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18 Great Movies Based On Obscure Short Stories

List RulesVote up the movies that turned short stories into classics.

Everyone knows Hollywood is happy to turn every kind of media under the sun into full-blown blockbusters time after time after time. From video games to novels, from comic books to television shows, Tinseltown can't help but adapt any intellectual property that could earn a few bucks. But there are some films you might not know were based on short stories, because, well, it's just not common knowledge.

Christopher Nolan took a short story by his own brother, Jonathan, and turned it into the screenplay for MementoIt's a Wonderful Life, one of the most iconic films ever made, was based on a self-published short story from 1943. And how about Candyman being based on a short story from Clive Barker himself? There's plenty more where that came from, so scroll on down and vote up your favorite short story adaptations from Hollywood.

  • Back when Tom Cruise ruled the world, circa the turn of the new millennium, the A-lister teamed with the legendary Steven Spielberg to bring a big-budget sci-fi thriller to theaters. The Hollywood heavy-hitters paired up to bring us a vision of the future based on the 1956 short story "The Minority Report" by Philip K. Dick. Set in a 2054 that isn't all that much more technologically advanced than the modern day, Minority Report gives viewers a reality where crimes are predicted before they happen by a trio of clairvoyants known as the "Precogs."

    Though Minority Report differs from the Philip K. Dick story it was inspired by, that doesn't make the film any less enjoyable. Released to nearly universal acclaim by both audiences and critics, this 2002 flick is an often-overlooked member of Spielberg's incredible early-2000s oeuvre that included Catch Me If You Can and Munich. Oh, and it gave Cruise the sci-fi bug that would eventually see him show up in Edge of Tomorrow, so that's pretty good, too.

    Great adaptation?

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  • If Prisoners and Sicario introduced the filmgoing public to Denis Villeneuve as an upcoming name to watch, then Arrival formally announced his, ahem, arrival as a genuine, big-name director. Based on Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life," Arrival became a box-office hit in 2016 and earned eight Academy Award nominations, which is essentially unheard of for a sci-fi film that isn't the original Star Wars. And unlike the majority of alien-based films released by major film distributors, Arrival proved to be sci-fi for the thinking person instead of stereotypical bombastic fare.

    The film follows Amy Adams as a linguist who is tasked with figuring out how to communicate with extraterrestrials who unexpectedly land on Earth. Of course, the film ruminates on more than just a first-contact situation, with huge questions about love and loss being asked throughout the picture. And with an ending that just begs viewers to go back to the beginning and watch it all over again, Arrival proved to Hollywood that major sci-fi stories can lack action and still make money.

    Great adaptation?

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  • Photo: Newmarket

    What would the past few decades of Hollywood filmmaking look like without Christopher Nolan? And what would Christopher Nolan's career look like without the film that put him on the map? Based on his brother's short story "Memento Mori," 2000's Memento made the young Nolan one of the hottest up-and-coming directors working in Tinseltown overnight. 

    Describing Memento doesn't really do the film much justice, but let's give it a shot anyway. Guy Pierce plays Leonard Shelby, a man who has anterograde amnesia (causing him to have short-term memory loss about every 15 minutes) as he tries to solve and avenge his wife's murder. Nolan splits the film into two strains that are interspersed with each other: black-and-white footage that is happening in chronological order and color footage (and the primary narrative) shown in reverse order. The result is a masterful thriller that keeps its audiences on their toes the entire time.

    Great adaptation?

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  • Never forget that Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life was an unsuccessful box-office flop when it was released in 1946. It seems impossible to even think that nowadays, but it's true. Yes, the Christmas classic your grandfather falls asleep to every year could've just been another forgotten film if it didn't accidentally fall into the public domain, making it exceedingly cheap for television networks to play on repeat each and every holiday season.

    It isn't hard to see how It's a Wonderful Life - based on Philip Van Doren Stern's "The Greatest Gift" - eventually worked its way into classic status. It's directed by the legendary Frank Capra. It features one of the biggest film stars of all time in Jimmy Stewart. It's got an inventive and inspirational storyline. What's not to like? It may fall out of vogue eventually, but it continues to be a holiday staple decades and decades after its original debut. Talk about longevity. 

    Great adaptation?

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