Adaptations

The Best Movies Based On History Novels  

Ranker Film
137 votes 15 voters 1.1k views 39 items

List Rules Vote up your favorite movies based on or inspired by historical literature.

From the Trojan War to the Civil Rights Movement, film adaptations of historical novels combine fact and fiction. The best movies based on history books feature real life events. Many films based on historical novels feature political figures while other good history movies that are books feature fictional characters living in historic times. Some of the best history films based off books have even won Academy Awards.

What historic novels adapted into movies will you find on this list. Forrest Gump has to be near the top. Based on Winston Groom's book of the same name, Forrest Gump stars Tom Hanks as the title character who finds himself at several historic events. The March on the Pentagon, The Stand in the Schoolhouse Door, and the Vietnam War are just a few of the noteworthy events featured in the film. Dances with Wolves is another good movie based on a historical novel.

Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas star in The English Patient, based on Michael Ondaatje's novel. Other good movies based on historical books include Enemy at the Gates, Spartacus, The Scarlet Letter, and Troy.

Which movie based on a historical novel is the best? Give your favorites a vote and and please add any great new films we may have missed.

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26
The Grapes of Wrath is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Henry Fonda, John Carradine, John Qualen
The Grapes of Wrath is a 1940 drama film directed by John Ford. It was based on John Steinbeck's 1939 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name. The screenplay was written by Nunnally ...more
27
The Cider House Rules is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Charlize Theron, Michael Caine, Paul Rudd
The Cider House Rules is a 1999 American drama film directed by Lasse Hallström, based on John Irving's novel of the same name. The film won two Academy Awards, and was nominated for the ...more
28
Out of Africa is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Iman Abdulmajid
Out of Africa is a 1985 American epic romantic drama film directed and produced by Sydney Pollack and starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. The film is based loosely on the autobiographical ...more
29
Cold Mountain is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Natalie Portman, Nicole Kidman, Jude Law
Cold Mountain is a 2003 epic drama film written and directed by Anthony Minghella. The film is based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Charles Frazier. It stars Jude Law, Nicole ...more
30
The Physician is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Ben Kingsley, Stellan Skarsgård, Emma Rigby
The Physician is a 2013 adventure, drama and history film written by Jan Berger and Noah Gordon and directed by Philipp Stölzl.
31
The Dancer Upstairs is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
John Malkovich, Javier Bardem, Laura Morante
The Dancer Upstairs is a 2002 Spanish-American crime thriller film directed by John Malkovich and starring Javier Bardem, Juan Diego Botto and Laura Morante. The film is an adaptation of the ...more
32
The Scarlet Letter is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Lillian Gish, Karl Dane, Henry B. Walthall
The Scarlet Letter is a 1926 American drama film, based on the book by the same name, and directed by Victor Sjöström. Louis B. Mayer was reluctant on using Miss Gish, fearing ...more
33
Moll Flanders is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Morgan Freeman, Robin Wright, Stockard Channing
Moll Flanders is a 1996 film starring Robin Wright and Morgan Freeman. The film was directed by Pen Densham. The original music score was composed by Mark Mancina. The film is based on the novel ...more
34
Mama Flora's Family is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Queen Latifah, Shemar Moore, Cicely Tyson
Mama Flora's Family is a 1998 drama film directed by Peter Werner.
35
Confessions of a Dangerous Min... is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, George Clooney
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is a 2002 biographical spy comedy film depicting the life of popular game show host and producer Chuck Barris, who claimed to have also been an agent for the ...more
36
The Light Between Oceans is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz
The Light Between Oceans is a 2016 romantic period drama film written and directed by Derek Cianfrance and based on the 2012 novel of the same name by M. L. Stedman. The film tells the story of ...more
37
BlacKkKlansman is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier
BlacKkKlansman is a 2018 American crime drama film directed by Spike Lee, based on the book by Ron Stallworth. An African American detective (John David Washington) in Colorado Springs, Colorado ...more
38
The Best of Enemies is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Taraji P. Henson, Sam Rockwell, Babou Ceesay
The Best of Enemies is a 2019 American drama film directed and written by Robin Bissell, based on the book The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South by Osha Gray Davidson. A ...more
39
Gods and Generals is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Robert Duvall, Mira Sorvino, Jeff Daniels
Gods and Generals is a 2003 American film based on the novel Gods and Generals by Jeffrey Shaara. It depicts events that take place prior to those shown in the 1993 film Gettysburg, which was ...more