Since the early days of cinema, film scripts have been adapted from highly praised novels. Many critically acclaimed films stem from phenomenal novels and writings, with book to film adaptations providing more in-depth content than most screenplays. Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin is no different. Adapted from Michael Faber’s thrilling novel, Under the Skin captivates viewers with exhilarating scenes and shocking events. Starring Scarlett Johansson as the ultimate femme fatale, Under the Skin is another film to add to the successful book to film adaptations list. Here we will take a look at a number of other top adaptations.

Planet of the Apes

What has come to be known as a Hollywood classic, Planet of the Apes takes us to the year 3978 A.D. where a spaceship with 4 crew members crashes down in a distant planet. Colonel George Taylor discovers he is ruled by intelligent talking apes and is enslaved along with a group of captive mute humans. Taylor attempts to prove he is from a past intelligent human race of another planet; he is released into the Forbidden Zone to prove his species existence before he comes upon The Statue of Liberty corroded in the sand. He had been on Earth all along. Adapted from author Pierre Boulle’s book, Planet of the Apes, starring Charles Heston and Kim Hunter, is filled with drama and action as it raises thought-provoking questions about the human race and the future.


Based on the famous Nabokov novel, Lolita is controversial film surrounding the love between a father and his step daughter. Humbert Humbert falls in love with his landlady’s 14 year old daughter, Dolores “Lolita” Haze. Humbert, a British professor who moved to the US to teach, marries Charlotte Haze, in order to stay close to Lolita. Lolita proving to be much more mature than her age begins a relationship with her step father. The most recent, gripping retelling of Lolita, starring Melanie Griffith and Jeremy Irons, with Dominique Swain as Dolores, is packed with romance, guilt, and jealousy. As a novel and film, it was and remains to this day one of the most talked about and contentious pieces of work. The film perfectly portrays the exhilaration and heartbreak that fills the novel.

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Adapted from Lionel Shriver’s thrilling yet dark novel, We Need to Talk About Kevin centres around a mother, Eva, and her struggle to love her psychopath son, Kevin. In a series of flashbacks, the film illustrates the lonely life of Eva before and after her son committed a massacre at his high school, and killed his father and sister. Now a travel agent at a mall, Eva is shunned by the town near Kevin’s prison and her visits with Kevin are filled with loathing and tension. On the second anniversary of the massacre while visiting Kevin, Eva asks her son the point of the killings and he can no longer remember. Eva hugs her son, realizing she does love him regardless of his acts. The film is filled with drama and horror with a standout performance from Tilda Swinton in this gripping story.


Cynical and fragile screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman has been hired to write the screenplay of Susan Orlean’s book, The Orchid Thief. Kaufman struggles as he attempts to write the script without self-reference and staying true to the book. Charlie’s story coincides with that of author Susan Orlean as she writes the book and later falls in love with her subject, John Laroche. Kaufman and Orleans’ lives soon become intertwined as Charlie discovers Laroche and Orlean’s affair which leads to a series of catastrophic events. However, Charlie’s writers block ends and completes the script. In this book to film transformation, Adaptation stems from the book, The Orchid Thief, and is effortlessly funny, quirky, and original.

Brokeback Mountain

Based on a short story by Annie Proulx, Brokeback Mountain is a raw, powerful story of two young men and their 19 year long love affair. Meeting during the summer of 1963, Ennis Dwill and Jack Twist find work on Brokeback Mountain herding sheep. The two soon give into deep feelings for one another and begin a secret relationship. At the end of the summer, Ennis and Jack go their separate ways but cannot forget one another. They begin meeting several times a year, each departure more emotional than the last. After Ennis divorces his wife, Jack asks to live together, but Ennis denies him out of fear and does not see Jack before tragedy strikes. Ennis feels more alone than ever as he as no one and nothing, but the memories of Brokeback Mountain. The film, starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, is magnificently heartbreaking with stirring performances from Ledger and Gyllenhaal.

The Conformist

Adapted from the novel by Alberto Moravia, The Conformist opens in 1938, in Rome, with Marcello Clerici. Marcello is a coward who has attempted to fit in his whole life. Marcello joins the Mussollini Fascist government and marries a beautiful woman. On their honeymoon to Paris, Marcello’s bosses give him the job of killing his old college mentor who fled when the Fascists came to power. Marcello’s consent to murder his mentor implies that his readiness to conform is due to his homosexuality. The Conformist outdoes any film with phenomenal set design and camerawork. Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, The Conformist gives true insight to the pressures of pre-war Italy with stunning visuals and superb commentary.

To Kill a Mockingbird

From Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, To Kill A Mockingbird depicts the life of Atticus Finch and his family in racially divided Alabama in the 1930’s, through the eyes of his 6 year old daughter, Scout. Tom Robinson, a young black man is accused of raping a white woman and Finch agrees to defend him. Taking a stand against the racial intolerance, Atticus proves Tom’s innocence, but the white jury convicts him and when trying to escape, Tom is shot and killed. Scout, he brother, Jem, and Atticus draw close to one another after the incident. To Kill a Mockingbird was not only an award winning book, but also award winning film. The film captures the magic of the book, shows the kinder more naive America of the time, but is a true depiction of the racial divide in America mid depression.

No Country for Old Men

Cormac McCarthy’s dark comical novel, No Country for Old Men, was easily turned into a booming Western blockbuster film. When a Vietnam veteran, Llewelyn Moss, takes two million dollars, little does he know he has hit man, Anton Chigurh, on his heels. Chigurh annihilates any person who gets in the way and begins to track Moss. Meanwhile, the terse Sherriff Ed Tom Bell leads the investigation barely comprehending the enormity of the crimes. Chigurh eventually kills Moss and escapes but does not have the money and Bell retires after feeling outmatched. No Country For Old Men shows the classic resilience of the West and pulls powerful performances from Josh Brolin as Moss, Javier Bardem as Chigurh, and Tommy Lee Jones as Bell.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Based on the dramatic novel by Ken Kesey, Randle McMurphy, a criminal who has once again found himself in jail, declares himself insane to be transferred to the mental ward to take his sentence in peace. Running the ward, however, is the unyielding, menacing Nurse Ratched who has pushed the ward into a state of submission. McMurphy sets himself against Ratched and does anything to rebel against her tyrannical rule while becoming friends with his fellow patients along the way. After a series of rebellions and a friend’s suicide, McMurphy is taken away and lobotomized. When his fellow patients realize he is a vegetable, they suffocate Randle and escape to Canada. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, starring a superb Jack Nicholson, is a dark, depressing tale with moments of laughter before a terribly bittersweet ending.

Under the Skin

Adapted from Michael Faber’s 2000 novel, Under the Skin, starring Scarlett Johansson, is a science-fiction thriller about an alien seductress sent by a large corporation on her planet to prey on innocent hitchhikers in the country. The alien is in human form as she journeys through Scotland kidnapping her targets along the way. She delivers them to her employers for unspeakable things to happen to them. Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin is simply stunning and Johansson is the classic femme fatale in this almost wordless movie. Under the Skin is not simply a thrilling novel anymore, but now an amazingly shocking and entrancing film.