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Top 15 Sci-Fi Movies Based on Books

Jurassic Park (1993) Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill)
Read a list of classic movies based on books and stories.

"The book is better" is a phrase you hear a lot. In most cases it's true. But every now and then a movie comes along that is a classic in its own right.

Here's a list of fifteen classic films based on books.

Frankenstein (1931)

Frankenstein (1931) (1931) The Monster (Boris Karloff)
Official synopsis: "This iconic horror film follows the obsessed scientist Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) as he attempts to create life by assembling a creature from body parts of the deceased. Aided by his loyal misshapen assistant, Fritz (Dwight Frye), Frankenstein succeeds in animating his monster (Boris Karloff), but, confused and traumatized, it escapes into the countryside and begins to wreak havoc. Frankenstein searches for the elusive being, and eventually must confront his tormented creation."
Directed by James Whale
Stars Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, John Boles, Boris Karloff, Edward Van Sloan, Frederick Kerr, Dwight Frye, Lionel Belmore, Marilyn Harris 
Based on: “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley
"Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus" is a classic novel written by English author Mary Shelley in the 1700s and 1800s. The book has been lauded by critics for decades and been adapted into everything from comics to tv series.

The movie Frankenstein has influenced countless other science fiction films. It’s hard to list all the movies about a rogue scientist who suffers at the hand of his creation. Plus the gentle giant is actor Boris Karloff'sbest-knownn work. Frankenstein (1931) has spawned dozens of sequels and adaptations but the original is still the best.

2. The Invisible Man (1933)

The Invisible Man (1933) - Dr. Jack Griffin aka The Invisible Man (Claude Rains), Flora Cranley (Gloria Stuart)
Official synopsis: "While researching a new drug, Dr. Jack Griffin (Claude Rains) stumbles on a potion that can make him invisible. When he reveals his new ability to his old mentor (Henry Travers) and his fiancée (Gloria Stuart), it's clear that a side effect of the potion is insanity. Jack goes on a violent rampage, and the police struggle to hunt him down, unable to see their target, while his mentor and his former partner (William Harrigan) desperately try to devise a plan to capture him."
Directed by James Wale
Stars Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan, Henry Travers, Una O'Connor, Forrester Harvey, Holmes Herbert, E.E. Clive, Dudley Digges, Harry Stubbs, Donald Stuart, Merle Tottenham
Based on: "The Invisible Man" (1897) by H.G. Wells
"Invisible Man" is classic mainly due to the masterful acting of Claude Rains who is able to create a terrifying villain using only his voice. Several other versions of the story were made including a sequel starring Vincent Price and a reimagining with Kevin Bacon called "Hollow Man". But nothing comes close to the classic.

3. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932)

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932) Dr. Henry Jekyll / Mr. Edward Hyde (Fredric March)
Official synopsis: "Testing his theory that in every man dwells a good and an evil force, the reserved Dr. Jekyll (Fredric March) develops a formula that separates the two, turning him into a violent ruffian named Mr. Hyde. Thinking he has found the answer to one of life's grandest mysteries, Dr. Jekyll soon realizes he is becoming addicted to his darker self as he unleashes his violent side on earthy dance hall girl Ivy (Miriam Hopkins) and fights Hyde to regain control of his body."
Directed by Rouben Mamoulian
Stars Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins, Rose Hobart, Holmes Herbert, Halliwell Hobbes, Edgar Norton, Tempe Pigott
Based on “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson

The idea of a man being both a hero and a villain has been carried over into almost every genre. Marvel comic book character Incredible Hulk is based on Jekyll and Hyde

So it’s influential there. But there’s more.

There have been over 112 films based on the story including a campy 70s version where he turns into a woman. But the 1932 film stands as the greatest. The lead actor won an Academy Award for his portrayal of the kind Jekyll and monstrous Hyde. The New York Times named it as one of their 10 Best Films of all-time and was recognized by American Film Institute for best villain and thrills.

The transformation special effects were groundbreaking at the time. These days they use CGI to turn people into monsters but back then they only had lights and makeup.


