The best science fiction movies adapted from books is a thin list. There are loads of bad science fiction movies adapted poorly from their brilliant novels. Loads of good sci-fi novels were made into really bad movies (or in some cases, merely mediocre movies) — too many to list here. But in this article we want to focus on the best sci-fi movies that truly captured the magic of the novels they were based on. In some cases, they even surpassed.
Here are the top 20 Sci-Fi movies adapted to screen from books.
1 - Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boule. Directed by F. J. Schaffner in 1968, this film met and exceeded all expectations. Roddy McDowell and the crew took this novel idea and made it something unique and special. It stands the test of time.
2 - The Thing directed by John Carpenter, based on the short story "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell. A novellette of about 60 pages, this story was great, but the movie brought it to new heights! Fantastic, suspenseful, artful.
3 - Bladerunner based on the novella "Do Androids Dream About Electric Sheep?" by Philip K. Dick, the movie is miles above the novella. This is a rare case of the screen adaptation giving us more than the short book ever did. Harrison Ford and a slew of special cinematic scenes gave us a movie to remember.
4 - 2001 A Space Odyssey. Based on Arthur C. Clarke's novel of the same name. Stanley Kubrick directed.
5 - Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. Spielberg did a good job on this adaptation.
6 - Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy based on the book by Douglas C. Adams
7 - Enemy Mine. 1985 directed by Wolfgang Peterson, this was based on a novella by Barry B. Longyear. The movie was actually even better. Performances by Louis Gossett Jr. and Dennis Quaid were among their best.
8 - Logan's Run by William F. Nolan, published in 1967. In 1976 Michael Anderson brought it to the big screen. Despite low-gear special effect (considered good at that time), the movie holds true to the book.
9 - Starship Troopers based on the novel by Robert A. Heinlein. On the screen, Paul Verhoeven's direction did a good job of giving us some nice sci-fi ships, creepy crawlers, and action.
10 - Ready Player One based on the novel by Ernest Cline. The 2018 movie did it justice.
11 - War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. The 1958 adaptation was brilliant. The 2001 Cruise/Spielberg fiasco, not so much. How long can the little girl keep screaming? No one cares. But the earlier version was fantastic and sparked imagination for years to come.
12 - The Martian by Andy Weir
13 - Ender's Game based on the novel by Orson Scott Card. The movie starred Harrison Ford and was directed by Gavin Hood.
14 - The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney
15 - The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
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16 - A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
17 - The Iron Giant by Ted Hughes
18 - Arrival based on a novelette "Story of your Life" by Ted Chiang, directed by Denis Villeneuve.
19 - Minority Report by Philip K. Dick. Another example of the movie surpassing the book.
20 - Children of Men by P.D. James
Special Mention: Guardians of the Galaxy is the best movie based on a graphic novel / comic book.
The Expanse by James S.A. Corey. Technically this is a TV series, but the opening 6 episodes make for a good movie.
One of the worst screen adaptations was Lynch's Dune (1985). Will Denis Villeneuve's version make it to the list when Part II of the movie comes out? Time will tell.
Those are the top 20 book to movie transformations in science fiction. Now get back to reading. The next big Hollywood hit is on the pages of a novel somewhere.