In the last few years, we’ve seen a steady increase of Oscar nominated films that are based on books. This year, a whopping 18 nominated films are book adaptations, but this trend should come as no surprise as the page-to-screen pattern has been a standard in the industry for decades. Below you’ll find our complete list (a numbered list even!) of all 18 of this year’s nominees that were inspired by the written word. Were you aware of the origins of each?
1. American Sniper by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, and Jim DeFelice
Before American Sniper was a blockbuster Best Picture nominated feature from Clint Eastwood, the incredible real life story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle played out on the page in his autobiography of the same title. In his ten year career, Kyle served multiple tours in Iraq and was credited with the most confirmed kills of any American sniper in history. Returning to live in the States after so many horrific challenges abroad would prove difficult, but he eventually made the transition to family life. Sadly however, things ended tragically for Kyle at the hands of a fellow veteran that he was trying to help readjust back into everyday life.
2. Big Hero 6 by Duncan Rouleau and Steven T. Seagle
Big Hero 6 started its days as a Marvel Comics mini-series created by Duncan Rouleau and Steven T. Seagle. The most noticeable difference between the original and Disney’s family friendly screen adaptation? Baymax, that cuddly white inflatable robot health assistant that you and you’re kids instantly fell in love with is more of an incredible hulk style monster that’s capable of morphing into both a dragon and a mecha. This original version was created to serve as a bodyguard and a personal chauffeur—not a band-aid dispenser—to its creator, thirteen year-old Hiro Takachiho.
3. Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow
There’s a lot more to Alan Snow’s 544 page children’s epic Here Be Monsters! than just those lovable boxtrolls that Laika Entertainment brought to glorious stop-motion life on the big screen this past fall. Snow’s book focuses much more heavily on the town of Ratbridge (not Cheesebridge) itself, including additonal tales of its strange inhabitants. Take for example the Cabbageheads, worshipers of cabbage who wear the vegetable tied to their heads (duh!), and the pirates and rats who control the town’s Nautical Laundry. Don’t worry though, the story of a young boy’s efforts to thwart the the nefarious plot of the vile Snatcher are still very much center stage.
4. Captain America by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby
Long before actor Chris Evans donned the tights of Marvel super hero Captain America, he first portrayed the role of The Human Torch in both Fantastic Four movies. How exactly does one guy get cast to play the part of two different super heroes from the same universe?! Long before that strange mess, way back in the early 1940s, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created a comic book legend. It wasn’t always easy going for the Captain however. He was cancelled in 1950 and was then brought back in 1953 only to be cancelled yet again after a brief stint of service. The third time’s a charm though, and in 1964 the version that we all know and love started his lengthy, uninterrupted run.
5. La Planète des Singes by Pierre Boulle
Everyone knows the story of Planet of the Apes, but how many know that it was originally based on a 1963 novel by the French author Pierre Boulle, a man who’s other notable work, The Bridge over the River Kwai was turned into a multiple Oscar winning feature film? The Planet of the Apes of course, tells the tale of intelligent apes who rise up and overthrow humanity to become the dominate species of planet Earth. This year’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes pushes the James Franco led reboot’s story ten years further into the future, where the vast majority of human life has been decimated by a pandemic and the apes have started building their own civilizations across the globe.
6. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Fans everywhere collectively gasped when David Fincher publicly announced that he had challenged author Gillian Flynn to come up with a completely new third act for the screen adaptation of her wildly successful novel Gone Girl. Flynn’s fanatic fan base can breath a sigh of relief however, as Fincher’s remarks turned out to be nothing more than a red herring designed to keep people interested in seeing his cinematic retelling of the tale. Even with a questionable cast that includes appearances from the guy from Gigli, Doogie Howser, and Madea, Gone Girl the film still manages to heavily entertain. Fans can rest (un)easy knowing that best actress nominee Rosamund Pike delivers one creepy turn as the psychotic disappearing wife Amy.
7. The Grand Budapest Hotel, Inspired by the Writings of Stefan Zweig
Over the past few years, Pushkin Press and NYRB Classics have put out a boatload of work by Austrian author Stefan Zweig. In the 1920s and 1930s Zweig was one of the most famous writers in the world, delivering stunning novellas such as Amok and The Royal Game, along with a slew of other novels and plays. When Hitler rose to power in the mid-thirties Zweig departed for England for a time, then moved to the United States briefly, before finally settling in Brazil in the 1940s. Growing increasingly depressed with the results of the Nazi campaign and fearing what the future would hold for humanity, Zweig and his wife tragically took their own lives in 1942. Wes Anderson’s Best Picture nominated film The Grand Budapest Hotel borrows heavily from Zweig’s works The Post Office Girl and Beware of Pity and features two characters which are meant to represent the author himself.
8. Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
The original Guardians of the Galaxy team first appeared in Marvel Comics back in the late 1960s and are considered to be part of an alternate timeline, but the modern team on which director James Gunn’s film is modeled first appeared in 2008. Creators Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning formed the supergroup by assembling together previously unrelated characters that were created by other artists. Gunn then brought them to life on the big screen by assembling a quirky cast of stars to portray them, including American Sniper’s Bradley Cooper as a talking raccoon and Parks and Recreation’s Chris Pratt as the walkman wearing leader of the gang, Peter Quill. Together the guardians stand united as they battle the forces of evil and save the
world galaxy from the destruction.
9. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Author J.R.R. Tolkien originally wrote both The Hobbit and subsequent The Lord of the Rings trilogy as vehicles for a new language that he’d created. Director Peter Jackson took these beloved novels and turned them into box office magic. Jackson stretched the Hobbit’s slim story into three movies by weaving expanded material from Tolkien’s universe into the tale to expand upon the roles of some otherwise less prominently featured characters. The results of his efforts have been mixed, but regardless, there’s not a single Tolkien fan out there who isn’t happy to see the man’s action filled fantasy masterpieces projected upon the big screen in all their splendid special effects laden glory.
10. How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
Before spawning two movies which both went on to earn Best Animated Feature nods, How to Train Your Dragon began as a series of children’s books written by author Cressida Cowell (or as the cover of each suggests, by Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, as translated from the Old Norse by Cowell). In these illustrated romps Haddock III uses his ability to speak Dragonese to his advantage as he attempts to train the stubbornist of fantastical creatures. Aimed at ages 8-12, these delightful volumes offer up hours of fun for even the pickiest of young readers.
11. Alan Turning: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges
Best Picture nominee The Imitation Game was based on the real life tale of British mathematician Alan Turing, as documented in Andrew Hodge’s book Alan Turing: The Enigma. Turing’s vital work on a machine designed to break Nazi communication cyphers during the second World War would later prove invaluable in the creation of the modern day computer. You think he’d be considered a hero for his wartime efforts, but instead Turing was eventually arrested and stripped of his many military security clearances because his sexual preference for members of the same gender was concidered to be a criminal offense during his lifetime.
12. Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 novel Inherent Vice is the source material behind director P.T. Anderson’s latest movie bearing the same name. Rumors abound that the reclusive 77 year-old author actually has a brief cameo in the movie, though no one has been able to 100% substantiate this claim. Anderson’s adaptation marks only the second time he’s transformed the work of another for the screen (There Will Be Blood being the other) and part of the process involved him making extreme changes to Pynchon’s original ending. If you loved the film, but you’ve never read the book, you should do your brain a big favor and pick up a copy of the novel to discover how this wild tale originally ended.
13. La Belle au bois dormant by Charles Perrault
Written in 1696, Charles Perrault’s The Beauty Sleeping in the Wood is the loose inspiration for Angelina Jolie and Disney’s take on the supposedly wicked character of Maleficient. Much like the film, Perrault’s story (and the Brothers Grimm tale as well), is about an angry fairy who curses an infant so that she will prick herself on a spindle and die. Not so much like Perrault’s story, the movie focuses heavily on the fairy instead of the girl, as it attempts to explain her tragic backstory and reveal her true motivations for acting in such a maniacal way. Even though it was met with mixed reviews, the film still managed to pull in $757 million worldwide and earn an Oscar nomination in the Best Costume Design category.
14. Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Still Alice author Lisa Genova doubles as a neuroscientist and this, her debut novel, deals with a college professor (portrayed on screen by Julianne Moore) who suffers from the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Genova’s is truly an exceptional tale as Still Alice was originally self-published before it picked up enough buzz to have its rights for republication bought by Simon & Schuster, and then eventually found it’s way to becoming adapted for the screen and nominated for an Oscar. Pirated copies of the film were leaked to torrent sites on the internet late last year as part of the Sony hacking scandal involving the controversial Seth Rogan film The Interview, but this setback didn’t hurt reviews of the film which were mostly favorable.
15. Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Hawking
Is The Theory of Everything a better title for a Stephen Hawking biopic than Travelling to Infinity? Hollywood seems to think so. This Best Picture nominee owes it’s existence to Jane Hawking’s tell-all memoir about her rocky marriage to the scientific genius, their tumultuous divorce, and their eventual rapprochement. Illness does strange things to people, so to do fame and wealth. As the Hawking family begins to crack under the enormous pressures placed on them by the onset of Stephen’s motor neurone disease, who actually suffers the most here never becomes the question, instead, how can everyone move forward from this unexpected destination that they’ve suddenly crash landed at does.
16. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Laura Hillenbrand’s incredible book about the epic life of Olympic track star / war hero Louis Zamperini appeared to be a shoe-in for a Best Picture nomination when the project was first announced. Instead all it could muster were nominations in the Cinematography, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing categories. The source material provided by Hillenbrand isn’t the issue here. Angelina Jolie’s clumsy directorial hands botch the story and completely cut Zamperini’s post-war salvation and relationship with Billy Graham from the viewing experience. Jolie was obviously inspired by the incredible struggles Zamperini endured, but it’s painfully clear that she bit off more than she could chew with this one.
17. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
The first selection of Oprah’s Book Club 2.0, Strayed’s 2012 memoir chronicled her her 1,100-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail through Oregon and California. Reese Witherspoon portrays Strayed in the film and earned a Best Actress nod for her efforts. Strayed, a recovering heroin addict with little to no hiking experience, set out on the journey to exercise personal demons plaguing her over the loss of her mother and the destruction of her marriage. What fantastic nuggets of self-realizations does she uncover along the way? You’ll need to pick up the book or see the movie to find out.
18. The X-Men by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Before they spawned a mega 7-movie Hollywood franchise, the X-Men were born into the world in comic book form by legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the early 1960s. They’re all mutants—that’s special humans born with super powers—rather than altered humans—like spider-man, born normal than changed by some defining event later—and they’re led by professor Charles Xavier (portrayed by Patrick Stewart of Star Trek fame in the films). In Days of Future Past, Wolverine’s consciousness travels back in time to the 70s in an attempt to stop the assassination of one Bolivar Trask, the mastermind behind the Sentinel program, robots specifically designed to hunt down and destroy mutants. Like, trippy man, for sure.
Which films have you seen? Which are you most looking forward to seeing? How many of these original stories that inspired them have you read? Do let us know!