Film Lists

The Snowman: Five great crime films based on novels

L.A. Confidential

Adapted from James Ellroy’s novel, L.A. Confidential is a masterful call back to many a film noir of the 1940’s, complete with a complex narrative, brutish masculine detectives and glamorous femme fatale.

Directed by the late Curtis Hanson, with a screenplay by both Hansen and Brian Helgeland and a cast including then-unknowns Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce (unless you were a fan of Australian soap operas), alongside Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger, James Cromwell and Danny DeVito, the movie is a superb adaptation based on the works of one of the great crime novelists and is a superbly crafted slice of adult entertainment, managing to bring the complexities of Ellroy’s storytelling and the superbly crafted dialogue to the screen in a way no other Ellroy adaptation has managed. It is so easy to come undone with work like this, as seen when the usually masterful Brian De Palma adapted Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia.


Gone Girl

David Fincher, again, adapting a best selling crime novel, again. Gone Girl is a superbly crafted adult thriller, the type of which Hollywood seldom seems to produce in this day and age. Gillian Flynn’s novel was a massive bestseller and Fincher brings the complex he said/she said narrative to the screen in the way only he can. Cast to perfection and featuring a career best performance from Rosamund Pike, the film brings the feel of the novel to the screen perfectly, helped no doubt by a screenplay by the novel’s writer, Gillian Flynn.

Being a Fincher film, it has all the hallmarks you expect; the sepia/orange tinted lighting, a superb Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross score, uncompromising R-rated sequences, and a command of the material that feels like the work of a genuine filmmaking master. Flynn adapts her own book superbly, making it work brilliantly as a film, taking out superfluous elements of the novel, but without compromising what made her own book so good in the first place; and in the end you’re left with another masterful thriller from one of the greatest filmmakers working today.


The Godfather

Literally the Godfather of crime novel adaptations, Francis Ford Coppola took Mario Puzo’s potboiler about the Corleone crime family and turned it into something approaching art. Regarded by many, rightfully, as the greatest movie ever made, The Godfather has become so much a part of the fabric of the legacy of cinema that sometimes its hard to believe that it hasn’t been around forever.

Taking a pulpy bestseller and turning it into a masterpiece, The Godfather was expected to follow suit and be a respectable, but still pulpy film. Not with Coppola involved. Taking a massive risk on his casting choices, Pacino and Brando were vehemently not wanted by Paramount Picture, but Coppola stuck to his guns and the film has entered the lexicon of both high culture and pop culture. Leave the gun. Bring the cannoli.

Got a favourite that we’ve overlooked? Let us know in the comments section below.

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