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20 Great Book-to-Screen Adaptations

From the last 20 years

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • July 23, 2023

As we ring in our milestone anniversary here at ThriftBooks, we are enjoying looking back at our early days and reflecting on how much we've grown over the years. We're honored to take part in helping our customers connect with all kinds of literary entertainment. As a part of our celebration, here are twenty terrific book-to-screen adaptations—spanning a variety of genres—from the last twenty years. 

Mystic River (2003) 

This Oscar nominated neo-noir crime film was directed by Clint Eastwood and boasts an all-star cast, including Kevin Bacon, Tim Robbins, and Sean Penn. Dennis Lehane penned the novel about three men who were childhood friends. Their lives are shattered when one of them suffers a family tragedy. 

Matchstick Men (2003)

From Eric Garcia, the novel that inspired this humorous Ridley Scott film tells the twisty story of a cautious con artist with OCD (Nicolas Cage) whose teenage daughter turns up just as he and his protégé (Sam Rockwell) are on the verge of pulling off a lucrative swindle.

Holes (2003) 

After being wrongfully convicted of a crime, a teenage boy (Shia LaBeouf) is sent to a brutal desert detention camp where he's put to work digging holes for mysterious reasons. Sigourney Weaver and Jon Voight also star in the Disney movie based on Louis Sachar's novel.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

The Oscar-winning final installment of the epic trilogy bringing J. R. R. Tolkien's beloved Lord of the Rings saga to life surely counts as one of the best adaptations of all time. Directed by Peter Jackson, the majestic film stars Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortenson, and Ian McKellan.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

We love all of the movies based on J. K. Rowling's cherished series, but this one, directed by Alfonso Cuarón (taking over for Chris Columbus), stands out as particularly important as it set the tone for all that followed. From the Knight Bus to the Dementors, this enchanting world is fully realized. 

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

The Oscar-winning heartbreaker about closeted cowboy lovers was based on a short story by Annie Proulx. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal play Ennis and Jack, two wranglers who fall into a doomed love affair as young men while spending a summer together on Brokeback Mountain. 

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

Will Smith and Jaden Smith play a single father and his young son, evicted from their San Francisco apartment with nowhere to go. This film is based on Chris Gardner's memoir about his struggles to survive and care for his son, while houseless and pursuing a fledgling career in finance.

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Anne Hathaway plays an aspiring journalist who struggles when she lands the job of assistant to a powerful fashion magazine editor (Meryl Streep), despite having no interest in fashion. Based on Lauren Weisberger's novel, the film's ensemble cast also features Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci.

Children of Men (2006)

A futuristic society faces extinction in this thriller based on a dystopian novel by P. D. James. Clive Owen plays a civil servant trying to help a refugee fleeing chaos and violence of a world facing almost total human infertility, global depression, and war. Julianne Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Michael Caine also star.

Atonement (2007)

An imaginative thirteen-year-old changes the course of several lives when she mistakenly accuses her older sister's lover of a crime in this historical drama based on the bestseller by Ian McEwan. The gorgeous film introduces a young Saoirse Ronan and features deft performances from James McAvoy and Keira Knightley.

There Will Be Blood (2007)

Paul Thomas Anderson directed this epic tale about a turn-of-the-century prospector (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his ruthless quest for wealth during Southern California's oil boom starting in the late 19th century. The Oscar-winning film is based loosely on the 1927 novel Oil! by Upton Sinclair.

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Based on a 1970 children's novel by Roald Dahl, Wes Anderson's animated comedy centers on the suave, stealthy eponymous fox. When he can't give up his thieving ways, he faces the farmers' retaliation on his community. Voiced by such stars as George Clooney, Meryl Streep, and Bill Murray.

Winter's Bone (2010)

In her breakout role, Jennifer Lawrence plays Ree Dolly, a tenacious teen living in the harsh poverty of the Ozarks. With her family on the brink of losing their house, she sets out on a dangerous mission to find her bail-skipping father. The film was inspired by Daniel Woodrell's chilling, evocative novel.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Starring Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, and Christopher Plummer, this mystery thriller is based on the international bestseller by Stieg Larsson. A crusading journalist is hired to investigate a woman's disappearance forty years ago. He enlists the help of Lisbeth Salander, an angry punk computer hacker.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

This movie is based on book two of the bestselling YA series by Suzanne Collins. The thrilling tale imagines a dystopian society in which the cruel regime keeps its impoverished citizens in line by forcing them to send two youth from each of twelve districts to participate in an annual, televised fight to the death.

The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

When teens Hazel (Shailene Woodley) and Augustus (Ansel Elgort) meet at a cancer support group, sparks fly and they fall in love, even as Hazel faces a terminal diagnosis. Based on John Green's heartbreaking YA novel exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

Gone Girl (2014)

Directed by David Fincher and based upon the bestseller by Gillian Flynn, this psychological thriller unearths the secrets at the heart of a modern marriage. When Nick (Ben Affleck) reports that his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), has gone missing, it becomes quickly clear that it was far from a blissful union.

Call Me By Your Name (2017)

It's the summer of 1983 in Italy, and Elio (Timothée Chalamet) is a precocious American-Italian teen. When Oliver (Armie Hammer) arrives as an intern working with Elio's father, it sets off a summer of awakening desire that will change their lives. Based on the acclaimed coming-of-age novel by André Aciman.

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

When New Yorker Rachel (Constance Wu) accompanies her boyfriend, Nick (Henry Golding), to a wedding in Singapore, she is surprised to learn that he is the scion of one of the country's wealthiest families. The glittering adaptation of Kevin Kwan's witty rom-com also features Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, and Michelle Yeoh.

Dune (2021)

Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, embarks on a treacherous journey through space. Audiences were mesmerized by this visually thrilling film, which works its way through only the first half of Frank Herbert's classic sci-fi saga.

Wow! So many great literary adaptations have been made since we were born, it was hard to pick and choose! Help us celebrate our milestone anniversary by checking out some of these stellar book-to-screen projects.

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