Best Movie Franchise Based on Books, Ranked

Many will be surprised to know that the source material for a large percentage of Hollywood movies comes from books. One will often find debates all over the internet claiming that the movie was not able to do justice to the book. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any good adaptations. In fact, there are even some adaptations that were even better than the original source material. Here are the best movie franchises that were based on books:

10 Shrek

DreamWorks Pictures

Dreams do work’ Shrek franchise was ahead of its time. Not only does the film challenge mainstream beauty standards, but the film has many layers to it (much like Shrek and his onions). Many fans will be surprised to know that the film series is actually inspired by the children’s book, Shrek!. Illustrated and written by The New Yorker cartoonist William Steig, the children’s book, like the film, followed the adventures of Shrek the Ogre, who eventually ends up marrying a princess who does not fit into conventional beauty standards. There are some distinct scenes between the book and the movie. For example, Shrek’s parents in the film are not part of the narrative, and Fiona’s character is given much more depth. Fortunately, Donkey was a character that was part of the book and became a major character in the movies as well.

9 Die hard

Die hard
20th Century Studios

Die hard is another movie franchise that many don’t know is based on Rodrick Thorp’s 1966 book, Nothing lasts forever. Interestingly, it is the second book in a series. However, Die Hard deviates quite a lot from its source material. For example, in the books, the main character Joe Leland (and not John McClane) fights to save his daughter instead of his wife. Although there are certain fight scenes and dialogue taken directly from the book, the overall tone of the book is much darker than that of the film.

8 The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner
20th Century Studios

Based on Jame Dashner’s YA dystopian book series, The Maze Runner does a great job of staying true to the book when it comes to the plot as well as the characters. The series follows Thomas, who finds himself inside an intricate labyrinth together with many other boys, without remembering their past. The boys work together to find their way out of the maze without being killed by the monstrous creatures that roam it. Despite the fact that The Maze Runner missed the golden years of YA adaptations, it was still pretty well received by audiences. Also, the film managed to avoid all the cliche tropes popular in YA dystopian adaptations.

Related: Idris Elba says there was never any truth to James Bond casting rumours

7 James Bond

James Bond
MGM and Columbia pictures

Who knew that everyone’s favorite agent 007 was actually based on a series of books? And it’s not just two or three books, but 12 novels and quite a few short stories, all written by Ian Fleming, following the adventures of the spy from the British intelligence service. James Bond. The earlier films were more accurately based on the books, but the later films focus more on James Bond as a character rather than the narrative. The best thing about James Bond’s character is that he is quite versatile and almost like a chameleon in nature. He can become anyone the writers need, changing his colors depending on the story and its demands. Perhaps that’s why the franchise has successfully had Bond portrayed by seven different actors. There have even been a number of different writers and directors, all trying to portray a different, yet familiar Bond.

6 The Hobbit

The Hobbit
Warner Bros. Pictures

Based on JRR Tolkein’s books of the same name, The Hobbit franchise covers the narrative of a fairly short (by Tolkein standards) story. Directed by Peter Jackson, the films deviate slightly from the original source. However, this is mainly because Jackson really wanted to take advantage of that fact The Hobbit is a prequel to Lord of the Rings. It follows Bilbo Baggins as he embarks on a quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug. So while the films have their own narrative arc, they also provide quite a bit of information about a number of different Tolkien works.

5 The Chronicles of Narnia

The Chronicles of Narnia
20th Century Studios
Walt Disney pictures
Walt Disney Studios movies

Based on CS Lewis’ book series of the same name, The Chronicles of Narnia follow a series of children who discover secret passages/entrances to the fantastical world of Narnia. Of the seven books, three were adapted into films; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005), Prince Caspian (2008), and The Dawn Treader’s Journey (2010). In 2018, Netflix bought the rights to the series and announced that it would be working on films and TV series based on the films. However, there have been no updates on the project since 2020.

4 Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park
Universal images

Jurassic Park is another surprising franchise based on a science fiction novel of the same name by Michael Crichton. The first film is true to its source material as it shows how an amusement park descends into chaos after genetically recreated dinosaurs begin to attack. However, it was the success of the first film that inspired the sequel and the other installments in the franchise.

Related: Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves will take heavy inspiration from Jurassic Park

3 The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is one of the gems of the golden era of YA dystopian adaptations. The franchise has four films, all based on the Susan Collins trilogy, with the final book being split into two films. It follows Katniss Everdeen and other “tributes” who are forced to compete in The Hunger Games, a televised fight-to-the-death survival competition. While there are certain points where the book and the movies differ, the movies do a spectacular job of capturing the horror and darker undertones of the original source. Recently, in celebration of the franchise’s 10th anniversary, Susan Collins published a prequel novel; The ballad about songbirds and snakes. The film adaptation is also in the works.

2 Lord of the Rings

Lord of the Rings
New Line Cinema

JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is perhaps one of the most definitive works of fantasy ever produced, making it a difficult series to accurately adapt. One could argue that Peter Jackson did a spectacular job of portraying the fictional world of Midgard and all of its inhabitants. Not only is the film’s visual effects spectacular, but it also does a good job of holding the viewer’s attention. In addition to the first three epic fantasy films, the franchise recently released a TV series on Amazon Prime The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power which takes place thousands of years before the events of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movie.

1 Harry Potter

Harry Potter
Warner Bros. Pictures

A whole generation of children grew up with Harry Potter franchise. Many fans will fondly remember watching the first movie early in their youth and watching the final episode in Harry Potter franchise as adults. Following the adventures of the title character. Harry Potter and his adventures in the magical school of wizardry Hogwarts, the franchise had a total of eight films. Later, the franchise expanded into adventures of other characters, but all set in the wizarding world. This includes Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Franchise and sequel series The cursed child. While JK Rowling’s insensitive opinions have cast a shadow over the franchise, there’s no denying the impact the franchise has had.

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