7 Famous Movies Adapted From Short Stories

Posted by E.H. Kern

The month of May is National Short Story Month! To celebrate this form of fiction we here at Quirk Books present to you seven movies you might not know were adapted from short stories—perfect for short and sweet additions to your TBR!

The story: "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" by James Thurber
The movie: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (times two!)

First published in The New Yorker in 1939, James Thurber’s short story "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" has been adapted into a movie on two occasions. The first movie adaptation was in 1947 with Norman Z. McLeod as director and Danny Kaye playing Walter Mitty. The second adaptation was in 2013 with Ben Stiller both directing the movie and playing Walter Mitty. The name “Walter Mitty” has come to mean, "a commonplace, unadventurous person who escapes reality by daydreaming." According to Merriam-Webster, the earliest recorded use of describing someone as a “Walter Mitty” was in 1949, i.e. two years after the first movie adaptation.


The story: "The Hellbound Heart" by Clive Barker
The movie: Hellraiser

"The Hellbound Heart" is a story by Clive Barker, first published in 1986 in the third volume of Dark Harvest’s anthology series Night Visions. In 1987, "The Hellbound Heart" was adapted into the movie Hellraiser, written and directed by Clive Barker himself. Hellraiser introduced to pop culture the iconic character known as Pinhead, played by Doug Bradley.


The story: "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" by Stephen King
The movie: The Shawkshank Redemption

"Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" is a story written by Stephen King and was first published in 1982 in his story collection Different Seasons. In 1994, the story was adapted into the movie The Shawshank Redemption, directed by Frank Darabont and starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. The Shawshank Redemption was nominated for seven Academy awards, including Best Picture.


The story: "Breakfast at Tiffany's" by Truman Capote
The movie: Breakfast at Tiffany's

After much controversy because of the story’s topic and use of language, "Breakfast at Tiffany’s" by Truman Capote was finally published by Esquire in late 1958. In 1961, the story was adapted into a movie directed by Blake Edwards and starring Audrey Hepburn. When adapting the story for the silver screen, the time period was changed from the 1940s of the original story to the 1960s. Moreover, the ending was rewritten to better suit the tastes of Hollywood.


The story: "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" by Philip K. Dick
The move: Total Recall

Philip K. Dick’s short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1966. Since then, the story has been adapted for the screen on two occasions, both movies having the title Total Recall. The first Total Recall came out in 1990. It was directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The second Total Recall is from 2012 with Len Wiseman directing and starring Colin Farrell. Both movies have made significant changes to the plot. In fact, the second Total Recall has more in common with the first movie than Philip K. Dick’s original story.


The story: "Brokeback Mountain" by Annie Proulx.
The move: Brokeback Mountain

"Brokeback Mountain" by Annie Proulx is available in two versions. The first version was published by The New Yorker in 1999 while the second, and slightly extended, version is available in Proulx’s story collection Close Range: Wyoming Stories, published that same year. The story was adapted into a movie in 2005 with Ang Lee directing and starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. Brokeback Mountain won three Academy awards: one for Best Director, one for Best Score, and one for Best Adapted Screenplay. The screenplay for Brokeback Mountain was written by Diana Ossana and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Larry McMurtry.


The story: "Traumnovelle" by Arthur Schnitzler
The movie: Eyes Wide Shut

"Traumnovelle" ("dream story") by Arthur Schnitzler was first published as a serialized story in the Austrian magazine Die Dame in 1925 and 1926. In 1999, Traumnovelle was adapted into the movie Eyes Wide Shut, starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Eyes Wide Shut turned out to be director Stanley Kubrick’s last production as he passed away shortly after the movie was completed.