Published on June 6th, 2019 | by Bibhuranjan


Books that have inspired films, TV shows and games

Many of the world’s biggest media franchises are well-known book adaptations – Harry Potter, the Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones to name just a few. While the novels these series are based on are hugely popular, there are also plenty of films, TV shows and games that you might be surprised to learn were inspired by books. Here, we take a look at some book adaptations you may not be too familiar with.


It’s no secret that a huge range of films were originally books, all the way from Hollywood smash-hits to independent releases. Here are a couple of movies you may not have known are based on books.

Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump is best known as the much-loved film starring Tom Hanks, but it’s also the name of the novel written by Winston Groom in 1986. While both film and book follow the titular character as he recounts various events in his life story, there are some pretty significant differences between the two. For starters, the movie is a fairly sanitised romance tale, while the book is a much more explicit satire. The film also leaves out some fairly significant parts of the novel, including Gump’s experiences as a pro wrestler and a chess player, and makes some additions of its own with regards to the protagonist’s appearance and the storylines of supporting characters.

While the book had respectable success, selling 30,000 copies in the eight years after it was released, that was nothing compared to the 1994 film. As well as receiving critical acclaim, the movie became the second highest grossing film of the year and earned over $667 million worldwide. The film’s success naturally increased interest in the source material, but the author and filmmakers didn’t always see eye to eye due to the changes made for the big screen.


The story of Jaws is one of the more interesting tales of book adaptations. The Steven Spielberg film requires little introduction, but the novel of the same name by Peter Benchley was also a big success in its own right. While critical reviews were mixed, the novel spent 44 weeks on the bestseller list and sold millions of copies in the first couple of years after its release in 1974.

Of course, the 1975 film was also a huge hit, becoming the highest grossing film in history at the time of its release and picking up three Oscars along the way. The screen adaption stays pretty faithful to the novel, though it does leave out some of the sub-plots and places more focus on the battle between the three central characters and the shark.

Despite the franchise’s huge success, Benchley expressed regret for having written his sensationalist stories due to the negative impact they had on the reputation of sharks. The author devoted much of his later life to shark and marine conservation, which led to a species of shark being named after him as a nod to his efforts.

TV Shows

It’s not just the movie industry that relies on books for inspiration- many of the biggest TV shows have also been adapted from novels. Let’s take a look at two of the best.

Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black is one of Netflix’s first and biggest hits, with the seventh and final season set to be released in 2019. The show is based on a memoir by Piper Kerman titled Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison. The memoir was released in 2010 and details the year Kerman spent in a women’s prison in Connecticut after being convicted of money laundering and drug trafficking.

While both book and TV show share the same setting and basic premise, the show creators definitely made full use of their artistic license to make a lot of changes to the story. The series is more focused on romantic relationships, creates many characters from scratch, and, of course, the seven-season plot has gone far beyond that of the single book.

The comedy-drama has been hugely successful and has won four Emmy Awards since the first season aired. The first four seasons all gained critical acclaim, each scoring 94% or above on Rotten Tomatoes.


Another big hit for Netflix, this 2018 psychology thriller attracted a worldwide audience of over 40 million viewers when it landed on the video streaming site. The story follows bookstore manager Joe Goldberg as he develops an unhealthy infatuation with Guinevere Beck, an aspiring writer. The show closely follows the plot of the 2014 Caroline Kepnes novel, You, though there are minor differences to the plot, as well as the addition of a few new characters.

The book also earned strong reviews and plenty of commercial success, having been translated into 19 languages. Kepnes’ sequel, Hidden Bodies, was published in 2016 and provides the basis of the show’s second season, which will be released as a Netflix original. Filming began in February 2019 and while there’s no set release date as of yet, anticipation is high as the show’s Instagram page states that it’s “coming soon”.

Video Games

While it’s the film and television industries that produce the most book adaptations, many games have also been based on books, from Xbox and PlayStation titles to some of the best online slots. Here’s a couple of the most successful book-to-game adaptations.

The Witcher

The Witcher is a series of hugely successful video games based on The Witcher novel series by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. Sapkowski’s series consists of a number of short stories and novels, the first published back in 1993 and the most recent in 2013. The story follows Geralt of Rivia, a “witcher” who uses supernatural abilities to hunt monsters. The books achieved success and a cult following in Poland, but they were essentially unknown to Western countries until the first video game was released.

While the first two games were positively received, it was the third instalment, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, that really really took off. The game received many awards and is often regarded as one of the best role-playing games of all time. The success of the games—-selling over 33 million copies—-has also generated increased interest in the books, with Sapkowski’s works translated into English. There’s even a TV show based on the novels due to be released on Netflix later this year.

Metro 2033

Metro 2033 is the first title in the Metro video game series and was released back in 2010 for Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. A first-person shooter survival horror game based on the novel of the same name by Russian writer Dmitry Glukhovksky, the story follows survivors of a nuclear war living in the Moscow underground tunnels.

The book was a big success in itself – it was first published online in 2002 and attracted over 2 million readers before it was published in print in 2005. The novel had sold 500,000 copies in Russia by 2010, and became a bestseller both in Russia and other countries around the world. It was first translated into English in 2010 when the game was released.

The game was also a big hit, gaining favourable reviews from critics and selling over 1.5 million copies. It also spawned two successful follow-up titles: Metro: Last Light and Metro: Exodus. Glukhosky wrote two follow up novels himself and was in talks to sell the film rights to Hollywood in 2010, but ended up refusing as he didn’t agree with the proposed film setting of Washington.

So there we have it, some of the best book adaptations you may not have been aware of. Books are always being used as inspiration for films, TV shows and games, and there are many more exciting book adaptations coming up in 2019. IT Chapter Two, the sequel to the 2017 hit, will be released in September and covers the second half of Stephen King’s novel, while in October Amy Adams stars in the big screen version of the popular thriller novel The Woman in the Window, so there’s plenty to look forward to.

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Editorial Officer, I'm an avid tech enthusiast at heart. I like to mug up on new and exciting developments on science and tech and have a deep love for PC gaming. Other hobbies include writing blog posts, music and DIY projects.

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