Howl's Moving Castle, dir. Hayao Miyazaki (2004)
Based on Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
With the recent announcement that the incredibly talented Hayao Miyazaki is retiring I was very pleased when I remembered I could add one of his amazing films to this list. Miyazaki's adaptation differs from the original text quite a bit, but it still deserves a place on this list for its gorgeous animation and Miyazaki's amazing vision as a director.
Howl's Moving Castle takes place in the land of Ingary, a fantastical land which exists alongside our own. Sophie Hatter is the oldest of three daughters and as such sees it as her duty to take over her late father's hat shop while her younger sisters pursue their dreams elsewhere. When one of Sophie's sisters offends the Witch of the Waste, she mistakes Sophie for her sister and curses her, turning her into an elderly woman. Now tainted with magic, Sophie leaves her hometown and winds up becoming the new cleaning lady of the Moving Castle; a bizarre building which is home to the Wizard Howl, who is famous for eating the hearts of beautiful young women.
If you're a fan of wizards, witches, demons and castles with feet then this film is perfect for you; it's funny, entertaining, dramatic and beautifully animated. And if the film sounds good don't forget to check out the book too! The two mediums are very different, but the story's just as fun a second time round.
Jane Eyre, dir. Cary Joji Fukunaga (2011)
Based on Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre is certainly not lacking in adaptations, but this one is most definitely my favourite. Charlotte Brontë's classic tale of the orphan-turned-governess has been adapted for television more than once, but it's this filmic adaptation, which flits between the past and the present, that entertains me the most.
Not only is the acting superb (Mia Wasikowska should definitely be praised for her Yorkshire accent) but the film has the spectacularly gothic feel to it that the story needs; Thornfield Hall is claustrophobic and spooky and beautiful, and Michael Fassbender is a wonderful Mr. Rochester. Unlike other adaptations I've seen Jane and Rochester are real people, and not simply stiff representations of how we often perceive the Victorians.
The supporting cast are also wonderful, with Dame Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax, Jamie Bell as St. John Rivers, and even the smaller roles of St. John's sisters played by Tamzin Merchant and Holliday Grainger, both of whom are famous for their roles in The Tudors and The Borgias respectively.
So if you're a fan of Jane Eyre and you still haven't seen this particular adaptation, you're missing out!
10 Things I Hate About You, dir. Gil Junger (1999)
Based on The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
Okay, maybe I'm kind of cheating with this one. Shakespeare's plays were certainly never meant to be read in the same way a book is and 10 Things I Hate About You certainly isn't a direct adaptation of the original text, it's far more postmodern than that, but we can still argue that it deserves a place on this list. It does, after all, popularize one of Shakespeare's less satisfying plays - The Taming of the Shrew.
Set in an American high school (as so many postmodern adaptations of classics strangely are, like Clueless; a film loosely based on Austen's Emma), 10 Things I Hate About You primarily focuses on Kat and her younger sister Bianca. While Bianca is trying on cute dresses and flirting with boys, Kat would much rather be alone with a book while preparing for college elsewhere, and she's certainly not afraid of telling people to get lost. Sleazy Joey Donner, who previously slept with Kat, now wants to bed her younger sister instead, but Bianca can only go to the prom if Kat goes. Enter Patrick: a rebel and outcast in his own right whom Joey pays to get close to Kat so that she will go to the prom, thus allowing Joey to make his move on Bianca. But trouble ensues when love begins to blossom between Kat and Patrick.
Shakespeare lovers out there will find fun little details throughout the film, such as Kat's surname 'Stratford' and Patrick's surname 'Verona', as well as Kat's best friend Mandella who is something of a Shakespeare nut herself. If nothing else this adaptation is entertaining, and its ending is a lot more satisfying for the women in the audience when compared with the original play.
Little Women, dir. Gillian Armstrong (1994)
Based on Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Louisa May Alcott's semi-autobiographical tale is one of the most famous pieces of American Literature out there, and most definitely one of my own personal favourite classics. Little Women follows the four March sisters: pretty Meg, who works as a governess but longs to marry well and live in a house full of fine things; shy Beth, who wants nothing more than to stay at home with her beloved family and play her piano; spoiled Amy, the baby of the family who loves to paint and wishes to be filthy rich; and the tomboyish Jo, who longs to be a famous author and travel the world as a spinster.
It's Jo whom we follow most closely through her adventures, from her improvement as a writer, her friendship with the lonely boy next door whose marriage proposal she refuses, her journey to New York, the loss of her most beloved sister, and her eventual romance with a German professor. For me it's this adaptation which really brings to life the feeling in the original story; as with Jane Eyre the cast are spectacular, particularly Winona Ryder as the rambunctious Jo, and there is real chemistry between the characters.
Not only is this one of my favourite adaptations but also one of my favourite films. It's a little on the long side, but it's well worth it - particularly during the days when you need something nice to cheer you up.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, dir. Peter Jackson (2003)
Based on The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
Peter Jackson's adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's most famous work are some of the most famous and well-loved adaptations out there, so it made sense to include one of those films on this list.
These films really bring the fantastic world and precious cast of characters that Tolkien created to life; they can make you laugh, cry and gawk in amazement all in one scene, so it was difficult to just pick one of the films for my list.
Ultimately for me it had to be the final installment in the trilogy, The Return of the King, purely because it includes the happy ending. I do love a happy ending, and wow do these characters deserve one after everything they're put through.
I'd be very surprised if you haven't seen these films yet, and if you haven't I'm shocked and appalled. You're missing out!
So there we have it, my top ten favourite book to movie adaptations. I hope you liked my selection, feel free to leave a comment with your own personal favourites down below!
Thanks for reading!