GUEST EDITORIAL: 7 Movies You Might Not Know Were Based on Books



7 Movies You Might Not Know Were Based on Books

There are so many great movies out there that we all know and love that you’re often sat there at the end wondering where on earth the director go their ideas. Well, to give you some food for thought we’ve tracked down a whole host of timeless classics that were available in book form years before they ever made it to the big screen. Here are a few that will surprise you. 

Rambo: First Blood

That’s right, Sly Stallone’s iconic character was actually dreamt up by someone else — David Morrell to be precise. He wrote a whole host of similar adventure style books centering on the Vietnam war, one of which featured Rambo as the main character. 

His version of Rambo wasn’t the Hollywood hero we all know and love today, however. He was something of a bad guy, who eventually lost his mind due to the ravages of war and went on to commit an atrocity which only ended when he was shot and killed. A tragic ending which Hollywood rewrote so that Stallone could play the hero, and then embark on a whole host of action-packed sequels. 

“If you want to gain an insight into how Hollywood feels it has to reframe some of the great works of fiction to generate ticket sales, Rambo is a great example. By changing parts of the very makeup of the character, they took the story in an entirely new direction. Any students of film and fiction will gain great insight by comparing the two narratives” says — Marie Fincher, Head of Content at Trust My Paper, and writer for Grab My Essay

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

The off the wall and quirky cartoon story that we all know and love were actually formulated years before it made it onto the big screen. Originally titled Who Censored Roger Rabbit, it was written by Gary Wolf and it departs quite markedly from the film in parts. 

It’s an overall dark and more morbid tale that touches very different areas of the human psyche than the lighthearted and quirky movie that followed. Nowhere is this more evident than the ending in which Roger Rabbit is unceremoniously shot and killed, leaving the book with a tantalizing ending that has to be read to be believed. 

The Thing 

Ever heard of a novella called Who Goes There? It was written by John W. Campbell all the way back in 1938 and contains the starting point for the much-loved cult classic. It even contains the famous scene where The Thing comes to life and bites the unfortunate actor’s arm clean off. The tension, suspense, and overarching feeling of paranoia that comes from exploring a world where nothing is quite what it seems are all conveyed beautifully by Campbell’s original work. 

“You can get a real appreciation for pace, suspense, and timing by reading Who Goes There? I would recommend it to any film student who wants to immerse themselves in the world of writing by connecting with one of the seminal works in this genre” says — Estelle Leotard, lifestyle blogger at Studicus, and writer for Best Essay.

Planet of the Apes 

It’s the cult sci-fi classic that we’ve all seen, but how many of us have actually read the book that brought this scary alternative future to life? It came from the pen of Pierre Boulle, who coincidentally also wrote the iconic war movie The Bridge Over the River Kwai.

Whilst his version was called Monkey Planet, it features all of the main plot twists and turns as the movie. This is a great example of how sometimes books are deemed to have done a good enough job of developing their protagonists in a short enough space of time to translate to cinema. It’s well worth a read for those of you who are looking to gain greater insight into the link between literature and film, and will open up a whole new way of thinking about adapted screenplays. 

Die Hard 

You might think that no book would be able to describe the iconic action scenes and stunts of the Die Hard movies, but that’s where you’d be wrong. It was originally created by Roderick Thorp in his little known book Nothing Lasts Forever. Whilst the story and plot depart wildly from the book, the key building blocks are all in there. 

The names of the characters were all changed, which is probably one of the main reasons so few people know about Die Hard’s roots. It also has a prequel called The Detective which was also later made into a film. The lead in this movie was played by Frank Sinatra, and it is well worth a closer look for those of you who think you know everything there is to know about the Die Hard franchise. 

“If you want to study the features of literature that Hollywood deems important, there’s perhaps no greater case study than Die Hard. Watching the movie after reading the book will open your eyes to a whole new world of writing that allows great stories to translate fantastically to the big screen” says — Melanie Sovann, writer for Wow Grade.

Dr. Strangelove 

It’s one of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpieces that every subsequent generation seems to fall in love with, but did you know it was actually the idea of Peter George? In 1958 he penned a little-known novel called Red Alert whose main difference from the film is that it offers none of the darkly comedic elements that have made it an all-time great. 

That’s not to take away anything from the plot or the quality of the writing — it was clearly good enough to capture the imagination and attention of one of the century’s greatest directors and creatives. The other key difference is that the AWOL bomber is shot out of the sky before it can drop its payload on Russia. An interesting difference to the iconic ending of the film given the palpable tension of the era in which it made its debut on the big screen. 

Men in Black 

It won’t surprise you to learn that rather than a book Men in Black was actually based on a graphic novel. Given a large number of sci-fi elements and futuristic weapons it’s clear that this work has its roots in the world of comic book superheroes and villains. 

The original comic book was a modest success, but has since gone from strength to strength given the huge commercial success of the movie franchise. Marvel now sells all of the Men in Black comics in a large compendium which is ideal for those of you looking to trace the key story arches from the movies.

Final Thoughts 

Now that you’ve heard all about 7 of the best movies that were actually books long before they cracked Hollywood, it’s over to you take a closer look at the hidden gems we’ve unearthed. If you want to gain fresh insight into the world of adapted screenplays then this is going to be an exercise that will shape the way you think for years to come. 

About the Author

Kristin Savage nourishes, sparks and empowers using the magic of a word. Along with pursuing her degree in Creative Writing, Kristin was gaining experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in marketing strategy for publishers and authors. Now she works as a freelance writer at SupremeDissertations and PickTheWriter, Kristin also does some editing work at IsAccurate.