Books turned into Oscar-winning movies

Since the late 1800s, literary works are being adapted into movies. In a way, from a filmmaker's point of view, adapting a book can seem like a safer way to appeal to audiences than filming by an original screenplay because the story is already familiar, already popular; the movie is in a way pre-sold before it even began filming. Adaptations are consistently some of the highest-grossing films of all time; making a profit for both industries – book lover's curiosity is luring them to the cinemas and movie fanatics are buying the books wanting to know if there is more to the story. Of course, literal adaptation is not possible. There is a known attempt of literal adaptation in 1924 when director Eric von Stroheim „copied“ Frank Norris's novel McTeague into a 9 and a half-hour long movie Greed (the movie was later edited two times to about two and a half hours). So, when adapting a movie it is inevitable to make changes; emphasize some parts, understate others, exclude parts of the story, or insert something new.

Some books have been transformed onto the big screen so successfully that they were praised by the audiences as well as the movie industry professionals, no less than the Academy itself. Here are some of those works of art worth watching and reading.

The Godfather (Mario Puzo, 1969; movie adaptation 1972)

The epic novel depicts the lives of an Italian mafia family in New York City in the 1930s and has become a part of America's national culture and one of the greatest novels of all time. The book was adapted as a trilogy and won 9 Oscars of 28 nominations, two of which belong to Puzo himself for best-adapted screenplay.


Forrest Gump (Winston Groom, 1986; movie adaptation 1994)

This story of human dignity was written in just six weeks after the author got a character idea after hearing about a mentally disabled boy who was an amazing piano player. Before the movie adaptation, the book was sold in just 30.000 copies; but after the movie smashed the box office and won 6 Oscars, Groom sold over 2 million copies around the world.


The Silence of the Lambs (Thomas Harris, 1988; movie adaptation 1991)

A literary masterpiece, psychological horror about a young female FBI agent whose quest to catch a serial killer leads her to even worse, genius mastermind yet cannibalistic killer and former psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter. The book received best novel awards right after publishing and the 1991 cinematic adaptation was the third -and last- ever film to win all five major Academy Awards (best picture, best director, best screenplay, best actor, and best actress).

12 Years a Slave (Solomon Northup, 1855; movie adaptation 2013)

This slave narrative and memoir by S. Northup, a farmer and a violinist, a free man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. After 12 long years of enslavement, he managed to restore his freedom. The movie adaptation won three Oscars of nine nominations.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Ken Kesey, 1962; movie adaptation 1975)

In this astonishing story, the main character fakes insanity to avoid prison only to discover the horrors happening inside a mental institution and rebels against it in any way possible. The book is an international bestseller and the movie adaptation is one of three movies ever to win all five major Oscars.

What do you do first, read the book or watch the movie? What would you add to the list? Tell us!



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