20th century fox / corgi
20th century fox / corgi

20 Movies You Might Not Know Were Based on Books

20th century fox / corgi
20th century fox / corgi

Hollywood often turns to novels and non-fiction books for movie ideas, but sometimes the films are so popular that they overshadow their source material. Here are 20 famous movies you might not know were based on books. [Note: Some spoilers.]

1. Movie: Die Hard // Book: Nothing Lasts Forever

Author Roderick Thorp wrote Nothing Lasts Forever after watching The Towering Inferno, which features a skyscraper that catches on fire. Thorp envisioned a group of terrorists with guns chasing his character Joe Leland, a retired NYPD detective, through the skyscraper’s fiery ash. Nothing Lasts Forever was later adapted into Die Hard with the main character’s name changing from Joe Leland to John McClane.

Both stories feature NYPD detectives in the middle of a terrorist siege inside of a skyscraper on Christmas Eve in Los Angeles, but a notable difference is that Die Hard features a young version of the main character and a different ending. While Die Hard includes a happy ending, Nothing Lasts Forever ends with Leland’s life in the balance.

2. Movie: The Parent Trap // Book: Lottie and Lisa (Das Doppelte Lottchen)

Disney’s original Parent Trap starring Hayley Mills was based on a German novel titled Lottie and Lisa (Das doppelte Lottchen) from author Erich Kästner. The novel was first published in 1949 and was turned into various film and TV adaptations from nine countries, including the United States, Germany, India, Japan, and Iran.

3. Movie: Rambo: First Blood // Book: First Blood

Author David Morrell sold the film rights to his novel First Blood in 1972, shortly after it was published. But the property went through an extensive development period; there were various iterations of the screenplay because of its subject matter and themes surrounding the Vietnam War.

The main difference between the book and the movie is its ending. The character John Rambo commits suicide at the end of the book, while he turns himself in to the authorities in the film.

4. Movie: Who Framed Roger Rabbit // Book: Who Censored Roger Rabbit?

The Walt Disney Company acquired the rights to Gary K. Wolf’s 1981 book Who Censored Roger Rabbit? Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy, and Steven Spielberg developed the project and convinced rival studios to loan Disney their iconic cartoon characters, such as Warner Bros’ Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.

The novel was presented as a hardboiled spoof that took place during modern times and featured the death of Roger Rabbit, a cartoon character on the downswing of his career, while Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was family friendly and lighter in tone.

5. Movie: Full Metal Jacket // Book: The Short-Timers

In 1987, Stanley Kubrick adapted Marine Corps veteran Gustav Hasford’s 1979 novel The Short-Timers into Full Metal Jacket. While both feature soldiers going from boot camp to the Vietnam War front, Stanley Kubrick’s film re-arranges the novel’s structure into something more cohesive and tragic in tone.

6. Movie: Mean Girls // Book: Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends & Other Realities of Adolescence

In 2004, Tina Fey called upon Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels to produce a film version of Rosalind Wiseman’s book Queen Bees and Wannabes, and Michaels got in touch with Paramount Pictures to acquire the film rights. Although Queen Bees and Wannabes is non-fiction, Fey incorporated elements of her own high school experience into the screenplay.

7. Movie: There Will Be Blood // Book: Oil!

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Academy Award-winning There Will Be Blood was a loose adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel Oil! While Anderson was a big fan of the original source material, he only adapted the novel’s first 150 pages to There Will Be Blood. He decided to take the story in a different direction, focusing on the self-made oil tycoon Daniel Plainview, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, rather than the character's son.

8. Movie: Mrs. Doubtfire // Book: Alias Madame Doubtfire

The 1993 hit comedy Mrs. Doubtfire is based on British author Anne Fine’s young adult novel titled Alias Madame Doubtfire. The movie and the book share very similar plots: Both feature a man, who — after a messy divorce that limits his time with his family — dresses like an old woman to take a job as his kids' nanny.

9. Movie: Pitch Perfect // Book: Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory

Former GQ editor Mickey Rapkin spent an entire season covering competitive collegiate a cappella at Tufts University, the University of Oregon, and the University of Virginia for his non-fiction book, which screenwriter Kay Cannon adapted into the comedy Pitch Perfect. The film was a sleeper hit, taking in a $113 million worldwide box office haul in 2012.

10. Movie: Drive // Book: Drive

In 2005, producers Marc E. Platt and Adam Siegel acquired the film rights to James Sallis’ Drive shortly after Siegel read a rave review of the novel. The producers originally wanted Drive to be an action thriller with Hugh Jackman in the starring role as The Driver. Ultimately, Jackman dropped out of the project, Ryan Gosling signed on to play the lead, and the film transformed into a character drama.

11. Movie: The Town // Book: Prince of Thieves

Although director Adrian Lyne and producer Graham King bought the film rights to Chuck Hogan’s Prince of Thieves, which followed a team of bank robbers planning one last heist, they were unable to adapt the novel to Warner Bros’ requirements for a two-hour movie with a budget under $37 million. However, Ben Affleck, fresh off his directorial debut Gone Baby Gone, signed on to the project to star, write, and direct the film adaptation, which was re-titled The Town.

