Adaptations

The Best Action Movies Based on Books 

Ranker Film
Updated August 8, 2019 509 votes 61 voters 3k views 32 items

List Rules Only action movies based on or inspired by literature.

Reading may seem like a peaceful activity, but many of the best action films have been adapted from books. The best action movies based on novels feature suspenseful stories and exciting sequences. Many action films based on fiction have spawned several sequels. Some of the best action films based off books have even won Academy Awards.

What action movies that are also books will you find on this list? Jurassic Park has to be near the top. Based on Michael Crichton's 1990 novel of the same name, Jurassic Park found its action in the form of Chaos Theory, T-Rex chases, and Dino DNA. John Carpenter's masterpiece The Thing was adapted from the 1938 novella What Goes There?.

Joseph Leland was the protagonist in the book Nothing Lasts Forever and his name was changed to John McClane in the film Die Hard. Other good action movies based on books include Casino Royale, The Bourne Identity, and The Running Man.

Did you know so many action movies were based off books? Vote up the best films to move them up the list and please add any good action adaptations we may have missed. Then check back to see what new movies have been included on this list.

list ordered by
1
Ranker Video
Samuel L. Jackson, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough

Released: 1993

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Jurassic Park is a 1993 American science fiction adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg. It is the first installment of the Jurassic Park franchise. It is based on the 1990 novel of the ...more
2
Ranker Video
Robert De Niro, Sean Connery, Kevin Costner

Released: 1987

Directed by: Brian De Palma

The Untouchables is a 1987 American drama film directed by Brian De Palma and written by David Mamet. Based on the book The Untouchables, the film stars Kevin Costner as government agent Eliot ...more
3
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Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia

Released: 1988

Directed by: John McTiernan

Die Hard is a 1988 American action film directed by John McTiernan and written by Steven E. de Souza and Jeb Stuart. It is based on the 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever, by Roderick Thorp. Die ...more
4
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Sylvester Stallone, Brian Dennehy, David Caruso

Released: 1982

Directed by: Ted Kotcheff

First Blood is a 1982 American psychological thriller and action film directed by Ted Kotcheff, co-written by and starring Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo, a troubled and misunderstood veteran. ...more
5
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Ewan McGregor, Tom Hardy, Orlando Bloom

Released: 2001

Directed by: Ridley Scott

Black Hawk Down is a 2001 American-British war film directed by Ridley Scott. It is an adaptation of the 1999 book of the same name by Mark Bowden based on his series of articles published in ...more
6
Casino Royale is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Action Movies Based on Books
Alessandra Ambrosio, Eva Green, Daniel Craig

Released: 2006

Directed by: Martin Campbell

Casino Royale is the twenty-first film in the Eon Productions James Bond film series and the first to star Daniel Craig as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. Directed by Martin Campbell and ...more
7
The Bourne Ultimatum is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Action Movies Based on Books
Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Brian Cox

Released: 2007

Directed by: Paul Greengrass

The Bourne Ultimatum is a 2007 American-German action spy thriller film directed by Paul Greengrass loosely based on the Robert Ludlum novel of the same title. The screenplay was written by Tony ...more
8
Ranker Video
Matt Damon, Clive Owen, Julia Stiles

Released: 2002

Directed by: Doug Liman

The Bourne Identity is a 2002 American-German action spy film adaptation of Robert Ludlum's novel of the same name. It stars Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, a man suffering from extreme memory loss ...more
9
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Cameron Diaz, Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell

Released: 2002

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Minority Report is a 2002 American neo-noir science fiction mystery-thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg and loosely based on the short story of the same name by Philip K. Dick. It is set ...more
10
Patriot Games is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Action Movies Based on Books
Harrison Ford, Samuel L. Jackson, James Earl Jones

Released: 1992

Directed by: Phillip Noyce

Patriot Games is a 1992 action-suspense film directed by Phillip Noyce and based on Tom Clancy's novel of the same name. It is a sequel to the 1990 film The Hunt for Red October, but with ...more
11
Ranker Video
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside

Released: 1990

Directed by: Paul Verhoeven

Total Recall is a 1990 American science fiction action film directed by Paul Verhoeven. In 2084, a construction worker, Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger), suddenly finds himself embroiled in ...more
12
Death Wish is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Action Movies Based on Books
Jeff Goldblum, Charles Bronson, Christopher Guest

