Films set in the organized crime world seem to be really popular among audiences and critics alike, and perhaps even more so in the USA. No other country has produced so many successful movies about the subject, and arguably the explanation for this is found in the very nature of such films and the obscure reality they illustrate.
Good scripts of the crime genre aim to accomplish much more than just showing violence, bribery, corruption and other acts inherent in hoodlum operations. They try to portray a society through characters that went on to create their own code –out of necessity, greed, or both- , and how their paths inevitably collide with those of us who never, ever thought about living in a way that involves breaking the law. Or did we?
Undeniably, there’s an enticing quality in these tales about real individuals who built their own empire through illicit means. Morality is often a concept under debate in screenplays like The Godfather, Goodfellas, or Casino: they don’t condemn nor idolize mobsters, but rather act as impartial observers, and remind us sometimes that our good, lawful side has its share of hidden dark spots as well.
This week’s list is specifically focused in screenplays related to the Cosa Nostra –the original Italian mafia developed in the 19th Century in Sicily- and the families that followed these operations in American territory during the Prohibition Era and afterwards:
(1967) The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
(1972) The Godfather
(1974) The Godfater: Part II
(1984) Once Upon a Time in America
(1987) The Untouchables
(1990) Miller’s Crossing
(1993) A Bronx Tale
(1994) Bullets Over Broadway
(1997) Donnie Brasco
(2002) Road to Perdition
(2009) Public Enemies
It should come to no surprise that many of the greatest films of our day have been inspired, or directly taken, from the pages of novels. Writers such as Stephen King and J.R.R. Tolkien have been able to reach new audiences through the help of creative film makers and script writers.
The fact is that many people do not have the time to read. A good novel can often run from 300 to 1000 pages (depending on the author), and can take some time in order to finish. Even for the most avid reader, there is never enough time to read all the books in the world and that is where film makers come in.
One of the biggest problems related to transforming a book into a movie is the issue of accurately following the storyline while maintaining the same emotions that a person gets when reading the book. This is a difficult task and requires a person of great emotional intelligence and technical skill in order to complete.
Below is a list of some of the best (and worst) adaptations of novels. Whether they are good or bad depends on the viewer. However, there are some elements that make them generally enjoyable and worthy of being a major motion picture. What are those elements, you ask? Well, I will leave you to find that out as you compare some of these screenplays to the classic novels that inspired them.
Once you find out the answers, you will be on your way to being able to accurately adapt a novel that you cherish. And who knows? One day your screenplay might be the one chosen for a major motion picture adaptation. Good luck!
- The Godfather Script
- The Shawshank Redemption Script
- Schindler’s List Script
- The Hunt for Red October [Transcript]
- The Princess Bride [Transcript]
- Wuthering Heights [Transcript]
- Scarface Script
- GoodFellas [Transcript]
- No Country For Old Men Script
- Girl, Interrupted [Transcript]