1. Jurassic Park (1993)

Jurassic Park (1993) Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Lex Murphy (Ariana Richards)
Official synopsis: "Genetically engineered dinosaurs run amok at a tycoon's island amusement park. Based on Michael Crichton's novel."
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Stars Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Bob Peck, Martin Ferrero, B. D. Wong, Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards, Samuel L. Jackson, Wayne Knight, Jerry Molen
Based on: "Jurassic Park" (1990) by Michael Crichton
The movie "Jurassic Park" is a legend in the movie industry for its groundbreaking special effects and story. The film spawned a new franchise that spans comics, video games, and sequels. The book is also a classic and topped the best-seller list for weeks.

In fact, the idea of the book was so good director Steven Spielberg bought the movie rights before it was even finished.

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

A Clockwork Orange (1971) Alex (Malcolm McDowell)
Official synopsis: "The head of a gang of toughs is conditioned to become physically ill at sex and violence during a prison sentence. When he is released, he's beaten by all of his old adversaries."
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Stars Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke, John Clive, Adrienne Corri, Carl Duering, Paul Farrell, Clive Francis, Michael Gover, Miriam Karlin, James Marcus, Aubrey Morris, Godfrey Quigley
Based on: "A Clockwork Orange" (1971) by Anthony Burgess
"A Clockwork Orange" Stanley Kubrick's masterful crime drama set in a dystopian future is based on Anthony Burgess's 1962 novel. The novel is on Time magazine's list of the "All-Time 100 Novels" written since 1923. It's also named by Modern Library as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.

The movie itself is a brutal and disturbing commentary on psychiatry, juvenile delinquency, and youth gangs.

Blade Runner (1982)

Blade Runner (1982) Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford)
Official synopsis: "Deckard (Harrison Ford) is forced by the police Boss (M. Emmet Walsh) to continue his old job as Replicant Hunter. His assignment: eliminate four escaped Replicants from the colonies who have returned to Earth. Before starting the job, Deckard goes to the Tyrell Corporation and he meets Rachel (Sean Young), a Replicant girl he falls in love with."
Directed by Ridley Scott
Stars Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson, Brion James, Joe Turkel, Joanna Cassidy, James Hong, Morgan Paull, Kevin Thompson, John Edward Allen
Based on: "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" (1968) by Philip K. Dick

Ridley Scott's seminal neo-noir science fiction film revolutionized the genre and spawned a sequel 36 years later. It's based on a 1968 novel by the great Philip K. Dick called "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" The movie had a disappointing run at the box office but was nominated for two Academy Awards. It's been critically acclaimed since then.

While the novel is less critically acclaimed than the movie it was nominated a Nebula Award in 1868.

Minority Report (2002)

Minority Report (2002) Chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise)
Official synopsis: "Based on a story by famed science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, "Minority Report" is an action-detective thriller set in Washington D.C. in 2054, where police utilize a psychic technology to arrest and convict murderers before they commit their crime. Tom Cruise plays the head of this Precrime unit and is himself accused of the future murder of a man he hasn't even met."
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Stars Tom Cruise, Max von Sydow, Steve Harris, Neal McDonough, Patrick Kilpatrick, Jessica Capshaw, Richard Coca, Keith Campbell, Kirk B.R. Woller, Klea Scott, Frank Grillo, Anna Maria Horsford, Sarah Simmons 
Based on: "The Minority Report" (1956) by Philip K. Dick.

Steven Spielberg s neo-noir science fiction film is loosely based on the short story "The Minority Report" by Philip K. Dick. The author's works have inspired numerous movies and television shows.

The movie earned dozens of award nominations including Best Sound Editing at the Academy Awards, and Best Visual Effects at the BAFTAs. Plus the user interface used by Tom Cruise has heavily inspired current technology.

