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The Goldfinch and 7 of the greatest big screen book adaptations


Brace yourself for an unmissable coming-of-age tale when The Goldfinch lands in Cineworld on 27th September.

Directed by John Crowley (Brooklyn), written by the Oscar-nominated Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), and featuring an all-star cast including Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver), Nicole Kidman (The Hours), and Finn Wolfhard (IT CHAPTER TWO), this heartfelt story revolves around the life of Theo Decker (Elgort), whose life is turned upside-down when his mother is killed in a museum bombing.

As Theo’s world descends into crime, his only source of hope is the eponymous painting he salvages from the explosion. The film is adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by American author Donna Tartt.

Praised for its thrilling narrative and Dickensian parallels, The Goldfinch is a riveting book that's set to become an engrossing and emotional drama.

As we wait for its release, and to celebrate National Read a Book Day, here are seven of the greatest book-to-movie adaptations. Scroll down beneath the poster to discover our choices.

The Goldfinch movie poster

1. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

First published in 1960, Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird is a must-read for all literature fans. Likewise, Robert Mulligan’s landmark adaptation is a must-watch for all cinephiles.

Set in the Depression-era Deep South, To Kill a Mockingbird stars an Oscar-winning Gregory Peck as lawyer Atticus Finch, who’s tasked with defending a black man (Brock Peters) against a crime he didn’t commit.

Hailed as a haunting parable of racism, prejudice, and empathy the film still resonates as much today as it did back then.

2. The Godfather (1972)

Of course we couldn’t undertake this list without mentioning The Godfather. Originally written by Mario Puzo (who also wrote the screenplay) in 1969, his crime epic was brought to the screen by director Francis Ford Coppola a few years later.

Charting the intrigue of the powerful Corleone mafia family in mid-1900s New York, this multi-Oscar-winning film is frequently cited as a masterpiece of American cinema. Featuring timeless performances by Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Diane Keaton and James Caan, The Godfather has given us some of the most iconic and quotable moments in cinema history.

This wasn’t the only time Coppola gave us an incredible book adaptation. In 1979 he helmed Heart of Darkness adaptation Apocalypse Now.

3. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

One of the most thrilling and chilling psychological thrillers to ever hit the big screen, The Silence of the Lambs (originally written by Thomas Harris in 1988) is the gripping tale of rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster, who won an Oscar for her role).

She seeks the help of charming and cannibalistic murderer Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins, who also won an Oscar for his famed performance) to track down a sadistic killer.

The film is already a taut crime thriller in and of itself, but it’s Hopkins’s succulent performance as the hypnotic Lecter that’s helped cement this film as one of the most memorable book adaptations of all time.

4. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Stephen King’s novels have led to some truly outstanding adaptations including Misery, The Shining and The Green Mile – but our choice for this list has to go to The Shawshank Redemption.

Adapted from King’s 1982 novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, director Frank Darabont’s film went on to earn seven Oscar nominations, and tops The Godfather as IMDb’s highest-rated film of all time.

After banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is falsely imprisoned for his wife’s murder, Shawshank follows his years in the titular prison as he bonds with fellow prisoner and smooth narrator Red (Morgan Freeman).

Revolving around themes of institutionalisation and friendship, Shawshank is an unforgettably poignant and brutal take on life behind bars.

5. Trainspotting (1996)

A beloved cult classic held as a voice of a generation, Trainspotting, based on the 1993 novel of the same name by Irvine Welsh, follows a group of heroin-addicted friends in Edinburgh as they attempt to break free from their destructive lifestyles.

Trainspotting is directed by Oscar-winning film-maker Danny Boyle and made the names of several actors including Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, Ewen Bremner and Kelly Macdonald. The Oscar-nominated film offers an examination of the bleak reality of addiction during a changing Britain, mixed in with vibrant energy and black humour.

With Trainspotting often considered as one of the greatest British novels, it’s no surprise the film counterpart is equally held as one of the UK’s best films. Choose life, choose a great adaptation, choose Trainspotting.

6. American Psycho (2000)

Before he donned the cape to become Batman, Christian Bale portrayed Patrick Bateman, a Wall Street yuppie with extremely violent and murderous tendencies in American Psycho.

Adapted from the stomach-churning 1991 novel by Bret Easton Ellis, this gruesome commentary on American corporate greed and the narcissism of the rich places viewers in the deranged mindset of the wealthy investment banker, as he enacts his increasingly disturbing, hedonistic fantasies.

While the source material makes it clear that the events depicted are make-believe, the film is more ambiguous about whether or not they’re figments of Bateman’s twisted imagination.

7. The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003)

Adapting J.R.R Tolkien’s three-part fantasy epic for the big screen was once thought to be impossible. The fact that writer-director Peter Jackson not only got the project off the ground, but also revolutionised fantasy cinema in the process, is a testament to just how remarkable his trilogy is.

Both the books and the films follow the journey of unlikely hobbit hero Frodo (Elijah Wood), as he quests with his companions to destroy the powerful One Ring and end a war that would destroy the entirety of Middle-earth.

Combined, the three films weigh in at over nine hours in length (and that’s just the theatrical cuts), and together they earned an astonishing 21 Oscars. You really don’t get many more adaptations as grand as The Lord of the Rings.

The Goldfinch
is released in Cineworld cinemas on 27th September, and of course with so many great movie adaptations out there, we had to leave many out of our list.

Which of your favourites have we not been able to include? Tweet us your choices @Cineworld.

Andy Murray is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.