We here are Goliath have already spent some time covering novels that should never be made into films (even if some already have been…sigh). But what about those novels that do deserve a film adaptation? With Hollywood remaking, rehashing and rebooting everything in sight, it only seems fair that some of the more storied works of literature deserve a chance to shine on the silver screen. With that in mind, we’ve researched and written down 10 novels that we’d like to see adapted for the big screen (and even suggested some actors/actresses/directors we’d like to see involved in the projects).
10. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
This gem of a whodunit made our list of 10 Classic Novels Written By Women That You Need to Read, but we’re going to draw attention to it again based on the fact that it’d probably make for a spectacular little film. In the right hands (we’re thinking it feels like a David Fincher project), it could make for a taut, suspenseful thriller with an opportunity to put together a solid ensemble cast (the novel’s narrative follows six friends at a prestigious liberal arts college, so you’d need at least that many characters for the film). A murder mystery told in reverse, the novel’s overarching themes of guilt and tragedy are reminiscent of ancient Greek myths, all fodder which would help the adaptation from text to screen. The only question left is why hasn’t it been done already?
9. Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood
Branded as Margaret Atwood’s “speculative fiction” (rather than science fiction), Oryx and Crake received warm critical reviews upon its release and was a shortlist nominee for the Man Booker Prize in 2003. Following a mysterious character named Snowman, the novel is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland overrun by dangerous genetically modified creatures. Told mostly retroactively through the use of flashbacks, the novel is a riveting piece of work that actually features two sequels (all part of the MaddAddam trilogy), so any feature film adaptation would come with built-in franchise potential. While Oryx and Crake does take part in a science fiction setting, it wouldn’t be a blockbuster-type film; rather, any adaptation of this story would be closer to Gattaca than Mad Max, with science fiction tropes providing the framework to plumb heavier subject matter.
8. The Crying of Lot 49 – Thomas Pynchon
While renowned postmodernist Thomas Pynchon’s 1973 classic Gravity’s Rainbow made our list of 10 Impossible To Adapt Literary Classics, his 1966 novel The Crying of Lot 49 seems a little more suited to adaptation for the silver screen. While The Crying of Lot 49 is home to just as much of Pynchon’s absurdist humor, his surgical prose and his penchant for human dialogue, it also features a much more linear plot than some of his other works (Gravity’s Rainbow and the recently adapted Inherent Vice, for starters), which focuses on a centuries old conspiracy to cover up a feud between rival mail couriers, Thurn & Taxis and The Trystero. Extremely influential in its time, The Crying of Lot 49 would make for an excellent feature film with starring potential in the lead role as Oedipa Maas, the unlikely executor of her late boyfriend’s strange will.
7. Neuromancer – William Gibson
A fundamental science fiction and cyberpunk novel, William Gibson’s 1984 text Neuromancer is the spiritual forefather to films like The Matrix. Following hacker Henry Case as he is recruited by a suspect corporation to pull off a master hack, this is one of the preeminent novels ever published in the science fiction genre, with numerous accolades and citations of influence to its credit. While there have been a plurality of adaptation attempts already, none have been successful (despite Gibson’s assistance in helping to pen a screenplay). With computer generated graphics at the pinnacle of their technological capacity, it seems an opportune time to bring this highly influential and much-loved story to the big screen, with juicy roles waiting as both Case and Molly the Razorgirl. As with Oryx and Crake, this novel is the beginning of a trilogy, good news should any potential film adaptation of Neuromancer be a success.
6. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
This text (rather, texts) have the honor of being the only ones on this list to feature a previous film adaptation; 2007’s The Golden Compass, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, was a critical and commercial flop which was poorly conceived, poorly written and poorly acted. All of this is a shame, of course, as the film’s source material is spectacular; Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, which features the novels Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, is among the best in fantasy fiction, with themes as varied as morality, atheism and existentialism to be found in the pages of these quintessential young adult reads. Any future attempts at adaptation would have to reconcile the texts anti-religious sentiments with the pro-religious sentiments of filmgoers; a difficult (but not impossible) task that would require a significant amount of tact on the part of the filmmaker. That said, it’s got epic potential as a science fiction franchise, a very in-demand commodity in the contemporary cultural climate.
