Another year has come and gone, more or less, and with it comes the end of the year lists. We are not immune! Neither, for that matter, can we resist the siren song of the book to movie adaptation. Some of them were actually—dare we say it—pretty good! So here are our faves (in no particular order except possibly by theme). Remember to reprimand us in the comments if we forgot your favorite!
THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE
BASED ON: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (2010)
Even though fans were worried when the franchise got itself a new director (Francis Lawrence), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire proved itself to be even better than the original. And not just because Lawrence (no relation to J-Law) did away with that dreadful, albeit purposeful, shaky cam. The film boasted better costumes, stellar acting from the original and new cast members (Johanna and Finnick, let's be BFFs?), a tighter plot and all the feels for fans and newcomers alike. Is it time for Mockingjay yet?
BASED ON: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion (2010)
This zom-rom-com (zombie romantic comedy) quickly drew comparisons to the Twilight Saga, but it was definitely more of an antidote than a knockoff. It's amazing to think that a relationship where 50% of the parties are undead could have so much life, but human Julie and zombie R warmed our hearts and souls, made us laugh and has us shipping the dead and the undead. And it helped that Rob Corddry was the most hilarious ad-libbing zombie ever.
BASED ON: The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson (1845)
Disney's newest adaptation—this time of the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale—wasn't without its share of scrutiny, but still ended up being one of the best animated films of the year. We didn't even hate the stupid comic relief snowman like we thought we would. Sure, the original story of the brother, sister and the devious Snow Queen took a totally different form, but the reliance on and later defiance of fairy tale tropes with a focus on sisterly (instead of romantic) love was a super nice change of pace. Plus, Idina Menzel singing “Let it Go” is just the best.
THOR: THE DARK WORLD
BASED ON: Marvel Comic's Thor and Norse Mythology (since before the first recorded instance of the name Thor in the 7th century-present)
Let's be honest here: Loki stole Thor: The Dark World. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Honestly, Loki should just get his own spin-off movie in which he continues to be perfection. Or a hilarious talk show where Loki is visited by other members of the Marvel universe on a weekly basis. (You're welcome Marvel. Or Disney. Or whoever is in charge of these things now. You're welcome.)
IRON MAN 3
BASED ON: Marvel Comic's Iron Man and the life of Robert Downey Jr. (1963-present)
In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark is dealing with the PTSD he suffered as a result of his near death during The Avengers. You know, that time he saved the world by flying into a wormhole to another dimension? Belated spoilers? Anyway: understandable problems. What sets this movie in the franchise apart (besides that it's nowhere near as terrible as Iron Man 2 – meaning it doesn't feature a plot with a parrot) include the inclusion of Sir Ben Kingsley in his shocking role as the Mandarin—who surprised comic books enthusiasts and non-alike—and Tony Stark getting a temporary if sassy kid sidekick. Also all the Iron Man suits. Suit up!
BASED ON: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (1994)
Whatever your feelings on author Orson Scott Card, the science fiction novel Ender's Game is a definitive book within the genre. And the fact that the film version was able to land sci-fi royalty Harrison Ford was definitely a step in the right direction. Not to mention that Sir Ben Kingsley also made an appearance in this adaptation. (Hey, dude is busy!) Unfortunately, it does downplay the Earth-based side story in the novel: that of the brilliant yet nefarious Peter Wiggins (Ender's brother) who has one of the more compelling narratives in the prose version.
THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
BASED ON: The Hobbit by J.R. Tolkien (1937)
Continuing the story that started in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug once again reunites the internet's two favorite actors: Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (even if one of them is technically a dragon). Other familiar faces include Orlando Bloom as Legolas (meh), and the fabulous, moose-riding Thranduil played by Lee Pace. Oh, and there's that much-anticipated scene in which Thorin Oakenshield (he of the oaken shield), Kili (the hot dwarf), Fili (the slightly less hot dwarf) and the rest have a barrel of a time. Yeah, we went there.
12 YEARS A SLAVE
BASED ON: Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup (1853)
This one is probably going to win all the awards in 2014 and has already begun to do so in the Film Critic's roundups in 2013. 12 Years a Slave is based on Twelve Years a Slave, the 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup (as told to David Wilson) about a slave who was born free but was later kidnapped and sold. It helps that the film features an all-star cast, which includes Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch (who is also in everything), Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Lupita Nyong'o, Sarah Paulson and Brad Pitt.
BASED ON: A Captain's Duty by Richard Phillips (2010)
Yet another media darling is Captain Phillips, and not just because everyone loves Tom Hanks (although it is statically proven that 97.6% of the world does love Tom Hanks. That's why he's playing jolly, child-loving Walt Disney and not cryogenically-frozen-head Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks.) Captain Phillips is also based on a true story, a memoir written by Captain Richard Phillips and his tale about how he was taken hostage by Somali pirates in 2009. We think the moral of the story is that a pirate's life is... not for anyone.
THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
BASED ON: The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort (2007)
To be fair, this one doesn't come out until Christmas Day, but we decided to put it on the list while simultaneously cutting Leonardo DiCaprio a break and predicting based on his other movies that this performance is Oscar-worthy (because how many memes does one man have to suffer through before the Academy starts taking him seriously?) Also, this trailer just looks amazing. And not just because of the use of Kanye West's “Black Skinhead”—this will likely shape up into another excellent true story turned memoir turned movie.
So, did we miss anything? Don't forget to let us know what your favorite book to film adaptations of the year were!