By the Book
You’ve read—or at least meant to read—the book. Now see the movie. Just in time for the start of school, we’ve collected some of the all-time great page-to-screen adaptations, encompassing English 101 classics like “Great Expectations” and “Lord Of The Flies,” world-literature masterpieces like “War and Peace” and “Pather Panchali,” and more. While faithful transpositions abound, there are plenty of surprising spins on canonical titles, such as Akira Kurosawa’s Japan-set retelling of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot” and John Huston’s hallucinatory take on Malcolm Lowry’s “unfilmable” “Under the Volcano.” Each is a distinguished work of art in its own right, as worthy of appreciation as its celebrated source.
By the Book Teaser
The 39 Steps
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock • 1935 • United Kingdom
Starring Robert Donat, Madeline Carroll, Lucie Mannheim
A heart-racing spy story by Alfred Hitchcock, THE 39 STEPS follows Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) as he stumbles upon a conspiracy that thrusts him into a hectic chase across the Scottish ...
La bête humaine
Directed by Jean Renoir • 1938 • France
Starring Jean Gabin, Simone Simon, Julien Carette
Based on the classic Emile Zola novel, Jean Renoir’s LA BÊTE HUMAINE was one of the legendary director’s greatest popular successes, and earned star Jean Gabin a permanent place in the hearts of his country...
Of Mice and Men
Directed by Lewis Milestone • 1939 • United States
Starring Burgess Meredith, Lon Chaney Jr., Betty Field
George and Lennie are California migrant workers on the run from the law because of something the simple-minded giant Lennie did. They find work at a local ranch, where they dream of making ...
Directed by David Lean • 1946 • United Kingdom
Starring John Mills, Finlay Currie, Martita Hunt
One of the great translations of literature into film, David Lean’s GREAT EXPECTATIONS brings Charles Dickens’s masterpiece to robust on-screen life. Pip, Magwitch, Miss Havisham, and Estella populate...
Directed by Robert Siodmak • 1946 • United States
Starring Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Edmond O’Brien
Ernest Hemingway’s gripping short story “The Killers” has fascinated readers and filmmakers for generations. Its first screen incarnation came in 1946, when director Robert Siodmak unleashed TH...
Directed by David Lean • 1948 • United Kingdom
Starring Robert Newton, Alec Guinness, Kay Walsh
Following the success of GREAT EXPECTATIONS, David Lean applied his sterling craftsmanship to another beloved Charles Dickens classic and once again set the standard for all future screen adaptations....
Directed by Julien Duvivier • 1948 • United Kingdom
He loves me, he loves me not... Anna Karenina risks her marriage, social standing, and a relationship with her son all for the illicit love of a young cavalry officer. As expected, things get complicated.
The Passionate Friends
Directed by David Lean • 1949 • United Kingdom
Starring Ann Todd, Trevor Howard, Claude Rains
Four years after David Lean crafted what may be the screen’s most piercing examination of extramarital romance with BRIEF ENCOUNTER, he returned to a similar subject in this exquisite tale of a woman to...
Directed by Akira Kurosawa • 1951 • Japan
In post-World War II Japan, childlike veteran Kinji suffers from post-traumatic stress-induced seizures, and, after treatment at a mental health institution in Okinawa, he returns to his hometown. There he meets and becomes romantically caught up with tw...
The Life of Oharu
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi • 1952 • Japan
Starring Kinuyo Tanaka, Toshiro Mifune, Masao Shimizu
A peerless chronicler of the soul who specialized in supremely emotional, visually exquisite films about the circumstances of women in Japanese society, Kenji Mizoguchi had already been directing mov...
Directed by Luis Buñuel • 1954 • United States, Mexico
Starring Dan O’Herlihy
Master director Luis Buñuel’s first color film (and first of only two he made in English) is a fascinating, unjustly neglected adaptation of Daniel Defoe’s classic survival novel. His take on the story—in which the epo...
Directed by Luchino Visconti • 1954 • Italy
Starring Alida Valli, Farley Granger
This lush, Technicolor tragic romance from Luchino Visconti stars Alida Valli as a nineteenth-century Italian countess who, during the Austrian occupation of her country, puts her marriage and political principle...
Directed by Satyajit Ray • 1955 • India
Starring Subir Banerjee, Kanu Banerjee, Karuna Banerjee
With the release in 1955 of Satyajit Ray’s debut, PATHER PANCHALI, an eloquent and important new cinematic voice made itself heard all over the world. A depiction of rural Bengali life in a style insp...
Directed by Satyajit Ray • 1956 • India
Starring Pinaki Sengupta, Kanu Banerjee, Karuna Banerjee
Satyajit Ray had not planned to make a sequel to PATHER PANCHALI, but after the film’s international success, he decided to continue Apu’s narrative. APARAJITO picks up where the first film leaves of...
The Burmese Harp
Directed by Kon Ichikawa • 1956 • Japan
Starring Rentaro Mikuni, Shoji Yasui, Taniye Kitabayashi
An Imperial Japanese Army regiment surrenders to British forces in Burma at the close of World War II and finds harmony through song. A private, thought to be dead, disguises himself as a Buddhist mo...
Directed by Satyajit Ray • 1959 • India
Starring Soumitra Chatterjee, Sharmila Tagore, Alok Chakraborty
By the time APUR SANSAR was released, Satyajit Ray had directed not only the first two Apu films but also the masterpiece THE MUSIC ROOM, and was well on his way to becoming a legend. This ext...
Directed by René Clément • 1960 • France, Italy
Starring Alain Delon, Maurice Ronet, Marie Laforêt
Alain Delon was at his most impossibly beautiful when PURPLE NOON was released and made him an instant star. This ripe, colorful adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s vicious novel “The Talented Mr. R...
Zazie dans le métro
Directed by Louis Malle • 1960 • France
Starring Catherine Demongeot, Philippe Noiret
A brash and precocious ten-year-old (Catherine Demongeot) comes to Paris for a whirlwind weekend with her rakish uncle (Philippe Noiret); he and the viewer get more than they bargained for, however, in this ana...
The Cloud-Capped Star
Directed by Ritwik Ghatak • 1960 • India
Starring Supriya Choudhury, Anil Chatterjee, Bijon Bhattacharya
Directed by the visionary Bengali filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak, THE CLOUD-CAPPED STAR tells the story of a family who have been uprooted by the Partition of India and come to depend on their eldes...
Divorce Italian Style
Directed by Pietro Germi • 1961 • Italy
Starring Marcello Mastroianni, Stefania Sandrelli, Daniela Rocca
Baron Ferdinando Cefalù (Marcello Mastroianni) longs to marry his nubile young cousin Angela (Stefania Sandrelli), but one obstacle stands in his way: his fatuous and fawning wife, Rosalia (D...
Lord of the Flies
Directed by Peter Brook • 1963 • United Kingdom
Starring James Aubrey, Tom Chapin, Hugh Edwards
In the hands of the renowned experimental theater director Peter Brook, William Golding’s legendary novel about the primitivism lurking beneath civilization becomes a film as raw and ragged as the los...
Directed by Tony Richardson • 1963 • United Kingdom
In the early 1960s, at the height of the British New Wave, director Tony Richardson and playwright John Osborne set out for more fanciful territory than the gritty realism of the movement they’d helped establish. TOM JONES brings a theatrical...
Directed by Satyajit Ray • 1964 • India
Starring Madhabi Mukherjee, Soumitra Chatterjee, Shailen Mukherjee
Satyajit Ray’s exquisite story of a woman’s artistic and romantic yearning takes place in late nineteenth-century, pre-independence India, in the gracious home of a liberal-minded, workahol...