It’s one thing to have a movie that is based on a book. It happens all the time. It’s more rare to have an entire franchise of films based on a book or set of books. Over the last two decades, it seems like we have been seeing more and more franchises emerge that are based on books. This seems to be happening for a few reasons. First, Hollywood is more than ever looking for established properties on which to base films. Book, have been and always will be one of the best established properties for a movie to be based upon. Second, if the books have a big following, chances are that the fans will continue to want to see additional movies. Finally, the success of certain book-to-movie franchises in recent years has convinced studios that spending more money to create a franchise is a good business move.
To make this list, a movie franchise has to meet a few different criteria. First, it has to be a movie franchise – 2 or more movies. The more movies in the franchise the better, this indicates audience and studio interest in the property. If a franchise isn’t any good, more movies would not have been made. Only one of these movies has to be based on a book as the original source material, and comics or graphic novels do not count. To come up with the final ranking, I considered success at the box office, awards, general popularity and pop culture influence, filmmaking influence, and the number of films adapted from different books. Taking all of this together, here’s the ranking I came up with:
10. Hannibal Lecter
# of Films so far: 5
Years Active: 1986-2007
Book(s) on Which it is Based: Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, and Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris
The Hannibal Lecter franchise may not be the most popular book-to-movie franchise, and it hasn’t always been successful in theaters. So why does it make the top ten? Simple. These are 5 films based around one of the most frightening and memorable characters ever to grace the big screen. The most famous performance of the bunch is, of course, Sir Anthony Hopkins’ Oscar-winning performance in 1991’s Silence of the Lambs. Also, that film won Best Picture as well as being one of the highest grossing films in theaters that year – showing how well received it was by audiences as well as critics. That’s the definition of a successful film. Only one other film in this list has accomplished both of those fetes, and that’s why I had to put the Hannibal Lecter series in the top ten.
9. Die Hard
# of Films so far: 5
Years Active: 1988-2013
Book(s) on Which it is Based: Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp
When you think of great movie franchises based on a book, Die Hard probably doesn’t come to mind, but it’s true. The first film was based on a novel of another title. Of course Die Hard went on to become one of the most influential and memorable movies ever made, but the novel on which it was based never really found the same popularity. Nonetheless, the formula that the book came up with made for an classic action movie set-up, and as a result they were able to expand upon it for 4 more films. The longevity of the franchise, as well as its timeless popularity and influence on modern action films all helped to earn this franchise the number 9 spot.
8. Jurassic Park
# of Films so far: 4
Years Active: 1993 to present
Book(s) on Which it is Based: Jurassic Park, and The Lost World by Michael Crichton
The Jurassic Park franchise may have the least number of films to its name so far, but it makes up for that lack of movies with the size and scope of its films. The first film in the series is highly regarded not only for its special effects achievements, but also because it was an enjoyable and adventurous take on Crichton’s book. The second film was another fun adaptation that took the series in a different direction, yet kept the tone and thrills. The third film is easily the weakest of the bunch, but its stripped-down survival plot used the premise in a new, and interesting way. Finally, the newest film managed to echo the size and entertainment of the original film, and was extremely popular in theaters. Throughout the ups and downs of the series, the focus and inspiration from Crichton’s original novel was never lost.
# of Films so far: 5
Years Active: 2008-2012
Book(s) on Which it is Based: Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
If you’re not a fan of the books, and vampire-human-werewolf love triangles aren’t really your thing, the Twilight films might engage some sort of gag reflex. However, you can’t deny how much of an impact these films had on both pop culture and movie production. All five films went on to have a lot of success in theaters, especially New Moon, which broke the record for biggest opening day ever. You also can’t deny that the connection between the books and the films is a strong one here, such that the films made Meyer’s book series into a genuine pop culture phenomenon. Along with Harry Potter, the Twilight films helped to convince studios that adapting YA novels into films was something that would resonate with audiences. It’s no surprise then that a number of different new YA book-to-film franchises popped up soon afterward, including: