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Intense Movies Based on Intense Books

Psychological Thrillers That Are Sure to Enthrall

By Karen DeGroot Carter • October 19, 2020

If you love good page-turners that keep you up reading all night or suspenseful flicks that keep you on the edge of your seat, the following thrillers are just what you need. If you've seen one of these movies but never read the book it's based on, get ready to curl up with a read you won't soon forget. And if the opposite is true, you'll find many of these films just as compelling as their printed counterparts. Of course, if you just love to enjoy amazing movies and books over and over, that works, too!

20th Century Classics

Murder on the Orient Express
Originally published in England in 1934, Murder on the Orient Express by British detective novelist Agatha Christie has been adapted for the large and small screens many times. The first film adaptation from 1974, however, provides an award-winning take featuring performances by the likes of Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, and Ingrid Bergman, who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance.

Published in 1938, Rebecca by another British author, Daphne Du Maurier, is a bestselling Gothic thriller complete with romance, intrigue, and a mansion set on a sprawling estate. A classic that has never gone out of print, it has been adapted into numerous productions through the decades, including Alfred Hitchock's 1940 film of the same name, which won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Cinematography.

The Talented Mr. Ripley
Five years after her first novel, Strangers on a Train, was published in 1950, U.S. author Patricia Highsmith launched a series of books featuring a complex character named Tom Ripley. While The Talented Mr. Ripley, which takes readers from New York City to Rome and Venice and on to Greece, would be adapted multiple times for stage, screen, and radio beginning in 1956, it wasn't until 1999 that the critically acclaimed Hollywood film starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, and Gwyneth Paltrow was released.

The 1959 novel Psycho by author Robert Bloch tells a riveting tale of extreme family dysfunction and murder with multiple surprise twists. In his movie adaptation, released just one year later in 1960, Alfred Hitchcock created a low-budget, black-and-white masterpiece of nail-biting suspense that continues to provide scream-worthy scares with every viewing.

Contemporary Discoveries

Gone Baby Gone
One of six novels featuring a Boston-based private investigator and his partner and girlfriend, Gone Baby Gone by Dennis Lehane was published in 1998 and made into a critically acclaimed movie by Ben Affleck in 2007. Described as a "neo noir mystery crime thriller," Affleck's first feature film adapted Lehane's story of a widely publicized child's disappearance into an award-winning film noted for its riveting performances by stars Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan and supporting cast member Amy Ryan.

Tell No One
The 2001 crime mystery novel Tell No One by U.S. author Harlan Coben was adapted into a highly rated, award-winning French thriller of the same name in 2006. The complex tale of a doctor trying to unravel the circumstances behind his wife's murder years later takes multiple unexpected and sometimes frantic twists and turns against intriguing backdrops, including a Parisian antiques market.

A Simple Favor
For a fashionable, edgy noir escape, check out A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell. Published in 2017 and adapted into a movie with the same name in 2018, it involves a missing woman in a Connecticut town and those who try to find her, including a widowed vlogger mom. The movie stars Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively, both of whom edged their performances with twists of adult humor that resonated with fans.

As the nights grow longer with the change of seasons, indulge in the darker side of fiction and film with these finds. If I haven't mentioned one of your tried-and-true favorite book-based movies, please share! Especially if it's a thriller that never fails to keep you up all night!

Read more by Karen DeGroot Carter

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