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Academy Awards: Books that inspired Oscar-winning movies

Check out the source material that influenced the Academy’s top films!

The Academy Awards are just around the corner. And with that, expectations are raised as to who will take home the Oscar statuette. Despite Best Picture is the most popular category, bookworms rarely miss the chance to read a good story coming from the “Best Adapted Screenplay” category.

Of course, this is because we know that many movies are often based on books, adapting a captivating story for the big screen— or maybe for our laptops and smartphones once they’re available on a streaming platform. By the way, here’s a list of every nominated picture available right now on streaming.

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You might find interesting: 10 Forgotten Oscar-Winning Movies You Should Really Rewatch

Going back to the above, some of these books served as the inspiration for Oscar winners, especially for those who are part of the list of Academy Award records.

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With this in mind, why not check out the source material that influenced the Academy’s top films?

Here are some of those books!

The Lord of the Rings

Film: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Record: Most awards won by a single film, Largest sweep (winning awards in every nominated category)

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Of course, as a fan of the books, I had to mention the Lord of the Rings by the legendary J.R.R. Tolkien! We know the plot: A fellowship is formed with the quest to destroy Sauron’s ring to save Middle-earth.

OK, I summarized it way too much because, like an iceberg, Tolkien’s saga develops many relevant themes, iconic characters, memorable frames, among others. Therefore, the task of adapting this literary work was not an easy task.

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However, Peter Jackson managed to create a trilogy that has been considered by many as a masterpiece. So much so that his third installment, The Return of the King, is currently one of the three films that have won the most Oscars; likewise, it has been the only movie to have won all the categories for which it was nominated!

Not to mention that the trilogy won 17 Academy Awards in total. A toast to Tolkien and the film crew! *Raises an ale from ‘The Green Dragon’*

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The Wisdom of Eve

Film: All About Eve (1950)

Record: Most nominations received by a single film

During the 23rd Academy Awards Ceremony, All About Eve received 14 Oscar nominations, beating the previous record of 13 set by Gone with the Wind. The film is based on The Wisdom of Eve, a short story of Mary Orr.

Written as a play, The Wisdom of Eve follows Eve Harrington, an innocent woman who rises to Broadway stardom. Orr’s story allows the readers to get immersed into an engrossing and revealing “inside” story of life in New York’s theatre world.

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Although Mary’s work would be adapted for All About Eve, the Oscar-winning movie didn’t mention Orr in its screen credits! Hopefully, this paragraph serves as a kind of justice for the author. After all, there would have been no movie without her short story!

The Silence of the Lambs

Film: The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Record: Big Five winners

Hello, Clarice! The Silence of the Lambs was Thomas Harris’s second novel of a psychological horror that would be the basis of one of the most iconic villains in film history: Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

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Unlike other book adaptations, The Silence of the Lambs’s1991 movie is almost similar to the novel in the sense that the film maintains the essence of its source: An enthralling plot led by its charming characters.

I mean, as someone who has read the book, Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster nailed it when portraying the psychological interaction between Hannibal and Clarice!

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Like its film version, Harris’s novel has its own merits, such as winning the Bram Stoker Award and the Anthony Award for “best novel”. No wonder this book became the adaptation of the only Best Picture Oscar winner widely considered a horror film!

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Film: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Record: Big Five winners

Another book that was a basis of the Academy’s Big Five winners (a.k.a. Films that received the Big Five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay—Original or Adapted).

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, written by Ken Kesey, was published in 1962 in the midst of the American Civil Rights Movement. Likewise, it was during this decade that the psychological and psychiatric approach was going through a change in the country.

Because of this, Kesey’s novel portrayal of the patient-staff dynamic served as a study of institutional processes and the human mind, becoming a literary critique of psychiatry, and a reminder of individualistic principles’ importance.

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest has been considered by many as one of the greatest novels ever written, Time’s 100 Best English-language Novels, and listed by BBC as UK’s 200 best-loved novels.

Still, not everyone shares the same opinions like the ones mentioned above. In the world of reading, the book is one of America’s most challenged and banned novels, as it has been prohibited in public schools from 1974 to 2000.

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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Film: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Record: Most awards won by a foreign-language film

Sheath the swords! Because this book is packed with fast-paced action, well-developed characters, and a series of ambition-filled obstacles that will test loyalty. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a Chinese serialized novel, which was published between 1941 and 1942, by Wang Dulu.

This book is the fourth work of a ‘pentalogy’ that is collectively called the Crane-Iron Series—five novels that narrate the struggles of four generations of youxia, a.k.a. wandering heroes.

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Dulu’s book has been adapted multiple times, from movies and TV shows to comic book series. Yet, perhaps the most well-known of these is Ang Lee’s 2000 film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Although the latter is loosely based on the book, it managed to introduce the Western World to the wuxia tradition, a Chinese genre of fiction concerning the adventures of martial artists.

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But, instead of doing it authentically, it was done from the director’s perspective, the same case as with the author, allowing both of them the creative freedom of portraying an important aspect of the country’s culture.

Whether you loved the movie or are drawn to martial arts content combined with an intriguing story, perhaps the Wang Dulu series will be high on your ‘books to read’ list!

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