Culture’s admirable adaptations

From the page to silver screen, these adaptations are golden. Photo courtesy of Us Magazine. 

Creators have turned to the written word for inspiration in the television and film industry for decades. Though not every literary masterpiece lends itself to the big — or small — screen, many of the biggest blockbusters and cult classics in entertainment history have been adaptations or abstracted retellings of novels or comics. Read on to discover the Culture section’s favorite page-to-screen adaptations. 


Dare Me,” adapted from “Dare Me” by Megan Abbott 

USA Network’s 2020 one-season teen TV drama first captured viewers with its promise of glitzy grit, complex female characters and a juicy platter of murder served cold. Treading the line between a thriller and a drama, Megan Abbott’s 2019 new adult novel detailed the lives and lies of two high school cheerleaders and their coach in the suburban Midwest and found a worthy home on the screen. With the same deft complexity of the novel, the show explores sapphic identity, infidelity, estranged familial relationships and the fierce force of teen jealousy with a remarkably unique tone and gut-wrenching story from start to finish. For those who tire of the campy comedy of “Riverdale” or graphic exploitation of “Euphoria,” “Dare Me” excels with a pitch perfect production that suits its serial format from the score to the final shot. 


Bones and All,” adapted from “Bones and All” by Camille DeAngelis 

“Bones and All” is certainly an interesting pitch for an adaptation. A romance-adventure novel about two cannibals falling in love on a cross-country road trip may be a highly unconventional script, but it works so wonderfully as a film. The director Luca Guadignino utilizes the wide expanse of the Midwest found throughout the novel with vast plains and cornfields to juxtapose an intimate kindling of love between Maren and Lee. Timothée Chalamet, one of Guadignino’s muses, brings warmth and charisma to Lee, yet explores healing from trauma delicately. However, the real star is Taylor Russell as Maren, who is able to turn her inward thoughts into captivating dialogue and physicality. All this works in addition to the horror of cannibalism and acts as a representation of how love fully consumes a person. As Maren and Lee explore the plains of America with an accompanying acoustic Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross score, viewers will have more than scenery to chew on. 


Pride and Prejudice,” adapted from “Pride and Prejudice,” by Jane Austen 

A classic book made into a classic movie. “Pride and Prejudice,” specifically the 2005 version, is the superior adaptation of the timeless novel. Starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden, this film stays true to the novel and is full of great cinematography. Knightley and Macfayden have great chemistry as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy; their tension is palpable. While the 1995 version is technically more accurate to the book and the period, this later adaptation is much shorter — and the men have better sideburns. The set and costume design in the movie are beautiful, and Knightley and Macfayden are the perfect enemies-to-lovers trope. Give the 2005 version a watch, and see why people love the rain scene so much. 


Divergent,” adapted from “Divergent” by Veronica Roth 

Nearly everyone in generation Z gets hit with a wave of nostalgia every time this book or movie is mentioned. A few things that really make this adaptation great are the soundtrack and the actors, especially the song “Run Boy Run” by Woodkid. It is hard to forget that scene where everyone starts running to the train as that song plays in the background. Shailene Woodley and Theo James are phenomenal leads, accompanied by incredible supporting actors Miles Teller, Zoë Kravitz and Kate Winslet. The set design and costuming tied the story together, showing a lot of similarities to the novel by Veronica Roth. 


Bridgerton,” adapted from “The Bridgerton Series” by Julia Quinn 

For those who love the historical romance of “Pride and Prejudice” but the juicy drama of “Gossip Girl,” “Bridgerton” is that perfect blend. Bridgerton’s eight books, with four confirmed show adaptations and one television spin-off series, will satisfy anyone who is not a fan of “one and done” shows. Watching “Bridgerton” feels like adult Disney movies. The show also highlights vital social conversations even in the Regency era. If enemies-to-lovers or fake romance are a favorite tropes, check out the first two seasons of Bridgerton. Friends-to-lovers is coming next with season three later this year. Alas, Lady Whistledown may have something to say in her society papers if one does not watch this compelling romantic series. 


Fight Club,” adapted from “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk 

Rarely do film adaptations ever surpass the original source material of which they are based. While most adaptations suffer from whittling the story down to fit the runtime of a movie, or failing to adapt certain parts properly, David Fincher’s 90s classic was able to capture the essence of the original novel, but improve upon it in every way. Fans of gritty, psychological thrillers will be enthralled with the dark nature of the story. Brad Pitt’s character, Tyler Durden, bursts onto the screen and becomes one of cinema’s most memorable characters, with the film having a twist ending compatible with “The Sixth Sense.” 


