Books That Inspired Classic Movies
Books receiving movie adaptations are nothing new, and plenty of great novels were turned into equally incredible movies. However, not all of the books that inspired classic movies are that well-known. Many people are also unaware that some of their favorite movies started as books. This can often happen when the film title is different from the source material. For a few examples, check out the following books that inspired classic movies.
by Roderick Thorp
Die Hard cemented Bruce Willis as an action star and became an instant classic when it was released in 1988. However, before it was a summer blockbuster starring Detective John McClane, it was a 1979 novel by Roderick Thorp, titled Nothing Lasts Forever. The novel was a sequel to his 1966 novel, The Detective, starring retired NYPD detective Joe Leland. Die Hard retained many of the elements of Nothing Lasts Forever, but the novel is a lot darker and stars a much older protagonist.
by Walter Wager
While Roderick Thorp receives some credit in Die Hard 2 for creating some of the characters, the movie itself is an adaptation of the 1987 novel 58 Minutes by Walter Wager. The novel is about a divorced NYPD captain Frank Malone waiting at JFK international airport for the arrival of his daughter. The novel's title refers to how much time Frank has to save his daughter when the airport equipment is hijacked and the power to the runway lights cut off. Since there is a massive blizzard, incoming none of the planes circling overhead has time to go elsewhere and continues to circle overhead as Frank tries to save the day.
by Jane Austen
Emma by Jane Austen was published in the early 19th century but has gone on to inspire many other books and films. Emma is a spoiled and headstrong young woman who greatly overestimates her own matchmaking abilities and gleefully goes about meddling in the lives of other people. Unfortunately, this often leads to romantic misunderstandings as Emma lacks experience and remains convinced that she is always right. One of the most well-known film adaptations of Emma is Clueless, the 1995 comedy starring Alicia Silverstone. The film features a more modern setting and takes place in Beverly Hills, but the themes remain the same as the novel.
by Gustav Hasford
The Short-Timers was first published in 1979 and is a semi-autobiographical novel by Gustav Hasford. The author was a Vietnam War veteran and wrote a novel about his experiences during the war. The Short-Timers served as inspiration for the 1987 drama Full Metal Jacket, which was directed and produced by Stanley Kubrick. However, the film's overall tone is more tragic than the book, and some parts were altered or omitted. Hasford published a sequel to The Short-Timers in 1990 but passed away before he could write the third book in his planned trilogy.
by Ted Chiang
Stories of Your Life and Others is a 2022 collection of eight short stories by Ted Chiang. One of the stories featured in the collection is Story of Your Life, which was first published in 1998. The story is narrated by a linguist and addresses it to her daughter as she describes deciphering the language of aliens arriving on Earth. The film was adapted into the 2016 science-fiction drama, Arrival, which was directed by Denis Villeneuve and starred Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner.
by Sarah Waters
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters is a 2002 historical crime novel that takes place in the Victorian era. The novel is split into three parts and features an orphan named Sue Trinder and a wealthy heiress named Maud Lilly. The story is told from both of their perspectives as Sue is sent by her adoptive mother to pose as a maid and gain the trust of Maud. Her instructions are to help a man named Richard Rivers seduce Maud intending to claim her fortune eventually. The novel served as inspiration for the 2016 film, The Handmaiden, by Park Chan-wook. The film uses the same themes as the novel but shifts the setting to Korea under Japanese colonial rule.
by Ben Mezrich
Before becoming a 2010 film directed by David Fincher and starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, and Justin Timberlake, The Social Network started out as a 2009 book called The Accidental Billionaires. It was written by Ben Mezrich and starred one of the co-founders of Facebook, Eduardo Saverin, as the protagonist. The book chronicles the rise of Facebook from its humble beginnings at Harvard all the way to Silicon Valley. The Social Network was a very faithful adaptation of the story, although it did dramatize some of the elements to make it more compelling.
by Robert L. Fish
Mute Witness is a 1963 novel by Robert L. Fish that he wrote under the pseudonym of Robert L. Pike. The story follows Lieutenant Clancy of the NYPD, a loose cannon who is transferred to the backwater 52nd Precinct after shooting the witness in an important trial. Here he is assigned to protecting a mob kingpin who is waiting to testify before the crime commission. However, when the kingpin is assassinated in his hotel room, Clancy is determined to find whoever is responsible, even if it means taking on the whole mob. Mute Witness served as inspiration for the 1968 Steve McQueen classic, Bullit, which was well received by critics and became the fourth-highest grossing film of that year.