Which top ten films were based on books?


Image: Pixabay


My son wants to go to the cinema this weekend with his pals.

He’s got to the age where he’s happy to pay to sit in a cold auditorium, his shoes sticking to the soft-drink-soaked carpet as he struggles to concentrate on a loosely-plotted, CGI laden, convoluted storyline over the sound of cola slurping, sweet-wrapper rustling and ringtones.

After years of sitting through countless animated features of widely varying quality, I’m quite happy for him to go to the cinema without me.

We did see the new Star Wars movie as a family the other week, the first few minutes of which were accompanied by periodic cussing from a drunk the staff had seen fit to allow in.

The man’s outburts were unsettling for several reasons: his language, which was bluer than the sky over the sun-soaked beaches of Malibu: the violence of execution, which was threatening and sporadic, meaning we’d have a few moments of unnerving, distracting peace waiting for the next explosion of filth (which, if it isn’t a thrash rock band name, should be): and finally, the fact that apart from the light from the screen, it was darker than a sewer in a power cut in there and the man was sitting close behind us.

So rather than wondering where Luke Skywalker had got to and why Chewbacca had aged better than Han Solo, I was left wondering if (a) the lunatic in the darkness was capable of physical violence as powerful as his verbal violence and if so (b) whether he had smuggled in a knife /machete / meat cleaver or any other such weaponry and was prone to the occasional blood-soaked rampage.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away

M***ER F***ER

is probably not the opening JJ Abrams had in mind.

Fortunately, after ten minutes or so of this, someone overcame their natural English reserve, and got up to complain that disurbingly screamed obscenities and beloved family sci-fi francises don’t mix and the gentleman in question was removed.*


There’s nothing as landmark-y being screened at the moment, but if the lad is off to soak up some multi-plex block buster nonsense, the other half and I were hoping to watch a film too – favourite being Leonardo DiCaprio being mauled by a bear and left for dead in The Revenant. Personally, I feel he deserves no less for Titanic – I have a long memory, people.

After seeing the book of the Leo vehicle in the supermarket today, and knowing that the boys will likely be watching Goosebumps, I wondered how many of the current top ten movie offerings at my local cinemas are based on books.

The answer was:

The Big Short : based on a non-fiction account of the econimic crisis by Michael Lewis.

The Revenant : Michael Punke’s  fictonalised account of a frontiersman’s fight for survival.

Thirteen Hours : Mitchell Zuckoff’s non-fiction account of the Battle of Benghazi.

Goosebumps : based on the kids’ horror fiction series by R.L.Stine

Room : based on the prize winning novel by Emme Donoghue.

The 5th Wave : based on the YA sci-fi novel by Rick Yancey.

6/10 – that’s a big chunk.

Now, this is the first time I’ve done this, so it could be that in a fortnight, they’ll be no book-inspired offerings. But I doubt it, for I’m sure we’ve all noticed the feed-through.

The Hunger Games, the Harry Potters, the Lord of the Rings movies – innumerable D.C and Marvel offerings – all have started out as paper and ended up celluloid, or code, or whatever format it is filmmakers use these days.

What can we aspiring authors learn from this?

Well, that filmmakers and movie studios don’t like to risk their bucks and reputations on untried ideas and would rather writers and publishers did it first. And that if you write a book that’s at least semi-successful you’re quite likely to get a film deal out of it.

I also wonder to what extent authors now write with cinema in mind.

Maybe they don’t do it consciously. But now we’ve had several generations who have grown up with TV and cinema filling some of the imaginative voids in their heads, is it possible NOT to imagine the framing of a scene, the score, the special effects?

Come on, writers. What do you think? 


*The person who got up and complained wasn’t me, of course. It’s possible I would have sat there for 2 hours 15 minutes, tutting loudly as the man’s screaming grew more frenzied, only grumbling to a staff member after said loony had laid about me with his blade of choice.

Judging a book by its cover: Can I guess what genre you read from looking at you?

