That's a Great Question: 44 Girlie Picks

Movies based on books written by women

We get all kinds of excellent questions at the Reference Desk here at the Main library. Recently a caller asked,

I can think of three great movies based on books written by women. They are Giant (Edna Ferber), To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee), and Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell). Can you tell me some other ones?

We librarians love this kind of question and had a wonderful time coming up with answers. These will probably not all meet your definition of "great movies," but we thought of a pretty wide range of titles:  

  1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath | 1979 film directed by Larry Peerce, starring Marilyn Hassett and Julie Harris
  2. Beloved by Toni Morrison | 1998 film directed by Jonathan Demme, starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover
  3. Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding | 2001 film directed by Sharon Maguire, starring Renée Zellweger and Hugh Grant
  4. Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx | 2005 film directed by Ang Lee, starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal
  5. Carol (published in the US as The Price of Salt) by Patricia Highsmith  | 2015 film directed by Todd Haynes, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara
  6. The Color Purple by Alice Walker | 1985 film directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, and Oprah Winfrey
  7. The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger | 2006 film directed by David Frankel, starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway
  8. Divergent by Veronica Roth | 2014 film directed by Neil Burger, starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James and Kate Winslet ... Note: the second and third books in this series have also been made into movies. A fourth movie, based on the second half of the third book, may be released directly to television.
  9. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert | 2010 film directed by starring Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem
  10. Emma by Jane Austen | 1996 film directed by Douglas McGrath, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and James Cosmo ... Note: Clueless, the 1995 film starring Alicia Silverstone, is an adaptation of Emma
  11. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James | 2015 film directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan
  12. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley | 1931 film directed by James Whale, starring Colin Clive, Mae Clarke and Boris Karloff  ... Note: among the many versions, adaptations, and parodies of this novel/film, Young Frankenstein, directed by Mel Brooks and starring Gene Wilder, remains a perennial favorite
  13. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg | 1991 film directed by Jon Avnet, starring Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy
  14. The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins | 2016 film directed by Tate Taylor, starring Emily Blunt and Haley Bennett                                                                
  15. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn | 2014 film directed by David Fincher, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike
  16. Cover Image for Handmaid's Tale DVDThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood | 1990 film directed by Volker Schlöndorff, starring Natasha Richardson and Faye Dunaway ... Note: also a TV series available right now on Hulu
  17. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling | 2001 film directed by Chris Columbus, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson ... Note: and don't miss the rest of the series - six more books were adapted into seven more films
  18. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers | 1968 film directed by Robert Ellis Miller, starring Alan Arkin and Sondra Locke
  19. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson | 1963 film (titled The Haunting) directed by Robert Wise, starring Julie Harris and Claire Bloom
  20. Cover image of Hidden Figures bookHidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly | 2016 film directed by Theodore Melfi, starring Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer
  21. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende | 1993 film directed by Bille August, starring Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep
  22. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins | 2012 film directed by Gary Ross, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson ... Note: There are two more books in this series, which were adapted into three more movies
  23. Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice | 1994 film directed by Neil Jordan, starring Tom Cruise and Bradd Pitt
  24. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë | 1943 film directed by Robert Stevenson, staring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine
  25. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan | 1993 film directed by Wayne Wang, starring Tamlyn Tomita and Rosalind Chao
  26. Cover image for Kiki's Delivery ServiceKiki's Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono | 1989 film directed by Hayao Miyazaki, starring Minami Takayama and Rei Sakuma
  27. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel | 1992 film directed by Alfonso Arau, starring Marco Leonardi and Lumi Cavazos                                                         
  28. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott | 1933 film directed by George Cukor, starring Katharine Hepburn and Joan Bennett 
  29. Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser | 2006 film directed by Sofia Coppola, starring Kirsten Dunst and Marianne Faithfull
  30. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie | 1974 film directed by Sidney Lumet, starring Lauren Bacall and Ingrid Bergman 
  31. Orlando by Virginia Woolf | 1992 film directed by Sally Potter, starring Tilda Swinton and Billy Zane
  32. Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (a pseudonym of Karen Blixen) | 1985 film directed by Sydney Pollack, starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford
  33. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi | 2007 film directed by Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi, starring Chiara Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve
  34. Peyton Place by Grace Metalious | 1957 film directed by Mark Robson,starring Lana Turner and Hope Lange
  35. Push by Sapphire | 2009 film (titled Precious) directed by Lee Daniels, starring Gabourey Sidibe and Mo'Nique
  36. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen | 1995 BBC mini-series, starring Colin Firth and Susannah Harker ... Note: Ok, we're cheating with this one, as it's a mini-series and not a film. But we feel justified because Colin Firth! If you do want to see an actual film adaptation, there's one with Keira Knightley that was released in 2005
  37. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark | 1969 film directed by Ronald Neame, starring Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens
  38. Room by Emme Donoghue | 2015 film directed by Lenny Abrahamson, starring Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay
  39. cover image for Secret Life of Bees bookThe Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd | 2008 film directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, starring Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson and Queen Latifah
  40. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen | 1995 film directed by Ang Lee, starring Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman and Kate Winslet
  41. Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith | 1951 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Farley Granger and Robert Walker 
  42. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith | 1999 film directed by Anthony Minghella, starring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law
  43. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer | 2008 film directed by Catherine Hardwicke, starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson ... Note: the remaining three books in this series were released as four films
  44. Wild by Cheryl Strayed | 2014 film directed by Jean-Marc Vallée starring Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern

What have we missed? Please use the comments section to tell us some of your favorite movies based on books written by women!


For the only passable

For the only passable adaption of Wuthering Heights ever made, I'd seek out the 1954 film directed by Luis Buñuel.

The Vice-Consul by Marguerite Duras became her own 1975 film India Song starring Delphine Seyrig.

Malina by Ingeborg Bachmann was adapted into a screenplay by Elfriede Jelinek. The 1991 film stars Isabelle Huppert.

Oh! And Susan Sontag's films are really something extra.

It, the quintessential

It, the quintessential flapper movie starring Clara Bow, based on the novel by Elinor Glyn.

Imotation of Life (the 1930s movie is better, but there's also one from the 50s) is kind of a mess but super interesting. Based on the book by Fanny Hurst. The book has a fascinating backstory as it came out of Hurst's friendship with / employment of Zora Neale Hurston and ended up with Hurston refusing to help with adding "authenticity" to a book that in today's terminology we would call "problematic" at best but which was a huge sensation in its day. Not Hurston's fault that this exists, because that was not her job, but I'm just fascinated by this "friendship." There are lots of good articles about the two of them.

Giant from 1956, based on Edna Ferber's book.

Mrs. Miniver, based on the book by Jan Struther.

There are so so many more.



Anne of Green Gables by Lucy

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Wonderful 1985 version and current Netflix version now streaming is fantastic.

What do you think?

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