Though many great films have come from mediocre or pulpy books – The Godfather is a classic example, as is The Silence of the Lambs – great books sometimes make great movies too.
Great Expectations (1947)
David Lean turned Dickens's melancholy masterpiece about loyalty and obligation into a memorable, beautiful work. The opening scenes on the moor are among the most haunting ever filmed. Pip pip!
The Big Sleep (1946)
Yes, the plot is incomprehensible (we still don't know who killed Sean Regan), but Howard Hawks brilliantly captures Raymond Chandler's noir world. Bogie and Bacall are perfect as jousting lovers.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Harper Lee's hugely affecting novel about growing up in the South translates beautifully to the screen. Gregory Peck was born to play liberal lawyer Atticus Finch.
The English Patient (1996)
Some people like Anthony Minghella's film version even more than Michael Ondaatje's novel. For many – though not Seinfeld's Elaine – this is the most romantic of all movies.
An object lesson in how to translate a riveting non-fiction book about sports and business into a compelling film. Shows you what a great script (Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian) can do.