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Which books have adapted best to film?

Dress up your youngster as their favourite book character for a chance to win family cinema tickets

This Thursday (March 4) is World Book Day. Bit sad that we need a special day to encourage people to read books, but I guess it’s true that in the modern day our mobile phones have pretty much taken over as a source of entertainment. I’m owed about half a dozen audio books from Amazon, but can never get around to ordering them.

As part of marking the day a nationwide cinema group has been carrying out some research into which books have been made into the best movies. For me, one book stands head and shoulders above the rest but, in the list, it ranks down at No 8. I refer, of course, to The Godfather.

When I first read Mario Puzo’s book I found it really difficult to put down. At the time, I was a regular late night traveller from my then girlfriend’s home in Walthamstow to the Elephant & Castle by tube. The Underground journey would give a chance to get through a few chapters of the novel. But that was never enough. I would carry one reading during the 10-minute walk from the tube to my home. Remember, this was late at night. So half the time was spent with the book raised high to get the available light from the lamp-posts behind me; the other half was with the book lowered to get the light from the post ahead. One night, I was so engrossed that I managed to walk straight into a lamp-post. What a wally! Fortunately, there was no one around to see my stupidity.

The films followed – and what great films they were. The ongoing debate is which of the first two films was the best. Part I shades it for me, but there is really very little in it. Were I to get into a debate with someone making the claim for Part II I would spend no time arguing. In my opinion, very few sequels measure up especially well against the original, but I would make an exception in the case of The Godfather. But then someone got greedy and decided to make a third film. Complete pants compared with the first two. Garbage! Maybe Part III is why the films are only ranked at 8.

The scene from The Godfather in which Michael Corleone exacts revenge for the murder of his brother. The bloodshed is graphic, so please avoid if it is likely to upset.

So, what ranked at No 1? No prizes for guessing. Yes, the Harry Potter franchise has been voted the best movie adaptation of a book ever, according to new researchby Showcase Cinemas (they own the one at Bluewater), shows that a third of Brits voted the magical movies as the greatest film adaptations of all time. I can recall watching the first two and found them thoroughly entertaining. No good reason why I didn’t watch the rest.

Following close behind in joint second place is the classic The Shawshank Redemption (28%), tied with the fantasy franchise The Lord of the Rings (28%). Both worthy contenders though I do get a tad tired of people naming Shawshank as their favourite film. At times I think it has become the ‘can’t think of anything else offhand’ response.

Despite its popularity as a book turned movie, Harry Potter himself only came in third place (28%) when it comes to the most popular book characters, with James Bond topping the list with 33% of the votes and Sherlock Holmes coming in second (29%). Of course, it has to be Bond. I even have the numerals 007 as part of my private email address, such is my devotion to the character.

However, the young wizard was a clear favourite when it came to 18-24-year-olds, as almost half of the age group (41%) named Harry Potter as the most popular book character in a film.

Despite coming in second place in the top 10 best movie adaptations, only 5% of Brits voted the leading man, Andy Dufresne from The Shawshank Redemption, as the best character. Probably because no one can remember the character’s name. Could you?

And while 50 Shades of Grey was a hugely popular draw as both a book and a movie, Anastasia Steele fell short of supporters, polling just 4% of the ballot in the favourite character vote.

In advance of the eagerly anticipated release of the latest Bond instalment No Time To Die later this year, participants were asked to vote on which book, written by Ian Fleming, made the best James Bond film.

The blockbuster hit Casino Royale, Daniel Craig’s first instalment as the suave secret agent, was crowned the winner, with one in 10 film fans voting it as the most popular. The late great Sean Connery’s Goldfinger came in second place (7%), followed by Dr No (5%). Goldfinger would be my choice.

Children’s literature is regularly made into film adaptations, with classics like The Chronicles of NarniaThe Wizard of Oz and Matilda hitting the big screen. Here, once again, Harry Potter reigned supreme – topping the list of the best adaptations from a children’s book (16%), with Disney hits The Jungle Book and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory following in joint second place (9%).

For all those hopeless romantics out there, nothing beats sitting down and indulging in a book filled with love letters. Being able to watch those character’s journeys get played out in front of you on the big screen is the icing on the cake. Film fans named Bridget Jones’s Diary as the most successful romantic film adaptation (15%), followed by the story of Allie and Noah in the Nicholas Sparks love story, The Notebook (7%).

However, romantic movies aren’t as popular with the male audience, with almost half of UK men claiming they don’t have a favourite romantic film.  

Nearly half of Brits admit they are more likely to watch a movie (43%), than to read a book (29%) and 23% of participants claim they enjoyed the two in equal measure.

When it comes to the younger generation, a massive 63% confirmed they are more likely to watch a film than read a book (16%). More than a quarter of those aged 65 plus said they would prefer to watch the film (28%).

Mark Barlow, UK general manager for Showcase Cinemas, says: “Books are hugely important to the movie industry; without great novels, the movies mentioned would never have been created for the world to enjoy on the big screen.  

“While a great book brings those incredible stories to life; films take those stories and turn them into a feast for the eyes and ears. The magic of books and films can make us laugh, cry, scream and fall in love. There’s no better place to watch books come to life than on the big screen, the way movies were meant to be seen.

“There were so many incredible books that could have been chosen as the best movie adaptation, but it is great to see Harry Potter top that list – its evergreen popularity is testament to its enduring appeal across multiple generations as both a book and a movie. It comes as no surprise that Brits chose James Bond as their favourite character and we can’t wait to bring No Time To Die, Daniel Craig’s fifth and final instalment, to the big screen.

“We are looking forward to reopening our doors to guests as soon as the Government allows us to – currently scheduled for 17 May in England – with all our cinemas operating the Be Showcase Safe programme that we successfully introduced last year.”

With the schools still closed, Showcase Cinemas wants to encourage families not to miss out on the magic of World Book Day and is running a competition to win one of 10 family tickets to the cinema once they reopen. Simply email a picture of your little one dressed up as their favourite book character to showcase@wearebrazenpr.com to be in with a chance of winning.

THE TOP 10 LIST OF BEST MOVIE ADAPTATIONS

  1. Harry Potter franchise
  2. The Shawshank Redemption
  3. The Lord of the Rings franchise
  4. Schindler’s List
  5. Forrest Gump
  6. Jurassic Park
  7. The Wizard of Oz
  8. The Godfather
  9. The Hunger Games franchise
  10. Twelve Years a Slave

GENRE BREAKDOWN OF THE BEST MOVIE ADAPTATIONS

  • The Lord of the Rings – best action/fantasy movie adaptation
  • Sherlock Holmes – best period drama movie adaptation
  • The Silence of the Lambs – best horror movie adaptation
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary series – best romance movie adaptation
  • Mrs Doubtfire – best comedy movie adaptation

1Research based on a survey of 2,000 respondents undertaken in February 2021

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past local weekly publications he has worked for include: the South-East London Mercury* covering the Borough of Greenwich as a junior reporter; Orpington-based News Shopper as a sub-editor; and the Kent Messenger when based in Larkfield, Maidstone, as deputy chief sub-editor. He has also worked for the following dailies/nationals: Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor on a car fleet magazine. His first foray into property ownership saw him move from London to Rainham (the Gillingham, Kent, variety). He has subsequently lived in Chislehurst, Petts Wood and Orpington in the Borough of Bromley (which he still regards as being in Kent). In more recent years he owned three different properties on the Kings Hill (West Malling) development.

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