Turning a renowned, acclaimed and much loved novel into a film is undoubtedly a difficult feat for any director, screenwriter or actor, whose collective job it is to bring the characters and story to the silver screen, while still maintaining the essence of the book that made it so popular in the first place. Anyone whose favourite book has even been made into a film will know the familiar feeling of apprehension, ‘Will they do the book justice?’ ‘Will they stick to the plot of the novel?’ 

It’s generally accepted that books usually come out on top in the literary versus cinema debate, however, we take a look at some of the novels who mastered the tricky transition from the pages of a book to the silver screen (and even picked up an Oscar or two along the way) . . .

Harry Potter

Unlike other fantasy franchises, the first “Harry Potter” film was produced not long after the books were published; meaning that ‘Potter Mania’ was still going strong when we first saw Daniel Radcliffe don his iconic circular specs. What made the “Harry Potter” films so spectacular, for adults and children alike, was that they remained true to JK Rowling’s novels. The casting for the films ensured that the actors were an accurate representation of their Hogwarts characters; could you picture anyone else but Emma Watson as Hermione Granger? Alan Rickman’s portrayal of Professor Snape was as though he had been born to play the part. Each movie saw Harry, Hermione and Ron grow older, allowing fans of the books to grow up with them and making the “Harry Potter” series all the more magical.


Irvine Welsh’s cult novel documenting the lives of a group of heroin addicts in Edinburgh became a film in 1996, three years after the book was originally published. “Trainspotting” was so successful as a film, thanks to director Danny Boyle because he ensured that “Trainspotting” on screen was as close to the book as it possibly could be. Neither the book nor the film glamourizes drug addiction, but what made the book so memorable was the way in which Welsh’s characters were so likeable, despite their serious problems. The silver screen version of Trainspotting allowed that to shine through, with the major issues of the book being addressed without sacrificing Welsh’s wit and dry humour. What’s more, with the film’s success, Scots writer Irvine Welsh was deservedly brought to an international audience for all to appreciate some of the best satirical writing out there and paved the way for both, “Filth” and “Ecstasy : Three Tales Of Chemical Romance” to get the cinema treatment.


Directed, narrated and starring Danny DeVito, the 1996 film version of “Matilda” truly captures the magic and charm of Roald Dahl’s novel. Both the book and the film are loved by young and old, and the film has become so popular that the songs featured in it instantly remind listeners of “Matilda”; can you listen to Rusted Root’s ‘Send Me On My Way’ without imagining Mara Wilson flipping pancakes? Dahl’s character leap right off the page and onto the silver screen effortlessy; Pam Ferris excels as Matilda’s terrifying tormentor, Ms Trunchball while DeVito and real-life wife, Rhea Perlman play Matilda’s selfish, neglectful parents, Mr and Mrs Wormwood so well that you can’t possible imagine anyone else in their places.

The Great Gatsby

This classic novel has been studied in English classes for decades and has graced ‘best books of all time’ lists for just as long. Lines from the book are constantly quoted and everyone who has read “The Great Gatsby” has their own idea of what Gatsby’s infamous parties were really like. So, recreating the tale of Jay Gatsby and his fast-paced life in the 1920s would not be an easy task, however, Baz Luhrmann’s portrayal of the book certainly does justice to Fitzgerald’s work, with the dialogue and description in the film almost mirroring that of the novel. The party scenes are just as extravagant and vibrant as the book makes them out to be, and surprisingly, the rap music featured in the film somehow fits with the images of New York in the ‘20s.

American Psycho

Brett Easton Eliss’s novel is one that, as the name suggests, incredibly violent with graphic and explicit descriptive elements. This would certainly be a tough task  for any Director. Enter Mary Harron, who took on the challenge of directing what has frequently been dubbed a misogynist novel. The biggest difference between the book and the film is that there is notably less gore; a wise choice surely, making the film much easier to watch than the book is to read at some points. Christian Bale’s performance as Patrick Bateman is the right mix of funny, terrifying and cataclysmic, everything the character is in the novel.

The Shining

Although Stephen King’s novel and the following film adaptation have been around for years now, and with a drove of horror films and books being released afterwards, “The Shining” is timeless in both novel and film form, despite there being some notable differences between the two. In either case, the image of the two pig-tailed girls standing in the hallway sends chills down anyone’s spine both on paper and on screen and ensures more of a sleepless night than many of the horror films hitting the big screen today.

Lord of The Rings Trilogy

With a large gap between the completion of the trilogy and the production of the films, many readers would wonder if it was even possible to recreate JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth. However, the delay meant that through use of CGI and impressive prosthetics, Middle Earth and its inhabitants sprung to the silver screen from 2001, how else would Gollum be portrayed so accurately? Like the novels, the films manage to ooze trepidation; it’s easy to see why the LOTR franchise has worked so well in film.

Forrest Gump

The endearing tale of Forrest Gump is perhaps better known as a film than it is a novel thanks to Tom Hanks’s heart-warming take on Winston Groom’s lovable Southerner. The iconic feather, the box of chocolates speech and ‘Run Forrest, run!’ scenes truly come to life in the film and are now iconic pieces of cinema. There are some major changes from the book, but the film is a solid, stand-alone classic even without having read the novel.

The Wolf Of Wall Street

Maybe it’s because its based on a true story, or perhaps it’s because the plot is so thrilling, but regardless of the reason, the film version of “The Wolf Of Wall Street” is about as close to the book as it could be. The film comes in the form of the fifth collaboration between Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, so even before watching, you can tell it’s going to be special. DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort in all his hedonistic glory so well that you would think he’d been there when it was all happening in reality. Watching Jonah Hill as Donnie highlights his talent; he was utterly deserving of his Oscar nomination, and “The Wolf Of Wall Street” will undoubtedly help Hill graduate onto bigger and better roles in future.


You’d be forgiven for not knowing that “Shrek” is actually based on a children’s picture book of the same name, most don’t. William Steig, the author, probably didn’t envision his hand-drawn cartoon ogre would later be voiced by Mike Myers and being the unlikely hero of four hit movies. Although, in many cases the book is better, this goes to show that with even just one great character, a whole franchise can be born.