Are you a cinephile? Do you think you know everything about your favorite movies? Well, what if I were to tell you that some of the most critically-acclaimed motion pictures of all time were actually adaptations of books? Sure, we all know that To Kill A Mockingbird and The Wizard of Oz were based off of books, but here’s a list of six films you wouldn’t believe were taken from prior source material.
6. Forrest Gump
The book Forrest Gump opens up a whole different box of chocolates. While the movie more or less uses the character of Forrest as a vehicle for the audience to travel through the twentieth century, the novel, while doing the same, also takes some – um, “interesting” detours. For example, having Forrest perform as a stuntman in Hollywood with a naked Raquel Welch, gain fame as a professional wrestler named “The Dunce” and even have him work for NASA as an astronaut with an orangutan named Suen, who, after crashing their space shuttle in the Indian Ocean, has to live on an island of native cannibals for several years. It’s a general rule that the book is better than the film, but Winstom Groom’s 1989 novel has proved the exception to the rule.
5. The Godfather
Even though it’s regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, few in my experience were even aware that The Godfather was based off of Mario Puzo’s 1969 crime novel of the same name – he even worked on the screenplay. There’s not much else to say, as the film is almost a verbatim retelling of the novel, the only significant difference is that Johnny Fatone (the character meant to represent Frank Sinatra) plays a much bigger part in the book.
4. Jurassic Park
The cautionary tale about man playing God, which received acclaim from audiences and critics alike, was based on a book by Michael Crichton of the same name. In the books, much of the genetic engineering makes a lot more sense (as much sense as resurrecting dinosaurs could). Instead of the DNA of every dinosaur being found in a single mosquito trapped in amber, hundreds of blood sucking bugs are utilized, also, the gaps in the genome are replaced with the most compatible DNA, such as reptilian, avian and amphibian (not just frogs). The book also explains much more clearly who Dennis Nedry was smuggling the dinosaur embryos out of the park for.
Personally, I was really surprised when I discovered that Jaws wasn’t an original idea, but instead based off of a 1974 novel by Peter Benchley. While Martin Brody, Matt Hooper, and Quint make an appearance in the book, along with a passionate love affair, Mafia ties and (in my opinion) a far less ridiculous ending, as the shark merely ends up succumbing to its wounds, instead of exploding into pieces like a Tom and Jerry cartoon.
Image via IMDB
2. Die Hard
In Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp, the book that Die Hard was inspired by, the main character’s name is Joe Leland, which is already a point in favor of the film, as John McClain is objectively the coolest name in history. Not only that, but the Germans that take the Christmas party hostage are actually terrorists instead of just robbers, and Leland is going to see his daughter instead of his wife, who he actually fails to save, ending the novel on a rather dark and depressing note. Germans taking over a highrise building in downtown Los Angeles isn’t a plot that I can take seriously, and I felt like the movie, to an extent, agreed, which is why there were frequent moments of comedy in between the action, making for a hilarious and enjoyable experience.
1. The Jungle Book
It’s quite shocking to me how few people know that The Jungle Book was based on an actual book. Written in 1894 by Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book is more of a collection of short stories, and Mowgli is only featured in a few of them. The rest serve more as fables, where, much like Aesop, Kipling used talking animals as a way to teach the reader moral lessons. While the stories feature well known characters Baloo, Shere Khan, Bagheera, and Kaa, the stories carry a far darker and more serious tone than the movie does, tackling real issues such as abandonment, family and community.
So what was my purpose writing this article? I think it’s important for us all to learn that, just because an artistic work may be unoriginal, that doesn’t necessarily make it uncreative. Adaptations and fan art can still bring new and imaginative perspectives to older source material, and even fantasy stories with knights and wizards or science-fiction stories with robots and spaceships can still be engaging tales, even if they’re in the most overused and cliched genres. So, if you’re an artist of any stripe out there reading this, don’t worry if what you’re creating isn’t original, as long as it’s good.