While it’s no secret that the movies draw on books for source material, we sometimes don’t realize that our favorite movies started in print. Not every adaptation is Gone Girl or Harry Potter. Here are a dozen movies that surprisingly have their origins in books. How many have you read?
Based on Mickey Rapkin’s 2008 book, Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory, the 2012 movie, starring Anna Kendrick as a reluctant member of college a capella group The Barton Bellas, is filled with the kind of drama you’d expect from a juicy novel. But Rapkin’s book is a journalistic look behind the scenes at collegiate a cappella, from the long hours of rehearsals even during finals to groupies (yes, groupies) to the bitter rivalries that surround the world of competitive vocal gymnastics. Prepare to get pitch slapped!
Father of the Bride
Steve Martin’s iconic role as George Banks, a harried father helping his little girl prepare for her wedding day, originated more than 40 years before he appeared on screen in 1991. Originally published in 1949, William Streeter’s modern comic novel is hilariously and faithfully adapted; it is surprisingly as relatable now as it was nearly 70 years. Wedding planning, it seems, hasn’t changed.
Chance, Sassy, and Shadow. Is there a more lovable and recognizable trio? You might not have known that these three -- Chance (an American bulldog voiced by Michael J. Fox), Sassy (a Himalayan cat voiced by Sally Field), and Shadow (a Golden Retriever voiced by Don Ameche) -- were actually created in the 1961 children’s book, The Incredible Journey, by Sheila Burnford. This story about family pets who cross the Canadian wilderness to reunite with their people is just as heartwarming in print as it is on screen.
In Witi Ihimaera’s 2003 novel of the same name, eight-year-old Kahu was born to a contemporary Maori family but feels the power of her ancestor, the Whale Rider who rode a giant whale to bring his people to New Zealand, within herself. Her grandfather, who believes that chiefs can only be male, ignores her talents. The movie, while a bit of a departure from the film, is all about a girl who defies the patriarchal assumptions of her tribe to become the Whale Rider she knows she really is.
What a simpler time for Lindsay Lohan. The 2004 film, written by Tina Fey, was adapted from the self-help book Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman, which was written for parents to help their teenage daughters navigate the challenges of cliques, boys, friendships, and self-esteem. And once you know the movie’s origins, it’s hard not to see it in lines like, “You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores.”
Terms of Endearment
Everyone knows that if you’re looking for a good cryfest, you can’t go wrong with this 1983 movie starring Deborah Winger and Shirley MacLaine. But did you know that this film was based on Larry McMurtry’s 1975 novel of the same name? Though not nearly as hefty as McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, be sure to keep the tissues close at hand for this tearjerker of a novel.
Remains of the Day
In post-war in Britain, a butler nearing the end of his service reflects on his life and the family he served loyally until its downfall. It’s hard not to see Anthony Hopkins in this iconic role, but before the legendary actor took his turn around Darlington Hall, the butler first came to life in Kazuo Ishiguro’s 1989 novel. If you love this quiet drama, the novel should be next on your TBR list.
Did you know that Alfred Hitchcock’s terrifying thriller The Birds was actually based on a novelette by Daphne du Maurier? We normally associate du Maurier with classics like Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel but this story of a farmhand, his family, and his community that are attacked by flocks of birds and seabirds is a psychological horror story for the ages. Don't miss it!
Tom Hanks’ earnest and bumbling portrayal of the title character is a quintessential performance that earned Hanks the Best Actor Academy Award and the film the 1994 Best Picture Oscar. But that film was based on Winston Groom’s 1986 novel of the same name, which has a similar premise but Groom’s Gump finds himself in entirely different historical moments and has completely different experiences. This one that will truly test your belief that the book is better.
Before they hit the screen, The Cheetah Girls were the stars of their very own young adult series written by Deborah Gregory (who also produced the movies). In this 16-book collection that premiered in 1999, The Cheetah Girls are a female singing group seeking stardom. And stars they became. These books were adapted into three movies (starring Raven-Symoné), three video games, and multiple albums and live tours.
Before Roy Schieder needed a bigger boat and made us all too afraid to go into the water, Jaws was a 1974 novel by Peter Benchley. Though the film focuses on the massive great white shark that terrorizes a small coastal town, this portion was actually only the last third of the book. The first two-thirds of Benchley’s novel was scrapped for an entirely different beginning for the sake of cinematic suspense. Successfully, I’d say.
Friday Night Lights
Before it was a series, it was a movie. And before it was a movie, it was a 1990 nonfiction book by H.G. Bissinger that followed the 1988 Permian High School Panthers football team from Odessa, Texas, as they chase the Texas state championship. And just as the series ended up being about way more than football, the book chronicles not only the team but the town and the community surrounding it.