The Fly (1986)

The Fly (1986) (1986) Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum), Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis)

Official synopsis: "When scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) completes his teleportation device, he decides to test its abilities on himself. Unbeknownst to him, a housefly slips in during the process, leading to a merger of man and insect. Initially, Brundle appears to have undergone a successful teleportation, but the fly's cells begin to take over his body. As he becomes increasingly fly-like, Brundle's girlfriend (Geena Davis) is horrified as the person she once loved deteriorates into a monster."
Directed by David Cronenberg
Stars Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz, Joy Boushel, Leslie Carlson, George Chuvalo, Michael Copeman, David Cronenberg, Carol Lazare, Shawn Hewitt
Based on: "The Fly" (1957) by George Langelaan

The original short story by Langelaan was first published in Playboy magazine and quickly became revered as a classic of science-fiction.

In the 1950s there’s a classic science fiction movie and two sequels inspired by the story. In the 1980s David Cronenberg remade the film and the genre with his twisted portrayal of the slow transformation from man to monster. It inspired a lackluster sequel but still stands as a true classic of the 1980s.

The special effects are so revolutionary that it became the first Cronenberg to win an Academy Award for special effects.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Dr. Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea)
Official synopsis: "An imposing black structure provides a connection between the past and the future in this enigmatic adaptation of a short story by revered sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke. When Dr. Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) and other astronauts are sent on a mysterious mission, their ship's computer system, HAL, begins to display increasingly strange behavior, leading up to a tense showdown between man and machine that results in a mind-bending trek through space and time."
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Stars Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Daniel Richter, Leonard Rossiter, Margaret Tyzack, Robert Beatty, Sean Sullivan, Douglas Rain, Frank Miller, Bill Weston, Ed Bishop, Glenn Beck, Alan Gifford
Based on: The Sentinel (1948) by Arthur C. Clarke

Stanley Kubrick’s ground-breaking film is a slow and passionate science fiction film. It's considered is one of the greatest and most influential films ever made. The United States Library of Congress called the film “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Arthur C. Clarke’s classic short stories “The Sentinel” and “Encounter in the Dawn” are the starting point for the movie. Clarke said the movie has little to do with his work. “I am continually annoyed by careless references to 'The Sentinel' as 'the story on which 2001 is based'; it bears about as much relation to the movie as an acorn to the resultant full-grown oak,” he once said.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) - Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman), Ford Prefect (Yasiin Bey/Mos Def), Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell), Marvin (Warwick Davis)

Official synopsis: "Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) is trying to prevent his house from being bulldozed when his friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def) whisks him into outer space. It turns out Ford is an alien who has just saved Arthur from Earth's total annihilation. Ford introduces Arthur to his myriad friends, including many-headed President Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell) and sexy refugee Trillian (Zooey Deschanel). Arthur makes his way across the stars while seeking the meaning of life, or something close to it."
Directed by Garth Jennings
Stars Bill Bailey, Anna Chancellor, Warwick Davis, Yasiin Bey/Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Su Elliot, Martin Freeman, Stephen Fry
Based on: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979) by Douglas Adams

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" started out as a radio drama on BBC Radio 4 in 1978. Adams developed it into a series of highly successful books over the years and the entire franchise developed a passionate cult following.

The book had been the subject of a radio drama and a successful tv miniseries but never a movie. The studio decided to do an interpretation of the story instead of a direct retelling. While the movie stayed in the top ten for four weeks it bombed. The lackluster reviews and poor box office meant hopes for possible sequels based on the other books fizzled.

Planet of the Apes (1968)

Planet of the Apes (1968) (1968) - George Taylor (Charlton Heston), Nova (Linda Harrison), Cornelius (Roddy McDowall), Zira (Kim Hunter), Cornelius (Roddy McDowall)
Official synopsis: "Complex sociological themes run through this science-fiction classic about three astronauts marooned on a futuristic planet where apes rule and humans are slaves. The stunned trio discovers that these highly intellectual simians can both walk upright and talk. They have even established a class system and a political structure. The astronauts suddenly find themselves part of a devalued species, trapped and imprisoned by the apes."
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner
"Planet of the Apes (1968)" stars Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly, Linda Harrison, Robert Gunner, Lou Wagner, Woodrow Parfrey, Jeff Burton, Buck Kartalian, Norman Burton, Wright King
Based on: “La Planète des Singes” (1963) by Pierre Boulle

Planet of the Apes is a 1968 American science fiction film directed by Franklin J. Schaffner. It stars Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly and Linda Harrison. It's based on a French novel "La Planète Des Singes" which tells the story of three astronauts who find themselves on a planet populated by civilized great apes. The movie has too many classic lines to name and the twist ending ranks as one of the greatest of all time.

