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10 of Hannah Sternberg's Greatest Hits

4. May 10, 2013: The Five Most Surprising Movie Adaptations

Screw the book, these were better.

The critics are chattering about Baz Luhrmann's highly anticipated The Great Gatsby. They fall into two camps: those who watched the movie for itself, and those who closely compared it to the book. Even though I appreciate F. Scott Fitzgerald's seminal work, I'll be going to the theater as a member of the first camp. Adaptations are rarely successful when the goal is a strict translation of the book to the screen. Even if a movie's based on a book, I try to judge it as a movie in its own right, as if the book had never existed. Just to prove how unimportant The Great Gatsby's faithfulness to the book is, here are four examples of absolutely amazing, beautiful, gripping, classic movies (and a TV show) that took an existing story and threw expectations out the window to make something completely original.

5. The Adaptation Most People Don't Know Is an Adaptation: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Did you know that O Brother Where Art Thou?, the Coen brothers' rollicking adventure comedy through the Depression-era South, is a loose retelling of Homer's Odyssey? If you didn't, pick up the DVD and rewatch it (well, you should rewatch it anyway even if you did already know because it's that good) and see if you can recognize the sirens, the cyclops, and the hydra.

4.The Adaptation the Author Hated: Breakfast at Tiffany's

I can't think of better proof that a movie's faithfulness to the book means nothing about its quality. Truman Capote, author of the original short story "Breakfast at Tiffany's," originally wanted Marilyn Monroe cast as Holly Golightly, and famously ranted when he heard that Audrey Hepburn was cast instead: "Paramount has double-crossed me in every way." The movie, which catapulted Hepburn from screen darling to enduring style icon, also abandoned the second half of Capote's plot.