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.

list ordered by
1
Schindler's List is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley
Schindler's List is a 1993 American epic historical period drama, directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg and scripted by Steven Zaillian. It is based on the novel Schindler's Ark by Thomas ...more
2
The Godfather is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall
The Godfather is a 1972 American crime film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, based on the novel by Mario Puzo. The aging patriarch (Marlon Brando) of an organized crime dynasty transfers ...more
3
Forrest Gump is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Tom Hanks, Kurt Russell, Sally Field
Forrest Gump is a 1994 American epic romantic-comedy-drama film based on the 1986 novel of the same name by Winston Groom. The film was directed by Robert Zemeckis and stars Tom Hanks, Robin ...more
4
The Last of the Mohicans is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Pete Postlethwaite
The Last of the Mohicans is a 1992 historical epic film set in 1757 and produced by Morgan Creek Pictures. It was directed by Michael Mann and based on James Fenimore Cooper's novel of the same ...more
5
The Help is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, Bryce Dallas Howard
The Help is a 2011 American period drama film directed and written by Tate Taylor, and adapted from Kathryn Stockett's 2009 novel of the same name. Featuring an ensemble cast, the film is about ...more
6
The Sound of Music is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Eleanor Parker
The Sound of Music is a 1965 American musical drama film produced and directed by Robert Wise and starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. The film is an adaptation of the 1959 Broadway ...more
7
Dances with Wolves is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Charles Rocket
Dances with Wolves is a 1990 American epic western film directed, produced by, and starring Kevin Costner. It is a film adaptation of the 1988 book of the same name by Michael Blake and tells ...more
8
Troy is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom
Troy is a 2004 epic period war film directed by Wolfgang Petersen, loosely based on Homer's Iliad. After Paris smuggles Queen Helen to Troy, Achilles leads his Myrmidons along with the rest of ...more
9
The Three Musketeers is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Charlie Sheen, Tim Curry, Kiefer Sutherland
The Three Musketeers is a 1993 Austrian-American action-adventure film from Walt Disney Pictures and Caravan Pictures, directed by Stephen Herek from a screenplay by David Loughery and starring ...more
10
Downfall is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Alexandra Lara, Bruno Ganz, Thomas Kretschmann
Downfall is a 2004 German film directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, depicting the final ten days of Adolf Hitler's reign over Nazi Germany in 1945. The film is written and produced by Bernd ...more
11
Enemy at the Gates is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, Ed Harris
Enemy at the Gates is a 2001 film directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. The film's title is taken from William Craig's 1973 nonfiction book Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad, which ...more
12
Shutter Island is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Leonardo DiCaprio, Michelle Williams, Mark Ruffalo
Shutter Island is a 2010 American psychological thriller film directed by Martin Scorsese. The film is based on Dennis Lehane's 2003 novel of the same name. Production started in March 2008. ...more
13
Master and Commander: The Far ... is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, Joseph Morgan
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is a 2003 epic historical drama film co-written and directed by Peter Weir, starring Russell Crowe as Jack Aubrey, with Paul Bettany as Stephen ...more
14
Hidden Figures is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe
Hidden Figures is a 2016 American biographical drama film directed by Theodore Melfi, based on the non-fiction book by Margot Lee Shetterly. The story of a team of female African-American ...more
15
True Grit is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin
True Grit is a 2010 American Revisionist Western film directed by the Coen brothers, based on the 1968 novel by Charles Portis. A stubborn teenager (Hailee Steinfeld) enlists the help of a tough ...more
16
Spartacus is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Tony Curtis
Spartacus is a 1960 American epic historical drama film directed by Stanley Kubrick. The screenplay by Dalton Trumbo was based on the novel Spartacus by Howard Fast. It was inspired by the life ...more
17
The Pianist is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Emilia Fox
The Pianist is a 2002 historical drama film co-produced and directed by Roman Polanski, scripted by Ronald Harwood, and starring Adrien Brody. It is based on the autobiographical book The ...more
18
L.A. Confidential is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Kim Basinger
L.A. Confidential is a 1997 neo-noir film based on James Ellroy's 1990 novel of the same title, the third book in his L.A. Quartet series. Like the book, the film tells the story of a group of ...more
19
Glory is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Matthew Broderick
Glory is a 1989 American drama film directed by Edward Zwick and starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes and Morgan Freeman. The screenplay was written by Kevin Jarre, based on ...more
20
Zeroville is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
James Franco, Megan Fox, Seth Rogen
Zeroville is a 2019 American comedy-drama film directed by James Franco, based on the novel of the same name by Steve Erickson. A 24-year-old architecture student, Ike Jerome (James Franco) ...more
21
The English Patient is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Willem Dafoe, Ralph Fiennes, Colin Firth
The English Patient is a 1996 romantic drama directed by Anthony Minghella from his own script based on the novel of the same name by Michael Ondaatje and produced by Saul Zaentz. The film was ...more
22
The Eagle is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Channing Tatum, Donald Sutherland, Mark Strong
The Eagle is a 2011 historical adventure film set in Roman Britain directed by Kevin Macdonald, and starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell and Donald Sutherland. Adapted by Jeremy Brock from ...more
23
Gone with the Wind is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Olivia de Havilland
Gone with the Wind is a 1939 American epic historical romance film adapted from Margaret Mitchell's Pulitzer-winning 1936 novel. It was produced by David O. Selznick of Selznick International ...more
24
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Demi Moore, Kevin Kline, Jason Alexander
Madacy Kids brings to life Victor Hugo's classic novel for this entry in their animated Children's Film Favorites series. Centering on the deformed Quasimodo, Children's Film Favorites: The ...more
25
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
Lon Chaney, Ernest Torrence, Raymond Hatton
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a 1923 American film starring Lon Chaney, directed by Wallace Worsley, and produced by Carl Laemmle and Irving Thalberg. The supporting cast includes Patsy Ruth ...more