The Sensational Adaptations of The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby has been retold in many different ways since its original release. Read on to learn all about these exciting adaptations.

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The Great Gatsby movie poster from 2013, book cover of The Great Gatsby, movie poster from 1974 on black and white sparkly background.

When people are asked to think of a quintessential American novel, usually the first title that pops into their head will be F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. This story of life in The Jazz Age has captured millions of readers with its vivid storytelling and exciting characters. Even though the novel came out almost a hundred years ago, it is still being celebrated today. That celebration comes from readers but also through a variety of mediums. The Great Gatsby has been adapted in many ways over the past several decades. Here are some of the most notable adaptations that gave the classic story a new life.

The First Film

The adaptations of The Great Gatsby began not too long after the book’s release. The first film was a silent film in 1926, a year after the novel directly adapted from a play adaptation of the story. It starred famous silent film actors Warren Baxter and Lois Wilson, as well as Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan.

1926 Great Gatsby movie poster with a well-dressed woman and man looking at each other.
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This adaptation is an example of a lost film, as no full copy is available for viewing. However, the film’s trailer, which includes many clips of the film, is still in circulation. From what has been told, it is a faithful adaptation, but Fitzgerald was not a fan. Whatever the truth of the film’s quality may be, we will never know the whole story.

The Second Adaptation

The second adaptation came not that long after the first one, but there were definitely some key differences between the two. The second film came out in 1949. Sound was finally introduced to the story. This adaptation starred Alan Ladd as Gatsby and Betty Field as Daisy.

Still from 1949 The Great Gatsby with a man looking deep into a sitting woman's eyes.
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Executives wanted to change certain themes of the novel so that there were more moralizing features to please the censors. Also, considering the time period, this movie had more of a noir feel. These choices led to mixed reviews, as the film had some well-done elements and performances, yet it did not feel like the authentic story of The Great Gatsby.

The 1970s Film

The film adaptations of the novel did not stop after the early years of cinema. The novel was adapted once again in 1974. This version starred Robert Redford as Gatsby and Mia Farrow as Daisy. The film was also famously written by Francis Ford Coppola, who was fresh off of making The Godfather.

Still from 1974 The Great Gatsby with a well-dressed man a flapper woman staring forward.
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The 1974 film received mixed reviews, as some people believe it could have used some more emotional heart despite it being a technically well-made adaptation. However, despite these reviews, the film was undoubtedly financially successful. It won Best Costume Design and Best Original Score at the Academy Awards. It was also a popular movie with audiences, but it would not be the last adaptation to do so.

The Modern Film

Although The Great Gatsby has been adapted for the screen many times, the film that modern generations may think of is Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 film. Luhrmann is known for the stunning visuals he brings to his films, and that was certainly the case for this film. Seeing Gatsby’s parties as glowing celebrations of life and luxury certainly helped the viewers place themselves in that world.

Still from 2013 The Great Gatsby with three well-dressed men a flapper woman sitting at a party table with gold sparkling streamers in the background.
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This movie also has the terrific casting of Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, who inspired a few popular memes, and Carey Mulligan as Daisy, who helped make this film shine. The film has highly positive reviews and won Best Production Design and Best Costume Design at the Academy Awards. It has shining images and emotional scenes that helped bring Gatsby to life for a 21st-century audience.

The Broadway Musical

Even at this very moment, a new adaptation of The Great Gatsby is being performed. A musical version starring Tony nominee Jeremy Jordan as Gatsby and Tony winner Eva Noblezada as Daisy premiered at the Paper Mill Playhouse in October 2023. Due to all of the buzz about this production, it soon had a transfer to Broadway in 2024.

Still of Jeremy Jordan in Supergirl at a table.
IMAGE VIA THE CW

The musical began its previews at the Broadway Theatre on March 29, with an official premiere date set for April 25, just in time for Tony Award eligibility. There are no official reviews for the production yet, but considering the talent involved and the timeless story, the musical should likely do well.

The Future Musical

While the musical on Broadway is the one getting all the attention, it is not the only musical in the works at the moment. Another musical, simply titled Gatsby, is planning on having its world premiere soon. The score for this musical is being done by Florence Welch, lead singer and songwriter of the Grammy-nominated indie rock band Florence and the Machines. In addition, the musical has Tony Award winner Rachel Chavkin as its director. 

Florence Welch holding a dirty man to calm him down.
IMAGE VIA HBO

Even without any official cast announcements, Gatsby has already gotten quite a bit of attention due to Welch and Chavkin’s following. The musical is set to have its world premiere at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and will run from May 25 to July 21. Not a lot is known about this production, but what is known sounds promising.

The New Books

It is obvious that nothing will replace the classic novel. However, some authors have decided to create a new perspective for certain characters. When the book entered the public domain, writers could officially publish their own “fanfiction,” so to speak. One of the more popular ones has been Nick by Michael Farris Smith, which came out in 2021. It is a prequel to the original book, as it follows Nick Carraway’s adventures as a soldier and other parts of his life before Long Island. It is a unique character study of a character that is often overlooked in the original novel.

Book cover of "Nick" with a royal blue background and large eyes on the bottom with small red fiery details underneath.
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Another novel that reimagines The Great Gatsby is Self-Made Boys: A Great Gatsby Remix by Anna-Marie McLemore, which came out in 2022. This novel brought some modern themes to the classic 1920s story. In this version, Nick is a trans-Latino man whose cousin Daisy tries to be white-passing. Then there is Gatsby, who is also trans and gets a little closer to Nick than in the original. It is a new take that hopes to create diverse representation in a classic story for a modern audience.

The Great Gatsby is a thrilling story that has impacted many people and inspired a lot of creativity. The beauty of each adaptation is that they all have one-of-a-kind elements that make The Great Gatsby new again so that every reader will have a different perspective on the book. Many novels have faded in and out of popularity over the years, but it looks like The Great Gatsby will always be on people’s minds.


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