RANKED! The 20 Best Film Adaptations of the 21st Century
There’s nothing better than a good book…except an excellent film adaptation of that same book. Whether the tale started in short story, novel, or non-fiction form, seeing our favorite characters dominate the big screen is even more satisfying than reading the story all over again. Though some might suggest books are going by the wayside, these films from the last two decades prove that Hollywood still scans the shelves for narratives worth cinematic interpretation. These are the 20 best film adaptations of the 21st century, ranked!
Cover Photo: Paramount Pictures
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20. 'Silver Linings Playbook' (2012)
A pair of newly single people both struggling with mental health issues find fresh hope through ballroom dancing in this adaptation of Matthew Quick's debut novel.
19. 'Hidden Figures' (2016)
Behind astronaut John Glenn's space launch was a team of smart, strong, African-American women running the numbers that helped make it happen. This is their story, based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s non-fiction book.
18. 'Drive' (2011)
By day, Driver is a Hollywood stuntman. By night, he's a getaway driver for criminals. When he's recruited by a neighbor's ex-con husband for a robbery that goes horribly wrong, he must figure out how to keep his neighbor and her son safe in this adaptation of James Sallis' novel.
17. 'The Men Who Stare at Goats' (2009)
It's crazy but it's true: in the '70s and '80s, the U.S. Army experimented with paranormal and new age strategies to improve intelligence gathering. The non-fiction book of the same name by Jon Ronson laid the foundation for the star-studded film.
16. 'Brooklyn' (2015)
Award-winning novelist Colm Tóibín is behind this nostalgic romance that finds a young Irish immigrant torn between two loves and two countries.
15. 'Arrival' (2016)
Based on a short story by Ted Chiang, this sci-fi film follows a professor and her team as they investigate the arrival of a dozen spaceships (and the extraterrestrials in them) around the world.
14. 'The Road' (2009)
A man and his young son try to survive in a post-apocalyptic world in this grim film adapted from the Cormac McCarthy novel.
13. 'Million Dollar Baby' (2004)
A short story by F.X. Toole inspired this Academy Award-winning film about a female boxer.
12. 'Rust and Bone' (2012)
A former boxer helps a whale trainer cope after a devastating accident, bringing both of them closer. This devastating and unforgettable film, based on a short story collection by Craig Davidson, explores the healing powers of love.
Photo: Why Not Productions
11. 'Lion' (2016)
This emotional film about an adult Australian adoptee who embarks on a mission to find his birth mother in India was based on Saroo Brierley's bestselling autobiography A Long Way Home.
10. 'A Beautiful Mind' (2001)
Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash is at the center of this film about genius and mental illness which is based on Sylvia Nasar’s biography.
9. 'Brokeback Mountain' (2005)
This bittersweet love story about two rural cowboys who struggle to hide their affair from their wives and the world was inspired by a short story by Anne Proulx.
8. 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' (2009)
This crime thriller, based on the novel by Steig Larsson, follows a journalist and a hacker in their quest to solve a 40-year-old missing person mystery.
7. 'True Grit' (2010)
A teen girl seeks to avenge her father's murder with the help of a U.S. marshal in this trigger-happy Coen brothers flick based on the novel by Charles Portis.
6. 'Pet Sematary' (2019)
This Stephen King novel was so popular it got adapted twice. The latest version of the nightmarish story about a family tormented by a burial ground near their home was dubbed “fucking great” by the author himself.
5. 'Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' (2003)
J.R.R. Tolkien’s writing was made for the big screen and the third installment of the triology brought to life by director Peter Jackson did not disappoint.
4. 'Requiem For a Dream' (2001)
This unsettling film about four New Yorkers and the consequences of their drug addictions was based on the Hubert Selby Jr. novel of the same name.
3. 'Room' (2015)
This gripping escape story of an abducted woman and the son she bore her abductor began as a novel by Emma Donoghue.
2. 'No Country For Old Men' (2007)
We have novelist Cormac McCarthy to thank for this terrifying tale about a killer on the hunt for stolen drug money and the sheriff who tries to stop him.
1. 'American Psycho' (2000)
This shudder-inducing story of a Manhattan businessman turned serial killer comes courtesy of novelist Bret Easton Ellis. Be afraid. Be very afraid.