Select Page

Lucy Courtenay, author of Movie Night, tells us her top 10 Oscar winners that were based on books ahead of the Academy Awards this weekend.

Ah, Oscars night. The smell of hot lights, the fear of wardrobe malfunction. The red carpet, the cameras, the glamour! Will the women wear black this year in support of the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns? Or will they break ranks a la Frances Dormand at the BAFTAs?

But that’s the politics. What about the films? Since the Oscars began in 1928, sixty Best Picture winners began as books. Here are my Top Ten, in chronological order.


Gone with the Wind (1939).


The American Civil War tome by Margaret Mitchell inspired this eight-Oscar juggernaut – although in the book, Rhett Butler doesn’t say ‘Frankly’. Film-making at its most epic.


Doctor Zhivago (1966).


My parents still get misty-eyed about this film. It’s the hats. You have to love the soundtrack too. Five Oscars went to Boris Pasternak’s Russian classic.


Oliver! (1968).


Based on Charles Dickens’ masterpiece (plus a cheery exclamation mark), this family favourite won five Oscars too. Hands up who was terrified of Ollie Reed as Bill Sykes?


The Godfather (1972).


Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel nabbed three Awards. Politics intruded when Marlon Brando, who won Best Actor, sent Native American actress Sacheen Littlefeather to turn down the award on his behalf, to raise awareness of the poor treatment of Native Americans in the film industry.


One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975).


Ken Kesey’s novel was only the second film to win all five major Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Screenplay); a feat not repeated until The Silence of the Lambs in 1991. (Another film based on a book. Fancy that!)


Shakespeare In Love (1998)


Not based on a book, but a play, and loosely at that. Baz Luhrman’s version of Romeo and Juliet didn’t win any Oscars, but this bagged seven. Harvey Weinstein’s fingers were all over the campaign, his underhand marketing methods allegedly pushing Saving Private Ryan off the top spot and changing the well-mannered world of film promotion forever. What with this and The Godfather, it seems politics can’t be so easily disentangled from films after all.


Slumdog Millionaire (2008).


Gruelling in pretty much every degree, Vikas Swarup’s book made an effortless leap to the big screen courtesy of director Danny Boyle. What a soundtrack. Jai ho!


Life of Pi (2013).


Yann Martel’s ‘unfilmable book’ became a four-Oscar winner in the elegant hands of Ang Lee. Only a novelist would have named a tiger Richard Parker.


Room (2015).


Emma Donoghue’s moving story of a mother and child in captivity landed Brie Larsen the Oscar for Best Actress.


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2017).


Shocking fact: the Harry Potter franchise hadn’t won a single Oscar until this film came along. It secured Best Costume Design.


So, which do you remember? Which do you wish you could forget? What would be your top 10 Oscar films based on books? Let us know on our social channels!