12. Movie: Clueless // Book: Emma

Amy Heckerling’s teen comedy Clueless is a modern film adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1815 novel Emma. Clueless launched the careers of its young cast — including Alicia Silverstone, Britney Murphy, Donald Faison, and Paul Rudd.

13. Movie: Cruel Intentions // Book: Les Liaisons dangereuses (The Dangerous Liaisons)

French author Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ Les Liaisons dangereuses (The Dangerous Liaisons) serves as the inspiration for Cruel Intentions. The teen drama’s screenwriter/director Roger Kumble moved the story from the 18th century to the modern day, and instead of featuring French aristocrats, he made his characters wealthy and privileged teenagers living in New York City.

14. Movie: Slumdog Millionaire // Book: Q & A

The Academy Award winning Slumdog Millionaire was based on Indian author Vikas Swarup’s Q & A, which was first published in 2005. The novel followed a young orphan who becomes a very successful game show winner, only to be sent to jail under accusations of cheating.

15. Movie: Death Wish // Book: Death Wish

Death Wish was based on author Brian Garfield’s 1972 book of the same name, with considerable differences between the film and the novel. Both feature a man fed up with violent crime in New York City after the murder of his wife and the sexual assault of his daughter, but the film seems to enthusiastically support vigilante violence; the novel denounces it.

16. Movie: The Thing // Book: Who Goes There?

John Carpenter’s The Thing was based on the science fiction novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr., who wrote it under the pen name Don A. Stuart. The novella first appeared in the magazine Astounding Science-Fiction, published in August 1938.

17. Movie: Fast Times at Ridgemont High // Book: Fast Times at Ridgemont High: A True Story

Cameron Crowe, then 22, wrote Fast Times at Ridgemont High: A True Story, which chronicled his experience posing as a high school senior at Clairemont High School in San Diego, California. Amy Heckerling directed the film adaptation in 1982.

18. Movie: Silver Linings Playbook // Book: The Silver Linings Playbook

The Weinstein Company optioned author Matthew Quick’s debut The Silver Linings Playbook for a big screen adaptation before the book was released in September 2008. Although Sydney Pollack developed the project, it was handed over to David O. Russell at the time of Pollack’s death earlier in the year.

19. Movie: The Iron Giant // Book: The Iron Man: A Children's Story in Five Nights

Brad Bird’s directorial debut The Iron Giant was based on Ted Hughes’ 1968 modern fairy tale The Iron Man: A Children's Story in Five Nights. Bird took a few liberties with Hughes’ story, including changing its setting from the British countryside during the 1960s to an American coastal town during the 1950s. According to Bird, the time period “presented a wholesome surface, yet beneath the wholesome surface was this incredible paranoia. We were all going to die in a freak-out."

After its release, The Iron Giant won an Annie Award for Best Animated Feature Film in 1999.

20. Movie: Psycho // Book: Psycho

Alfred Hitchcock acquired the film rights to Robert Bloch’s horror genre novel Psycho for $9,500 in 1959. The director went as far as buying up every available copy in the country to keep the story’s surprises from the general public.

Although Psycho is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most popular films, Paramount Pictures didn’t want the legendary director to make the movie because the studio felt its source material was objectionable and highly offensive. So Hitchcock put up his own money to help finance Psycho, used his Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV crew to make it, and agreed to shoot the film in black-and-white to keep production costs down.

Farrin Abbott, SLAC/Flickr // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
An Ancient Book Blasted with High-Powered X-Rays Reveals Text Erased Centuries Ago
Farrin Abbott, SLAC/Flickr // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Farrin Abbott, SLAC/Flickr // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

A book of 10th-century psalms recovered from St. Catherine’s Monastery on Egypt's Sinai Peninsula is an impressive artifact in itself. But the scientists studying this text at the U.S. Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University were less interested in the surface text than in what was hidden beneath it. As Gizmodo reports, the researchers were able to identify the remains of an ancient Greek medical text on the parchment using high-powered x-rays.

Unlike the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) used by the scientists is a much simpler and more common type of particle accelerator. In the SSRL, electrons accelerate to just below the speed of light while tracing a many-sided polygon. Using magnets to manipulate the electrons' path, the researchers can produce x-ray beams powerful enough to reveal the hidden histories of ancient documents.

Scanning an ancient text.
Mike Toth, R.B. Toth Associates, Flickr // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In the case of the 10th-century psalms, the team discovered that the same pages had held an entirely different text written five centuries earlier. The writing was a transcription of the words of the prominent Greek physician Galen, who lived from 130 CE to around 210 CE. His words were recorded on the pages in the ancient Syriac language by an unknown writer a few hundred years after Galen's death.

Several centuries after those words were transcribed, the ink was scraped off by someone else to make room for the psalms. The original text is no longer visible to the naked eye, but by blasting the parchment with x-rays, the scientists can see where the older writing had once marked the page. You can see it below—it's the writing in green.

