The Five Best Movies Adapted from Thrillers
Join Alex Michaelides, debut author of The Silent Patient, as he lists his five favorite films that were adapted from thrillers!
I love the combination of cinema and literature. I studied English Literature and was a screenwriter before writing my first novel, The Silent Patient—a psychological thriller about a woman who shoots her husband five times and then never speaks again. I’ve been reading mystery writers like Agatha Christie since my childhood and I’ve always been a little obsessed with Alfred Hitchcock, so needless to say, I enjoy reading and watching intelligent thrillers that have some kind of emotional depth. I think these five book-to-screen adaptations are among the best ever made.
Directed by Claude Chabrol, this adaptation of Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell, about an illiterate housekeeper who kills her employers “because she could not read” is as unsettling and haunting as the book. I think the most powerful scene in most thrillers is often the murder itself, and in this film, the moment the family is shot in their living room while watching an opera is brutal and shocking.
WARNING: This scene is graphic
Murder on the Orient Express
The original 1974 Sidney Lumet movie, starring Albert Finney as detective Hercule Poirot, elevates Agatha Christie’s classic mystery into a meditation on nostalgia and glamour. It’s one of my favorite films to curl up with—I love every scene so much. The final monologue by Finney, when he reveals the identity of the murderer, is a bravura performance. Regardless of whether or not you’ve read this classic, you need to see the film.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
The Anthony Minghella film, adapted from the book by Patricia Highsmith, had a massive effect on me as a teenager. It was the first time I saw a film enter the mind of a murderer with such empathy. Tom’s longing for love and his inability to connect, much as he wants to, is dramatized so powerfully and showed me a dark and troubled antihero could be as relatable as a more traditional hero. It’s another stunning exercise in glamour, nostalgia, and psychopathy. And the Mediterranean is such a beautiful backdrop to Dickie’s murder.
The Silence of the Lambs
Jonathan Demme’s version of Thomas Harris’s book is, in my opinion, even better than the novel. It has to be one of the most influential thrillers ever made. I think the most brilliant scene, from a construction point of view, is how the cross-cutting of scenes leads us to believe that the FBI is about to arrive at Buffalo Bill’s house when, in fact, Clarice is entirely alone.
From the French novel, D’entre les morts by Pierre Boileau and Pierre Ayraud, Hitchcock’s masterpiece about obsession, lost love, and betrayal has had a bigger effect on me than any other film I’ve seen—its themes are the same ones that now preoccupy me in my writing. There is a moment in the movie when Scottie, having dressed Judy as Madeline, his dead love, kisses her. It’s such a sad, desperate moment; a moment of impossible longing. It’s heartbreaking. And great.