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8 Movies You (Probably) Didn't Know Were Based on Books

Books have been a great source of inspiration for the movie industry, but sometimes they sneak up on you and unless you really pay attention to the credits you’d never know a film was based on a book. As we continue our look at various book/movie adaptations, I’m taking a look at the movies you most likely didn’t know were based on books!  

If you’re looking to dive more into our discussion on books and the movies, be sure to check out our articles on Bad Books That Made for Great Movies and the Top 10 Movie Franchises Based on Novels.  Now...let’s get to it!  

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Die Hard

Yeah, I’m sure most people would have never guessed this was based off of a book.  It’s easy to see why as the book is titled Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp and doesn’t feature a massive explosion on the cover.  The book is far more crime novel than it is action adventure, but it’s hard to complain about the changes in the story when your end result is Die Hard.  Seriously, who’s going to bitch about that?  

Fun Fact: The book Nothing Lasts Forever is actually a sequel to another book, The Detective, which had been made into a movie previously starring Frank Sinatra.  So technically speaking, Die Hard is a sequel.

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A History of Violence

I’m kind of cheating here with the Viggo Mortensen starring A History of Violence, as it’s actually based off of a comic book.  The movie strays pretty widely from the comic book however (mostly using the characters and general plot), since the comic plays out as an extended flashback to the character’s mob past, while the movie focuses on his family life and only alludes to his past rather than showing it.  Hell, even director David Cronenberg admitted that he didn’t know it was based off of a comic until he started working with the writer on the second draft!

Fun Fact: A History of Violence has the odd distinction of being the final major Hollywood film to be put out on VHS...

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Shrek

Dreamworks' beloved Ogre, which has spawned multiple films and spin-offs, finds its origins in a children's book by William Steig.  While the movie borrows the characters from the children's story, the book is far different from the film.  The film’s main theme is about discovery and finding the good person inside of you.  It’s what makes the Ogre so lovable.  In the book Shrek doesn’t have these redeeming qualities and in fact enjoys being a despicable person.  Overall we’re glad the movie went with the moral high-ground.

Fun Fact: Steven Spielberg had originally optioned the rights to the Shrek book back in 1991 in the hopes of bringing the story about in a traditional (hand drawn) movie.  

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The Neverending Story

This classic children’s story is still one of my favorite movies.  While the effects are now dated, the fantasy film remains a timeless story that just about anyone can relate to.  It started life as a German fantasy novel by Michael Ende and helped spawn the first two movies (elements from the latter half of the book gave birth to the sequel).

Fun Fact: From 2003-04 a German publisher pushed out six novels from different authors called the Legends of Fantastica. The novels use plotlines from the original novel to create a brand new story for a new generation. 

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The Graduate

While the Dustin Hoffman film, The Graduate, has become a classic film and a must-see for all movie buffs and filmmakers, the book it was based on has largely gone unnoticed.  While the stories are both the same, with no significant changes, the big difference is all in the execution.  The book is good, but the directing style and competency of the actors is what sets the movie on an entirely different level.

Fun Fact: Author Charles Webb wasn’t a fan of the attention the movie brought his way, and felt it distracted people from looking at him as a “serious artist.” As such, he received no royalties from the money made on the film and was glad for it.  

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The Prestige

Everyone knows Christopher Nolan's Interstellar was based off of a novel (which he changed fairly drastically), but not many know that one of his best films, The Prestige, is also based on a book.  Released in 1995 by British novelist Christopher Priest, the book tells the story of feuding magicians in the 1800s, and presented in the style of excerpts from personal diaries/journals.  Having won a pair of awards, it's no surprise it was picked up for an adaptation, which worked out really well for Nolan fans!  

Fun Fact: Christopher Nolan and his brother collaborated on the script over a period of five years due to various changes in schedules. Nolan originally intended to shoot The Prestige BEFORE Batman Begins, but the script wasn’t ready.

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Planet of the Apes

Just recently we received the third film in the rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise (War for the Planet of the Apes), which serve as a prequel to the iconic science fiction tale from the series.  The long running franchise takes root from the french novel of the same name by Pierre Boulle.  The novel takes on the same basic premise of astronauts landing on a planet inhabited by sentient Apes, but the film took the story in a different direction by having the planet be a futuristic Earth.  

Fun Fact: Tim Burton’s critically panned Planet of the Apes reboot in 2001 is actually more accurate to the novel than the original film was (specifically in regards to the ending).   

First Blood

First Blood

Sylvester Stallone's iconic action franchise/Character Rambo found it's inspiration in the 1972 novel, First Blood, by David Morrell.  The journey to the big screen was a long one, as the adaptation passed through multiple studios and no less than 18 screenplays before it finally happened in 1982.  The film adjusted the story in some subtle, but significant ways, making Rambo more of an underdog character and, of course, keeping him alive to carry on a multi-film franchise. 

Fun Fact: The original novel was so highly praised that Stephen King used it as a textbook when he taught creative writing as a college professor.  


 

While there are still some others out there many likely won’t make the connection too, I figured these would be some of the biggest ones with the most interesting backgrounds.  If you know of more worth talking about be sure to let us know in the comments!  

-Jordan

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