Don’t we all love books? They can be inspiring, thrilling and thoughtful, taking us to far-flung places or worlds that are eerily close to our own. Hollywood has long mined our favorite tomes for ideas or straight up adapted them, to varying degrees of success. Although some movies are celebrated for taking some artistic licence, many leave fans infuriated by how far they stray from the source material.
Whichever way the movie turns out, there are always those treasured moments where the places, characters and scenarios feel like they've been lifted straight off the page.
So what are the most faithful book-to-movie scenes? And what makes them so successful? Have the main themes and messages been captured? Is it the actors? The dialogue? The setting?
Read on to find out!
1. The Conversation in the Cave - Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994)
You’ll find no neck bolts or shuffling green monsters in this movie. In this important scene, The Creature (Robert DeNiro) pleadingly asks:
“Did you ever consider the consequences of your actions? You made me, and you left me to die... Who am I?”
Naturally, he's asking this of his creator, Frankenstein (a rather ripped Kenneth Branagh – check out those abs earlier in the movie...damn!) Although it is a thoroughly unsubtle film at some moments, this is the crux of the story. Widely seen as the closest-ever adaptation of Mary Shelley’s original book, this scene exemplifies the novel’s compelling examination of human nature. Implausibility of the ice slide aside, it's a thought-provoking testament to one of the first pieces of science fiction ever written.
2. The Business Card Scene - American Psycho (2000)
Brett Easton Ellis’s novel is definitely an interesting and harrowing read, and so it’s only fitting that its movie intrigued and repulsed us in equal measure. Replicating one of the book's... shall we say, tamer scenes, Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman compares business cards with his co-workers.
From Bateman's overreaction, to his egotistical colleagues unsheathing their cards like swords, the satirical slant of the novel was closely and amusingly replicated. And hey, there’s Jared Leto!
3. Harry vs Voldemort - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
Some would say that this scene is outclassed by the Dumbledore vs Voldemort fight in The Order of the Phoenix, or the final confrontation in The Deathly Hallows: Part 2, but whilst they are epic in equal measure, neither of them contain the same emotional heft as this pivotal moment. In a movie which brought us the ever-irritating “HARRY! DID YA PUT YAH NAME IN DA GOBLET OF FIYAH?!”, we also got one of the most game-changing scenes of the Harry Potter series. As Voldemort returns, the saga irrevocably matures.
The menace of Ralph Fiennes’s perfect Lord Voldemort slithers into every corner of the eerie graveyard. The score soars and the themes of death and love — the cores of the Harry Potter books — are brought to the fore in thrilling yet tragic fashion.
4. The Morning Meeting - Pride and Prejudice (2005)
There was already a Pride and Prejudice adaptation with a swoon-inducing Mr Darcy (Colin Firth) moment, so equaling it was always going to be an uphill struggle. The jury is still out as to whether this early morning-mooching Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) tops it or not; however, with lines like the example below marvelously mirroring the book, how could you say no?
"My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever."
"Janeites" (die-hard Austen fans) may object to the modernization of some conversations, but it’s hard to deny the power of the romance on show. Coupled with a sweeping score and sterling acting, this is a passionate, albeit simplified, conclusion to a classic tale, set in the snobbery and propriety of the English Regency.
5. Entering Narnia - The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
Undoubtedly one of the most influential fantasy series ever written, Narnia was always aching to get the Hollywood treatment. Following Harry Potter's success, Disney decided to get a move on and capitalize on the fantasy frenzy. And aren't we glad that they did?!
Georgie Henley is a highly competent child actor, especially alongside the considerable talents of James McAvoy as Mr Tumnus. Plus director Andrew Adamson's slow and sensitive camera movements capture the magic and wonder of this new world, which is heightened by Harry Gregson William’s score. This scene truly captured the magic of going through that infamous wardrobe for the first time.
6. The Fountain Scene - Atonement (2007)
Another hit for James McAvoy and Keira Knightley! This is a brilliantly-acted and somber drama, and though the film may be known for its innovative World War 2 scenes, Atonement offers so much more. This crucial conversation (ripped straight from the book) is a masterclass in subtly showing details about the characters.