5. Post Office – Charles Bukowski
Any adaptation of Charles Bukowkski’s work would undoubtedly be controversial, but well worth making. The self-proclaimed poet laureate of the Los Angeles underworld, Bukowski made his literary living selling stories of boozing, women, music and writing, with his all-too-autobiographical novels retaining a huge amount of underground appeal. Hard living aside, Bukowski’s cynical, and often astute, observations about the absurdities of modern life would make for an excellent film (although who you would get to play the booze ridden curmudgeon of his novels, Henry Chinaski, is anyone’s guess), with 1971’s Post Office providing the best framework and narrative for the adaptation process. A difficult man whose literary oeuvre reflects this, Bukowkski’s stories generally center around a bastard with a heart of gold, a protagonist moviegoers these days would definitely be able to stand behind.
4. Redemption Song: The Definitive Biography of Joe Strummer – Chris Salewicz
On this list, we attempted to steer clear of biographies, as there’s an absolute ton of great ones out there and we didn’t want this list to only suggest filmmakers make biopics moving forward (although we’d watch them if they did). Moreover, it can be difficult to suggest whose life, if anyone’s, is worthy of a film adaptation. That said, if there was anyone in history whose life did merit a film, it might be Joe Strummer, the legendary front man of the punk rock band the Clash, whose spectacular life is chronicled admirably by Chris Salewicz in Redemption Song: The Definitive Biography of Joe Strummer. Chronicling the charismatic Strummer on his journey from squatting in abandoned London flats, to fronting the biggest rock band on the planet, Redemption Song paints an intricate portrait of a very, very complicated man. With successful biopics like Walk the Line as a template, an examination of Strummer’s life could prove to be excellent cinema fodder, with any actor brave and talented enough to step into Strummer’s shoes guaranteed a noteworthy role.
3. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea – Jules Verne
We’re not the only ones who think this one would make a great film; director David Fincher has been trying to get an adaptation under way for quite some time, even going so far as to recruit Brad Pitt to play his Captain Nemo. With that adaptation headed straight for production purgatory, however, it seems like an adaptation of this adventure classic is once again up for grabs. A prime opportunity to explore the depths of the ocean rather than the depths of space (which we’ve seen often on the silver screen, as of late), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is a classic story that offers a complex and mysterious antihero, Captain Nemo, and one of the most famous vehicles in all of fiction, Nemo’s self-designed submarine The Nautilus. With an ample budget, a film adaptation of this Greek myth influenced tale could be a CGI spectacle perfectly in-tune with the summer blockbuster season.
2. Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy
With several successful adaptations of his work already released (with both 2007’s No Country for Old Men and 2009’s The Road being critically lauded and commercially successful), one has to wonder why Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece Blood Meridian has not been given a cinematic overhaul. Often cited as McCarthy’s finest work, Blood Meridian is a gruesome Western which follows a young runaway who falls in with an unsavory crowd of bandits, the Glanton Gang, and their charismatic leader, Judge Holden (a role which could be absolutely phenomenal in the right hands). A savage critique of the underpinnings of the land of opportunity, this novel revels in violence and would undoubtedly require a strong stomach to watch as a film; that said, if the thoughtful and poignant social commentary of the novel are aptly translated, one would have to wonder whether these meditations would be extremely apropos with the recent spat of gun violence we’ve seen break out in America.
1. Death of Superman – Various
It’s no secret that comic book movies are as good as gold at the box office these days, with innumerable adaptations making their way to the cinema every year. What remains a mystery is how one of the finest comic books arcs in the medium’s history remains only in comic book form. 1992’s Death of Superman, from its iconic cover to its heartbreaking last panel, sees the Man of Steel (most recently played by Henry Cavill) fight the unstoppable villain Doomsday, an alien who seeks only to destroy whatever lies before him. A legendary arc which has the Man of Steel placed in a position of true peril, any adaptation of this comic book would remove some of the certainty behind the “good guy always wins” paradigm and inject some much-needed calamity into a somewhat placid character (Superman can be a little boring, I mean he’s just so… good).