Writers have influenced films for nearly 100 years. While a writer's ideas may have inspired filmmakers to produce memorable films, they take on a life of their own once they hit the big screen. Below is a list of films that I believe have succeeded in taking a writer's idea and adapting it to a completely visual medium. All are available on VHS and many on DVD. I hope they'll prove a source of inspiration and motivation for you as they have for me. When viewing these great productions, try not to compare them with the books from which they were adapted, but, instead, view them as an cinematic achievement unto themselves. The year of production follows each film.

THE CLAIM - Based on Thomas Hardy’s novel, The Mayor of Caskerville, this exciting and highly cinematic film is set in 1867 in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. It tells the story of an Irish immigrant and how he made a deal and made a fortune in gold. The old adage, "Money can’t buy everything," is the theme of this film. 2000

LEGENDS OF THE FALL - A screen adaptation of Jim Harrison’s novella of the same name which shows life in the Northwest at the beginning of the 20th Century.

THE GOLDEN BOWL - An evocative BBC mini-series adaptation of Henry James’ last great novel, The Golden Bowl, showcases the life of an American millionaire and his passion for acquiring luxury. A sumptuous, but flawed golden bowl symbolizes that life isn’t always what it seems. 1972 Also see the latest film version, produced in 2001.

THE HOUSE OF MIRTH - Adapted from Edith Wharton’s novel of the same name, this film shows the glittering, yet treacherous world of late Victorian, New York high society as the tragic story of Lily Bart, a renowned beauty who’s seeking a wealthy husband, unfolds to show just how cruel blue bloods can be. 2001

RAGTIME - A screen interpretation of E.L. Doctorow’s novel of the same name, which weaves a high-energy tableau featuring the lives and passions of the middle class and a small-town family against the scandals and events of life in 1906. 1981

BEST IN SHOW - Filmmaker Christopher Guest expands the limits of the medium in this hilarious spoof of American dog shows. Filmed as if it were a documentary to be seen on PBS, this film showcases the lives the people who enter their dogs in such competitions. This highly original use of the film medium offers some extremely creative possibilities. 2000

WAITING FOR GUFFMAN - The second film in a series by filmmaker Christopher Guest, and produced in the same documentary style, is the story of a small American town and its production of an ambitious musical celebrating its 150th anniversary. A truly hilarious satire on traditional, small-town American life. 1996

THE GREAT GATSBY - This opulent A&E adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece of Jazz Age decadence, tells the story of a young soldier returning from the battlefields of World War I who’s obsessed with rekindling his romance with the love of his life, who has since married into a wealthy Long Island family. 2000

DUNE - A magnificent A&E adaptation of John Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel, Dune, told in mini-series format (3 tapes). This lavish production brings out all the nuances of Herbert’s masterpiece, unlike the Hollywood version that often left viewers lost in a maze of generalities. 2001

THE AGE OF INNOCENCE - A brilliant adaptation of Edith Wharton’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the Gilded Age, which tells the story of three wealthy New Yorkers caught in a tragic love triangle. 1993

TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES - This adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s immortal tale of love abandoned and virtue lost features the intensity and tenderness of Hardy’s novel set against the bleak environment of rural Victorian England. 1998

MIDDLEMARCH - One of PBS’s Masterpiece Theater’s best, this adaptation of George Elliot’s literary classic showcases the changing world of the 19th -century England during the Industrial Revolution. Produced in mini-series format, this film features the style of language and manners of the time. 1994

HOWARD’S END - A dazzling adaptation of E.M. Forster’s novel of life in Edwardian England is a story of the tangle of opposites which turns into a tragedy, then a triumph. 1991

HER MAJESTY MRS. BROWN - The true-life story of forbidden love and passion between Queen Victoria and her horse attendant, John Brown. While not based on a book, this film is a cinematic masterpiece of Victoria’s reign. 1997

THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE - Based on the life o King George III, this truly beautiful film tells the story of King George III after losing the colonies as a result of the American Revolution and the thrilling game of betrayal, politics and palace intrigue that ensues. 1995

A ROOM WITH A VIEW - One of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory’s best productions, based on E.M. Forster’s novel of wit and romance set against the sensuous landscape of Florence, Italy, and the English Edwardian countryside, which tells the story of a young girl on horizon-broadening tour chaperoned by her proper aunt. A comedy of manners with keen observations of class behavior and genuine humor. 1992

ORLANDO - A marvelous film based on the gender-bending novel, Orlando, by Virginia Woolf, which tells the story of an English nobleman who defies the laws of nature and not only live for 400 years but survives his transformation into a woman. A creative masterpiece offering an intoxicating blend of romance, adventure and illusion. 1994

WILDE - Based on the life of poet and playwright Oscar Wilde, this film shows just how much–or little–late Victorian English society will tolerate, as Wilde refuses to suppress his homosexuality. 1998

ELIZABETH - An exciting tale of passion and adventure featuring Elizabeth Tudor, as she assumes the throne of England amidst bloody turmoil. The court intrigue and betrayals help to set the background for a reign that compares only to Queen Victoria in its influence on the arts and literature. 1998

MANSFIELD PARK - This BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel, produced in mini-series format, shows how true virtue triumphs over superficiality. 1983

CHOCOLAT - A beautiful and captivating comedy about a woman who mysteriously appears in a French town, opens up a chocolate shop, and entices the townsfolk to sin by offering them samples of her mouth-watering creations based on ancient Maya recipes. 2000

Come back often. More titles will be added regularly.

Do you know of a movie that might motivate writers? If so, send the title and a brief description to Bob Brooke.


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