Top 10 Most Faithful Movie Adaptations

Script written by Nathan Sharp Sometimes Hollywood gets it right and adapts a story perfectly. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we're counting down our picks for the top 10 most faithful movie adaptations. For this list, we're looking at film adaptations that adapted the plot, characters, and other various parts perfectly to create an excellent companion piece. Special thanks to our user 11emilygrace for submitting the idea at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Most Faithful Movie Adaptations


Sometimes Hollywood gets it right and adapts a story perfectly. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Faithful Movie Adaptations.

For this list, we’re looking at film adaptations that adapted the plot, characters, and other various parts perfectly to create an excellent companion piece. To be clear, we’re not ranking these movies based on how good they are, but rather, how faithful they are to their respective source material.

#10: “Mystic River” (2003)

This drama, directed by Clint Eastwood, was adapted from the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane and follows three childhood friends who reunite decades after a tragedy. Readers of the book thought Sean Penn’s Oscar winning performance conveyed the troubled character of Jimmy perfectly, and was one reason the film was so critically acclaimed. The screen version not only nails the characters and follows the plot of the novel, but it also perfectly portrays the grimy Boston-area setting and the foreboding atmosphere of the novel. It’s an impeccable adaptation in both style and substance.

#9: “No Country for Old Men” (2007)

This Coen Brothers adaptation from acclaimed writer Cormac McCarthy’s novel follows a man who finds a briefcase full of money and another who is tasked with finding it. Winner of the Oscar for Best Picture, it follows the plot of the novel almost exactly. Even the crackling and menacing dialogue from the film is taken practically verbatim from the novel – or seemingly so – including the famous gas station scene. It’s truly a visual representation of the novel, as everything remains the same in tone. And yes, even that ending that frustrated so many viewers was taken directly from the book.

#8: “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991)

This Best Picture winner was adapted from the novel by Thomas Harris and retains many of the same plotlines and characters, resulting in one of the greatest movies of all time. Both novel and film follow FBI agent Clarice Starling as she tracks down one killer by enlisting the help of another killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Not only does the film follow the novel’s story, it also perfectly captures the complexity of the characters and the stomach churning violence of the novel. Both versions were acclaimed in their own fields and both create one terrific story.

#7: “The Hunger Games” franchise (2012-15)

This film and novel series proved immensely popular, with the films raising Jennifer Lawrence into the upper echelons of stardom. The stories follow Katniss Everdeen and her band of rebellious individuals as they attempt to overthrow the Capitol regime. The cinematic versions are extremely faithful to the novels, following the characters and storyline almost to a tee. As with any series adaptation, there’s bound to be some scenes cut for length and pacing reasons, but this series’ cuts are minimal, faithfully bringing Suzanne Collins’ story to life.

#6: “Misery” (1990)

One of Stephen King’s most successful adaptations, “Misery” follows a famous writer who is held captive by a psychotic fan. Kathy Bates perfectly captures the seeming innocence and psychopathy of Annie, with many critics saying the role was perfectly cast. King initially refused the adaptation due to how Hollywood had treated his works in the past, but he eventually agreed. It is now one of King’s favorite adaptations due to its close adherence to the plot and the brilliantly captured claustrophobic feel of the novel, not to mention the fantastic performances.

#5: “Sin City” (2005)

It’s hard not to be a good adaptation when you literally take frames and dialogue straight from the source material. This movie was adapted from various graphic novels by Frank Miller, and follows several distinct stories of violence and redemption. Notable for its comic book look, “Sin City” was shot in black and white to better mimic its comic counterpart. Faithfulness to the source material was at the forefront of the mind of its director, Robert Rodriguez. As he stated, this is “a translation, not an adaptation.”

#4: “Harry Potter” franchise (2001-11)

Spanning ten years and eight movies, the “Harry Potter” film franchise has become a worldwide phenomenon, thanks in no small part to the creators’ faithfulness to the novels. Famously exploring Harry as he discovers grows up in a wizarding world, the movies do the story complete justice. Even better, they also perfectly capture the magical look and feel of the wizarding world and the mesmerizing lore that comes with it. While some criticized the movies for cutting too much out from the novels, they nevertheless remained extremely faithful to the basics of JK Rowling’s story.

#3: “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962)

This movie is based on the classic, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that everyone had to read in school, and follows a young girl named Scout as she grows up in the racist culture of 1930s Alabama. The film precisely follows the novel’s story and nails the themes of racial injustice and the loss of innocence. Author Harper Lee has praised the film, calling it a “work of art,” and the visuals on screen create a terrific counterpart to the novel. It may be the rare exception of a film being better than the book.

#2: “The Lord of the Rings” franchise (2001-03)

Adapting J.R.R. Tolkien’s world famous novels, this trilogy proved that you can transfer the imaginations of readers onto the screen and still keep the essentials perfectly intact. We watch in awe from the moment Frodo begins his journey to Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring, and that sense of awe never fades. While the films cut out sections of the novels for pacing, they keep a large majority of the story intact and are just as visually wondrous as any pictures you may have imagined. Not only do they nail the story, but every aspect of Middle Earth is beautifully adapted, making this a fantastic transfer from page to screen.

Before we look at our most faithful adaptation, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2011)
- “The Age of Innocence” (1993)
- “Stand by Me” (1986)
- “Life of Pi” (2012)

#1: “300” (2006)

We guess Hollywood just loves Frank Miller’s comics so much that they don’t feel the need to change anything. “300” tells the historical story of the Spartans who held off Persian advances in Greece, and is adapted shot-for-shot from the comic book. While there was a subplot added for the movie, it’s otherwise a direct translation of the book, dialogue and all. They even filmed the movie using special technology to reproduce the unique visual style of the comics. Adaptations don’t get much more direct than this.

Do you agree with our list? What adaptation do you think is the most faithful? For more informative top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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