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Top ten thriller movies adapted from novels

Having recently finished the manuscript for my crime thriller novel “Fragile Creatures,” it got me thinking about the best thriller movies adapted from novels. So, here are my picks for the top ten (in no particular order) from some of the best writers and directors in the business.

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

“A wealthy art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a symbolic revenge tale.” (IMDB)

This dark, stylish thriller was written, produced, and directed by Tom Ford, based on the 1993 novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright. This is Ford’s second time at the helm directing a feature, and he does an excellent job of turning a violent tale of revenge into an exhilarating journey that leaves you thinking about the movie long after the final credits have rolled.

Fight Club (1999)

“An insomniac office worker and a devil-may-care soapmaker form an underground fight club that evolves into something much, much more.” (IMDB)

One of the three David Fincher movies on this list and one of my all-time favorites. The film was very true to the bestselling novel written by author Chuck Palahniuk which was unusually short at around 50k words. Despite the title, this movie is about a lot more than just fighting. This dark journey into the crumbling mind of an insomniac white-color worker confronts such issues as consumerism and conformism.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

“A young F.B.I. cadet must receive the help of an incarcerated and manipulative cannibal killer to help catch another serial killer, a madman who skins his victims.” (IMDB)

This classic was based on the Thomas Harris novel of the same name. The film won the Big Five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director (Jonathan Demme), Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress (Jodi Foster), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally), making it only the third film in history to accomplish that feat.

American Psycho (2000)

"A wealthy New York City investment banking executive, Patrick Bateman, hides his alternate psychopathic ego from his co-workers and friends as he delves deeper into his violent, hedonistic fantasies.” (IMDB)

Adapted from the Bret Easton Ellis novel of the same name, this thriller was directed by Mary Harron, with the screenplay by Harron, Guinevere Turner. Despite the book being extremely graphic (as well as thrilling, hysterically funny, and fantastically written) the film does an excellent job of capturing Patrick Bateman’s insanity while not overdoing the gore. This is definitely a must watch!

Red Sparrow (2018)

“Ballerina Dominika Egorova is recruited to ‘Sparrow School,’ a Russian intelligence service where she is forced to use her body as a weapon. Her first mission, targeting a C.I.A. agent, threatens to unravel the security of both nations.” (IMDB)

This spy thriller film was directed by Francis Lawrence and written by Justin Haythe, based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Jason Matthews. Fans of Jennifer Lawrence will love this movie (as long as you are comfortable with some of the adult themes).

Shutter Island (2010)

“In 1954, a U.S. Marshal investigates the disappearance of a murderer who escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane.” (IMDB)

This Martin Scorsese masterpiece was based on the Dennis Lehane novel of the same name. Scorsese did a fantastic job of bringing the world Lehane created to life. The movie is very true to the book, and the book happens to be one of my all-time favorites! Lehane and Scorsese are both masters of their craft, and it really shows in this movie.

Savages (2012)

"Pot growers Ben and Chon face off against the Mexican drug cartel who kidnapped their shared girlfriend." (IMDB)

This crime thriller film directed by Oliver Stone. It is based on Don Winslow's novel of the same name. The screenplay was written by Shane Salerno, Stone, and Winslow. It got mixed reviews from critics with some saying it was only about drugs, sex, and violence. But considering the movie is about a drug-dealing threesome that takes on the Mexican cartel, I'm not sure what else there were expecting. It definitely gets the thumbs up from me.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

“Journalist Mikael Blomkvist is aided in his search for a woman who has been missing for forty years by Lisbeth Salander, a young computer hacker.” (IMDB)

This David Fincher movie was written by Steven Zaillian based on the novel by Stieg Larsson. This film is filled with incredible performances by a great all-around cast, but Rooney Mara steals the show as Lisbeth Salander in this mystery thriller.

Gone Girl (2014)

“With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent.” (IMDB)

This duo of Gillian Flynn (novel and screenplay) and David Fincher (director) was sure to please fans, and indeed it did! It also got Flynn the golden globe nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. For me, Gone Girl is one of the most well-written thriller novels of all time. I cannot wait to see what Flynn comes up with in the future, and I can only hope she links up with Fincher again.

No Country For Old Men (2007)

"Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong and more than two million dollars in cash near the Rio Grande." (IMBD)

This tense modern-western thriller was written and directed by the Coen brothers (Ethan and Joel) and was adapted from Cormac McCarthy's novel of the same name. It won four Oscars including best picture and best actor in a supporting role for Javier Bardem for his role as the unforgettable cool yet simultaneously psychotic cartel hitman.


Any movies you think should have made the list? Let me know In the comments below. Please also like this post and add your email to my mailing list below for more content.

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