Academy Award Books: Oscar-Winning Tomes From Years Past

It’s that time of year again, as the Oscars are upon us and red carpets, long speeches and tears of joy (and disappointment) await.

For book lovers, it also is a night of seeing how their favourite tomes fare in the bright lights of Hollywood. This year, Life of Pi is nominated for Best Picture, among other categories, and this beloved book by Yann Martel could go far. But Life of Pi certainly isn’t the only book that’s been turned into an Oscar-nominated film — you need only look at the 'adapted screenplay' category in any given year to see more examples.

But some books do a little better than others when they hit the big screen. Here are 20 books that were adapted into Oscar-winning films — including a few you may be surprised to know were ever in written form:

20 Oscar-Winning Books

Mutiny On The Bounty

By: Charles Nordhoff

The award: The film adaptation of this 1932 novel won Best Picture for 1935 and starred Charles Laughton, Clark Gable and Franchot Tone.

Gone With The Wind

By: Margaret Mitchell

The award: When this book originally published in 1936, was adapted to film, it took home the prize of Best Picture in 1939. It once again starred Clark Gable.


By: Daphne du Maurier (1938)

The award: When a naive young woman marries a rich widower and settles in his gigantic mansion, she finds the memory of the first wife maintaining a grip on her husband and the servants. This film won Best Picture in 1940.


By: William Shakespeare (approximately 1599)

The award: "To be, or not to be." The film took home the prize of Best Picture in the year 1948, though the 1996 version (with Kenneth Branagh) was also nominated for four Academy Awards.

All The King's Men

By: Robert Penn Warren (1946)

The award: Robert Rossen directed the film version of this tome. It won Best Picture for 1949, though another version was made in 2006.

Around The World In Eighty Days

By: Jules Verne

The award: This adaptation of Jules Verne's 1873 novel about a Victorian Englishman won Best Picture in the year 1956.

The Bridge Over The River Kwai

By: Pierre Boulle

The award: This film adaptation of this 1952 book starred William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins and it took home the prize of Best Picture in 1957.

Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ

By: Lew Wallace

The award: Lew Wallace wrote the book in 1880, and Karl Tunberg wrote the screenplay that took home the Oscar for Best Picture in 1959.

Romeo And Juliet

By: William Shakespeare (approximately 1594)

The award: This classic love story took the form of a musical when it was adapted into the film West Side Story, starring Natalie Wood. It won Best Picture in 1961.

Oliver Twist

By: Charles Dickens

The award: The musical adaptation of this 1838 book about an orphan won Best Picture in 1968.

The Godfather

By: Mario Puzo

The award: When Marlon Brando and Al Pacino brought this 1969 book to life in 1972, it took home the prize for Best Picture the same year.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

By: Ken Kesey (1962)

The award: There was no one better to play the role of R.P. McMurphy than Jack Nicholson. The movie won Best Picture in 1975.

Dances With Wolves

By: Michael Blake

The award: Lt. John Dunbar befriends an unlikely beast in this adaptation of the 1988 book. This film won the Oscar in 1990 for Best Picture.

The Silence Of The Lambs

By: Thomas Harris

The award: One of the scariest films ever! Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins brought Thomas Harris' characters to life in this film adaptation of the 1988 book. It won Best Picture in 1991.

Forrest Gump

By: Winston Groom

The award: Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get. In this case, the film adaptation of Groom's 1986 book starring Tom Hanks took home the award for Best Picture in 1994.

The English Patient

By: Michael Ondaatje

The award: Michael Ondaatje's 1992 book came to life on the big screen in 1996 and took home the prize for Best Picture the same year.

The Lord Of The Rings

By: J.R.R. Tolkien (1955)

The award: Hobbits and The Shire came to life the trilogy of J. R. R. Tolkien's classic trilogy that started with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the final book in the series, won Best Picture in 2003.

Brokeback Mountain

By: Annie Proulx

The award: Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger brought this 1997 love story to the screen in 2005. It took home the prize of Best Picture in the same year.

No Country For Old Men

By: Cormac McCarthy (2005)

The award: Adapted into film in 2007, this gripping story won Best Picture and starred Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin.

Slumdog Millionaire

By: Vikas Swarup

The award: Slumdog Millionaire was the adaptation of the 2005 novel Q & A by Indian author and diplomat Vikas Swarup. The film adaptation won Best Picture in 2008.

A version of this post was originally published on Random House's Retreat blog, and published here with permission.