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The 411 Movies Top 5 3.21.14: Top 5 Young Adult Adaptations
Posted by Shawn S. Lealos on 03.21.2014

Welcome to Week 418 of the Movie Zone Top 5. My name is Shawn S. Lealos and you have entered my world.

The 411mania writers were given the following instructions: Young Adult Novel Adaptations: Other than Harry Potter and Hunger Games, keep in mind those movies that may not be the more obvious ones, like Princess Bride and other classic young adult novels turned into movies.


Bryan Kristopowitz

Honorable Mentions: To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), Stardust (2007), The Golden Compass (2007), The Princess Diaries (2001), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), The Wizard of Oz (1939)

5. Freaky Friday (2003)

The 1976 version starring Jodie Foster is a fine movie, but the most recent version, featuring Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan, is a cut above. It's funnier than the Foster one; the acting is better (Curtis is brilliant, and Lohan is a perfect mimic of the uptight Curtis). And the overall feel of it just plays better. It's too bad Lohan didn't continue along this path as she showed here that she could be a viable star. She could have been a future Jamie Lee Curtis type. And Mark Harmon is great, too, as Curtis' love interest. Why can't Hollywood make more comedies like this one?

4. Bridge to Terabithia (2007)

I was shocked at how both heartwarming and God-awful depressing this movie is when I saw it back in 2007. Watching the friendship grow between Josh Hutcherson's Jess Aarons and Anna Sophia Robb's Leslie Burke is a highlight of the 2000's. Leslie is a carefree spirit and her charisma is infectious, and you never doubt that she would be friends with Jess eventhough he isn't like her at all. The ending, though, is just a downer. It's a necessary downer, yes, but it's still jarring and sad. That patch of woods where Jess and Leslie "created" the magical land of Terabithia is just woods, but it comes to life when she's there. When she isn't there, though, her spirit is there to help things move along. I love this movie.

3. Shane (1953)

I watched Shane in middle school right after reading the novel and the first thing I noticed was how the Shane character was lightened up for the movie. Shane, as played by the great Alan Ladd, was certainly mysterious and dangerous, but he wasn't dressed all in black and he was smiling the first time we see him. I can't remember an instance in the novel where Shane was happy or smiled or anything like that. He seemed more even keeled, smooth. Jack Palance is excellent as the cattle rancher's bad ass hired gun Jack Wilson, and the kid that's essentially telling the story, Joey as played by Brandon De Wilde, is way more annoying in the movie than in the book. The book is a classic, and the movie is a classic, too. Shane is one of the toughest cinema heroes of all time.

2. The Princess Bride (1987)

This timeless bit of whimsy works so well because it manages to balance swashbuckling fantasy action bits with heavy drama and darkness. There's a princess, a giant, a dastardly prince, a hero dressed in black, Mandy Patinkin with a kick ass sword, and a bad guy that keeps saying "Inconceivable!" (how long do you think it took for animals to chew on Vizzini's dead body? A day or two? I've wondered about that since the first time I saw the movie). Of course, there's Billy Crystal as Miracle Max, a sort of wizard. But the scene that sticks out in my head the most is the scene where Cary Elwes' Wesley as the man-in-black and Robin Wright's Buttercup talk about life. When Wesley says "Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something" I started thinking about how true that is. It's an amazing sentiment and an amazing scene. And, yeah, the whole "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." You can never, ever forget that. And you can never forget that the whole story is being told by a grandfather to his sullen, annoying "modern" grandson. It's wonderful how the kid, played by Fred Savage, comes around at the end. If only real life could work that way

1. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

As much as I love Tim Burton, his version of this Roald Dahl book is just awful. I mean, both movies have a creep factor, but Burton's movie, at least to me, just seems to be creepy for the sake of creepiness. Willy Wonka, starring the great Gene Wilder and directed by the incomparable Mel Stuart, has an amazing heart at the center of it, and it's why people will still be watching it in 50 years (I seriously doubt anyone will watch the Burton version in another ten years). The songs all work (except that one Charlie's mother sings), and the movie's sense of humor is just... when I hear Gene Wilder flip out at the end of the movie about the fizzy lifting drinks I laugh out loud. Man, I want to go watch this again. I'm starting to hear the "Pure Imagination" song in my head.

