10 Films Adapted from Short Fiction

A few months ago, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) was on the television. Before I knew it, I was sucked in, yet again, watching a movie I have already seen numerous times. It is like visiting old friends: the main characters (the wheelchair-bound photographer, Jeff, and his fashion consultant girlfriend, Lisa), as well as all the neighbors (e.g., Miss Torso, Miss Lonelyhearts, the Thorwalds, The Songwriter, etc.), who are being watched closely by Jeff as he is home-bound recovering from a badly broken leg. As the film ended, I logged onto IMDb.com, the International Movie Database, to look up facts about the film - a habit I have recently acquired to gain fun tidbits of information from behind the scenes.

As I was scrolling through the provided “trivia” related to Rear Window, I was surprised to learn that the Hitchcock film was adapted from the short story, “It Had to Be Murder” by Cornell Woolrich (1942). It was not such a shock that a short story was made into a film - I was shocked because it was the first time I was learning this little nugget of information about the film's origin. I have seen the film at least 20 times in my life, and I do not remember picking up at any time that it was adapted from a short story. From here, I went on a personal research quest to find short stories that had been adapted into major motion pictures. There are far too many to list here, but I have found 10 films which you may be surprised to learn started out as a short story or novella.

See if you can match the short story with the film adaptation:

Short Story
1. “Opera Hat” by Clarence Budington Kelland
2. “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell, Jr.
3. “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” by Alice Munro
4. “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad
5. “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” by Brian Aldiss
6. “The Body” by Stephen King
7. “The Greatest Gift” by Philip Van Doren Stern
8. “Traumnovelle” by Arthur Schnitzler
9. “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang
10. "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick
A. The Thing (1982)
B. Total Recall (2012)
C. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1963)
D. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
E. Stand by Me (1986)
F. Arrival (2016)
G. Apocalypse Now (1979)
H. Away from Her (2006)
I. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
J. A. I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)


1. (C) Frank Capra’s Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1963).
Film Summary: Comedy about Longfellow Deeds, a small-town poet who inherits $20 million from his uncle and is promptly declared insane by petty moochers, relatives, conniving lawyers and big business executives; they all want a piece of the pie and are upset because Longfellow decides to give the money away to needy people. Based on Clarence Budington Kelland’s “Opera Hat” (1935).

2. (A) The Thing has been made into film several times,. John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) is said to be the most true to the 1938, “Who Goes There?” written by John W. Campbell Jr.
Film Summary: (for 1982): Set in the winter of 1982 at a research station in Antarctica, a twelve man research team finds an alien being that has fallen from the sky and has remained buried in the snow for over 100,000 years. Unfrozen and unleashed, the THING creates havoc and terror as it changes forms and becomes one of them.

3. (H) Away from Her (2006).
Film Summary: Fiona and Grant are an Ontario couple who have been married for over 40 years. During the twilight of their years, Grant is forced to face the fact that Fiona's 'forgetfulness' actually is Alzheimer's. After Fiona wanders away and is found, the decision is made for her to go into a nursing home. For the first time in their relationship, they are forced to undergo a separation since this is the nursing home with a 'no-vistors' policy foe the first 30 days of a patient's stay. When Grant visits Fiona after the orientation period, he is devastated to find out that not only has she seemingly forgotten him, but she has transferred her affections to another man. As the distance between husband and wife grows, Grant must draw upon his love for Fiona to perform an act of self-sacrifice in order to ensure her happiness. Directed by Sarah Polley. Based on Alice Munro’s story, "The Bear Came Over the Mountain” (2001).

4. (G) Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979).
Film Summary: A United States Army officer/trained assassin is sent into the depths of a southeast Asian jungle to seek out a renegade colonel and terminate his command during the Vietnam War. Based on Joseph Conrad’s three-part serial story, “Heart of Darkness” (1899).

5. (J) A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001).
Film Summary: It is the middle of the 21st century. Extremely sophisticated robots do everything from nannying to prostitution, supplying the illusion of feeling, but true emotion has eluded the android builders until Professor Hobby builds David, a robot boy who can really love. In the same manner that some people substitute pets for more demanding human relationships, the Swinton's try to fill the void left by the illness (and subsequent cryogenic animation) of their young son, with David. Unlike a pet, however, David requires more than taking without giving, and his plight illustrates the dangers inherent when dog-substitutes demand giving in return. Directed by Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick. Based on Brian Alidiss’ “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” (1969).

6. (E) Stand by Me (1986).
Film Summary: This film about friendship and the indelible experiences of growing up takes place in a small Oregon town as four boys set out on a two-day search for a missing teenager's body, a search that turns into an odyssey of self-discovery. Directed by Rob Reiner. Based on Stephen King’s “The Body” (1982).

7. (D) It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).
Film Summary: George Bailey, a desperate and suicidal man, is visited by a guardian angel who shows him how important he has been to those around him in his life. Directed by Frank Capra. Based on Philip Van Doren Stern’s “The Greatest Gift” (1943).

8. (I) Eyes Wide Shut (1999).
Film Summary: A wife's admission of unfulfilled sexual longings plunges Dr. William Harford, a New Yorker, into an erotic odyssey that could destroy his marriage and ensnare him in a lurid murder mystery. Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Based on “Traumnovelle” (1926) by Arthur Schnitzler.

9. (F) Arrival (2016).
Film Summary: When mysterious spacecrafts touch down around the world, a team, including linguist Louise Banks, is brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers, and to find them, she will take a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity. Directed by Denis Villenneuve. Based on “Story of Your Life” (1998) by Ted Chiang.

10. (B) Total Recall, based on "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” (1966) by Philip K. Dick, has been adapted to film twice using the same title. The first Total Recall (1990, directed by Paul Verhoeven) was a commercial and critical success. While not as successful as the first adaptation, the second Total Recall (2012, directed by Len Wiseman), follows Dick’s short story more closely.
Film Summary (for 2012): Welcome to Rekall, the company that can turn your dreams into real memories. For a factory worker named Douglas Quaid, even though he has a beautiful wife who he loves, the mind-trip sounds like the perfect vacation from his frustrating life. But when the procedure goes horribly wrong, Quaid becomes a hunted man.

- Anna V., Hopewell Branch


Popular posts from this blog

Ocean-in-a-Bottle Craft for Kids

Walt Disney: Through the Eyes of an Adult

Legal Marijuana in NJ, Coming Soon to a Dispensary Near You