The 10 Most Successful Movies Based On Popular Novels, Ranked

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Most of us are aware that some of our favorite films were sparked by the publication of a popular novel, but the age-old argument of ‘Which is better: the book or the movie?’ is a tough debate when it comes to these films.

The Marvel franchise for instance, technically derives from a series of comic books and has proven to be a blockbuster hit in every form, but many novels to film adaptations are spawned from one book and a great idea.

To make a list of highest grossing novel adaptations at the box office, the majority of the top 20 would be filled with Harry Potter films, Jurassic Park films and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. If we combine these series’, we can see a somewhat surprising list of best novels adapted for the big screen.

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10 Alice and Wonderland – $1 Billion

The novel published by Lewis Carroll in 1865 has been adapted time and time again, first coming alive during Hollywood’s silent film era. After appearing on the big screen more than 20 times, the 2010 adaptation by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp grossed more than one billion at the box office.

9 IT – $1.1 Billion

Stephen King can always be counted on for a spooky good time; whether that be through his novels like “IT”, published in 1986 or through the film adaptation. IT was first brought to the television screen in a 1990 miniseries, then in 2017 and 2019, Pennywise the clown haunted the big screen, in a two-part film. According to Cheat Sheet, King has written nearly 60 novels over his career and at least two dozen of them have been adapted for film.

8 Jaws – $1.15 Billion (adjusted)

The 1975 thriller must be included because it’s known as the first summer blockbuster hit of all time. In addition, it’s based off of a 1974 novel by Peter Benchley. The novel was a success, but nothing prepared Hollywood for Steven Spielberg’s adaptation. He omitted much of the novel’s subplots and focused on the shark, and the three main characters, played by Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider and Robert Shaw.

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7 50 Shades of Grey – $1.3 Billion

The highest-grossing erotic romance of all time banked big at the box office with a trilogy based on E.L. James’ novels. The popular novels rose to the top of the list for avid readers and throughout publication. Her first in the series was published in 2011 and the first film hit theaters in 2015. Two sequels followed in 2017 and 2018, starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan.

6 James Bond – $2.3 Billion

The first film in the series, Dr. No debuted in 1963 and resulted in more than 25 additional films. Some may forget, however, the series was based on a 12-novel set written by Ian Fleming, a British author with a penchant for 007 and all things secret service. Over the years, audiences have flocked to see Sean Connery, Pierce Bronson and Daniel Craig as the attractive, classy and immortalized character.

5 The Lord of the Rings – $2.9 Billion

The film series stems from a 1954 novel by J.R.R. Tolkien and while the books (a total of three) were popular, Tolkien may have been surprised to see what Director Peter Jackson does with them in the 2001 trilogy on the big screen. According to Marie Claire, Jackson filmed the entire series in the course of a single year with stars like Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett and Orlando Bloom.

4 The Hunger Games – $2.9 Billion

Suzanne Collins published the first of three novels in 2008 and the first of four films launched in 2012. Not only did the story of a dystopian world and the fight to stay alive draw audiences to the theater time and time again, it also brought us Jennifer Lawrence’s largest film role at that time. Other stars in the franchise include Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks.

3 Twilight – $3.3 Billion

Who doesn’t love a story of star-crossed lovers, going to extremes to be together? In 2005, Stephenie Meyer published the first of four in the Twilight series and the first film hit theaters in 2008. The original film and four additional films (the last novel was split into two parts for the film version) starred Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, launching the two onto Hollywood’s A-list and the rest is history.

2 Jurassic Park – $6 Billion

The” Jurassic Park” franchise already holds a few records as it continues to bank profit at drive-ins and theaters across the country decades after its original release. The book, written by Michael Crichton was published in 1990 and Director Steven Spielberg released his theater adaptation in 1993. According to Movie Web, the success sparked a franchise that would go on to earn over $6 billion at the box office.

1 Harry Potter – $7.7 Billion

In 1997, J.K. Rowling published her first book in the “Harry Potter” series and followed up with an additional six novels. The seven novels were adapted for the big screen as eight films starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson and took the world by storm. The Potter franchise earned $1.3 billion alone for the eighth and final film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, making it the highest-grossing book-to-movie adaptation in history.

Sources: CheatSheet, MarieClaire, MovieWeb

READ NEXT: Inside J.K. Rowling’s $2.5 Million Mansion That Inspired The Harry Potter Books

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