By Peter Colaner

#1: The Shawshank Redemption

In my opinion, not only is “The Shawshank Redemption” the most distinguished book adaptation yet, but it is the greatest film in existence. 

Like any other film, one crucial feature that makes a book adaptation significant is a filmmaker’s ability to add value without disturbing the book’s original storyline. In the novella “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption,” Stephen King depicts Shawshank State Prison as a dark and dreary place isolated from the outside world; not quite the movie setting that oozes sex and opulence.

Though this cold atmosphere is only enhanced in the film, Morgan Freeman’s narration offsets the depressing tone. Freeman’s warm, calming voice enriches the dreariness associated with a story set in a prison and elevates the movie from just good to impressive. 

Considering the mere fact that the filmmakers were able to take a novella that was already great and turn it into something better speaks volumes to the film. On the surface, it seems rather odd that one would grow deeply attached to the lives of convicts. But the film immerses the viewer in the lives of Ellis Redding, played by Morgan Freeman, and Andy Dufresne, played by Tim Robbins, in a way that makes you feel the strength of their bond and become emotionally attached to them. Because of this feature, the characters’ reunion at the end of the movie is incredibly touching.

#2: Jurassic Park

“Jurassic Park” is larger than life and delivers something that goes beyond one’s imagination. 

Not only does the immensity of John Hammond’s Jurassic Park shock the viewers, but it also leaves characters like Alan Grant, played by Sam Neill, and Ellie Sattler, played by Laura Dern, speechless. Throughout the film, director Steven Spielberg captures the intense gaze of Dr. Grant and Dr. Sattler, displaying their intoxication with the park’s wildlife. 

Spielberg’s direction delivers something more intense than what Michael Crichton’s book does. Many of the scenes show how the characters pale in comparison to the size of the park and the animals that roam it, enhancing the grandeur of what Jurassic Park is visually in comparison to the book.

Sometimes, giving people more than what they expect can feel overwhelming, and “Jurassic Park” does just that. This film is over-the-top and gives the audience a real-life experience of what the characters are feeling. In executing a great display of the contrast between the park and the people, among other things, the film solidifies itself as a top book-to-film adaptation.

#3: 12 Years a Slave 

It is of the utmost importance for a book adaptation to hold facts true throughout its evolution into a film, and skillfully breaking away from this is what makes “12 Years a Slave” a great adaptation. That it is able to defy one of the most important rules and still have great success is what makes this film distinguishable. 

In the 1853 memoir, when Solomon Northup is on his way to New Orleans, a fellow slave aboard the ship dies from smallpox. In the film, that same character is stabbed to death. Although the tampering with facts here is minor, it is plausible and elicits a major difference in the story’s outcome. This scene helps the viewers feel, or at least visualize, the pain endured by slaves.

When director Steve McQueen draws out the scene of Northrup, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, hanging from the tree, an insurmountable amount of tension and anxiety is established. While this feeling will never come close to the pain brought unto slaves, it is a great attempt by the filmmakers to make the audience empathize with the pain themselves.