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17 Movies Based on Magazine and Newspaper Articles (And Where To Read Them)

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When it comes to adapting stories for the big screen, novels and comic books aren't the only things to get love from Hollywood (it just seems that way). Here are 17 examples of magazine and newspaper articles that inspired major feature films—some will probably surprise you.

1. Argo

Screenwriter Chris Terrio adapted Joshuah Bearman's article, "How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans From Tehran," from Wired and CIA operative Tony Mendez's book, The Master of Disguise, to write the screenplay for Argo. The film went on to be one of the most profitable movies of 2012, and it received the Academy Award for Best Picture the following year.

"How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans From Tehran" [Wired]

2. The Fast and the Furious

While the Fast and the Furious film franchise has certainly grown and evolved over the past 13 years, it's often forgotten that the first movie in the widely popular series was based on an article from a 1998 issue of Vibe magazine. Kenneth Li Rafael wrote the piece, “Racer X,” which chronicled the illegal street racing subculture of the late '90s.

"Racer X" [Vibe]

3. Shattered Glass

Based on Buzz Bissinger's article “Shattered Glass” from Vanity Fair’s September 1998 issue, writer/director Billy Ray’s film of the same name adapted the story of the rise and fall of Stephen Glass, a young journalist for The New Republic. Glass came to prominence in the '90s before it was discovered that he fabricated a number of quotes, sources, and events in magazine articles he wrote over the span of three years.

“Shattered Glass” [Vanity Fair]

4. A Nightmare on Elm Street

Believe it or not, the horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street is based on a series of newspaper articles from the Los Angeles Times. The articles reported on a series of deaths in Southeast Asia where young men apparently died in the middle of terrifying nightmares. Wes Craven read these articles and was inspired to make A Nightmare on Elm Street.

"Medical Experts Seek Clues to 'Nightmare Deaths' That Strike Male Asian Refugees" [Los Angeles Times]*

*This is a 1988 Los Angeles Times article that summarizes some of the previous reporting

5. Bigger Than Life

Nicholas Ray’s 1956 masterpiece Bigger Than Life was based on Berton Roueché's New Yorker article “Ten Feet Tall” from 1955. The piece chronicles a teacher’s descent into addiction after his doctor prescribes him the drug Cortisone.

"Ten Feet Tall" [New Yorker]

6. The Killing Fields

Based on Sydney H. Schanberg’s New York Times Magazine article “The Death and Life of Dith Pran,” The Killing Fields followed two journalists trapped in Cambodia during Pol Pot’s Year Zero takeover and genocide in 1975. The film went on to receive seven Academy Award nominations, and Haing S. Ngor won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Cambodian photojournalist Dith Pran, the centerpiece of Schanberg’s article.

“The Death and Life of Dith Pran” [New York Times Magazine]

7. The Perfect Storm

The Perfect Storm is based on “The Storm,” an Outside article from journalist Sebastian Junger published in 1994. The piece was eventually expanded into a book titled The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea in 1997. The film adaption starred George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Diane Lane, John C. Reilly, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, William Fichtner, and Karen Allen.

“The Storm” [Outside]

8. American Gangster

For American Gangster, screenwriter Steve Zaillian and director Ridley Scott adapted Mark Jacobson’s New York Magazine article “The Return of Superfly,” which follows the rise and fall of '70s drug kingpin Frank Lucas.

“The Return of Superfly” [New York Magazine]

9. Boogie Nights

Mike Sager's 1989 Rolling Stone article, “The Devil and John Holmes,” was used by Paul Thomas Anderson as inspiration for his film on the adult film industry, Boogie Nights. The article chronicles porn star John Holmes' descent into drug abuse and his involvement in the Wonderland murders of 1981.

"The Devil and John Holmes" [Rolling Stone]

10. Saturday Night Fever

British rock journalist Nik Cohn’s "Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night” was first published in the June 1976 issue of New York Magazine. It follows New York City's disco subculture in the mid-'70s from the point of view of Vincent, a young man from Brooklyn who turns to the music to get away from his troubled life. While the article was the basis for the hit 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever, it was later revealed to be a complete fabrication.

Nik Cohn came out with the truth 20 years after his article was first published. "My story was a fraud," he wrote. "I'd only recently arrived in New York. Far from being steeped in Brooklyn street life, I hardly knew the place. As for Vincent, my story's hero, he was largely inspired by a Shepherd's Bush mod whom I'd known in the Sixties, a one-time king of Goldhawk Road."

"Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night” [New York Magazine]

11. Adaptation

Adaptation was partly based on a New Yorker piece titled “The Orchid Thief” by Susan Orlean. Adaptation uses Orlean’s article (and subsequent book) as a framing device for a meta-story about the struggles of adapting non-fiction into fiction.

“The Orchid Thief” [New Yorker]

12. Almost Famous

Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical film Almost Famous is based on “The Allman Brothers Story,” an article he wrote for Rolling Stone in 1973 as a teenager.

“The Allman Brothers Story” [Rolling Stone]

13. Dog Day Afternoon

P.F. Kluge’s 1972 LIFE magazine article, “The Boys in the Bank,” tells the story of a bank robbery that turns into a media sensation. It eventually became the basis for Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon. Interestingly, Kluge describes the main bank robber John Wojtowicz as “a dark, thin fellow with the broken-faced good looks of an Al Pacino or Dustin Hoffman." Al Pacino was cast as Sonny Wortzik, the film’s lead.

“The Boys in the Bank” [LIFE]

14. Live Free or Die Hard

The fourth installment in the Die Hard film franchise took its cues from a 1997 Wired article by John Carlin, “A Farewell to Arms." The article surmises that cyber warfare is going to be the new form of terrorism in the future. Live Free or Die Hard follows John McClane on hot pursuit of the hacker responsible for a nationwide cyber attack on government and commercial computers.

“A Farewell to Arms” [Wired]

15. The Insider

Michael Man’s The Insider was adapted from Marie Brenner's 1996 Vanity Fair article, "The Man Who Knew Too Much.” The article follows Jeffrey Wigand, played by Russell Crowe in the film, who is a whistleblower in the tobacco industry, and his journey from Capitol Hill to his TV appearance on CBS’ 60 Minutes.

"The Man Who Knew Too Much” [Vanity Fair]

16. The Bling Ring

Nancy Jo Sales’ “The Suspects Wore Louboutins” was first published on VanityFair.com in March 2010 and tells the story of a group of entitled teens who break into the homes of celebrities across the Hollywood Hills. Sofia Coppola turned Sales' piece into The Bling Ring, a stylized crime movie about privilege in America.

“The Suspects Wore Louboutins” [Vanity Fair]

17. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Terry Gilliam’s film is based on Hunter S. Thompson’s two-part Rolling Stone epic “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream.” The articles were first published in 1971 and followed the drug-induced exploits of Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo, the fictionalized versions of Thompson and his attorney Oscar Zeta Acosta.

“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream” [Rolling Stone]

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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
The 10 Wildest Movie Plot Twists
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

An ending often makes or breaks a movie. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as having the rug pulled out from under you, particularly in a thriller. But too many flicks that try to shock can’t stick the landing—they’re outlandish and illogical, or signal where the plot is headed. Not all of these films are entirely successful, but they have one important attribute in common: From the classic to the cultishly beloved, they involve hard-to-predict twists that really do blow viewers’ minds, then linger there for days, if not life. (Warning: Massive spoilers below.)

1. PSYCHO (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock often constructed his movies like neat games that manipulated the audience. The Master of Suspense delved headfirst into horror with Psycho, which follows a secretary (Janet Leigh) who sneaks off with $40,000 and hides in a motel. The ensuing jolt depends on Leigh’s fame at the time: No one expected the ostensible star and protagonist to die in a gory (for the time) shower butchering only a third of the way into the running time. Hitchcock outdid that feat with the last-act revelation that Anthony Perkins’s supremely creepy Norman Bates is embodying his dead mother.

2. PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

No, not the botched Tim Burton remake that tweaked the original movie’s famous reveal in a way that left everyone scratching their heads. The Charlton Heston-starring sci-fi gem continues to stupefy anyone who comes into its orbit. Heston, of course, plays an astronaut who travels to a strange land where advanced apes lord over human slaves. It becomes clear once he finds the decrepit remains of the Statue of Liberty that he’s in fact on a future Earth. The anti-violence message, especially during the political tumult of 1968, shook people up as much as the time warp.

3. DEEP RED (1975)

It’s not rare for a horror movie to flip the script when it comes to unmasking its killer, but it’s much rarer that such a film causes a viewer to question their own perception of the world around them. Such is the case for Deep Red, Italian director Dario Argento’s (Suspiria) slasher masterpiece. A pianist living in Rome (David Hemmings) comes upon the murder of a woman in her apartment and teams up with a female reporter to find the person responsible. Argento’s whodunit is filled to the brim with gorgeous photography, ghastly sights, and delirious twists. But best of all is the final sequence, in which the pianist retraces his steps to discover that the killer had been hiding in plain sight all along. Rewind to the beginning and you’ll discover that you caught an unknowing glimpse, too.

4. SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983)

Sleepaway Camp is notorious among horror fans for a number of reasons: the bizarre, stilted acting and dialogue; hilariously amateurish special effects; and ‘80s-to-their-core fashions. But it’s best known for the mind-bending ending, which—full disclosure—reads as possibly transphobic today, though it’s really hard to say what writer-director Robert Hiltzik had in mind. Years after a boating accident that leaves one of two siblings dead, Angela is raised by her aunt and sent to a summer camp with her cousin, where a killer wreaks havoc. In the lurid climax, we see that moody Angela is not only the murderer—she’s actually a boy. Her aunt, who always wanted a daughter, raised her as if she were her late brother. The final animalistic shot prompts as many gasps as cackles.

5. THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995)

The Usual Suspects has left everyone who watches it breathless by the time they get to the fakeout conclusion. Roger "Verbal" Kint (Kevin Spacey), a criminal with cerebral palsy, regales an interrogator in the stories of his exploits with a band of fellow crooks, seen in flashback. Hovering over this is the mysterious villainous figure Keyser Söze. It’s not until Verbal leaves and jumps into a car that customs agent David Kujan realizes that the man fabricated details, tricking the law and the viewer into his fake reality, and is in fact the fabled Söze.

6. PRIMAL FEAR (1996)

No courtroom movie can surpass Primal Fear’s discombobulating effect. Richard Gere’s defense attorney becomes strongly convinced that his altar boy client Aaron (Edward Norton) didn’t commit the murder of an archbishop with which he’s charged. The meek, stuttering Aaron has sudden violent outbursts in which he becomes "Roy" and is diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, leading to a not guilty ruling. Gere’s lawyer visits Aaron about the news, and as he’s leaving, a wonderfully maniacal Norton reveals that he faked the multiple personalities.

7. FIGHT CLUB (1999)

Edward Norton is no stranger to taking on extremely disparate personalities in his roles, from Primal Fear to American History X. The unassuming actor can quickly turn vicious, which led to ideal casting for Fight Club, director David Fincher’s adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel. Fincher cleverly keeps the audience in the dark about the connections between Norton’s timid, unnamed narrator and Brad Pitt’s hunky, aggressive Tyler Durden. After the two start the titular bruising group, the plot significantly increases the stakes, with the club turning into a sort of anarchist terrorist organization. The narrator eventually comes to grips with the fact that he is Tyler and has caused all the destruction around him.

8. THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)

Early in his career, M. Night Shyamalan was frequently (perhaps a little too frequently) compared to Hitchcock for his ability to ratchet up tension while misdirecting his audience. He hasn’t always earned stellar reviews since, but The Sixth Sense remains deservedly legendary for its final twist. At the end of the ghost story, in which little Haley Joel Osment can see dead people, it turns out that the psychologist (Bruce Willis) who’s been working with the boy is no longer living himself, the result of a gunshot wound witnessed in the opening sequence.

9. THE OTHERS (2001)

The Sixth Sense’s climax was spooky, but not nearly as unnerving as Nicole Kidman’s similarly themed ghost movie The Others, released just a couple years later. Kidman gives a superb performance in the elegantly styled film from the Spanish writer-director Alejandro Amenábar, playing a mother in a country house after World War II protecting her photosensitive children from light and, eventually, dead spirits occupying the place. Only by the end does it become clear that she’s in denial about the fact that she’s a ghost, having killed her children in a psychotic break before committing suicide. It’s a bleak capper to a genuinely haunting yarn.

10. MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001)

David Lynch’s surrealist movies may follow dream logic, but that doesn’t mean their plots can’t be readily discerned. Mulholland Drive is his most striking work precisely because, in spite of its more wacko moments, it adds up to a coherent, tragic story. The mystery starts innocently enough with the dark-haired Rita (Laura Elena Harring) waking up with amnesia from a car accident in Los Angeles and piecing together her identity alongside the plucky aspiring actress Betty (Naomi Watts). It takes a blue box to unlock the secret that Betty is in fact Diane, who is in love with and envious of Camilla (also played by Harring) and has concocted a fantasy version of their lives. The real Diane arranges for Camilla to be killed, leading to her intense guilt and suicide. Only Lynch can go from Nancy Drew to nihilism so swiftly and deftly.

