What do “a boy who lived”, “romantic vampire”, and a “BDSM obsessed billionaire” have in common? Yes, They all come from white page to silver screen!
Well, they all star in some of the highest-grossing film adaptations in history, of course. We’ve all heard the phrase, “I’ll just wait for the movie.” Honestly, it’s something I’ve been guilty of saying when a book seemed too long or daunting to read. But there’s something cosmic that happens when the worlds of bookworms and movie geeks collide. I mean, it’s one thing to top the bestseller list, but it’s another to break the box office charts. When a title manages to succeed at both, it’s a true mark of rich story lines and captivating characters.
Here, we’ve gathered a list of the 15 highest-grossing book-to-film adaptations based on the cumulative box office figures for each franchise. If the list were full of selects based on individual box office grosses, it would consist mostly of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings titles. Also notably absent from this list is one thing that is currently conquering the box office: superheroes. While one could argue that caped crusaders, like Batman, Superman, and Captain America, are also book-to-movie adaptations, they technically hail from comic book strips. So, we’ve decided to focus on properties that began as novels. Ahead, the most successful book-to-film adaptations of all time
1. ‘Jurassic Park’
Based On: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, published in 1990.
The Films: Director Steven Spielberg has been adapting beloved novels for the big screen since the early days of his career, beginning with Jaws (1975). But it’s his adaptation of “Jurassic Park” in 1993 that makes the cut here. The film launched an entire franchise, consisting of two direct sequels and a rebooted Jurassic World trilogy. It turns out dinosaurs equal big box office numbers because the six Jurassic films have grossed a combined $5 billion.
Based On: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, published in 2005 and followed by five novels.
The Films: Let’s run down the checklist on this one. Hot teen stars? Check. A gushing romance? Yep. Fantasy elements? Of course. This one has all the makings of a hit. When the first film launched in 2008, it was unsure whether or not it would be a hit, but it turns out that the vampire romance film was exactly what audiences were craving. The original film launched Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson into the global spotlight. The first four novels (Meyer recently released Midnight Sun) were adapted into five films, splitting the then-final novel into two films. The film series concluded in 2012 with a final tally of $3.3 billion at the box office.
3. ‘The Hunger Games’
Based On: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, published in 2008 and followed by two novels.
The Films: The big-screen adaptation of the dystopian Hunger Games saga introduced the world to Jennifer Lawrence. Although it wasn’t the star’s first film role, it was, at the time, her largest. The big-screen series bowed in theaters in 2012. All three books were adapted—splitting the third book into two films. The Hunger Games saga grossed $2.9 billion across four films.
4. ‘The Lord of the Rings’
Based On: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien, published in 1954 and followed by two novels.
The Films: Peter Jackson’s entire trilogy of fantasy epics were filmed over the course of a single year, wrapping up production in December 2000. The first film was released in 2001 to a massive box office intake of $833 million. Combined, the trilogy grossed has over $2.9 billion at the global box office.
5. ‘The Hobbit’
Based On: The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, published in 1937.
The Films: The Lord of the Rings prequel trilogy, which debuted in cinemas in 2012, was a welcomed trip back to the shire. There is technically only one Hobbit book, but Peter Jackson’s adaptation split the story into three films, which proved to be the right choice. The films grossed a combined $2.9 billion, with part one kicking-off the trilogy with a series-high tally of $1 billion.
6. ‘Harry Potter’
Based On: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling, published in 1997 and followed by six novels.
The Films: It should come as no surprise that the boy wizard conjures the top spot on this list. The eight films based on Rowling’s seven fantasy novels have grossed a combined $7.7 billion at the global box office. That’ll buy a lot of magic wands. The eighth film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, which grossed $1.3 billion in 2011, is the highest-grossing book-to-movie adaptation in history.
7. ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’
Based On: TheChronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, published in 1950 and followed by six novels.
The Films: The literary children’s saga, which boasts seven books, has been revived many times over the years. In 2005, a big-budget retelling of Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe hit cinemas and grossed $745 million. Two sequels followed, adaptations of the second and third books, in 2008 and 2010, respectively. Combined, the trilogy has grossed $1.5 billion. The journey to Narnia will soon make the leap from the big screen to Netflix for the adaptation of the fourth book, The Silver Chair.
8. ‘Fantastic Beasts’
Based On: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J. K. Rowling, published in 2001.
The Films: Amid the insanity that was the Harry Potter phenomenon, Rowling published a spin-off wizardry guidebook that has now been launched into a film franchise of its own. Thus far, there have been two entries in the Fantastic Beasts franchise, and they’ve grossed a combined $1.4 billion at the global box office. A third film is currently in production, with fourth and fifth installments already in the works. While it’s unlikely that Beasts will best Potter’s total at the end of its run, the series will likely stack on a few billion, adding that much more magic to the Potter cache.
9. ‘The Da Vinci Code’
Based On: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, published in 2003, followed by three novels and preceded by one.
The Films: The Robert Langdon mystery thriller saga includes The Da Vinci Code, released in 2003, followed by adaptations of Angels & Demons in 2009 and Inferno in 2016. The second film in the trilogy, Angels & Demons, is actually the first novel of the series, but it was retooled as a sequel for the big screen. The series, helmed by Ron Howard, has grossed over $1.4 billion, with the first film’s $760 million haul being the largest of the three.
10. ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’
Based On: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, published in 2011 and followed by two novels.
The Films: The world was quickly seduced by suave billionaire Christian Grey in the steamy book trilogy, so it’s no surprise that the big-screen adaptations tied up a combined $1.3 billion at the global box office. The first film, released in 2015, grossed a series-high of $571 million, and is the highest-grossing erotic romance of all time.