I love good filmmaking with almost the same fervor that I love books. I’m also not militant about the idea that the book is always better than the movie. Most of the time I think they’re just…different. Regardless, some film adaptations are definitely better than others. This is a list of my top ten favorite film adaptations of all time–the movies I have watched over and over again throughout the years. Some are newer favorites and some I’ve watched dozens of times, but all are well-worn enough in my mind that I know I will be watching them for decades to come.
10. Jane Eyre (2011)
If I were to make a list of my top ten favorite books of all time, Jane Eyre would be a serious contender for the #1 spot. Of the four adaptations that have appeared in my lifetime, the 2011 version starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender is my favorite. Mia is one of my favorite actresses; I will watch her in almost anything. And I know that Rochester is supposed to be ugly, but seriously, people, do we have to be literalists about this? Fassbender was BORN to play Rochester and a little eye candy never hurt anyone. Another reason I love this adaptation is the soundtrack. I think a soundtrack can make or break a movie, and in this case, it totally makes it.
9. Far From the Madding Crowd (2015)
Far from the Madding Crowd is one of those cases where I like the movie more than the book. That’s not to say that the book isn’t amazing–Thomas Hardy was one of the precious few 19th century male authors who wrote well-rounded, fully human female characters. That said, I think this adaptation manages to capture the beautiful essence of the novel while skipping the slow parts. Carry Mulligan (Bathsheba) and Matthias Schoenaerts (Gabriel) are so beautiful it hurts to look at them and Michael Sheen is heartbreaking as Farmer Boldwood. Also, the soundtrack to this one might just be even more beautiful than Jane Eyre.
8. Agatha Christie’s Marple (2004-2009)
There are few things I love more than a cozy mystery with a spunky female detective at its center. The first three seasons of the BBC Miss Marple Miniseries are absolutely magical. With a mischievous twinkle in her eye, Geraldine McEwan (may she rest in peace) lent a youthful exuberance to the character that no other actress has been able to replicate. Julia McKenzie stepped into the role following McEwan’s death, but it’s just not the same. McEwan’s three-season run is a TV treasure.
7. The Painted Veil (2006)
I’ve never read the book version of The Painted Veil (it’s on my TBR list, really!), so I have nothing to compare the adaptation to, but I don’t think anything could take away from my love of this film. Edward Norton is not your average heartthrob, and that works in his favor here. Naomi Watts’ character could be seen as rather air-headed and unsympathetic, but Watts humanizes her in a way that really captivates me. Also, again, THE SOUNDTRACK.
6. The Bourne Identity (2002)
I have watched The Bourne Identity countless times over the years and it is still my favorite spy thriller. While I love The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum, and Jason Bourne, I don’t think any of them have or can recover the magic of the first film. I think the magic came from Bourne’s initial naiveté and boyish trust–characteristics that were necessarily lost as the series progressed. Also, FYI, the soundtrack is great, but the Bourne Supremacy soundtrack is better.
5. A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
I could spend hours watching Jim Carrey making faces and improvising outlandish characters. He is absolutely HILARIOUS as the shapeshifting Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events. Don’t get me wrong–I’m looking forward to watching the upcoming new Netflix series with Neil Patrick Harris, but NPH will never be able to replace Jim Carrey in this role. This adaptation also has some other fun features, such as Meryl Streep, a rad steampunk aesthetic, Peter Pettigrew as a dimwitted estate agent, a soundtrack to end all other soundtracks, and a pair of two-year-old twins playing the adorable biting Sunny. It really doesn’t get any better than that.@ParchmentGirl37 Shares Her Top 10 Favorite Film Adaptations of All TimeClick To Tweet
4. The Princess Bride (1987)
You thought I would forget about The Princess Bride? Inconceivable! It’s only the best cult classic in the history of cult classics! I don’t think I have to spell this one out, but just in case, here are some of the best things about this legendary film: André the Giant, a young Robin Wright AND Cary Elwes (because two for your money is always better than one), Vizzini’s lisp, Miracle Max and his magic chocolate pills, ROUS (Rodents of Unusual Size), “My name is Inigo Montoya,” and “Is this a kissing book?” You get the idea. Also, a bit of personal trivia: I first saw this film in Bible class when I was a kid. Because clearly, God wants everyone to see this film.
3. Anne of Green Gables (1985)
Anne is one of the greatest heroines in all literature and it takes a very particular kind of actress to really capture her essence. Megan Follows didn’t just play Anne, she became Anne, and forever spoiled future adaptations with any other actress. I would also like to note that the sequels, Anne of Green Gables: The Sequal and Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story would probably be terrible if it weren’t for Follows, but she makes them sparkle. All hail to the Queen of Carrots!
2. Harry Potter 1-8 (2001-2011)
Harry Potter will always hold a special place in my heart. The films will never live up to the books, but that’s not saying much because the books set the bar so ridiculously high that anything half as good would still be amazing in my book. The greatest things about the movies were: Emma Watson as the precocious Hermione Granger, Alan Rickman (RIP) as the labyrinthine Snape, Dame Maggie Smith as the imperturbable Professor McGonagall, Robbie Coltrane as the ever-huggable Hagrid, and, well, you get the idea. The franchise burned through multiple directors and score composers, not to mention two Dumbledores and Flitwicks, but rather than disjoint the entire enterprise, these changes allowed it to evolve and grow as the heroic trio grew and changed. The end result is nothing less than magical from start to finish.
1. The Lord of the Rings + The Hobbit (2001-2014)
I’m cheating a little bit with this one because I couldn’t possibly choose between two incarnations of Middle-earth by the same magnificent director. Yes, The Lord of the Rings was the original cutting-edge genius that introduced the world to a whole new level of special effects and Weta Workshop wizardry, but The Hobbit films have their own charm. The dwarf-elf love triangle is incredibly juvenile, but the levity of the second film trilogy makes it a nice segue into the darker world of The Lord of the Rings for a new generation of budding Tolkienites. I will always be indebted to Peter Jackson for breathing new life into this mythical world I love so much.
And because I can’t help myself, here are a few notable mentions that didn’t quite make the cut:
- And Then There Were None (2015)
- Atonement (2007)
- Cinderella (2015)
- The English Patient (1996)
- Forrest Gump (1994)
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
- The Hunger Games 1-4 (2012-2015)
- Julie and Julia (2009)
- Macbeth (2015)
- Master and Commander (2003)
- Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)
- Much Ado About Nothing (2012)
- North and South (2004)
- Outlander (2014-)
- Parade’s End (2012)
- Sense and Sensibility (2008)
- Sherlock seasons 1-3 (2010-2014)
- The Snowpiercer (2014)
- Their Eyes Were Watching God (2005)