Hobbies: Flower arranging, stamp collecting, bus spotting

Hobbies: Flower arranging, stamp collecting, bus spotting

Do you ever see a stranger in the street and immediately judge what type of person they are just from their appearance?

Oh, come on, you do. It’s okay, we all do it. And I’m afraid at least some of the time we’re right.

My son and me were travelling home on the bus a few weeks ago when I noticed a family sitting close ahead of me. They had a scruffy, food stained pushchair with them, almost tipping over with the weight of carrier bags from a cheap clothes shop – you know, the sort where you can buy ten pairs of pants for a pound but from the way they shred after one wash, they may as well be made disposable. They also had a few bags from a local freezer centre – the one that sells Tikka Masala and doner kebab meat pizza.

They had four or five white haired little kids with them, sprawled over both sides of the bus, dropping wrappers and boxes and drinks bottles from their fast food dinner over the floor. I couldn’t see Mum properly as she had her back to me, but Dad was skinny, a tattoo on his neck, his jaw hanging open, as if air fishing for flies.

I didn’t pay them too much attention at first, but gradually became aware Mum and Dad were involved in a low level row, grumbling and snapping back and forth.

Then Mum began to shout, rolling out expletive after expletive in a ripe Welsh accent, describing what kind of activities Dad had been up to with a third party female ‒ though she used fewer words than I just have, in fact if anything I had to admire her for her brevity and her Anglo-Saxon vocabulary.

Although the rest of the bus hung on every four letter word spat from Mum’s lips, her children merely carried on staring blankly out of the window, half-chewed fries hanging from their mouths.

My son whispered to me, ‘That lady knows a lot of swear words.’

I replied, ‘Love, she knows ALL the swear words.’

I’ve opened this small window onto the adventurous world of the number 90 bus because quite honestly and not without guilt – I judged that family. I would have guessed that one or other of the parents was capable of holding the attention of a packed commuter bus full of people, merely with the volume of their imaginatively used swears. Sadly, I would have also guessed the kids would be used to it.

We may fight against it, but this is what humans do – we judge wealth, class, profession and who knows what other interests and character traits by how people look.

The reason I’m rattling along this confessional track, exposing my inner bigot, is that I wondered what else you can accurately guess from appearance. Can you, for instance, guess what type of books someone reads from how they look?

Marketers do this kind of thing all the time. They’re forever making assumptions about what type of laundry liquid or lawnmower we’ll buy based on our gender, our education and our personalities. One of these forms of classification is called Cross Cultural Consumer Classification, where the entire human race is spilt into seven personality types: we start with Resigned and Struggler, move onto Mainstreamer, Aspirer, Suceeder, Explorer and  finish off with Reformer.

I’m not sure where I’d fit in these groups – I’m too lazy to be Explorer and Suceeder, though I’ve got too much pride to admit I might be a Resigned or a Struggler. I wonder  if I could create a new category? Maybe Good Attempter or Admirable Underachiever?

So, how about readers?

Can I assume that the muscly guy in the camouflage jacket over there has a stack of Andy McNab and Frederick Forsyth paperbacks piled up at home on a bookshelf made from reclaimed ammo boxes? Or that the skinny, acne-plagued, spectacle wearing lad next to him wearing the World of Warcraft tee shirt has read every Lord of the Rings / Game of Thrones / high fantasy series going?

Well, maybe. But we must approach these prejudices with caution.

I know several respectable middle-aged mums – silver haired grannies even – who have Fifty Shades of Grey on their Kindle. There must be some men who’ve read E. L. James, just as there are many women who love sci-fi. And how would we expect Fifty shades fans to dress anyway? I mean, you don’t see many women walking round Asda in manacles and a gimp mask.

And people who only know me from work show astonishment that this friendly, mumsy, anorak-wearing forty something writes stories with quite so much blood and death in them – though admittedly, little sex.

So maybe those marketers and I could learn a little something. We might often get it right, but when it comes down to it, we really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.