Hate Film Adaptations? Think Again.

With short story month now underway, one of the first questions that comes to everyone’s minds may be, who really reads short stories aside from MFA students and high school English classes?

As it turns out, filmmakers do.

Below is a list of short story adaptations that might make you rethink how you look at the genre and maybe even start writing.


It’s a Wonderful Life (1947)

“The Greatest Gift” by Philip Van Doren Stern

After working almost four years on the story, Stern was unable to find a publisher and decided to send around 200 copies of the piece to his friends as a Christmas present. The movie rights were sold to RKO pictures one year later. How’s that for a Christmas story?


3:10 to Yuma (1957) (2007), based on “3:10 to Yuma” by Elmore Leonard

This New Orleans-born author has had nineteen novels or short stories adapted for the big screen, and several others for TV. Kind of makes you feel lazy.


Tell Tale Heart, based on“The Tell Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe

It is probably no surprise that a story as iconic as Poe’s “Tell Tale Heart” was made into a movie. What may be surprising is that there are at least 5 of them: (1934) (1941) (1953) (1960) (2014). The most recent is set to come out in February of 2014 and stars Rose McGowan, filmed here in New Orleans. Poe’s “Pit and the Pendulum” and “Fall of the House of Usher” were also made into movies.


Memento (2000), “Memento Mori” by Jonathan Nolan

Inspired by a general psychology class he was taking, Jonathan Nolan wrote the first draft of his story and then sent it to his filmmaker brother, Christopher, who adapted it into a screenplay.


Rear Window (1954), based on “It Had to Be Murder” by Cornell Woolrich

One of Hitchcock’s most famous films (and arguably his best) was actually inspired by a short story inspired by another short story. Woolrich’s story was based on H.G. Wells’ “Through a Window.” Make of this what you will regarding creative borrowing. As for me, “I’m not much for rear window ethics.”


Rashomon (1950), based on “Rashomon” & “In a Grove” by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa

Another iconic filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa, combines two of Akutagawa’s stories to create a masterpiece that is still used today to explain unreliable narration. The tale inspired the term, “the Rashomon effect”, which refers to the problems that can occur when attempting to uncover the truth of an event using multiple eyewitnesses.


Total Recall (1990) (2012), based on “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick

Any Phillip K. Dick fan will tell you that there is a long list of films inspired by his short stories. But with the Govenator coming to town to film a new Terminator movie, I decided this one would be the most appropriate. Have a favorite not on the list? Leave a reply below so people can check it out!

Jack Belli is a blog writer for Bayou who enjoys books, stuff, and thaangs.

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