987

    IMDb rating: 8.3

    To create his unforgettable Vietnam War drama “Full Metal Jacket,” director Stanley Kubrick dove head first into “The Short Timers,” a semi-autobiographical novel by Gustav Hasford. Kubrick was notorious for co-opting his source material and this film was no exception. Arguably, the biggest change he incorporated was omitting the book’s grueling third section.

  • Warner Bros.
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    #26. A Clockwork Orange

    Year: 1971

    IMDb rating: 8.3

    Stanley Kubrick’s most controversial film, “A Clockwork Orange” takes place in the future, telling the story of a criminal who’s sent to prison, forced into good behavior, and then released back into society. The movie was famously based on a novella by Anthony Burgess, who created his own language called Nadsat just to tell the story. When preparing for the film, Kubrick used the American version of the book as his source. As it turned out, that version left out a final chapter, which similarly didn’t make it into the film.

  • Artisan Entertainment
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    #25. Requiem for a Dream

    Year: 2000

    IMDb rating: 8.3

    Hubert Selby Jr.’s novel about drug addiction became the basis for Darren Aronofsky’s equally intense sophomore effort, “Requiem for a Dream.” For Aronofsky, the project was years in the making, whereas the filmmaker had been a huge fan of Selby’s since first discovering the author’s seminal 1964 novel, “Last Exit to Brooklyn,” while growing up in Brooklyn. Leading up to the film’s creation, Aronofsky and Selby wrote separate screenplays, only to discover that both scripts were about 80% the same.

  • MGM
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    #24. Witness for the Prosecution

    Year: 1957

    IMDb rating: 8.4

    Courtroom drama "Witness for the Prosecution" was based on a short story by Agatha Christie. Christie's piece was first published in 1925 in British pulp magazine Flynn's before becoming a play in 1953. Featuring Marlene Dietrich, Tyrone Power, and Charles Laughton, the film adaptation centers on an elderly barrister whose client faces murder charges, and a series of ensuing deceptions.

  • Bryna Productions
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    #23. Paths of Glory

    Year: 1957

    IMDb rating: 8.4

    Almost 30 years before he tackled the Vietnam War in “Full Metal Jacket,” Stanley Kubrick delivered “Paths of Glory,” an anti-war film about a commanding officer who defends his soldiers from accusations of cowardice during World War I. The film was based on a relatively obscure novel by Humphrey Cobb that went back into print and found a wider audience after the movie’s release.

  • Ladd Company
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    #22. Once Upon a Time in America

    Year: 1984

    IMDb rating: 8.4

    Based on the semi-autobiographical novel “The Hoods” by Harry Grey, director Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in America” centers on a Prohibition-era gangster who revisits his home turf 30 years after his initial crime spree. In the film, Robert De Niro plays Noodles, a character loosely modeled after the author.

  • Alfred J. Hitchcock Productions
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    #21. Vertigo

    Year: 1958

    IMDb rating: 8.4

    The title of the novel “D'Entre les morts” by Thomas Narcejac and Pierre Boileau translates to “The Living and the Dead,” but Alfred Hitchcock preferred to call it by another name: “Vertigo.” The film tells the story of a private investigator who gets ensnared in a vicious trap involving murder and forged identity. While the movie was directly based on the aforementioned French novel, it may have also been inspired by 1956 bestseller “The Search for Bridey Murphy,” a wildly popular book about past lives that kicked off a series of movies and TV shows dealing with similar themes.

  • Warner Bros
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    #20. The Shining

    Year: 1980

    IMDb rating: 8.4

    The pairing of Stanley Kubrick and author Stephen King might sound like a match made in cinephile heaven, yet the two men took distinctly different approaches toward “The Shining.” Both works tell the story of a recovering alcoholic who turns against his family while caretaking at an isolated hotel, but Kubrick’s take was far more psychological and archetypal in nature, while King’s was more supernatural and yet, more humane. It’s no surprise that King remains openly hostile toward Kubrick’s interpretation, claiming it lacks character arc and is “like a big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine inside it.

  • Paramount International // Wikicommons
    85/ Paramount International // Wikicommons

    #19. Rear Window

    Year: 1954

    IMDb rating: 8.4

    Another Hitchcock classic, "Rear Window" focuses on the suspicious activities within a small Greenwich Village apartment complex as observed by a temporarily disabled photographer. The thriller is based on the short story "It Had To Be Murder" by Cornell Woolrich.

