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Top 10 Oscar-winning book adaptations

-Riya Ganguly

Did you know the lovable character of Forrest Gump was first conceived on paper before entertaining millions in cinemas? Or that The Exorcist chilled several readers to the bone before becoming a horror film sensation?

Any book lover will firmly stand their ground that books are far superior to their film adaptations, and with good reason. Condensing the essence of a book into a two-to-three-hour long feature film proves a mammoth task for filmmakers, who often have no choice but to leave out certain details and particulars much to the chagrin of bibliophiles. However, every now and then certain book adaptations perfectly manage to adapt beloved tales to the screen, capturing the spirit of the books and characters on celluloid. Here are the top 10 Oscar-winning films which managed to do justice to the books from which they were adapted:

Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog MillionaireThe 2008 winner of the Academy Award for Best Film was inspired by Indian author Vikas Swarup’s 2005 rags-to-riches novel Q & A. Not only was Q & A well-received, winning the 2006 Boeke Prize and the Prix Grand Public prize at the 2007 Paris Book Fair, but the film adaptation starring Dev Patel, Anil Kapoor and Freida Pinto in leading roles also garnered widespread acclaim as it went on to win eight academy awards in total, including Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Forrest Gump

Forrest GumpThe widely loved 1994 comedy-drama breathed Winston Groom’s 1986 Forrest Gump to life with Tom Hanks’ portrayal of the eponymous young savant as he navigated through his colourful life, the imaginative film adaptation increasing the novel’s popularity post-release. The film went on to win five Academy Awards in 1995 including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor in a Leading Role among others.

Schindler’s List

Schindler’s ListThomas Keneally’s 1982 historical novel Schindler’s Ark based on Holocaust saviour Oskar Schindler was adapted to Spielberg’s award-winning 1993 historical drama film Schindler’s List. The non-fiction novel was well-received, winning the Booker Prize in 1982 and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction in 1983. Starring Liam Neeson as the eponymous hero alongside Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes, the film was globally acclaimed as one of the greatest films of all time and went on to dominate the 66th Academy Awards, winning seven awards including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director. 

A Beautiful Mind

A Beautiful MindThe 2001 Academy Award winner for Best Picture was actually inspired by the 1998 Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller A Beautiful Mind: The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash by Sylvia Nasar. The film, starring Russel Crowe as the Nobel Prize-winning academician, was widely acclaimed for the empathetic depiction of mental illness and Crowe’s performance as the gifted academician. A Beautiful Mind went on to win three Academy Awards in 2001, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Gone with the Wind

Gone with the WindThe classic American romance starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in their unforgettable performance as Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara was actually adapted from Margaret Mitchell’s only published novel- the 1936 historical fiction of the same name. Not only was the book a success, winning Mitchell her 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, but the 1939 film adaptation went on to become a resounding popular culture sensation, winning ten Academy Awards in 1939 including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director.

L.A. Confidential

L.A. ConfidentialJames Elroy’s 1990 neo-noir novel based on the L.A.P.D. during the 1950s was skilfully adapted to the 1997 crime thriller of the same name- L.A. Confidential. Starring Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, Russel Crowe and Kim Basinger in leading roles, the film was praised for bringing the lively 1950s characters and scandalous crimes of the novel to life through the film adaptation, capturing the spirit of Los Angeles on celluloid. The film went on to win two Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress in 1997.

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a MockingbirdThe globally renowned novel by Harper Lee was adapted to the 1962 Oscar-winning film adaptation of the same name by Robert Mulligan. Starring the famous Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Mary Bedham as Scout, the book adaptation was favourably received by audiences, who enjoyed watching the Pulitzer-winning novel on screen enacted by the renowned actors. The film was a commercial and critical success, as it went on to win three Academy awards in 1962 including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor (Male) and Best Art Direction.

Silence of the Lambs

Silence of the LambsThe 1991 psychological horror film created a sensation with its release in the world of cinema, terrorizing millions of crazed fans with Anthony Hopkins’ jaw-dropping portrayal of the cannibalistic serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Also starring Jodie Foster in the role of the detective, the cult horror film brings Thomas Harris’ 1988 novel and its characters to disturbingly vivid reality, winning the five major Academy Awards in 1991 and becoming the only film belonging to the horror genre to win the Oscar for Best Picture.


ArgoThe historical incident of the 1979 American Caper was re-enacted for the screen in Ben Affleck’s 2012 historical drama Argo. A dramatization of real life events, the film was adapted from CIA officer Tony Mendez’s 1999 book The Master of Disguise and producer Joshua Bearman’s 2007 Wired article titled The Great Escape. The film was critically acclaimed for its ‘darkly comic’ tone and masterful dramatization of the historical events as it ended up winning three Academy Awards in 2012 including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing.

The Exorcist

The ExorcistThe cult horror film scared millions on paper before terrifying generations of horror-movie lovers. Adapted by William Friedkin from William Peter Blatty’s 1971 horror novel The Exorcist, the film- infamously based on real life events- has been popularly declared as one of the greatest horror films of all time. The 1973 supernatural horror film went on to win the Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound, also making history by becoming the first horror film to be nominated for Best Picture.

Also read: Top 5 documentary films of all time

Top 10 science fiction movies of all time

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