Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is — well, it’s a freebie. Everyone participating can make up their own theme, so mine is:
Top Ten Movie Versions of Classic Books
I’m planning to see the Les Misérables movie tomorrow, and that got me thinking: What other movies, inspired by classic books, have I loved over the years? (Unlike most top 10 lists coming out at this time of year, my list is not specific to 2012). This is a totally subjective list, based on nothing more than my own enjoyment of the films. The only consistent criterion I’m applying here is that I’ve actually read all of the books mentioned.
So here goes:
1) ??Les Misérables??
Reserving judgement, of course, until I’ve actually seen the movie, but just seeing the trailers has blown me away. I first saw the stage version of the musical in London many years ago, which was memorable for many reasons, not least because I had last minute tickets for cheap seats about a thousand balcony levels up and found the experience positively dizzying. Following that, I decided to read the book — not an abridged version, thank you very much — and walked away from that experience in love with the characters and with a deep and abiding knowledge of Parisian sewers and convents. I’ve since seen the musical several times, have listened to the soundtrack enough to have it memorized, and may even have splurged on a French version of the soundtrack. (But don’t tell; it makes me sound obsessive).
2) Pride and Prejudice: The BBC version, of course. There are countless other versions, remakes, modernizations, and reimaginings, and I even liked the Keira Knightley version (mostly because of Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet), but the BBC (Colin Firth) production wins hands-down for me. Although… Bride and Prejudice — c’mon, that one rocked.
3) Vanity Fair: Did anyone else read the book after seeing the movie? I loved Reese Witherspoon, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and James Purefoy in director Mira Nair’s adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel… but I ended up loving the book even more. Becky Sharp is not a nice woman, but boy, does she know how to make waves!
4) Romeo and Juliet: As with the Jane Austen books, there are countless movie versions of Romeo and Juliet, but the one that is unparalleled, for me, is the 1968 movie directed by Franco Zeffirelli. Perhaps because I first saw it at a young, impressionable age, I remember it as being incredibly sensual and beautiful and utterly romantic. I suppose I should watch it again one of these days and see how it’s held up, and then perhaps check out the Claire Danes/Leonardo DiCaprio version for comparison’s sake. And if we’re talking “inspired by”, mustn’t forget West Side Story either. Oh, Tony. Oh, Maria.
5) 10 Things I Hate About You: Sure, if we’re talking adaptations of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, I suppose I could have picked the Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton movie (which is wonderful, by the way) or perhaps the 1953 musical Kiss Me Kate, but in my mind, 10 Things I Hate About You is tops. This charming adaptation captures the comedy of the original, and Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles are just superb.
6) Emma and Clueless: Two great movies from one great book. I really love the Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma (Jeremy Northam makes a dreamy Mr. Knightly), and Alicia Silverstone’s Clueless is a pitch-perfect ’90s update. Both movies are terrific. Don’t make me choose.
7) Dangerous Liaisons: Based on the 1782 epistolary French novel by Choderlos de Laclos, the movie was a perfect forum for a dazzling cast. Glenn Close and John Malkovich are absolutely deadly in this movie. Even Keanu Reeves was not too bad. Must. Watch. Again.
8) Jane Eyre: Again, another classic with many different movie adaptations. But for purposes of this list, I’m going with the most recent. The 2011 movie starring Mia Wasikowski was lovely to look at and wonderfully acted. Sure, the plot was a bit compressed at times and parts were skimmed over entirely. Still, the gothic mood of the moors was perfectly captured. My only complaint might be that Michael Fassbender is, in fact, too handsome to play Rochester. Not that that’s much of a complaint, really.
9) Hard to choose — pretty much anything featuring Helena Bonham Carter (without insane wigs and bad teeth) could go here. Wings of the Dove, based on the Henry James novel, was the first HBC movie that came to mind, but in the end, I’ll go with A Room With A View. So beautiful, so romantic…
10) For my 10th and final choice, I’m going with a movie that has not been released yet, but which I’m oh-so-eager to see: Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Joss Whedon, and featuring a Whedon-verse array of favorites, including Nathan Fillion, Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, and Fran Kranz. The movie is scheduled for release in June 2013. Who’s with me?
So what are your favorite movies from classic books? Which Pride and Prejudice do you love best? Can you sing along with Tony and Maria on “Tonight”? And do prefer Helena Bonham Carter as a young ingenue or as a crazy minion of the Dark Lord? Sound off in the comments!
(And wishing, for one and all, health, happiness, and love during the holidays and in the coming year. May your days be merry and bright!)