Yes, there's a 2001 remake by Tim Burton. It's more faithful to the book in its portrayal of the ape world, but the ending falls flat and Mark Wahlberg is a terrible actor.

The Thing (1982)

The Thing (1982) MacReady (Kurt Russell)
Official synopsis: "In remote Antarctica, a group of American research scientists are disturbed at their base camp by a helicopter shooting at a sled dog. When they take in the dog, it brutally attacks both human beings and canines in the camp and they discover that the beast can assume the shape of its victims. A resourceful helicopter pilot (Kurt Russell) and the camp doctor (Richard Dysart) lead the camp crew in a desperate, gory battle against the vicious creature before it picks them all off, one by one."
Directed by John Carpenter
Stars Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, T.K. Carter, David Clennon, Keith David, Richard Dysart, Charles Hallahan, Peter Maloney, Richard Masur, Donald Moffat, Joel Polis, Thomas G. Waites, Norbert Weisser, Larry Franco
Based on: "Who Goes There?" (1938) by John W. Campbell

The original story was voted by the Science Fiction Writers of America as one of the "finest science fiction novellas ever written" in 1973. The story spawned a classic 1950s movie but it's John Carpenter's version that stands out as a masterpiece.

At the time the movie was released it was panned by critics who called it "instant junk", "a wretched excess", and "the most hated film of all time". Over the years the movie picked up a cult following for its themes of paranoia and isolation. It's a true classic, just like the original story.

The Last Man on Earth (1964)

The Last Man on Earth (1964) Dr. Robert Morgan (Vincent Price)
Official synopsis: "Vincent Price is the only survivor after a plague wipes out the human race, and struggles with loneliness."
Directed by Ubaldo Ragona
Stars Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli, Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Umberto Raho, Christi Courtland, Antonio Corevi, Ettore Ribotta
Based on: "I Am Legend" (1954) by Richard Matheson
The 1960s has a slew of classic science-fiction movies but this one is a true classic. Vincent Price stars as the tortured soul trapped in a house surrounded by vampires. The book by the great Richard Matheson is a moving and emotional story.

It spawned several inferior movie remakes like “The Omega Man” and Will Smith’s “I Am Legend”. But this one stands as a great film starring a master of science-fiction and horror.

Soylent Green (1973)

Official synopsis: "In a densely overpopulated, starving New York City of the future, NYPD detective Robert Thorn (Charlton Heston) investigates the murder of an executive at rations manufacturer Soylent Corporation. With the help of elderly academic Solomon "Sol" Roth (Edward G. Robinson), Thorn begins to make real progress -- until the governor mysteriously pulls the plug. Obsessed with the mystery, Thorn steps out from behind the badge and launches his own investigation into the murder."
Directed by Richard Fleischer
Stars Charlton Heston, Leigh Taylor-Young, Chuck Connors, Joseph Cotten, Brock Peters, Paula Kelly, Edward G. Robinson, Stephen Young, Mike Henry, Lincoln Kilpatrick, Roy Jenson, Leonard Stone, Whit Bissell, 
Based on: “Make Room! Make Room!” by Harry Harrison
Charlton Heston shows up again on the list as a man who investigates a murder and discovers the terrifying secret behind the government's solution to the overcrowding and lack of natural resources. Even today it’s a terrifying glimpse into the future cost of environmental collapse.

Soylent Green is loosely based on Harry Harrison’s novel about a future suffering from overpopulation and overuse of resources. When the author was asked what he thought about the movie based on his work he said "Am I pleased with the film? I would say fifty percent".

Which is your favorite movie based on a book? Are there ones I missed you'd recommend?

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