Michael Weyer

Honorable Mentions: The entire Harry Potter franchise (couldn't narrow it down to just one entry), The Lord of the Rings trilogy (decided it leans a bit more to the adult side and makes a lot of changes from original text); The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; The Neverending Story; The Witches; The Outsiders; Rumble Fish; The Perks of Being a Wallflower

5. The Hunger Games

On the massive "making of" documentary on the movie's Blu-Ray, someone nails why it works so well: "It wasn't what everyone expected but it was better than they expected." Gary Ross made the smart move of not being held to the first-person view of Suzanne Collins' novel but rather expanding it greatly, letting us see more of this dystopian society where watching kids kill each other on television is a celebration. It's ironic to remember the controversy when Jennifer Lawrence was cast as Katniss Everdeen as now, you can't imagine anyone else in the role, the Oscar winner brilliant showing a girl trapped in this nightmare and fighting to stay alive. With a fine supporting cast (especially Donald Sutherland and Woody Harrelson) and a great showcase of the brutality of the Games, it's a stunning ride that brings the novel to life better than fans could have dreamed, creating a fantastic franchise whose power is that it shows a society that sadly isn't that far off from the world we know now.

4. The Princess Bride

That this turned out so faithful is no surprise as William Goldman adapted his own novel (which famously was supposed to be "edited" from a previous work). The framework of Peter Falk as the man telling grandson Fred Savage this story works well as what seems to be a standard fairy tale takes great new twists and turns as it goes along. The cast is perfect: Robin Wright as the Bride; Cary Elwes as her love; Mandy Patinkin as master swordsman Inigo Monotoya; Andre the Giant as good-hearted brawler Fezzik; Chris Sarandon as the wicked prince; Christopher Guest as the more wicked Count Rugen; Wallace Shawn as the supposedly brilliant mastermind ("Inconceivable!"); and Billy Crystal stealing the movie as Miracle Max. The fight scenes are great and thrilling, the turns fun and the dialogue is classic. It all captures a wonderful magic on its own that still makes you laugh as you realize this supposed send-up of fairy tales really celebrates their spirit and why it's still so revered by so many today.

3. To Kill a Mockingbird

Not just one of the best YA adaptations but one of the best adaptations of a novel ever, this 1962 classic ably captures Harper Lee's novel. It's a coming of age story as a young girl in the Deep South hangs out with friends, being a regular kid but seeing the darkness and racism common for the time period. Gregory Peck, in his justly Oscar-winning performance, is her father, Atticus Finch, a lawyer who defends a black man accused of rape. Peck is amazing with his quiet demeanor, his powerful performance dominating every scene, fighting hard for what he knows is right despite the fact the town is willing to ignore facts and simply judge his client on his skin color. Meanwhile, young Scout gets involved in her own dangerous problems that come to a dramatic head. Still able to rock you with its stunning power and amazing lead performance, it's a true stand-out of the genre that all ages can enjoy.

2. The Wizard of Oz

It may not be as faithful to the Frank L. Baum book as some might like but this 1939 masterpiece is the way we all know of Oz. In her finest role, Judy Garland excels as Dorothy, thrust into this magical world and on a quest to get home, aided by the great cast for the Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman and Cowardly Lion. The shift from black and white to color is still quite a change as we enjoy a fantastic odyssey with Margaret Hamilton stealing every scene as the evil Wicked Witch to terrify viewers. Some may be sick of the songs now but they still add to the film's power with its bright vision that stands up 75 years later. A truly magical experience that stands as a classic for three generations and many more to come.

1. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

The 2005 remake may be more faithful to the original book but it's the 1971 original that so many of us adore as true to the spirit of Ronald Dahl's book. It's bright and chipper as should be, building up the story of poor Charlie Bucket and the search for a Golden Ticket with good songs. It takes off once we get to the factory, thanks to the fantastic performance of Gene Wilder as Wonka, a man who seems to be playing on a completely different level than other people yet a method to his madness. It's great seeing how the various brats get their just deserts as we're treated to the sights of the wild factory like the Oompa Loompas and their songs amid wild bits. The ending is terrific as good Charlie proves himself with a plot twist that works so well, it's surprising Dahl didn't come up with it. Still a magical film after all these years to please anyone who's read the books, young or old.


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