Unknown-2Generally, you love the book or you love the movie, but you don’t love both. I have a short list that has managed to entertain and inspire me equally well, even though I’m predominately a book person. A great book keeps me turning pages and leaves me happy and tearful; a great movie that’s been made from a great book stirs in me a “Ah, yes! That’s what it looks like! That’s just how she seemed!”

Unknown-1Although movies can’t possibly contain all the events of a book or represent completely all the nuances of plot and character, some movie-makers have successfully produced a movie that equals the book. Indulge me as an English teacher and book nerd while I list what I consider non-negotiables for a great book or movie (best books-turned-movies comes right after):

The must-haves for best books and movies:

  1. Genuine, realistic characters that I care about–they must make me laugh and cry out loud, more than once; I will think about them even when I’m not reading. When the book or movie is over, I will worry about how they’re doing.
  2. Plot that is suspenseful, unpredictable, riveting, and true to the setting and history of the piece; it gives me hope, shakes me when bad things happen, and astounds me when everything turns out in the end. The end doesn’t need to be storybook, but it can’t throw a cheap punch. If a noble character has to die, I am satisfied so long as the plot supported and required his sacrifice.
  3. Themes that are culturally relevant, reflective of the novel’s time and my time. In a great story, the characters live for something important and grow into better people. The story needs to be about more than the story.
  4. The dialogue is quotable and rememberable. The descriptions are visually stimulating on paper and on screen. I find myself repeating lines for days–even years–after I’ve read or watched a fantastic story. These are the movies and books you visit again and again. It’s why I buy books and movies. I intend to return.Unknown-3

And now for the list of my 12 favorite books-turned-movies, in order of my preference:

  1. Pride and Prejudice–any version; BBC and Kiera Knightly are my 2 faves; (Actually, if I weren’t afraid of being too nerdy, I’d put a few more Jane Austens on this list
  2. Little Women–1994 version; this story makes me weep
  3. Gone with the Wind–so epic, there’s only one movie version (only one Clark Gable, too)
  4. The Princess Bride–who doesn’t say “Inconceivable!” during regular conversation?
  5. The Secret Garden–my heart just lept thinking about this 1993 version; it literally teleports you to 19th century England. And Maggie Smith stars at Mrs. Medlock, so that’s a plus; and there’s children and English gardens, and now I’m going to have to go watch it again
  6. The Help–I was totally engrossed in both, laughing and cryingUnknown-10
  7. The Book Thief–brilliant. Not disappointing at all
  8. Unknown-9The Tale of Despereaux–darling, as a book and a movie. Makes me wish I had written it
  9. The Giver–I love and know the book so well (I teach it), that I was afraid the movie would disappoint me–it varied slightly (the kids are not teenagers in the book), but I was satisfied
  10. To Kill a Mockingbird–also never re-made; I teach this story, and I also loved the movie. The story is so powerful, the fact that it was shot in 1962 doesn’t bother me
  11. The Wizard of Oz–also never re-made; who can compete with Judy Garland’s voice and her dewey-eyed “There’s no place like home”?
  12. The Great Gatsby–the movie might be better than the book, but I also read it after I saw the movie, so that might account for that. The set is incredible!

I love so many more books and so many more movies, but I usually don’t love them equally. What about you? What are your favorite books-turned-movies? Send them in–let’s see what everyone thinks!

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