Top Book-to-Film Adaptations

In celebration of National Book Lovers Day, find out the top book-to-film adaptations.

On Tuesday, Aug. 9, bookworms everywhere will rejoice in honor of National Book Lovers Day, a celebration of libraries, literature and love of reading.

Of course, a day like this wouldn’t be possible without the authors who put their imaginations on paper. These inventive individuals created worlds so incredible that Hollywood couldn’t help but turn them into feature films. From Harry Potter to Twilight, many best-selling books went on to become the world’s top-earning movies and franchises.

In honor of National Book Lovers Day, here’s a look at some of the top book-to-film adaptations of all time.

1. ‘Harry Potter’

With 450 million copies in circulation in 73 languages as of 2013, the Harry Potter series has the distinction of being the best-selling book franchise of all time, according to Time. The seven books were adapted into eight movies, which went on to earn $7.72 billion worldwide, making it the second-highest grossing movie franchise in history, second only to the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise.

With book, movie and toy sales totaling more than $7 billion each; DVD and digital sales nearing $2 billion; and rentals pulling in more than $600 million, Harry Potter is a global juggernaut worth just under $25 billion.

Harry Potter is the brainchild of author J.K. Rowling, who — in one of the greatest rags-to-riches stories of all time — was named history’s first billionaire author by Guinness World Records. Recently, Rowling created a new addition to the world of Harry. Written in collaboration with Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, the play “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” can be seen in London.

2. ‘Twilight’

Together, the five Twilight movies earned $3.34 billion at the global box office. However, ticket sales account for just a portion of this $6.15 billion franchise. The books — “Twilight,” “New Moon,” “Eclipse” and “Breaking Dawn” — earned $370 million, $322.5 million, $262.5 million and $705.5 million, respectively, according to Statistic Brain. When you account for merchandise sales, Twilight is one of history’s most successful franchises.

Not only was the Twilight series a cultural phenomenon, it also spawned another book-to-movie success story. When author E.L. James read the novels, she was inspired to write Twilight-based erotic fan fiction for an online audience. These stories eventually became the novel and film “Fifty Shades of Grey.”


3. ‘The Hunger Games’

There are more than 50 million copies of the original three Hunger Games books in circulation in the U.S. alone, according to Scholastic. Suzanne Collins’ trilogy — which includes “The Hunger Games, “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay” — racked up a combined $357 million in sales.

The four “Hunger Games” movies — “Mockingjay” adapted into two films — earned nearly $2.97 billion worldwide in total. When you factor in DVD and digital sales, the franchise is worth $4.34 billion.

Related: How Much Is the Cast of ‘The Hunger Games’ Worth?

4. ‘The Lord of the Rings’

“The Lord of the Rings,” published by J.R.R. Tolkien in 1954, is the ninth best-selling book of all time, according to Rankings. More than 150 million copies have been sold to date.

The books were also adapted into a trilogy of movies titled, “The Fellowship of the Ring,” “The Two Towers” and “The Return of the King.” Released between 2001 and 2003, the movies earned a combined $2.91 billion worldwide.

Today, The Lord of the Rings is a $10 billion to $15 billion franchise, according to Money Inc. And it’s estimated that J.R.R. Tolkien was worth $661.1 million (£500 million) when he died in 1978.

5. ‘Divergent’

Currently, the Divergent franchise features three books and three movies bearing the same titles: “Divergent,” “Insurgent” and “Allegiant.” In 2013 alone, Veronica Roth’s dystopian trilogy sold a combined 6.7 million books, including 3 million hardcover copies and 1.7 million paperbacks. In 2014, the books swept the top three spots on USA Today’s Best-Selling Books list.

The first three films took in $765.4 million at the global box office. The fourth and final installment, “Ascendant,” is due out in 2017.

6. ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’

Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy includes “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” and “The Girl Who Played With Fire.” Together, the books have sold more than 80 million copies worldwide, according to Newsday.

Although the Millennium franchise is now an undeniable success, the first publisher to receive Larsson’s submission rejected it on the grounds that the company didn’t accept manuscripts from first-time authors. The books went on to inspire a film series that earned $215 million worldwide.

In 2015, a fourth novel, “The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” was released and sold 200,000 copies in its first week.

7. ‘The Godfather’

Widely considered one of the greatest cinematic masterpieces, Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 film, “The Godfather,” is based on a 1969 novel by Mario Puzo. Although Puzo admitted that the book was written purely for money — and that it wasn’t constructed particularly well — it remains among the best-selling novels in American history. The title has sold more than 30 million copies and was a success even before the film release, according to

Like its predecessor, “The Godfather Part II” was hugely successful — in fact, it holds the distinction of being the first sequel to win an Oscar for Best Picture. However, 1990’s “The Godfather Part III,” also directed by Coppola, earned a less favorable reception.

Adjusted for inflation, the three films and a re-release of the series earned nearly $260.16 million at the domestic box office.

Honorable Mentions

Here are a few more book-to-film adaptation success stories. All numbers represent worldwide box office grosses:

  • “The Silence of the Lambs” — $272.74 million
  • “Schindler’s List” — $321.3 million
  • “Gone With the Wind” — $400.18 million
  • “The Da Vinci Code” — $758.25 million
  • “Jurassic Park” — $1.03 billion

It’s clear that some of the most acclaimed and successful movies in history started out as books. And some authors, like Rowling, struck gold when the film adaptations matched or rivaled the success of the novels, spawning franchises flush with games, merchandise and, of course, billions of dollars.

Keep Reading: 17 Free Books for Your Summer Reading List

Top Book-to-Film Adaptations

Box office numbers were taken from Box Office Mojo.