So many films come out every year, and it’s not always obvious just how many are actually adaptations of books. Action movies and thriller movies are especially likely to be adapted from novels. It’s true that there are plenty of original movie screenplays out there, but tons of great movies get their start as books. You may have heard of these popular movies, but have you heard of the books they’re based on? Some of these movies stick closely to the plot of the original thriller books, crime novels, mysteries, and horror books they’re based on. Some of them draw loose inspiration from books, but rework the plot in significant ways. Either way, these films—and the books they’re adapted from—are worth a watch and a read. Here are seven crime films that are based on mystery & thriller books you may or may not have heard of before.
A Simple Favor
A Simple Favor is adapted from the 2017 novel of the same name by Darcey Bell. The film follows Stephanie Smothers, a widowed single mother who runs a vlog sharing recipes, craft ideas, and tips for parents. She befriends a woman named Emily Nelson, a PR manager for a glamorous fashion company, and the two bond quickly, trading secrets and becoming close over drinks. But soon Emily vanishes mysteriously, and Stephanie, desperate to figure out what happened to her, is caught up in the web of secrets and lies surrounding her friend.
I Know What You Did Last Summer
The classics ’90s slasher film I Know What You Did Last Summer is actually adapted from a 1973 YA novel of the same name by Lois Duncan. Though the film draws inspiration from the book, the plot was significantly reworked. It tells the story of four friends who, after a year of covering up a car accident that led to a man’s death, find themselves stalked by a terrifying killer. Two sequels (I Still Know What You Did Last Summer and I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer) were also released, though neither is based on the original novel.
Shutter Island is a psychological thriller based on Dennis Lehane’s 2003 novel. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a deputy U.S. marshal assigned to investigate a psychiatric facility on Shutter Island after a patient mysteriously disappears. Much like the book it’s based on, the film has the feel of a classic thriller, with plenty of action sequences, and many satisfying twists and turns.
There’s Someone Inside Your House
There’s Someone Inside Your House is a slasher film adapted from a novel of the same name, written by Stephanie Perkins in 2017. Makani Young is a high school senior who has just moved from her home in Hawaii to live with her grandmother in the small town of Osbourne, Nebraska. She’s still adjusting to her new life—and still haunted by the past that led her there—when she gets caught up in a series of gruesome murders at her high school.
Many spy thrillers and action films are adapted from books, including Red Sparrow, which is based on Jason Matthews’s 2013 novel Red Sparrow. Though Matthews, a former CIA member, didn’t write the screenplay, he did act as an advisor for the film, sharing his knowledge of spying. Set in contemporary Russia, the movie follows Dominika Egorova, a former ballet dancer turned Russian intelligence operative, who is sent on a mission to meet a member of the CIA. Her bosses are hoping this meeting will help them uncover a mole—but very little goes to plan.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Okay, so maybe you knew this was a book. It’s resoundingly popular in the bookish community, but we’d be remiss not to mention it. The 2011 film The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was nominated for several Academy Awards. It’s based on the 2005 crime novel by Swedish writer Stieg Larsson. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is the first book in Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, though only the first book has been adapted in the United States. The film, a dark psychological thriller, was an immediate commercial success and has been praised highly by critics as well. It follows a Swedish journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, who recruits the help of a talented computer hacker to help him solve the mystery of a girl who went missing four decades earlier.
No Country for Old Men
A cold-blooded psychopath on a mission to snuff out anyone in his path, No Country for Old Men has an intriguing history in literature and cinema. It’s said to be based on actual events and known as one of the best neo-Westerns in American film. Though there are nuances to the characters and their actions, really, this film is about hunting and being hunted. Chigurh, played by Javier Bardem, is a captivating study in merciless killing—one of the first people on screen to terrify the heck out of us. The book by the same name was written by Cormac McCarthy in 2005 and is a part of the Border Trilogy.