X-ray scan of ancient text.
University of Manchester, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Flickr // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Now that the researchers know the hidden text is there, their next step will be uncovering as many words as possible. They plan to do this by scanning the book in its entirety, a process that will take 10 hours for each of the 26 pages. Once they've been scanned and studied, the digital files will be shared online.

Particle accelerators are just one tool scientists use to decipher messages that were erased centuries ago. Recently, conservationists at the Library of Congress used multispectral imaging, a method that bounces different wavelengths of light off a page, to reveal the pigments of an old Alexander Hamilton letter someone had scrubbed out.

[h/t Gizmodo]

Lucy Quintanilla
10 Facts about John Knowles's A Separate Peace
Lucy Quintanilla
Lucy Quintanilla

John Knowles’s 1959 novel about a conflicted prep school friendship has become a coming-of-age classic.


Like his protagonists Gene and Finny, who are students at the elite Devon School during World War II, Knowles attended the exclusive Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire in the early 1940s. He then served in the military for a short time before graduating from Yale in 1949. The West Virginian Knowles later wrote that despite the culture clash (and the cold) he fell in love with the school. "The great trees, the thick clinging ivy, the expanses of playing fields, the winding black-water river, the pure air all began to sort of intoxicate me. Classroom windows were open; the aroma of flowers and shrubbery floated in," he wrote. "The summer of 1943 at Exeter was as happy a time as I ever had in my life … Yale was a distinct letdown afterward."


After graduating from Yale, Knowles worked as a drama critic at the Hartford (Conn.) Courant and as a freelance writer. One of his first published short stories, “Phineas,” appeared in Cosmopolitan in 1956 and contained the narrative seeds of A Separate Peace.


In several key scenes in A Separate Peace, Gene and Finny dare each other to jump off the overhanging limb of a huge tree into the river below. In the beginning of the novel, naturally adventurous Finny takes a flying leap off the branch. Gene, who is more reserved, follows his friend's lead, which cements their friendship. Later, Gene loses his balance while standing on the limb, and Finny catches him. Like his characters, Knowles admitted to being in a secret society with an initiation requirement that involved jumping from “the branch of a very high tree” into a river. Knowles did suffer his own fall, which injured his foot and compelled him to use crutches for some time.


His name was David Hackett, and Knowles met him during a six-week summer session at Exeter in 1943. Hackett attended Milton Academy in Massachusetts during the regular school year. There, he was a standout athlete on the hockey, football, and baseball teams. He also quickly befriended the future U.S. attorney general, Robert F. Kennedy, and later served under him in the Justice Department.


At the novel's climax, Gene and Finny decide to jump off the tree branch together. Gene shakes the branch, causing Finny to plunge and break his leg. Though readers have debated Gene's intentions since the book was published, Knowles never said whether Gene meant to cause Finny's fall. Upon the author's death in 2001, his brother-in-law Bob Maxwell said, "John used to say he would never answer that question."


The protagonist in Ernest Hemingway’s 1929 novel A Farewell to Arms, an American soldier fighting in Italy during World War I, grows disillusioned after a disastrous battle and deserts the army. “I had made a separate peace,” he declares. Hemingway also uses the line in his 1925 short story collection In Our Time, with the character Nick saying it to a dying soldier. Knowles may have chosen the title to illustrate the parallel of the collective peace after war and the personal, subjective peace between individuals. In this case, Gene reaches a state of peace after he and Finny reconcile following the accident.


Eleven publishers turned down A Separate Peace. The book first appeared in print in 1959 thanks to the London publisher Secker and Warburg, while the initial U.S. publication took place on leap year day—February 29, 1960. Though the book received mostly positive reviews, it wasn’t an immediate bestseller. But as more and more English teachers discovered A Separate Peace, they brought it into their classrooms, and the book gained a colossal momentum. Knowles’s first published novel would prove by far his most successful one, ultimately selling more than 8 million copies.


Knowles once wrote about serving as the anchor man in a swimming relay race while at Exeter, beating the school’s rival, Phillips Andover Academy. He became “an athletic mini-hero for about 15 minutes.” In A Separate Peace, Finny breaks Devon’s 100-yard freestyle swimming record—but the winning time was unofficial, as Gene, who served as timekeeper, was the sole witness.


Though there was no description of any sexual encounter in the novel, some readers have contended that the book has a gay undercurrent. A handful of critics have objected to this perceived dynamic, including parents in a central New York school district who, in 1980, denounced A Separate Peace as a “filthy, trashy sex novel” that encouraged homosexuality. For what it’s worth, Knowles said, “If there had been homoeroticism between Phineas and Gene, I would have put it in the book, I assure you. It simply wasn't there.”


Fred Segal wrote the screenplay of A Separate Peace; Knowles read through the script and made suggestions for improving it. Directed by Larry Peerce with a largely amateur cast, the movie came out in 1972 to so-so reviews. Knowles was proud of the fact that the production was able to shoot on location at Phillips Exeter Academy, the inspiration for the fictional Devon School.


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