Hollywood has lost all of its originality. We are given nothing but a never-ending deluge of reboots, adaptations and sequels. I can't tell you how many times I have seen comments like that on the Youtube videos of new trailers for the latest summer sequel or comic book blockbuster.
Of course we keep seeing these unoriginal efforts, pumping Hollywood full of cash while simultaneously sending the message that we want more, but still we say it is Hollywood's fault that all originality has been lost. I am here to convince you that adaptations, sequels and reboots have the potential to be and are wonderful films.
In fact it is my hope that after reading this argument, which I have split into two parts, you will have a new outlook on Hollywood's obsession with adaptations and sequels.
I am so sick of Transformers. The fact that it had the best opening of 2014 tells me you are not.
Has Hollywood really lost its originality over the last couple of decades? Or was it lost a long time before that? Maybe Hollywood never had any originality in the first place.
Let us consider the 20 highest grossing movies adjusted for inflation. Films that are either adaptations or sequels are in bold:
The Top 20 Highest Grossing Films (Adjusted for Inflation)
- Gone with the Wind (1939). Adapted from a book by Margaret Mitchell.
- Star Wars (1977). Original story created using elements of the Flash Gordon serials and old western and samurai films.
- The Sound of Music (1965). Adapted from the memoirs of Maria Augusta Trapp entitledThe Story of the Trapp Family Singers.
- E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Released 1982. Original story written by Melissa Mathieson.
- Titanic Released 1997. Historical fiction written by James Cameron.
- The Ten Commandments (1956). Based on the Exodus story found in the Bible.
- Jaws (1975). Adapted from the book by Peter Benchley.
- Dr. Zhivago (1965). Adapted from the book by Boris Pasternak.
- The Exorcist (1973). Adapted from the book by Peter Blatty.
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). Adapted from the tale told by the Brothers Grimm.
- One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961). Adapted from the novel by Dodie Smith
- Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Sequel to Star Wars.
- Ben-Hur (1959). Adapted from the novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace.
- Avatar (2009). Original (technically) story by James Cameron.
- Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983). Sequel toThe Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars.
- Jurassic Park (1993). Adapted from the novel written by Michael Crichton.
- Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999). Prequel to Star Wars.
- The Lion King (1994). Original story very loosely based on Shakespeare's Hamlet.
- The Sting (1973). Original story by David S. Ward.
- Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Original (again technically) story by George Lucas and Phillip Kaufman. As an aside, it has been noted that the character of Indiana Jones bares a striking resemblence to Harry Steele who was played by Charlton Heston in Secret of the Incas. Seriously, check out this article, it's nuts!
Don't worry Georgey, I'm sure nobody will notice.
Of the twenty most successful movies of all time, only seven were original stories, but even the original stories borrowed from other sources such as history, literary works and other films. Three of the films on the list were sequels or prequels and the rest, 10 out of the 20 films listed, were adapted from books.
Now I know what you high-brow intellects are thinking: Just because a movie is commercially successful, does not mean the film is any good. Well, as much as I hate to admit it, you arrogant tools are right. Commercial success does not a good movie make.
Seriously guys, I don't get it.
So let's take a look at the top ten movies of all time as ranked by the American Film Institute, aka an organization filled entirely with snooty jerks who I am secretly jealous of because they get paid to eat, breathe and sleep films.
What I imagine goes on inside the American Film Institute.
As the institute has produced some of the most gifted filmmakers, I think their opinion holds a little bit of weight. Here are the top ten films, adaptations and bio-pics are bolded:
Top Ten Films of All Time (According to Film Snobs)
- Citizen Kane (1941). Original story by Orson Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz.
- Casablanca (1942). Adapted from the novel Everybody Comes to Ricks by Murray Burnett & Joan Alison.
- The Godfather (1972). Adapted from the novel by Mario Puzo
- Gone with the Wind (1939). Adapted from a book by Margaret Mitchell.
- Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Based on the life of T.E. Lawrence. Screenplay by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson.
- The Wizard of Oz (1939). Adapted from the novel,The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.
- The Graduate (1967). Adapted from the novel by Charles Webb.
- On the Waterfront (1954). Original story by Budd Schulberg.
- Schindler's List (1993). Based on Schindler's Ark, by Thomas Keneally.
- Singin' in the Rain (1952). Original story by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
There you have it. Of the ten best films of all time as rated by the AFI, there are three completely original stories, one is a bio-pic and six are adapted from books. You are probably surprised to find that some of your most beloved movies, films you have praised as being the best of Hollywood, the very pinnacle of creativity and originality, were simply adaptations of books.
So now that you can see that some of the greatest films ware born of the page, I hope you are open to the idea of adaptations actually being springboard for creativity. If you are still not convinced, please allow me one more list. Stanley Kubrick is widely considered to be one of the most innovative and progressive filmmakers to ever get behind the camera. The following are Kubrick films which are adaptations:
Stanley Kubrick Adaptations
- The Killing (Based on: Clean Break by Lionel White).
- Paths of Glory (Based on: Paths of Glory by Humphrey Cobb)
- Spartacus (Based onSpartacus by Howard Fast)
- Lolita (Based on Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov)
- Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Based on: Red Alert by Peter George)
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (Based on: "The Sentinel" by Arthur C. Clarke)
- A Clockwork Orange (Based on A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess)
- The Shining (Based onThe Shining by Stephen King)
- Full Metal Jacket (Based on The Short-Timers by Gustav Hasford)
- Eyes Wide Shut (Based on Dream Story by Arthur Schnitzler)
So yeah, pretty much every Kubrick movie you love was adapted from either a short story or a novel. Seriously, how was that man able to persuade so many authors to let him come in and muck about with their precious stories? He must have had an incredibly seductive face.
Be still my heart! I can only hope to one day master the art of seductive looks as Stanley clearly did!
Keep an eye out for part two of this entry. In it I will discuss why Hollywood loves to do adaptations, sequels and reboots, and why books are more likely to produce better, more original stories than movies.
Also I may just post some more sexy pictures of directors.