They say originality in Hollywood is dead. In actual fact, it may never have been alive. Many more films had their origins in print than you might think...
2001: A Space Odyssey
The film and the novel were developed concurrently, but both were based on Arthur C Clarke’s short story The Sentinel, about discovering a buried alien artifact on the moon.
Although a spoof of disaster movies, Airplane! was technically a remake of the 1957 film Zero Hour, which itself was based on a teleplay and novel by pilot Arthur Haley.
Not only were all the various Bens Hur based on a novel of the same name, said novel was the best selling American novel of all time, at least until Gone With The Wind.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
The Audrey Hepburn classic was based on a novella by Truman Capote
At the time, the Johnny Depp movie was known for being based on a book by Joanne Harris, and for its rather aggressive Oscar campaign. It’s now largely only remembered for all the Oscars it didn’t actually win.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
A case of older than they think, F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Jazz Age Stories was first published in 1922.
Die Hard/Die Hard 2/Die Hard 4
Den of Geek has written at length on the Die Hard films (for good reason), but it’s worth mentioning that three of the films originated in print. The original being an adaptation of the sequel to The Detective, Nothing Lasts Forever, Die Hard 2 an adaptation of 58 Minutes, and Die Hard 4.0 (released elsewhere as Live Free or Die Hard) is an adaptation of an article in Wired magazine, A Farewell to Arms.
William Peter Blatty adapted his own novel for the screenplay, after adapting a supposedly true story for his novel.
It’s odd to think of Rambo starting life as comparatively low-key thriller, but First Blood (note how the title doesn’t even contain the name Rambo) was based on the novel of the same name. David Morrell later wrote the novelisations of the sequels, which makes for an odd continuity error, as in his version Rambo committed suicide in the finale.
Most people will remember David Cronenberg’s 1986 film. Some will remember the original 1958 version. No one remembers the short story by George Langelaan, which was published in Playboy, of all places.
The all three versions of the classic Disney film were based on a 1972 novel by Mary Rodgers, who adapted her own novel for the first, Jodie Foster film, as well as writing three sequels, two of which themselves were adapted for television in the 1970s. However, the original novel was itself largely based on another story...
Many accused the 1988 Reinhold/Savage film of being a lukewarm rehash of Disney’s Freaky Friday (or any of the umpteen body swap comedies of the late 80s), ignoring that film versions of Vice Versa had been released in 1948, 1937 and 1916, all based on an 1882 novel by F. Anstey.
Clive Barker’s 1987 horror film (and its nine sequels) was based on his own novella, The Hellbound Heart.
I Am Legend/The Omega Man/The Last Man on Earth/I Am Omega/Night of the Living Dead
Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel has spawned more than you might think. I Am Legend was generally regarded as a poor rehash of Charlton Heston’s The Omega Man, itself a remake of The Last Man on Earth, starring Vincent Price, conveniently forgetting the novel. There was also a cheap knock off version made to cash in on I Am Legend, called I Am Omega, but George A Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead also started life as an adaptation. In Romero’s own words: “I had written a short story, which I basically had ripped off from a Richard Matheson novel called I Am Legend..”
Take a look at the original poster. “Based on the No. 1 best seller.” That would be Peter Benchley’s novel of the same name.
Disney’s 1964 musical was based on the series of books by P L Travers, which changed the setting from the 1930s to the 1910s, and the main character from a vain and grumpy magical being to someone “practically perfect in every way”. The adaptation process itself received an adaptation, in 2013’s Saving Mr. Banks.
The Neverending Story
As the novels are almost unheard of outside Germany, few people realise the film was an adaptation. It didn’t help that author Michael Ende hated the adaptation, and removed his name from the credits. One of the changes he hated the most - the film never explain why the story is neverending.
Pirates Of The Caribbean
You might know that the movies were based on the Disneyland ride, but did you know the ride was originally based on the 1950 film Treasure Island? Obviously that was based on the Robert Louis Stevenson novel, but did you know that itself was based on a map he drew one day with his stepson? Not the map in the book though, as he lost the original and had to redraw it for the novel. So, Pirates of the Caribbean - the films based on a ride based on a film based on a book based on a map.
Before being an Al Pacino film that defined the 80s (or a Howard Hughes film from 1932), Scarface was a novel by the excellently named Armitage Trail.
SPOILER FOR THE FILM IN THIS ENTRY.
Not only does Soylent Green vary from person to person, but also from adaptation to adaptation. In the original novel (and the even more original short story), Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison, Soylent Green isn’t people at all.
There Will Be Blood
Paul Thomas Anderson has a reputation for making original works, which is why most people don’t realise he adapted Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil!, or at least part of it.
The Third Man
Everyone knows the film The Third Man; Graham Greene wrote the screenplay based on his novella, which he eventually published after the film was released.
The Coen Brothers remade the film that won John Wayne his only Oscar, but that film itself was adapted from a John Portis book.
In addition to being one of Hitchcock’s greatest films, it was a superb novel, Boileau-Narcejac's The Living and the Dead.
Withnail & I
The famous comedy about two actors who went on holiday by mistake was originally a semi-autobiographical novel by director Bruce Robinson, although it went unpublished. It does, however, explain where the fantastic stage direction in the screenplay comes from.
“Dostoyevsky described hell as perhaps nothing more than a room with a chair in it. This room has several chairs. A young man sits in one.”