Released: 1974

Directed by: Michael Winner

This film is a 1974 American vigilante action film loosely based on the novel of the same name by Brian Garfield. The film was directed by Michael Winner and stars Charles Bronson as a man who ...more
13
The Bourne Supremacy is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Action Movies Based on Books
Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Michelle Monaghan

Released: 2004

Directed by: Paul Greengrass

The Bourne Supremacy is a 2004 American-German action and spy film starring Robert Ludlum's Jason Bourne character. Though it takes the name of the second Bourne novel, its plot is entirely ...more
14
The Running Man is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Action Movies Based on Books
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Brown, Jesse Ventura

Released: 1987

Directed by: Paul Michael Glaser

The Running Man is a 1987 American science fiction action film loosely based on the 1982 novel The Running Man, written by Stephen King and published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. ...more
15
Clear and Present Danger... is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Action Movies Based on Books
Harrison Ford, Willem Dafoe, James Earl Jones

Released: 1994

Directed by: Phillip Noyce

Clear and Present Danger is a 1994 spy action thriller film directed by Phillip Noyce, based on Tom Clancy's book of the same name. It was preceded by the 1990 film The Hunt for Red October and ...more
16
V for Vendetta is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Action Movies Based on Books
Natalie Portman, John Hurt, Hugo Weaving

Released: 2005

Directed by: James McTeigue

V for Vendetta is a 2006 American political thriller film directed by James McTeigue and written by the Wachowski Brothers, based on the 1988 Vertigo graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore ...more
17
The Hunt for Red October... is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Action Movies Based on Books
Alec Baldwin, Sean Connery, Tim Curry

Released: 1990

Directed by: John McTiernan

The Hunt for Red October is a 1990 American submarine spy-thriller film directed by John McTiernan, based on the 1984 novel by Tom Clancy. In November 1984, the Soviet Union's best submarine ...more
18
Planet of the Apes is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Action Movies Based on Books
Mark Wahlberg, Helena Bonham Carter, Paul Giamatti

Released: 2001

Directed by: Tim Burton

Planet of the Apes is a 2001 American science fiction film directed by Tim Burton and starring Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Paul Giamatti, and Estella ...more
19
Ranker Video
Neil Patrick Harris, Denise Richards, Amy Smart

Released: 1997

Directed by: Paul Verhoeven

Starship Troopers is a 1997 American military science fiction action film directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Edward Neumeier. The story follows a young soldier named Johnny Rico and his ...more
20
Ranker Video
Tom Cruise, Robert Duvall, Rosamund Pike

Released: 2012

Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie

Jack Reacher is a 2012 American thriller film. It is an adaptation of Lee Child's 2005 novel One Shot. Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, the film stars Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher. ...more
21
The Hunger Games is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Action Movies Based on Books
Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth

Released: 2012

Directed by: Gary Ross

The Hunger Games is a 2012 American dystopian science fiction adventure film directed by Gary Ross, based on the novel by Suzanne Collins. In a dystopian post-apocalyptic future in the nation of ...more
22
Drive is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Action Movies Based on Books
Christina Hendricks, Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan

Released: 2011

Directed by: Nicolas Winding

Drive is a 2011 American neo noir arthouse action directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Oscar Isaac and Albert Brooks. It is adapted from the ...more
23
I, Robot is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Action Movies Based on Books
Will Smith, Shia LaBeouf, Bridget Moynahan

Released: 2004

Directed by: Alex Proyas

I, Robot is a 2004 American dystopian science fiction action film directed by Alex Proyas. The screenplay was written by Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman, and is inspired by Isaac Asimov's ...more
24
The Thing is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Action Movies Based on Books
Kurt Russell, Keith David, John Carpenter

Released: 1982

Directed by: John Carpenter

The Thing is a 1982 American science fiction horror film directed by John Carpenter, written by Bill Lancaster, and starring Kurt Russell. The film's title refers to its primary antagonist: a ...more
25
Ready Player One is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Action Movies Based on Books
Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn

Released: 2018

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Ready Player One is a 2018 American science fiction adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg, based on the novel by Ernest Cline. Teenager Wade Owen Watts (Tye Sheridan), who frequents the ...more