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Top 20 Film Adaptations of Classic Lit, Part IV

May 23, 2012

5.) Blade Runner -1982 (directed by Ridley Scott, based on the novella Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  by Philip K. Dick)

Scott’s vision of a bleak, technology-driven future brought up interesting questions about the value of human life, the power of what remains unseen and how far one man will go to prove himself.  For more details, see my Truly Great Movie write-up.

4.) The Age of Innocence – 1992 (directed by Martin Scorsese, based on the novel The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton)

Wharton’s masterpiece of mood and manipulation tells the story of two souls pulled apart by the machinations of society at large.  Scorsese’s departure from his usual genres is a brilliant ode to the Gilded Age and Wharton’s timeless wit.

For more, see my Truly Great Movie Entry.

3.)To Kill a Mockingbird -1962 (directed by Robert Mulligan, based on the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee)

Mulligan’s film hinges on the brilliant central performance by Gregory Peck as steady and honorable patriarch Atticus Finch, who teaches his children the meaning of courage and dignity in the face of ignorance.  Mulligan’s film focuses on the most moving of Lee’s scenes in the novel, including the incredible closing argument of  Tom Robinson’s divisive trial, delivered by Peck/Atticus with stalwart empathy and power.    There are so many things to love about the film, including Mary Badham’s unvarnished and innocent performance as the plucky narrator, Scout.   The ending of the film makes me shed tears no matter how often I view it.

2.) The Lord of the Rings trilogy – 20o1-03 (directed by Peter Jackson, based on the novels The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien)

Jackson, like Ridley Scott, is a maker of worlds so grand and encompassing that they become reality for the viewer.  Middle Earth comes alive in the trilogy, full of wonders both graceful and frightening.  At the heart of the story is the struggle of good vs. evil, but along the way, it is the range of colorful characters that capture our imagination.  Jackson draws us into their stories as if we were making the journey alongside them. As film-goers, we revel in Aragorn’s transformation from dark loner to glorious king, marvel at Gandalf’s return from the dead, and cry in relief when the friendship between Frodo and Samwise delivers Middle Earth from Sauron’s grasp.

1.)The Godfather – 1972 (directed by Francis Ford Coppola, based on the novel The Godfather by Mario Puzo)

Here is an example of an adaptation that far surpasses its source material. The Godfather isn’t an action movie, although as generations pass, it seems that fewer folks remember how introverted and character-based the film really remains.  It is a portrait of a family, in all of its glory and its degradation.  Coppola’s masterpiece is at its most moving when focusing on individual characters and their reactions to life at its most inevitable crossroads.  From Sonny Corleone’s brilliantly off-kilter temper, to Tom’s loyal and steadfast honor, there’s not an off note performance in the film.  Still, the two most interesting characters to me will always be doomed lovers Michael and Kay, who eventually come to realize that even passion and fidelity can’t interfere with the needs of the family honor.  It is this blood price that finally seals both their fates in one of the most moving and chilling final scenes in film history.

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