SBS’s latest hit The Family Law, is more than just a hilarious TV show – it’s an adaptation of Benjamin Law’s sharp and witty memoir of the same name.
Of course though it’s far from the first time that a brilliant book has been brought to life by an incredible on-screen adaptation. Here are 20 of the greatest:
1. Lord of the Rings
Peter Jackson’s many adaptations of JRR Tolkein’s classic fantasy series The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings were widely acclaimed by fans of the books and newcomers alike and earned him multiple awards and accolades.
2. Schindler’s List
While Thomas Keneally’s Booker prize winning novel ‘Schindler’s Ark’ was a masterpiece of it’s own, Spielberg’s screen adaptation brought it to new audiences – and Ralph Fiennes’ portrayal of Amon Goeth will go down as one of the most chilling film villains in history.
3. Bridget Jones’ Diary
Petite blonde American moviestar Renee Zellweger initially seemed like an odd choice to play the chain-smoking, unlucky-in-love Bridget – but she brought the role to life, birthing many iconic moments that fans would be quoting for years.
4. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Truman Capote’s famous 1943 novel will always be a classic, but thanks to the 1961 movie, Holly Golightly will forever be remembered as a beehived Audrey Hepburn, peering into the jewellery store, coffee in hand, to the strains of ‘Moon River’.
Based on Ian McEwan’s best-selling novel and starring Keira Knightley, James McAvoy and Saoirse Ronan, Atonement proved to be a box office smash hit.
6. The English Patient
Anthony Minghella’s 1995 adaptation of Michael Ondaatje’s Booker prize winning novel was a critically acclaimed success. With an all-star cast including Kristen Scott-Thomas, Juliette Binoche, Ralph Fiennes, Willem Dafoe and Colin Firth, the stunning love story set against the backdrop of Libya and Italy during World War II took home nine Oscars including Best Picture.
7. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Cinema-goers loyalties are often divided between the 1971 and the 2005 adaptations of Roald Dahl’s much beloved children’s novel. The earlier version featured Gene Wilder in a wonderfully weird portrayal of Willy Wonka, while Tim Burton’s more recent adaptation saw Johnny Depp take his normally-quirky persona to new levels of kooky. Both featured stunning production design and music, but many who grew up with the book argue Dahl’s written words will always surpass any screen adaptation.
8. Shawshank Redemption
Adapted from the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, the tear-jerker set in Shawshank State Penitentiary is frequently mentioned in lists of the greatest movies of all time, despite an initially disappointing performance at the box office. Morgan Freeman’s performance as Ellis Boyd 'Red' Redding is frequently cited as his best of all time.
9. The Shining
‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ – if that phrase wasn’t creepy enough in Stephen King’s novel, it certainly sent chills down the spine when framed around Jack Nicholson’s incredible performance.
10. A Clockwork Orange
Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s dystopic novel left certain stretching images firmly etched on the brain of viewers in a way that the book alone could not.
11. Brokeback Mountain
Ang Lee’s moving adaptation of Annie Proulx’s novel was so hauntingly beautiful and Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal’s performances were so profound that it elevated the film beyond just becing known as “that gay cowboy movie”.
12. We Need to Talk about Kevin
Tilda Swinton’s performance in the Lynne Ramsay directed film really brought to life Lionel Shriver’s novel as the mother struggling to come terms with the full horror of what her son has done.
13. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Milos Forman’s drama set in a mental institution was such a powerful adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel that it went on to win all five major Academy Awards and is repeatedly included in lists of the best films of all time. Special mention to Louise Fletcher for her malevolent portrayal of the evil Nurse Ratched, which ultimately earned her the Oscar for Best Actress.
14. To Kill a Mockingbird
While Harper Lee’s novel has certainly withstood the test of time as a masterpiece in its own right, so too has Gregory Peck’s powerful portrayal of Scout Finch’s moralistic father Atticus in the 1962 film.
Ridley Scott’s futuristic film noir adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep starring Harrison Ford and Sean Young is widely regarded as one of the best science fiction films ever made.
Ewan McGregor was launched onto the international stage for his starring role in Danny Boyle’s gritty adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s witty novel about heroin addiction in 1980s Edinburgh. Stay tuned for the reboot that will reportedly reunite the entire original cast – slated for this year to mark the film’s 20th anniversary.
17. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Steig Larsson’s Swedish ‘Millennium’ book trilogy were a phenomenon in their own right – but it was Noomi Rapace’s ferocious portrayal of butt-kicking moral crusader Lisbeth that stole the show in Niels Arden Oplev original 2009 Swedish adaptation. If you’ve never seen it, be sure to watch now!
18. Apocalypse Now
Francis Ford Coppola reconceptualised Joseph Conrad’s tale of Colonel Kurtz’s descent into madness in the heart of the African Congo, into the 21st century, to make a powerful statement about the brutality and futility of the Vietnam War. Also it had a killer soundtrack!
19. Doctor Zhivago
This Russian wartime romance became an instant film classic thanks to amazing performances by Omar Sharif and Julie Christie when adapted from Boris Pasternak’s novel of the same name, and was awarded with five Oscars.
20. No Country for Old Men
The Coen Brothers’ adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s bleak western marked something of a career highlight for the directorial duo, winning four academy awards and wide critical acclaim – particularly for Javier Bardem and his creepy portrayal of the murderous Anton.
Watch more amazing on screen adaptations of your favourite books with SBS On Demand’s Adored Adaptations series here.
Some of the highlights are below: