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The Best Plays Based on Books

Updated June 14, 2019 827 votes 124 voters 13.1k views38 items

List RulesVote up the best stage plays that were originally based on a book.

There are a lot of famous movies that were made from plays, but there are a lot of amazing plays that have been based on books. These days, everything seems to be based (even loosely) on something else. But this isn't always a bad thing. Many books lend themselves well to the stage, as evidence by the plays on this list. What are the best plays based on books?

The plays on this list span genres and production styles. They include dramas, comedies, and romances. Did you know that some of the most famous plays in history were based on novels, autobiographies, or other books? It’s no wonder they're on this list since they’re based on stories we all know and love – stories that have actually made a significant impact on the literary world as well as the world of the stage.

The plays listed here have been ranked by the community as the best. This list features the best plays based on books including, Les Miserables, Ben Hur, A Christmas Carol, Young Frankenstein, Kite Runner, Albert Speer, and War Horse. Vote up the best plays based on books below and see where the plays you think are the best rank!
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  • 1
    Les Misérables
    42
    11

    Les Misérables

    Claude-Michel Schönberg, Jean-Marc Natel

    CharactersJean Valjean, Javert, Fantine, Éponine, Monsieur Thénardier

    Based on the book of the same name by Victor Hugo.
  • 2
    The Grapes of Wrath
    26
    7
    Based on the book of the same name by John Steinbeck.
  • 3
    A Christmas Carol
    26
    6

    A Christmas Carol

    Patrick Stewart
    Based on the book of the same name by Charles Dickens.
  • 4
    Gigi
    24
    6

    Gigi

    Frederic Loewe , Alan Jay Lerner
    Based on the book of the same name by Colette.
  • 5
    Man of La Mancha
    23
    5

    Man of La Mancha

    Mitch Leigh , Joe Darion

    CharactersSancho Panza, Dulcinea, Don Quixote

    Based on the book "Don Quixote" by Miguel de Cervantes
  • 6
    Fiddler on the Roof
    23
    5

    Fiddler on the Roof

    Sheldon Harnick , Jerry Bock

    CharactersTevye, Chava, Lazar Wolf, Tzeitel, Golde

    Based on the tales by Sholem Aleichem
  • 7
    Into the Woods
    18
    2

    Into the Woods

    James Lapine , Stephen Sondheim

    CharactersRapunzel, Snow White, Princess Aurora, Cinderella, Big Bad Wolf

    Based on the fairy tales of the Brother's Grimm

    More Into the Woods 

    #3 of 33 The Best Broadway Musicals of the 80s#6 of 49 The Best Grammy-Nominated Musical Theater Albums of the 1980s

  • 8
    16
    4

    Of Mice and Men

    John Steinbeck

    CharactersLennie Small, Whit, Slim, George Milton, Candy

    Of Mice and Men is a play adapted from John Steinbeck's 1937 novel of the same name. The play,... more on Wikipedia
  • 9
    Cabaret
    14
    2

    Cabaret

    Fred Ebb , John Kander

    CharactersFräulein Schneider, Sally Bowles, Fraulein Kost, Emcee, Clifford Bradshaw

    Based on the novel "Goodbye to Berlin" by Christopher Isherwood
  • 10
    Der Glöckner von Notre Dame
    14
    4

    Der Glöckner von Notre Dame

    James Lapine , Alan Menken

    CharactersClaude Frollo, Esméralda, Quasimodo, Clopin Trouillefou, Captain Phoebus

    Based on the book The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

  • 11
    Young Frankenstein
    15
    8

    Young Frankenstein

    Irving Berlin , Mel Brooks

    CharactersFrankenstein's monster, Victor Frankenstein, Igor, Frau Blücher, Inga

    Loosely based on the book Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
  • 12
    Kite Runner
    15
    8

    Kite Runner

    Matthew Spangler
    Based on the book The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.
  • 13
    Educating Rita
    16
    11

    Educating Rita

    Willy Russell
    Loosely based on Greek myth and Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw.
  • 14
    Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
    15
    10

    Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

    Hugh Wheeler , Stephen Sondheim

    CharactersSweeney Todd, Judge Turpin, Adolfo Pirelli, Mrs. Lovett, Tobias Ragg

    Based on the penny dreadful "The String of Pearls: A Romance" by James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest

    More Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street 

    #33 of 193 The Greatest Musicals Ever Performed on Broadway, Ranked#1 of 34 The Best Broadway Musicals of the '70s

  • 15
    Crime and Punishment
    12
    6

    Crime and Punishment

    Marilyn Campbell, Curt Columbus
    Based on the book of the same name by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
  • 16
    Dracula, the Musical
    21
    19

    Dracula, the Musical

    Christopher Hampton , Don Black

    CharactersCount Dracula, Mina Harker, Jonathan Harker

    Based on the book Dracula by Bram Stoker.
  • 17
    The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby
    13
    8

    The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby

    David Edgar
    Based on the book of the same name by Charles Dickens.
  • 18
    I Never Promised You a Rose Garden
    Based on the  book of the same name by Joanne Greenberg.
  • 19
    Ben-Hur
    9
    5

    Ben-Hur

    Lew Wallace
    Based on the book Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace.
  • 20
    My Life As a 10-Year-Old Boy
    7
    3

    My Life As a 10-Year-Old Boy

    Nancy Cartwright, Rose Goss
    Based on the book of the same name by Nancy Cartwright.
  • 21
    The Masquerader
    11
    8

    The Masquerader

    John Hunter Booth
    Based on the book of the same name by Katherine Cecil Thurston.
  • 22
    Girl With a Pearl Earring
    13
    13

    Girl With a Pearl Earring

    Tracy Chevalier
    Based on the book of the same name by Tracy Chevalier
  • 23
    Travels With My Aunt
    11
    11

    Travels With My Aunt

    Giles Havergal
    Based on the book of the same name by Graham Greene.
  • 24
    War Horse
    13
    15

    War Horse

    Adrian Sutton , Nick Stafford

    CharactersCaptain James Nicholls, Albert Narracott, Ted Narracott, Major Jamie Stewart, Sergeant Sam Perkins

    Based on the book of the same name by Michael Morpurgo.
  • 25
    The Affair
    10
    11

    The Affair

    Ronald Millar
    Based on the book of the same name by C.P Snow.