A Clockwork Orange,” adapted from “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess 

Published in 1962, English author Anthony Burgess’s titular original novel has become highly acclaimed over the decades. Several years after its release when a movie adaptation was being made, who better to tackle the challenge than the masterful Stanley Kubrick? Kubrick’s 1971 dystopian crime film has become a prime example as one of the greatest book to film adaptations ever and has gained an extreme cult following over the years. In a filmography crowded with masterpieces and revolutionary films such as “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and “The Shining,” Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” stands its ground as an iconically disturbing and mind-bending film filled with rich character studies and hypnotic set designs. For film fans around the world, or those who enjoy a twisted viewing experience, this is a classic that must be seen. 


Where the Crawdads Sing,” adapted from “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens 

Any young adults who are interested in a murder mystery story combined with a love triangle drama are sure to love this 2022 movie adaptation of the 2018 novel, now on Netflix. This story follows Kya Clark, “The Marsh Girl,” as she raises and isolates herself in the marshes of the fictional town, Barkley Cove, North Carolina. Kya later becomes the main suspect of the murder of Chase Andrews with whom she had a past relationship. Daisy Edgar-Jones’ performance as Kya is spot-on regarding her character’s personality in the novel. The beautiful marsh scenery helps the audience understand why Kya might feel so connected to it. 


The Lord of the Rings,” adapted from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy by JRR Tolkein 

Director Peter Jackson breathed fiery new life into the iconic “Lord of the Rings” trilogy in his 2001 movie adaptations. The movies follow protagonist Frodo and a band of his fellow hobbits, a hardy race of gnome-like creatures, as they embark on a journey across Middle Earth. With the help of the wizard Gandalf, played by Ian McKellan, they must fight rival sorcerer Saruman, played by Christopher Lee, and destroy a ring that is bound to an ancient evil. Jackson’s visual depictions of Middle Earth’s soaring expanses and devouring depths are enthralling. McKellan and Lee add an intensity to their scenes that makes the struggle of each protagonist to resist the corruption of power feel vital. With the streaming series “The Rings of Power” recently released on Amazon Prime, now is a perfect time to catch up on the original movies.


“The Hunger Games,” adapted from “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins 

First a series of books by author Suzanne Collins, “The Hunger Games” was adapted into an award-winning movie franchise. The first film, “The Hunger Games,” came out in 2012. The film, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth, garnered great success — grossing over $2.95 billion worldwide. The films adapted the content from the books in a vivid and lively, yet serious way. From Katniss volunteering as tribute to the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale, there is no shortage of plot from the source material. Director Gary Ross portrays the dystopian series in a way that is appealing to both YA and more mature audiences alike. 


Shrek,” adapted from “Shrek!” by William Steig 

Yes. One of the largest-grossing animated films was originally based on a children’s book by the same name. The original film came out a decade after the book’s 1990 release and made a lot of green, literally. The film grossed $491.8 million at the box office and remained the highest grossing animated film franchise of all time until it was defeated by “Despicable Me” in 2017. The movie is fairly similar to the book, but has its fair share of differences. The film went on to expand into a franchise consisting of three sequels, two spin-off movies, several animated shorts and even a Broadway musical. To say the film made a cultural impact would be an understatement. The movie’s popularity expanded pop culture references and adult-oriented humor in children’s films, while also birthing a new generation of meme culture. In 2020, the original film was selected by the US Library of Congress to be preserved in the National Film Registry for its cultural significance. With the release of the newest installment to the franchise, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” now is the perfect time to be an ogre-achiever and binge the entire franchise. 


Blade Runner,” adapted from “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Phillip K. Dick 

Director Ridley Scott’s magnum opus “Blade Runner” is a powerful exploration of the nature of humanity and what it means to be alive. The film’s dystopian vision of Los Angeles in 2019 presents a bleak and unsettling world where androids, or “replicants,” are created to serve humans but are viewed as disposable and lacking in true consciousness. Through the eyes of the protagonist Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, we see a man struggling with his own identity and his role in a society that views both humans and replicants as commodities. Rutger Hauer’s portrayal of the complex and tragic villain Roy Batty is nothing short of brilliant. The film’s stunning visuals and haunting score from Vangelis create a mesmerizing atmosphere that perfectly captures the novel’s themes of loneliness, isolation and the search for meaning in a world devoid of empathy. “Blade Runner” remains a groundbreaking work of science fiction and a cultural touchstone that continues to influence the genre to this day.


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