The Twenty Greatest American Film Adaptions

December 20, 2015

How many times have you heard people mutter, “But I liked the book better!”  That’s because the film and the novel are vastly different art forms.  When you encounter a story for the first time, it becomes a private thing between the reader and his imagination.  It can be disconcerting when the filmmaker’s interpretation differs greatly from what the reader had imagined.  You can feel cheated…almost.  However, some novels are difficult to transfer to the screen; it takes a skillful screenwriter,then, to help with that transition.  No matter what, someone’s going to end up disappointed.  So, with those lofty thoughts, I give you “The Twenty Greatest American Film Adaptions”.

In no particular order…

  1.  “To Kill a Mockingbird” 1962 (Harper Lee once said that she liked Horton Foote’s screenplay better than her novel.)
  2. “Slaughterhouse Five” 1972 (Captures the mood and tone of Vonnegut.)
  3. “Double Indemnity” 1944 (Inspired teaming of Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler on James Cain crime classic.)
  4. “The Unbearable Likeness of Being ” 1988 (Outstanding adaption of a complicated and rewarding novel.)
  5. “Gone with the Wind” 1939 (Big, brassy, entertaining, and a little racist!)
  6. “Silence of the Lambs” 1991 (Ted Tally’s skillful adaption of Thomas Harris’ popular thriller.)
  7. “East of Eden” 1955 (Focuses on one choice chapter of Steinbeck’s novel.)
  8. “Mystic River” 2003 (Faithful rendering of Dennis Lehane’s superb story.)
  9. “From Here to Eternity” 1953 (Powerful version of the daring and popular novel.)
  10. “A Streetcar Named Desire” 1951 (The best stage adaption ever!)
  11. “Rosemary’s Baby” 1968 (Menacing and close interpretation of Ira Levine’s classic.)
  12. “Wise Blood” 1979 (Perfectly captured Flannery O’Connor’s strange world.)
  13. “In Cold Blood” 1967 (Haunting film of Truman Capote’s groundbreaking nonfiction novel.)
  14. “The Dead” 1987 (A triumphant reflection of John Huston’s passion for reading.)
  15. “Naked Lunch” 1990 (Unique fusion of Cronenberg and Burrough’s radical artistic sensibilities.)
  16. “Rear Window” 1954 (A tapestry of character and ambience woven from Cornell Woolrich’s short story.)
  17. “Treasure of Sierra Madre” 1948 (Well-directed adaption of famed B. Traven’s Marxist parable.
  18. “The Grapes of Wrath” 1940 (Misses the power of Steinbeck’s novel but has a grace all its own.)
  19. “Bridge Over the River Kwai” 1957 (The screenwriters Dalton Trumbo and Michael Wilson were blacklisted at the time and could not pick up their Oscar.)
  20. “A Clockwork Orange” 1971 (Still controversial after all these years; the ironic voice over narration pulls you into Alex’s world.)