5 Films That Were Historical Fiction Books First

Thankfully, there are some movies out there that do the book justice. These five films are incredibly popular, and there is a successful book behind each one.

Adaptations Adult Fiction Fiction Historical Fiction

Films and books are two staples for conveying stories in very different ways. Film adaptations of books usually garner strong opinions depending on the person you ask. Everybody has that one friend that always swears by the book version, no matter how good the film was made. Today, we’re going to give you five historical fiction movies that you might not have known were books first. 





If you love Pride and Prejudice’s Keira Knightly or X-Men’s James McAvoy, then you have definitely seen Atonement. Along with Knightly and McAvoy, the film has a star-studded cast with Saoirse Ronan, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juno Temple and more. Atonement was nominated for several Academy Awards, and many other British film awards as well.

However, did you know that Atonement was based on a 2001 book by Ian McEwan? Atonement is about a young English girl named Briony who witnesses her older sister Cecelia develop a connection with Robbie, their housekeeper’s son. Briony’s immaturity and misunderstanding of the world around her leads her to accuse Robbie of a heinous crime, which he is wrongfully sent to prison for. By the time Robbie is out of prison, the world is consumed by World War II. Robbie becomes a soldier in Dunkirk while Cecelia becomes a nurse. Will the two ever see each other again? Will Briony ever realize the horrible reality of her actions? You’ll have to read the book or watch the movie to find out!



Schindler’s List



The iconic imagery of the girl in the red coat in Schindler’s List moved viewers across the world as the film swept the 66th Academy Awards with seven Oscars. The film features Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, and Ralph Fiennes in this harrowing story about the Holocaust.

Schindler’s List was also critically acclaimed as a historical fiction novel, winning the Booker Award. This 1982 book is set during World War II and tells the story of Oskar Schindler, a member of the Nazi Party and a German industrialist. He goes to Kraków, Poland hoping to make a fortune in the industry, but a change of heart requires him to outsmart the SS soldiers in order to save 1,200 Polish Jews. Both the book and the movie convey the story in an incredibly moving way.



The Help



The Help’s infamous chocolate pie scene may go down in history as one of the greatest revenge scenes ever. The Help won several awards when it was released in 2011. The all-star cast of women included Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis, Cicely Tyson, Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, Bryce Dallas Harper, Allison Janney and many others. The film was adapted only two years after the book was originally published. 

The Help is a historical fiction novel by Kathryn Stockett that follows the lives of Skeeter, Aibileene and Minny in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s. After Skeeter graduates from the University of Mississippi, she plans to write a book about what it’s like to be a black maid in the segregated South, getting perspective from Aibileene, Minny and other black maids in Jackson. Both versions of The Help deliver a perspective often forgotten of those exploited and disenfranchised from this period.



Forrest Gump



Forrest Gump is probably one of the most quotable movies ever. The movie was filmed in 1994 and swept the Oscars that year winning a total of six Academy Awards. The film featured Tom Hanks as Forrest and his role became a truly iconic character in film culture.

Forrest Gump was originally a novel that surprisingly didn’t sell too well until the film was released. In 1986, Winston Groom wrote Forrest Gump. This story is about Forrest, a young man who is disabled from Mobile, Alabama. The book follows Forrest’s life with his first love Jenny, his time fighting in the Vietnam War and as a championship-winning ping-pong and chess player. The film and the book are an unconventional approach to historical fiction due to the sporadic yet interesting sequence of events in Forrest’s life. You’ll have to read the book and watch the film to determine whether the book is underrated!



The godfather



One classic movie that many people don’t know was a book first is The Godfather. The Godfather swept the 1973 Academy Awards with a whopping 11 awards that night. The 1972 movie stars Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro and Marlon Brando.

The Godfather book topped the New York Times Bestseller list and sold millions of copies around the world. This novel follows the Corleone mob family that is fighting against five other New York Mafia families after World War II. After the patriarch of the Corleone family is shot, the family seeks revenge which leads to a war between two families. The Godfather was successful in both versions of the story, so be prepared for action-packed storytelling from whichever version you choose!


Thankfully, there are some movies out there that do the book justice. For these five award-winning movies, you might not have known that they were based off of a book. If you loved the movie or want to see if the book is better, you’ve got a new historical fiction book to add to your TBR!


Featured image via aspen film