TOP 10: Movies Based on Classic Literature You Are Required To Read in High School

Top 10 Films

I don’t intend on being a pessimistic, but summer is almost coming to an end. Soon, you will have to gather your books again and head out back to another exciting (yes, exciting) year in school. But hey, don’t get upset about it…on the contrary, be happy to know that most books on your ‘To-Read’ list for your upcoming English class have been made into fantastic films and are probably available in Netflix by now.

The following list will give you and idea on what to expect this year at school. Enjoy!

1. To Kill a Mockingbird

After I read this book a long time ago, I asked myself, “Why hasn’t this been made into a movie yet!?”. The internet gave me the answer right away. Made back in 1962, this film is a great adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel. It was directed by Robert Mulligan and stars Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Mary Badham in the role of Scout. If you pay real attention to it, you will see a very young Robert Duvall in it. Peck won an Oscar for his performance in it.

2. Romeo and Juliet

“Two households, both alike in dignity. In fair Verona, where we lay our scene…”. Who hasn’t heard the story of sweet Juliet and her beloved Romeo. This William Shakespeare tragedy has been made into numerous films throughout the years. Our generation however remembers the 1996 version of it, directed by Baz Luhrmann. Before he was Jack Dawson in ‘Titanic’ and she was Carrie Mathison from ‘Homeland’, Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes brought to life this Shakespearean play. There is a new adaptation to be released later this year, with Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth in the lead roles.

3. Pride and Prejudice

Here’s a book and film I could read and watch over and over and over again. ‘Pride and Prejudice’, written by Jane Austen, is a beautiful novel and one of my favorite films. The 2005 british film adaptation of it was directed by Joe Wright and it stars Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen in the lead roles. The film was well received with the critics and it also got a few Oscar nominations, including Best Actress and  Best Original Score. To this day, I believe Mr. Macfadyen is the best Mr. Darcy there is out there.

4. Lord of the Flies

After a disastrous plane crash, a group of boys are all stuck in a deserted island. All on their own, what could go wrong, right? Sounds like a familiar plot? Don’t be fooled by the title of the book or it’s characters. William Golding‘s Nobel Prize novel is filled with important themes, such as the end of innocence and the infinite battle between order vs. chaos. The second film adaptation of the book was made in 1990 (the first was made back in 1963). The plot of the film is a bit different from the book, but it manages to keep the same themes, motifs, and symbols alive.

5. The Great Gatsby

“Gatsby? What Gatsby?” This book shouldn’t be so hard to remember or place, considering it had a major motion picture released just a few months ago. In a decade where everything in America was sofisticado and extravagant, F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s ‘Great Gatsby‘ is a great novel that explores that world and, above all, idealism. Baz Luhrmann‘s take on that world will just be a treat to your eyes and ears. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton and Isla Fisher. Be on the look-out for the soundtrack of the film, it’s great.

6. The Taming of the Shrew (10 Things I Hate About You)

I know what you are thinking. “What does a film with Julia Styles and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’ have to do with literature?” Well, plenty. Even though it’s not set in the late 1500’s, ‘10 Things I Hate About You‘ it’s a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew‘ that keeps the main plot intact, as well as some of the characters and settings. The film was released on 1999 and it was the debut for director Gil Junger. It stars Julia Stiles and the late Ledger in leading roles.

7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

For all of you that might have an interest in psychology, this book is for you. ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest‘ was written by Ken Kesey and it takes place in a psychiatric hospital. The plot focuses on the human mind, the study of personalities and human principles. The film based on this book was released on 1975, directed by Miloš Forman and starring the one and only Jack Nicholson. This movie has won all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Actor in Lead Role, Actress in Lead Role, Director, and Screenplay).

8. Pygmalion (My Fair Lady)

The 1964 film ‘My Fair Lady‘ starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison is actually based on a play written by George Bernard Shaw entitled ‘Pygmalion’. It tells the story of how phonetics professor Henry Higgins turns Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle into a high society young lady. One of the best performances given by talented Audrey Hepburn. The film won eight Academy Awards.

9. Les Misérables

Ah, Victor Hugo. A classic writer that is a must-read in every Literature Class. ‘Les Misérables‘ was first published in 1862 and it tells the story of Jean Valjean and his troubled life after getting out of prison. In 2012, we saw in cinemas the musical version of this story, with Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway. I, however, recomend the 1998 film with Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, Uma Thurman and Claire Danes. Both are excellent adaptations of the book, but I prefer the 1998 version of it . You’ll see why.

10. Little Women

Remember the ‘Friends’ episode in which Joey was reading this book? ‘Little Women‘ was written by Louisa May Alcott and it follows the story of the four March sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. The film adaptation I recommend for this book is one from 1994. Winona Ryder, Susan Sarandon, Claire Danes, Kirsten Dunst, Christian Bale and Gabriel Byrne star in it. It was directed by Gillian Armstrong and in my opinion it stays very true to the original story.

It was very hard to chose only ten books to talk about, as there are MANY more. But I think these have the ‘you-must-read-this-asap‘ label on it. But hey! Don’t trust my words and find out for yourself! Read the books (please, PLEASE, read the books) and afterwards, watch the films. You will see how fun it is to comment and talk about a book you’ve read and its adaptation to the big screen.

Cristina was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador. She has an MBA in Media & Entertainment and loves to talk and write about films, TV, and anything related to pop culture. Follow her on Twitter, @cristimoreano or contact her at
  • Ekaterina Kolotilina

    A good selection of movies! I have seen many.

  • Deborah

    This adaptation of P&P is the only movie I've ever found that I can watch over and over and still laugh, cringe, giggle, and sigh at all the right moments…Of course, it doesn't hurt that Matthew Macfadyen is such a hottie!!

  • Great books and great movies too!

  • Anita

    Have read most of the books and have seen all of the films. Not a big fan of "My Fair Lady" but "To Kill a Mockingbird" is one of my favorite books and films. Also, who doesn't love "Cuckoo's Nest?"

  • G K

    All of these are great choices. I love "10 Things I Hate About You".