  • Columbia Pictures Corporation
    86/ Columbia Pictures Corporation

    #18. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

    Year: 1964

    IMDb rating: 8.5

    In case it’s not yet obvious, Stanley Kubrick not only made a number of movies based on books, but he frequently changed the tone and content of the source material to suit his films’ needs. That was certainly the case with “Dr. Strangelove.” The book it was based on, “Red Alert,” was a genuinely somber exploration about how paranoia and miscommunication might fuel a nuclear holocaust. And while book author Peter George did work on the screenplay adaptation, Kubrick’s film was much more a dark comedy of errors than taut drama. 

  • Shamley Productions
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    #17. Psycho

    Year: 1960

    IMDb rating: 8.5

    Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”about a serial killer who preys upon guests at his hotelwas a game-changer upon its release, redefining the possibilities of horror and cinema alike. Meanwhile, the film was based on a novel by author Robert Bloch. According to legend, Bloch was inspired to craft his story after reading about real life murderer Ed Gein, who lived just 35 miles away from the writer. However, Bloch himself would later dispute that claim, saying the similarities between the real killer and his character are mostly just coincidence.

  • Zoetrope Studios
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    #16. Apocalypse Now

    Year: 1979

    IMDb rating: 8.5

    A loose interpretation if there ever was one, Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now”sets Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. While different in numerous ways, the book and film do share the same general structure, as well as core themes about fear and madness. Further unifying the two works was a turbulent documentary about the making of the film. That documentary’s name is “Hearts of Darkness.”

  • R.P. Productions
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    #15. The Pianist

    Year: 2002

    IMDb rating: 8.5

    Wladyslaw Szpilman’s experiences as a Jewish pianist struggling to survive during the Holocaust led him to write “The Death of a City,” later retitled “The Pianist.” The subsequent 2002 film version would go on to win three Academy Awards, and signify a high point in director Roman Polanski’s latter-day career.

  • Castle Rock Entertainment
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    #14. The Green Mile

    Year: 1999

    IMDb rating: 8.5

    Author Stephen King might be a master of the horror genre, but it’s often his dramatic works that make for the best movies. For proof, look no further than “The Green Mile,” about a man on death row who changes the lives of everyone he encounters. Frank Darabont adapted the serialized novel for the big screen, making this one of three times the director would base his film on a Stephen King work.

  • Touchstone Pictures
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    #13. The Prestige

    Year: 2006

    IMDb rating: 8.5

    Christopher Nolan might be one of the most original storytellers working today, but that doesn’t mean he can’t adapt a novel every now and then. In 2006, that novel was “The Prestige,” which tells the story of two magicians competing for glory and romance in late 19th-century England. For the film version, Nolan discarded one of the book’s subplots and changed the ending.

  • Strong Heart/Demme Production
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    #12. The Silence of the Lambs

    Year: 1991

    IMDb rating: 8.6

    Director Jonathan Demme played it fairly close to the source material when making “The Silence of the Lambs.” The film was based on Thomas Harris’ acclaimed novel, about a young FBI agent who seeks the help of a brilliant psychopath named Dr. Hannibal Lecter in order to catch her target. Some folks have wondered what real life killers inspired Lecter’s creation, however Harris insists that the character was inspired only by evil itself.

  • Fantasy Films
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    #11. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

    Year: 1975

    IMDb rating: 8.7

    Author and Merry Prankster Ken Kesey once worked as a psychiatric ward attendant, and he drew upon the experience when writing “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” An award-winning film about a man who tries to lead patients in an uprising against the staff at a mental hospital would soon follow. Both the book and the film remain heralded to this day.

  • Warner Bros.
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    #10. Goodfellas

    Year: 1990

    IMDb rating: 8.7

    Before working on “Casino,” director Martin Scorsese and writer Nicholas Pileggi teamed up for “Goodfellas,” one of the most compulsively watchable films ever made. Adapted from Pileggi’s book, “Wiseguy,” the film tells the story of Henry Hill, a mid-level mobster who turned on all of his associates before going into hiding. Pileggi and Hill were in constant communication during production, and much of the voiceover dialogue in the film came straight out of Hill’s mouth.

