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Oscar winners adapted from novels

Filmmakers have taken various kinds of stories and turned them into big-screen hits. Some of them are based off real-life stories, some from plays, and some from daily musings. A lot, however, are based from the written word. Here are some of the most iconic Academy Award–winning films that were adapted from novels:


12 Years a Slave (2013)

Directed by Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave is a period drama film based from the 1853 memoir of Solomon Northup. He was a New York-born free African American who was kidnapped and sold to slavery. He was then made to work in plantations in Louisiana. The film won three Oscars, including Best Supporting Actress for Lupita Nyong’o, Best Adapted Screenplay for John Ridley, and Best Picture.


Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

This British drama film was set and filmed on location in India. Based on the novel Q&A by Vikas Swarup, the story is about Jamal Malik, an 18-year-old contestant and champion of the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Malik was accused of cheating, but he recounts his history, showing the unlikely instances of knowing the random trivia. The film won eight Oscars.


Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Holding the title as the only fantasy film to have ever won the Academy Award for Best Picture, the Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is the epic conclusion to Peter Jackson’s trilogy based on the classic novels by J. R. R. Tolkien. The film won all 11 Oscars for which it was nominated and is only the second sequel in history to win the Oscar for Best Picture (the first being The Godfather: Part II).


A Beautiful Mind (2001)

This film is based on the life of Nobel Laureate John Nash and inspired by a Pulitzer Prize–nominated book of the same name by Sylvia Nasar. It’s the story of Nash’s slow descent into paranoid schizophrenia and delusions, starting with his early days as a graduate student in Princeton University. This film won four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress.


Forrest Gump (1994)

This multigenre epic film depicts several decades in the life of Forrest Gump, a slow-witted yet athletically prodigious man from Alabama who witnesses and sometimes influences the latter half of 20th-century America. The film won six awards, some of which were Best Picture, Best Actor for Tom Hanks, and Best Director for Robert Zemeckis.


The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

This American thriller film was directed by Jonathan Demme based on Thomas Harris’s novel of the same name. The story is about Hannibal Lecter, a brilliant psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer. It is one of the three films to have won the Academy Awards in the top five categories: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It’s also the first and (so far) only Best Picture that is generally considered a horror film. The novel is the second one by Harris to feature Hannibal Lecter.


Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

A drama film based on Avery Corman’s novel of the same name, the film narrates the story of a married couple’s divorce and its impact on everyone involved. The film received five Oscars: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress.




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