Unusual Literary Adaptations in Films

We are all used to seeing bestsellers consistently adapted to the big screen, and the line ‘I wish they made a movie out of this’ has become something almost granted, as we know it won’t be long until a major studio decides to make profit out of the latest literary phenomenon. However, some filmmakers have gone one step beyond and tried to adapt more obscure titles; even books that nearly everybody thought were impossible to adapt.

Some authors are known for writing with a particularly complex, deep, or metaphysical prose, which makes their works difficult to be narrated by using the more visual elements of cinema. Such is the case of William Faulkner, Joseph Conrad, William Burroughs, and others.

Yet this didn’t stop some notably daring filmmakers to bring their work to the big screen. The reception to this kind of retellings tends to be mixed, while this has also produced some undeniably unique films.

In other cases, the filmmakers have taken just a few elements from a book to produce a story that echoes themes of the source material, but has all the strength and personality of a tale anew that stands on its own. This is what Paul Thomas Anderson did in There Will Be Blood, loosely based in the novel Oil! by John Updike, while Woody Allen wrote and directed a hilarious parody of a sexuality essay with Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Sex.

These are some notable examples of film scripts that have adapted unusual or obscure literature:


(1960) Psycho

(1972) Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Sex

(1979) Apocalypse Now

(1988) Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

(1990) Dick Tracy

(1991) Naked Lunch

(1993) Short Cuts

(1996) Trainspotting

(2002) Adaptation

(2003) American Splendor

(2006) Tristram Shady: A Cock-and-Bull Story

(2009) Fantastic Mr. Fox

(2012) Cosmopolis

(2012) Cloud Atlas

(2014) Inherent Vice