21 Books that Inspired Oscar-Winning Movies

“Secret’s in the sauce,” Sipsey said.

One of my favorite movies inspired by a book is Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) starring Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy and Mary-Louise Parker, based on the novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (1987) by Fannie Flag. Even recent box office mega-hits like the Twilight saga and Harry Potter series first captured an audience of readers before they ever landed on the big screen. Some of the silver screen’s most loved and heroic characters were born in books – alongside the “boy who lived” are men like MI6’s “007” based on the James Bond series by Ian Fleming. Bond films began with Dr. No in 1962 and continue to thrive today with the 23rd film in the franchise, Skyfall (2012).

There are so many gifted screenwriters who have taken fantastic stories and characters from the pages of books and adapted them for film. And often those films are hailed as the “Best Picture” and “Best Screenplay” at the Academy Awards. Here’s a round-up of 21 books that inspired Oscar-winning movies. Have you read them all?


1. Gone with the Wind (1940) based on Gone with the Wind (1936) by Margaret Mitchell • 2. The Sound of Music (1965) based on The Story of the Trapp Family Singers (1949) by Maria Augusta Trapp • 3. The Godfather (1972) based on The Godfather (1969) by Mario Puzo • 4. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) based on One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962) by Ken Kesey • 5. Somewhere in Time (1980) based on Bid Time Return (1979) by Richard Matheson • 6. Terms of Endearment (1983) based on the novel Terms of Endearment (1975) by Larry McMurtry • 7. Scarface (1983) remake film based on Scarface (1929) by Armitage Trail • 8. Dances with Wolves (1990) based on Dances with Wolves (1988) by Michael Blake • 9. Schindler’s List (1993) based on Schindler’s List (1982) by Thomas Keneally • 10. Forrest Gump (1994) based on Forrest Gump (1986) by Winston Groom • 11. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) based on novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, from the collection Different Seasons (1982) by Stephen King • 12. Sense and Sensibility (1995) based on Sense and Sensibility (1811) by Jane Austen • 13. Cider House Rules (1999) based on The Cider House Rules (1985) by John Irving • 14. A Beautiful Mind (2001) based on A Beautiful Mind (1998) by Sylvia Nasar • 15. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003) based on the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy (1954-55) by J.R.R. Tolkien • 16. Atonement (2007) based on Atonement: A Novel (2001) by Ian McEwan • 17. There Will Be Blood (2007) based on Oil! (1927) by Upton Sinclair • 18. The Blind Side (2009) based on The Blind Side: The Evolution of a Game (2006) by Michael Lewis • 19. Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (2009) based on Push (1996) by Sapphire • 20. 127 Hours (2010) based on the memior Between a Rock and a Hard Place (2004) by Aron Ralston • 21. Hugo (2011) based on The Invention of Hugo Cabret: A Novel in Words and Pictures (2007) by Brian Selznick.

In celebration of the 85th Academy Awards this weekend (Sunday, February 24), I give a big shout-out to all the screenwriters behind-the-scenes of each Oscar-worthy picture.

Meredith is Associate Creative Director at Half Price Books Corporate.
You can follow her on Twitter at @msquare21.

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