How To Make A Successful Book-To-Film Adaptation


Hollywood has been making book-to-film adaptations for years, but not all of them have been incredibly successful.

That said, some of Hollywood’s biggest ever hits have been based on books: the Harry Potter movies, The Hunger Games films, the James Bond movies, and you could even argue that the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbusters are based on books (loosely).

Incidentally, it does look like Bridgerton’s Rege-Jean Page is the current favourite to be the next Bond in Betway’s online casino betting market.

But why have book adaptations proven to be so successful in Hollywood over the years?

Why are most of Hollywood’s most successful movie franchises based on books?

And, what makes a successful book-to-film adaptation?

These are the questions we’re going to try to answer.

Story. Story. Story.


Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Read more: These Are The Books To Film Adaptations Post-2020 You Should Be Excited For

At the very beginning of this article, I mentioned some Hollywood movie franchises that were based on books.

Harry Potter, James Bond, The Hunger Games

You can add the likes of The Lords Of The Rings to that list as well.

These have all been very successful franchises at the box office.

However, if you’re to look at the most successful films at the worldwide box office (courtesy of Box Office Mojo) that were based on books, not all of them are part of a bigger franchise.

Look at Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park for instance, which grossed over $912 million worldwide.

Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland managed to make a fraction over $1 billion at the box office.

You’ve also got Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book which raked in an impressive $966 million.

These books are part of huge Hollywood franchises.

They weren’t like the Harry Potter nor The Hunger Games books which were a worldwide phenomenon.

No, these were film adaptations of very famous books which had stories that people wanted to see on the big screen.

The success of these movies demonstrates how important the story is.

An Existing Fanbase

the-hunger-games-mockingjay-part-1 Jennifer Lawrence Fantastic Four Sue Storm

Credit: Lionsgate

Read more: Is The Witcher’s Success The Beginning Of The Age Of Video Game TV And Movie Adaptations?

They also demonstrate how important a pre-existing fanbase is in making successful book-to-film adaptations.

Books such as Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park and Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book were already very popular.

People wanted to see the stories they told on the big screen.

Interestingly enough, those two movies had something else up their respective sleeves.

They were both on the cutting edge of CGI.

Both Spielberg’s Jurassic Park and Favreau’s The Jungle Book were doing things with CGI and technology that cinemagoers hadn’t seen before.

They were changing the course of cinema and that’s another reason why they did so well at the box office and were so successful.

Books stand the test of time

andy-serkis-gollum the lord of the rings spinoff show

Credit: New Line Cinema

Read more: Jodie Whittaker’s Agent Reportedly Wants Her To Quit Doctor Who

Ultimately, books will stand the test of time, and they tend to make movies that do also.

All the movies I’ve mentioned in this article will live on well after we’re all done.

It’s because they have engaging stories that are adapted from books that people genuinely care about.

These movies often use cutting edge technology to entice people to go to the cinema to watch them.

The books also have huge fanbases that will flock to the cinemas to watch the movie versions of their favourite novels.

And finally, the really successful ones (maybe apart from Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland) are really good movies.

Ultimately, if you want to make a good book-to-film adaptation, you have to concentrate on making a good movie.

It sounds very simple, but it’s true.

The reason a film like The Golden Compass didn’t perform well at the box office was that it just wasn’t a very good film.

It was based on a series of books with a huge fanbase – Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.

However, people could just tell that the movie didn’t have the love for its source material it needed in order to succeed.

What do you make of this feature?

What are some of your favourite book-to-film adaptations?

Let us know your favourites in the comments below.


What do you make of this story? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages! And if you enjoy listening to film podcasts, why not check out our podcasts, Small Screen Stories and Small Screen Film Club wherever you get your podcasts!

There are no comments

Add yours

Have your say...