  • New Line Cinema
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    #9. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

    Year: 2002

    IMDb rating: 8.7

    J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy remains a cornerstone of fantasy literature, and director Peter Jackson’s film adaptation is similarly iconic. In “The Two Towers,” hobbits Frodo and Sam inch closer to Mordor with the goal of destroying a powerful ring. Helping them along the way is Gollum, a shifty creature with plans of his own.

     

  • New Line Cinema
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    #8. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

    Year: 2001

    IMDb rating: 8.8

    Kicking off Peter Jackson’s adaptation of the famous Tolkien trilogy was “The Fellowship of the Ring,” in which Frodo and Sam embark on their quest. Originally, the film was supposed to include a major ambush scene toward the end. However, a huge flood destroyed that particular set and the scene never came to be.

  • Paramount Pictures
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    #7. Forrest Gump

    Year: 1994

    IMDb rating: 8.8

    World history is seen through the eyes of a charming, but dim-witted man named Forrest Gump in this 1994 movie. The film’s based on a novel by Winston Groom, and included in the novel was a sequence where Gump travels to space and meets a chimp named Sue. Whether that scene would’ve helped or hindered the film is anyone’s guess.

  • Fox 2000 Pictures
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    #6. Fight Club

    Year: 1999

    IMDb rating: 8.8

    Based on a novel by Chuck Palahniuk, director David Fincher’s “Fight Club” is about a disillusioned man who helps form an underground fight club with the help of his wild, anarchic friend. As the club activities branch out into full-blown class warfare, the man soon finds himself in the midst of a violent storm. A financial disappointment upon its theatrical release, “Fight Club” would go on to earn a massive following on DVD. Similarly, the book sold terribly when first published in 1986, though it also would end up reaching a much wider audience.

  • Universal Pictures
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    #5. Schindler's List

    Year: 1993

    IMDb rating: 8.9

    Steven Spielberg exhibited his serious side with “Schindler’s List,” and delivered one of his most highly regarded films in the process. In the movie, a vain German businessman is so horrified by the atrocities of World War II that he finds a way to save 1,100 people from the gas chamber. Both the film and the book upon which it was based wouldn’t have come to be if not for a man named Leopold “Poldek” Pfefferberg, a Holocaust survivor, who convinced author Thomas Keneally to write Schindler’s story.

  • New Line Cinema
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    #4. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

    Year: 2003

    IMDb rating: 8.9

    Capping off Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy was “The Return of the King,” in which forces of good and evil battle over the mighty ring. Never before had J.R.R. Tolkien’s words been given such epic visual treatment. For its efforts, the film won no less than 11 Academy Awards.

  • Paramount Pictures
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    #3. The Godfather: Part II

    Year: 1974

    IMDb rating: 9.0

    Hollywood history simply wouldn’t be the same without the first two “Godfather” movies. In “The Godfather: Part II,” filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola and author Mario Puzo expand upon the Corleone saga in both directions, portraying Michael Corleone as he struggles to fill his father’s shoes, and furthermore depicting Vito’s Corleone’s origin story. In order to retain an authentic vibe, Coppola had to reshoot flashback scenesafter discovering the trousers worn by characters weren’t historically accurate.

  • Paramount Pictures
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    #2. The Godfather

    Year: 1972

    IMDb rating: 9.2

    From Mario Puzo’s brilliant novel came an equally brilliant film that’s still regarded as one of the best ever made. That film was “The Godfather,” which tells the story of the Corleone crime family as it struggled to retain power while facing obstacles on all sides. To think, Paramount Pictures didn’t originally want to cast Marlon Brando and tried to fire director Francis Ford Coppola during production. Thankfully, wiser minds prevailed.

  • Castle Rock Entertainment
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    #1. Shawshank Redemption

    Year: 1994

    IMDb rating: 9.3

    Just how good is Stephen King, you might ask? Well, he’s good enough to have two novellas from the same book appear on our list, with one of them even grabbing the top spot. “The Shawshank Redemption” is Frank Darabont’s acclaimed film about a falsely accused man who learns how to survive in prison. “Stand By Me” director Rob Reiner originally wanted to lead this adaptation, offering Darabont $2.5 million for the privilege. Darabont turned down the offer, viewing the job as his “chance to do something really great.” How right he was.

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