Classic Novels and the Filmmakers Who Were Born to Direct Them


This week, we found out that Guy Ritchie is on board to helm a Warner Brothers adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s literary classic Treasure Island, a pairing that — given Ritchie’s gift for madcap, stylized adventure movies — we think is going to be pretty awesome. Inspired by this news, and given that we’re rather unsatisfied with many of the cinematic adaptations of classic novels that actually exist, we’ve come up with a dream list of some of our favorite classic novels and the filmmakers we think would be perfect to direct them. Click through to check out our list of book-director pairings that were totally meant to be, and let us know who you think should direct your own favorite classic novel in the comments.

Franny and Zooey — Wes Anderson

This is an easy one — the prodigy-riddled clan in The Royal Tenenbaums is basically the Glass family anyways, so it would be only right to give Anderson the chance to do it right. We think his penchant for bittersweet nostalgia and sweet strangeness, not to mention his masterful treatment of New York City as a dreamlike fairy tale land, make him the man to adapt the entire Salinger canon — if only that were allowed.

Moby Dick — James Cameron

Not only is James Cameron the king of the big-budget, bombastic adventure movie (just think how fantastic a Moby Dick movie with Avatar‘s budget would be in 3D), he’s also an avid deep-sea explorer, so we think he’d (ahem) dive into this project with aplomb.

The Great Gatsby — Sofia Coppola

Baz Luhrmann’s all very well and good, but let’s face it: no one does decadence like Sofia Coppola. We want to see a Great Gatsby film in full Marie Antoinette style, near-silence, pink confections and all.

Wise BloodDavid Lynch

We’re dying to see Flannery O’Connor’s southern gothic masterpiece in the hands of David Lynch — we think he would twist those disturbing religious themes and strange comedic moments into sheer cinematic brilliance. Plus, doesn’t “wise blood” sound like a perfectly Lynchian phrase? It’s like something the owls might have.

Lord of the FliesJoss Whedon

There’s no one better than Whedon at teenage allegory — see the entire run of Buffy the Vampire Slayer — and we think he’d handle this classic novel of teenage boys trapped on an island with his trademark cleverness and sincerity of purpose. Though there wouldn’t be any female characters to kick ass, we think he’d inject the story with the heart and humanity that it needs to really sing. After all, as the man himself explained about his film Goners, “it’s an antidote to that very kind of film, the horror movie with the expendable human beings in it. Because I don’t believe any human beings are.”

Animal FarmWerner Herzog

Now, while we really want to see Herzog adapt Where’s Waldo?, we think Animal Farm would be almost as good — what with all that pessimism about the human condition and conflict between nature and humanity. We imagine a live-action adaptation on desaturated, gritty film, with very heavy subtitles.

Catch-22Quentin Tarantino

As far as we’re concerned, Catch-22 should be Tarantino’s dream — it’s bloody, funny, and ripe for peppering with insider references, not to mention completely non-sequential. Plus, we think Tarantino would take special pleasure in creating a cinematic reference point for such an enduring phrase — or ignoring it completely. Surprise us.

Adventures of Huckleberry FinnJudd Apatow

Who else but Judd Apatow to direct the most famous buddy novel of all time? Sure, in an Apatow adaptation, Huck and Jim might turn out a little drunker than you remember, but we think he’d still be able to choreograph pitch-perfect hijinks and one liners that would update the classic novel for a very modern audience.

The Picture of Dorian GrayDarren Aronofsky

We were highly disappointed by the most recent film adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s only novel, so we nominate Darren Aronofsky, who we think would do the book justice with his dark, intensely strange vision. After all, it’s a semi-mystical horror story about beautiful people, which um, is basically Aronofsky’s favorite thing.

Don QuixoteThe Coen Brothers

The Coen brothers are at their best with chummy adventure stories that mix gruff seriousness with a charming, playful sense of humor, and we think Don Quixote is the perfect combination. We imagine a wry, slightly surreal adaptation with just enough action to satisfy. We would also accept musical numbers, a la O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Just saying.