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Jesse Grant, Getty Images for AMC
5 Bizarre Comic-Con News Stories from Years Past
Jesse Grant, Getty Images for AMC
Jesse Grant, Getty Images for AMC

At its best, San Diego Comic-Con is a friendly place where like-minded people can celebrate their pop culture obsessions, and each other. And no one can make fun of you, no matter how lazy your cosplaying might be. You might think that at its worst, it’s just a series of long lines of costumed fans and small stores crammed into a convention center. But sometimes, throwing together 100,000-plus people from around the world in what feels like a carnival-type atmosphere where anything goes can have less than stellar results. Here are some highlights from past Comic-Con-tastrophes.

1. MAN IN HARRY POTTER T-SHIRT STABS ANOTHER MAN IN THE FACE—WITH A PEN

In 2010, two men waiting for a Comic-Con screening of the Seth Rogen alien comedy Paul got into a very adult argument about whether one of them was sitting too close to the other. Unable to come to a satisfactory conclusion with words, one man stabbed the other in the face with a pen. According to CNN, the attacker was led away wearing handcuffs and a Harry Potter T-shirt. In the aftermath, some Comic-Con attendees dealt with the attack in an oddly fitting way: They cosplayed as the victim, with pens protruding from bloody eye sockets.

2. MEMORABILIA THIEVES INVADE NEW YORK

Since its founding in 2006, New York Comic Con has attracted a few sticky-fingered attendees. In 2010, a man stole several rare comics from vendor Matt Nelson, co-founder of Texas’s Worldwide Comics. Just one of those, Whiz Comics No. 1, was worth $11,000, according to the New York Post. A few years later, in 2014, someone stole a $2000 “Dunny” action figure, which artist Jon-Paul Kaiser had painted during the event for Clutter magazine. And those are just the incidents that involved police; lower-scale cases of toys and comics disappearing from booths are an increasingly frustrating epidemic, according to some. “Comic Con theft is an issue we all sort of ignore,” collector Tracy Isenhour wrote on the blog of his company, Needless Essentials, in 2015. “I am here to tell you no more. It’s time for this garbage to stop."

3. CATWOMAN SAVES THE DAY


John Sciulli/Getty Images for Xbox

Adrianne Curry, winner of the first cycle of America’s Next Top Model, has made a career of chasing viral fame. Ironically, it was at Comic-Con in 2014 that Curry did something truly worthy of attention—though there wasn’t a camera in sight. Dressed as Catwoman, she was posing with fans alongside her friend Alicia Marie, who was dressed as Tigra. According to a Facebook post Marie wrote at the time, a fan tried to shove his hands into her bikini bottoms. She screamed, the man ran off, and Curry jumped to action. She “literally took off after dude WITH her Catwoman whip and chased him down, beat his a**,” Marie wrote. “Punched him across the face with the butt of her whip—he had zombie blood on his face—got on her costume.”

4. MAN POSES AS FUGITIVE-SEEKING INVESTIGATOR TO GET INTO VIP ROOM

The lines at Comic-Con are legendary, so one Utah man came up with a novel way to try and skip them altogether. In 2015, Jonathon M. Wall tried to get into Salt Lake Comic Con’s exclusive VIP enclave (normally a $10,000 ticket) by claiming he was an agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and needed to get into the VIP room “to catch a fugitive,” according to The San Diego Union Tribune. Not only does that story not even come close to making sense, it also adds up to impersonating a federal agent, a crime to which Wall pleaded guilty in April of 2016 and which carried a sentence of up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Just a few months later, prosecutors announced that they were planning to reduce his crime from a felony to a misdemeanor.

5. MAN WALKS 645 MILES TO COMIC-CON, DRESSED AS A STORMTROOPER, TO HONOR HIS LATE WIFE


Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Disney

In 2015, Kevin Doyle walked 645 miles along the California coast to honor his late wife, Eileen. Doyle had met Eileen relatively late in life, when he was in his 50s, and they bonded over their shared love of Star Wars (he even proposed to her while dressed as Darth Vader). However, she died of cancer barely a year after they were married. Adrift and lonely, Doyle decided to honor her memory and their love of Star Wars by walking to Comic-Con—from San Francisco. “I feel like I’m so much better in the healing process than if I’d stayed home,” he told The San Diego Union Tribune.

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