It’s almost inevitable these days that as soon as a book becomes successful enough, so begins the pressure to turn it into a film. Either that or an ongoing HBO saga. But why do we never consider turning successful films into books?

The book-to-film process is so expected, that I when I typed ‘film-to-book adaptations’ into Google it just assumed I’d had an aneurysm and changed it back to ‘book to film’.

There have been two major exceptions: The Third Man and 2001: A Space Odyssey were both turned into books after the release of the original films. The point here though is that both Arthur C. Clarke and Graham Greene worked on the development of the story and the creation of the screenplay before adapting it into their own standalone piece of fiction.

So there definitely seems to be an established order of things: books can only be adapted into films, not other way round.

But this is not to say movies are the end point or a static creation in their own right. There are enough cases of films being adapted into stage plays, musicals, TV series, as well as spawning comics and cartoons. So, whilst there’s an established order of proceeding, is there similarly a hierarchy? The process of adapting anything would appear to be to increase its audience and entertainment value. One would never adapt to do the opposite. The implication here is that to reverse the process, to adapt a movie to a book, would be to reduce its entertainment value.

So how does one account for novelisations? By all accounts they can be extremely profitable, yet often the object of scorn and ridicule, novelisations are usually produced alongside their film, and either released beforehand to build hype for the film, or after to capitalise on it. Generally, though, they’re just mild amplifications of the original film, exploring perhaps a bit more internal monologue of the main characters, or fleshing out some scenes that didn’t make the final cut. It’s not what you’d call a true adaptation.

So can we handle a film being adapted into a book? There’s clearly a market for adaptations, that’s without any doubt. But is the market prepared to consider the credibility of a book that had its origins on a cinema screen? Perhaps there’s an economic consideration: an underpaid author signing the option to adapt a book into a film is vastly different than a highly paid director signing the rights to turn their film into a book, especially if there’s a risk the potential book could be written off as a novelisation.

Oh well. I for one would like to see someone try. If the old adage – ‘the book was so much better than the film’ – is true, then we should test it out on something.

Here are my suggestions:




If it was billed as Jaws in space by the producers, it would be just brilliant as a piece of tightly crafted, scare-packed space thriller. If it wasn’t for the fact that it’s decades old, I’d say do it now.

(Do not mention Prometheus at all.)



The Conversation

Yes another old one, but this is of the paranoid ‘70s flavour. Great film, and would be fantastic as a newly adapted, modernised espionage thriller, showcasing the 21st century’s inability to discover truth in a web of deceitful technology.

See also: The Parallax View, The Game




I wasn’t a huge fan of the film (mainly the ending) but there were enough great ideas in this to turn it into one awesome time travel book. So many ideas I think there was discussion of a TV spin-off, so why not a book?




Speculative, but hell it looks good. And given the world-building that seems to have gone on behind the scenes, could spawn a whole series of books exploring the world that Neill Blomkamp appears to have created.

This post first appeared on the Momentum blog.

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