10 Best Drama Movies Based On Books

A great drama can hook viewers from the start and keep them captivated until the very end. Many times this will result in strong emotions from the audience and probably some tears being shed as well. All thanks to good acting, good direction and, of course, good writing.RELATED: 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies Based On Books

Whether a writer turns an idea straight into a movie or writes it as a novel first, drama has a reputation as one of the most successful genres in the industry. Some of the best drama movies come from drama books that are equally good at touching the hearts of their readers.

ten Ian McEwan’s Atonement is as sad as the film adaptation

This acclaimed heartbreaking war drama starring James McAvoy and Kiera Knightley is adapted from Ian McEwan’s metafictional novel, also titled Atonement. It follows Robbie (McAvoy) and Cecilia (Knightley) after Cecelia’s younger sister Briony (Saoirse Ronan) frames Robbie for a crime, sending him to prison until he is recruited to fight during the First World War.

The novel and the film are very similar to each other, with parallel plot points and a similar metafictional aspect in both mediums. The film was directed by Joe Wright, already known at the time for his 2005 adaptation of Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice, but Atonement was Wright’s claim to fame, winning big at the box office and earning multiple award nominations.

9 Lion tells an amazing true story

Lion is a 2016 biopic based on the autobiography A long way home, written by Saroo Brierly with Larry Buttrose. It’s a true story about five-year-old Saroo Brierly, who is lost in rural India and separated from his biological family hundreds of miles away. He ends up in an orphanage and is adopted by an Australian family, growing up on a continent totally different from the one where he was born.

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Both stories follow Saroo as an adult on his journey to Australia as he struggles to find his roots and search for his biological family. Lion stars Dev Patel as Saroo and Nicole Kidman as his adoptive mother, Sue, who each gave emotional performances and were both Oscar-nominated for their roles.

8 A revolutionary road has spent decades in development

Now known for famous performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet following their work on Titanic, revolutionary route is a 2008 film directed by Sam Mendes that was adapted from the 1961 novel of the same name by Richard Yates.

The adaptation of the novel to the screen began as soon as it was published in 1961, but it was tossed between directors and screenwriters for years. It was left in limbo until Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes revived the project. Despite the difficulties in adapting the novel, it was ultimately worth it, given the caliber of performances by Winslet and DiCaprio.

7 American Psycho was initially considered unfilmable

Now a cult classic, American psycho is the acclaimed 2000 crime drama directed by Mary Harron who also co-wrote the screenplay with Guinevere Turner. The film is adapted from the famous novel of the same name by Bret Easton Ellis, initially considered unfilmable due to its disturbing and controversial content.

The adaptation of Turner and Harron’s novel involved removing much of the violence while featuring Patrick Bateman (played by Christian Bale) as the terrifying character from Ellis’ controversial novel.

6 The Shawshank Redemption is one of Stephen King’s most successful adaptations

One of the most famous movies of all time and currently #1 on IMDb’s Top 100, The Shawshank takeover, written for the cinema and directed by Frank Darabont, is adapted from the short story Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, which appears in Stephen King’s famous collection, Different seasons.

The Shawshank Redemption follows a banker, Andy (Tim Robbins) found guilty of the murders of his wife and her lover, despite his pleas of innocence. The film is considered one of the most iconic of all time, despite its subdued response upon its initial release. It was nominated for seven Oscars, which is the most of any Stephen King adaptation.

5 Gone Girl’s success comes from two unreliable narrators in both the book and the film

Based on the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn, missing girl, is a thriller drama directed by David Fincher and written for the screen by Flynn herself. The novel is written in part as diary entries by one of the protagonists, Amy Dunne, before her disappearance which appears to be linked to her husband, Nick.

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missing girl is Flynn’s third novel after Sharp objects and dark places, both of which have adaptations, though neither of them are as successful as Missing girl. It made the New York Times bestseller list and won acclaim for its use of unreliable storytelling and suspenseful storytelling, both of which Flynn successfully transferred to the screen in his screenplay.

One of the most famous films of all time, Forrest Gump, directed by Robert Zemeckis, is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Winston Groom. Despite the film’s success, the novel was fairly low-key until the film’s release.

The film received much better reviews than the novel, and changes to the story included removing plot points about Forrest working for NASA, becoming a wrestler, and living with an orangutan named Sue. The film also toned down the novel’s content by cutting out some of the more adult-oriented content, which obviously worked in the film’s favor, as it won six Oscars among several other accolades.

3 BlacKkKlansman is based on a memoir by Ron Stallworth

Spike Lee’s 2018 biographical crime drama BlacKkKlansman with John David Washington and Adam Driver is adapted from the memoirs of Ron Stallworth, Black Klansman. This is the true story of Ron Stallworth (Washington), the Colorado Springs Police Department’s first black detective, as he works with his colleague, Flip Zimmerman (driver) to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan chapter.

The film won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated (and won) several others, including several Golden Globes and Oscars.

2 Zodiac is based on the true story of the serial killer

The notoriously unidentified Zodiac Killer has been the subject of numerous books and films. Zodiac, directed by David Fincher and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo and many other famous faces is one of the best known films to feature the Zodiac Killer as a subject.

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Based on the non-fiction books by Robert Graysmith, Zodiac and Unmasked Zodiac, the film mainly follows Graysmith himself, a political cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle, as the killer begins posting messages to the newspaper. He becomes heavily involved in his own research into the case, and the film follows Graysmith and his colleagues for several years, as very little ground is made to pursue the killer. The film also includes Graysmith’s writing of the book the film is loosely based on, adding a meta aspect for viewers.


1 There Will Be Blood is loosely based on a novel by Upton Sinclair

Period drama by Paul Thomas Anderson about an oil tanker played by Daniel Day-Lewis, There will be blood, is loosely based on Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel titled Oil!. The film also stars Paul Dano as twins Paul and Eli Sunday, the latter being a preacher for whom Dano’s performance received numerous special mentions.

The film and the novel are not incredibly similar, as screenwriter Eric Schlosser felt that Sinclair’s novel was too light to be adapted into a full story for the screen. The film was critically acclaimed, as was the score written and performed by Johnny Greenwood.


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