There is so much foreshadowing of their tragic futures hidden in this scene (from the broken vase to Cecilia's submersion), but you'd be forgiven if you didn't pick up on these clues due to the heated atmosphere. The sexual tension is so palpable between the two characters that I’m surprised that steam isn’t rising from the fountain!
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7. The End - The Boy in the Striped Pyjama’s (2008)
The film makers may have made several minor yet overt changes in the end of this Holocaust drama, but in the end it doesn’t matter. The bleak cinematography, Bruno’s heartbroken mother, his father’s (David Thewlis) dawning comprehension and the lingering shot of the rows upon rows of titular uniforms convey all of the emotion.
In summary? Devastating.
8. Bella Gives Birth And Becomes A Vampire - Twilight – Breaking Dawn: Part 1 (2011)
These were the moments that we fans had all been waiting for, and they didn’t disappoint. It’s one of the best scenes in the whole film series, and as it closely hews to Stephanie Meyer’s descriptions; it’s hard for us to see the star crossed Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) in such distress, even as their determination shines through.
With touching flashbacks and some great special effects, Bella is reborn with perfect contouring and nice contact lenses (I’m just kidding, as a vampire obviously). This truly was a visceral (ugh, that snapping sound!) and emotional end to the film. If you weren’t excited to see the final battle beforehand, you were after watching this!
9. The Reichenbach Falls - Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
This will definitely be a controversial choice for long-time Sherlock Holmes fans, who have largely rejected the steam-punky offerings of Guy Ritchie. However, in doing so, they overlook a great deal of good stuff in these adaptations. The story and setting have been changed a lot to manufacture the famous plunge, yet Jared Harris is a brilliant Moriarty, and his clash of wills with Robert Downey Jr’s Holmes is a sight to behold.
It’s a thrilling conclusion, which is sold to us on the back of Downey’s electric chemistry with Jude Law as his pal Watson. You can feel the shock and sorrow in the latter’s simple closing of his eyes, and his heartfelt eulogy, which in turn, is taken verbatim from the beloved books.
10. "I Am A Rapist Pig" - The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)
It’s such a shame that this is unlikely to develop as a movie series, because this is a really great, grungy thriller. It's slickly directed by David Fincher and just as good as the Swedish adaptations of the novels.
Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara are an excellent team in this tale of misogyny and murder. And, even though some of the nastier characters don’t quite get their comeuppance, this only makes Lisbeth's (Mara) retribution against Nils Bjurman (Yorick van Wageningen) all the more satisfying.
11. Riddles in the Dark -The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
The adapted trilogy of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit may have its share of problems and detractors, but very few of these are attached to, or present, in this sequence. Peter Jackson transforms the quirky interaction between Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and Gollum (Andy Serkis) into a tense scene, which is whimsically funny in one moment, then dark and scary in the next.
The two actors are at the height of their abilities (Freeman’s face as Bilbo spares Gollum’s life is a master class of subtly shifting emotions), and they fully deliver in a sequence laden with portent. After all, it’s a notorious scene, since their actions have massive repercussion, in one of the most detailed and epic fantasy stories ever put to page and screen.
12. Four’s Fear Simulation - Divergent (2014)
Major character moments are always a tricky part of the adaptation process. If we don’t buy the suitability of the actors/actresses in the role, or the way that it is handled, the whole thing can fall apart very quickly. Thankfully that’s not the case here. Shailene Woodley and Theo James easily slip into their respective roles as Tris and Four, and their acting abilities shine through.
After all, it’s not every day that you have to give another dimension to your character, convey a blossoming romance and relay an important revelation all in one scene! It’s a brilliantly realized moment for the two characters. Damn, seeing the above clip has made me want to watch the whole thing all over again!
13. The Banquet Scene - Macbeth (2015)
I’m cheating with this one, because technically Macbeth was originally a play. But in my defense, it’s a book as well! No matter. This is here because it’s definitely one of the best adaptations of Shakespeare ever. Adhering closely to the source material, Banquo’s (Paddy Considine) appearance is cleverly handled, and it’s stunningly shot like the rest of the film.
Plus, the brilliance of Michael Fassbender goes without saying.
It’s always a hard path to tread when making a book into a movie, but in my (and a great many people’s) opinions, the above choices rank among the best.
Did yours make the list? Are there more that should have featured? And why?
Head to the comments and let me know!