Always read the book before you see the movie. That’s my rule for any movie that’s been adapted from a novel, because 99% of the time, I enjoy the book more. Maybe that’s because it’s hard to distill a 100,000 word novel down to 60 or 100 pages of screen time. Inevitably, subplots come out, plots get
simplified, characters are merged. But sometimes, the movies stand up to the books and even add something. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order:
SILENCE OF THE LAMBS – When this classic psychological suspense by Thomas Harris was made into a movie, Anthony Hopkins brought nuanced life to incarcerated killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter. When I re-read the book, it’s Hopkins – in that famous mask – I picture as Lecter leads New Agent in Training Starling to serial killer Buffalo Bill.
GONE GIRL – The book by Gillian Flynn that kicked off so many trends popular in suspense novels right now was a twisted glimpse into troubled minds, and Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike were perfectly cast. On screen, just as in the book, you can believe Nick Dunne might have murdered his wife, and it’s just as easy to believe Amy Dunne is a lot more than meets the eye.
GONE BABY GONE – Dennis Lehane always writes about tough topics and he never shies away from the
gruesome details. The movie wasn’t as graphic, but it was still emotionally intense, following two P.I.s as they track down a missing girl who just might be better off missing.
CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER – Although you’ll really notice the outdated technology in this movie watching it now, the topic – a CIA agent trying to stop an illegal war sanctioned by the
White House – is still relevant, and Harrison Ford is perfect as Tom Clancy’s well-loved character Jack Ryan.
THE BOURNE IDENTITY – This Robert Ludlum novel was made into a movie more than twenty years after it was written (and sadly, released shortly after Ludlum’s death), so the Jackal (who’s an important part of the book) is absent from the movie, but the main plot – about a CIA operative with amnesia – holds. Matt Damon is so believable in the lead role that he helped it become a franchise.
DIE HARD – A movie I like to watch as part of my annual “Christmas movie” tradition (if you’ve seen it, you’ll understand why), it’s one many people don’t realize is based on a novel. But Detective John McClane taking on terrorists in a high-rise building is actually based on NOTHING LASTS FOREVER by Roderick Thorpe.
KISS THE GIRLS – Based on one of the Alex Cross books by James Patterson, the movie stars Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd, but my favorite performance is by Cary Elwes, because he seems so normal and easy to overlook in the background until you realize he’s the villain.
THE BONE COLLECTOR – Based on the Jeffery Deaver book of the same name, THE BONE COLLECTOR stars Denzel Washington as quadriplegic ex-homicide detective Lincoln Rhyme. Both the
book and the movie do a great job of depicting a hero who has to rely on nothing but brain power to track down a killer.
THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY – Based on the creepy Patricia Highsmith novel where the main character, Tom Ripley, targets and then takes over the life of another man, the movie stars Matt Damon. One of the best things about it is that you can empathize with Ripley, even as you’re creeped out by his slow transition into someone else.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO – Whatever version of the movie you saw (the Swedish or the American), Lisbeth Salander is a fantastic character worth seeing on screen as much as reading in Stieg Larsson’s book.
About Elizabeth Heiter
Critically acclaimed and award-winning author ELIZABETH HEITER likes her
suspense to feature strong heroines, chilling villains, psychological twists,
and a little bit (or a lot!) of romance. Her research has taken her into the
minds of serial killers, through murder investigations, and onto the FBI
Academy’s shooting range. Her novels have been published in more than a dozen countries and translated into eight languages; they’ve also been shortlisted for the Daphne Du Maurier award, the National Readers’ Choice award and the Booksellers’ Best award and won the RT Reviewers’ Choice award.
The heroine of Elizabeth’s Profiler novels was called “one of the most amazing
characters created in print” by Fresh Fiction. Her novels have received praise
from Lee Child, J.T. Ellison, Jeffery Deaver, Tess Gerritsen, R.L. Stine, Allison Brennan, Laura Griffin, Suzanne Brockmann, Hank Phillippi Ryan and Zoë Sharp.