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10 movies you probably didn’t know were based on books

Another day, another adaptation. It seems like new book adaptations are coming out left and right. We want our favorite stories to be handled with the care they deserve! Adaptations are usually a hit or miss, but sometimes our favorite books are magically turned into our favorite shows and/or movies too.

But did you know that there are even times when the adaptation is so good it actually outshines the book it was based on? Yes, believe it or not, some movies you know and love were based on books that didn’t get the same fame and attention. Here are 10 movies you probably didn’t know were based on books.

Die Hard (based on Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp)
Die Hard based on Nothing Lasts Forever

Yippie ki yay… Roderick Thorp? Yes, everyone’s (including Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Jake Peralta) favorite Christmas saving cop story was based on Roderick Thorp’s adventure thriller Nothing Lasts Forever.

First released in 1979, Nothing Lasts Forever stars Joe Leland to Bruce Willis’ John McClane. Other than this name change, the movie actually follows the novel’s plotline quite faithfully.

The prequel to this novel was also adapted to a film in 1968 starring Frank Sinatra, both the movie and book it was based on are titled The Detective. In the Die Hard adaptations, some changes were believed to be made to differentiate this film with that of the Sinatra flick.

Forrest Gump (based on Forrest Gump by Winston Groom)

Forrest Gump (based on Forrest Gump by Winston Groom)

Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know which movies are actually based on novels. This novel adaptation has even been adapted again in the Indian film Laal Singh Chaddha where Aamir Khan takes on the titular role of Forrest Gump’s Indian counterpart, Laal Singh Chaddha.

A perfect case of the movie outshining the novel. After the initial release of Winston Groom’s novel, it didn’t really make any waves. But thanks to the immense popularity that the film adaptation garnered, it didn’t hurt the book sales one bit. Film writer Eric Roth masterfully adapted Groom’s novel for the screen. He took the liberty of changing Gump’s character a bit to more of a loveable country sweetheart versus Groom’s somewhat hardened character who even curses in the novel.

Both the novel and film are filled with grand tales with Forrest at the center of them, but the book takes this multiple steps further. In the book, Forrest visits outer space and even plays a game of chess to save his life from a hungry group of cannibals.

The Parent Trap (based on Lisa and Lottie by Erich Kästner)

The 1998 classic was inspired by the 1949 children’s novel Lisa and Lottie by German writer Erich Kästner. The novel inspired numerous film adaptations all over the world including India, Japan, Germany, and America. The 1998 Disney version in fact wasn’t the first adaptation of Kästner’s story that they have in their arsenal. In 1961, Disney released The Parent Trap starring Hayley Mills as the scheming twins.

Clueless (based on Emma by Jane Austen)

Clueless (based on Emma by Jane Austen)

More people might now about this one after the release of the newest adaptation of Emma in 2020 starring Anya Taylor-Joy as the titular character. The iconic Cher Horowitz is our very own modern and chic Emma Woodhouse. Modern retellings of classic novels are not a new concept like how 10 Things I Hate About You is a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s classic The Taming of the Shrew.

Freaky Friday (based on Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers)

Freaky Friday (based on Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers)

Mary Rodger’s 1972 Freaky Friday story was so iconic that Disney adapted it not once, not twice nope they didn’t even stop at three—that’s right, it has a total of four remakes.

The very first one came out in 1976 starring queen Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris. The next remake was released in 1995 with Shelley Long and Gaby Hoffmann making the freaky switch. Third time must be the charm because in 2003 Disney released probably the most iconic version of the film with the extremely talented Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan showing us just how freaky things can get. Did it stop there? No. The most recent remake of Freaky Friday was the 2018 release starring Cozi Zuehlsdorff and Heidi Blickenstaff in the rewritten musical comedy.

Legally Blonde (based on Legally Blonde by Amanda Brown)

Legally Blonde (based on Legally Blonde by Amanda Brown)

If you thought Legally Blonde couldn’t get any better, wait till you find out it was actually based on the real experiences of author Amanda Brown. Her novel isn’t precisely a memoir, though the fiction is inspired by her real-life experiences as a law student studying in Stanford. That’s probably the biggest change made from the book to screen, Elle studies in Stanford instead of Harvard (what, like it’s hard?).

Mrs. Doubtfire (based on Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine)

Mrs. Doubtfire (based on Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine)

Yes, the 1993 classic was inspired by the 1987 classic. The story of loveable yet often unreliable dad Daniel Hillard was originally written by English writer Anne Fine. The character was of course brought even more to life by the wonderful performance of the late great Robin Williams.

The book version of the first two Hillard kids are a bit more perceptive than their movie counterparts though. While Williams’ performance has his entire family fooled, the book version of the older Hillard kids aren’t so easily convinced. But whether the kids guessed who the real Mrs. Doubtfire is or not, the story is still as heartwarming and bittersweet when Daniel becomes the father his family needed through the role of Mrs. Doubtfire.

Mean Girls (based on Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence by Rosalind Wiseman)

Mean Girls (based on Queen Bees and Wannabes)


Not only was the forever iconic Mean Girls inspired by a book, but writer Tina Fey was inspired by a non-fiction book. Little did Rosalind Wiseman know that her self-help book intended for parents with daughters in high school, would later turn out to be a cinematic masterpiece that is still being quoted by teens (and teens at heart) everywhere. Fey used this book to help create her own original story and characters like the queen of the plastics Regina George and the new girl Cady Heron.

The Princess Bride (based on The Princess Bride by William Goldman)

The Princess Bride (based on The Princess Bride by William Goldman)

With the movie literally starting as a book being read out loud, you might have been able to guess this one. Well, your hunch was right. It may come as no surprise that this fairytale originated as a self-aware romantic adventure novel that wasn’t afraid to get a bit meta and make fun of itself along the way much like its movie adaptation.

Shrek (based on Shrek! By William Steig)

Shrek (based on Shrek! By William Steig)

Not only was everyone’s favorite swamp dwelling ogre based on a book, but it was based on a graphic novel terrifyingly marketed at young children. The story of the book is pretty much the same as the plot of the first Shrek movie but the added spice of the other fairytale characters being present, and the various musical numbers, were added by DreamWorks—to which we will forever be grateful for.

Thanks to William Steig and DreamWorks, we have the first ever winner of the Oscar for Best Animated Feature: Shrek, and the many colorful sequels and spinoffs of the Shrek world.

It’s always fun to see how stories are changed as they are adapted from the page to the screen, but there is no shame if you favor one over the other (even if it’s the movie version you love more).


Other POP! stories you might like:

10 books that turn 10 this year that might make you feel old

The life and times of Julie Powell, the person behind ‘The Julie/Julia Project’

10 book to screen adaptations to watch out for before 2022 ends

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