Long before Harry Potter and the Twilight series captivated global audiences, the movie industry has been adapting successful books to movies, translating literary successes into box office blockbusters. Popular books have an established fan base and movies bring these highly popular stories to life.
You don’t have to look far to find book-inspired films with major box office success. Titles include “Forrest Gump,” “Shrek,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “The Da Vinci Code” and more. But which book-inspired movies are the most successful of all time?
To find out, CNBC.com analyzed data from BoxOfficeMojo.com, a subsidiary of IMDB that aggregates data on box office receipts. This list reflects the worldwide box office gross for the most successful movies based on BoxOfficeMojo’s data, adjusted for inflation using information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For films released across the decades, adjusting for inflation provides a true comparison between films from different years and reveals that some classic films outdo even today's most successful blockbusters.
So, what are the highest grossing book-inspired movies of all time? Click ahead to find out.
By Paul Toscano and Jill Weinberger
Posted 17 November 2011
Inflation-adjusted worldwide gross: $1.16 billion
Actual gross: $925.28 million
Year released: 2002
“Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” is the second film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The films are based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels and were directed by Peter Jackson. The entire project took eight years, with filming for all three films done simultaneously in picturesque locations in New Zealand. The books were written between 1937 and 1949 and were developed from Tolkein’s earlier work, “The Hobbit.”
Inflation-adjusted worldwide gross: $1.25 billion
Actual gross: $974.76 million
Year released: 2001
Published in 1997 by British author J.K. Rowling, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” the first film in the series, is about a boy named Harry Potter who discovers he is a wizard. The success of that first book led to six additional novels. Warner Brothers gained the film rights and had immediate success and fanfare with the first movie in 2001, pulling in an inflation-adjusted $1.25 billion. Since then, the studio has released seven additional films, which have proved to be extremely successful.
Inflation-adjusted worldwide gross: $1.33 billion
Actual gross: $245 million
Year released: 1972
Perhaps the most iconic mafia movie of all time, some may not realize that Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece is based on a novel of the same name. The book was written by Italian-American author Mario Puzo and was published in 1969, three years before the movie’s release. The film grossed $1.33 billion, when adjusted for inflation and led to two sequels, “The Godfather II,” and “The Godfather III,” although neither matched the success of the original.
Inflation-adjusted worldwide gross: $1.33 billion
Actual gross: $1.33 billion
Year released: 2011
One of the most anticipated movies of 2011 was "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II." Fans of the beloved Harry Potter series lined up in droves to experience the final installment of the series. It proved extremely successful for Warner Bros., breaking box-office records and bringing in more than $1 billion. The final film was also the most successful in the series.
Inflation-adjusted worldwide gross: $1.36 billion
Actual gross: $84 million
Year released: 1940
Walt Disney’s “Pinocchio” is based on the children’s book “The Adventures of Pinocchio” by Italian author Carlo Collodi, written in 1883. It was the second feature-length animated film by Walt Disney after “Snow White,” which was also highly successful and based on a European fairy tale. The film was positively received by critics, and also won Academy Awards for its music.
Inflation-adjusted worldwide gross: $1.38 billion
Actual gross: $1.12 billion
Year released: 2003
Each movie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy made more money than its predecessor at the box office, with the final installment, "Return of the King," grossing $1.38 billion worldwide, adjusted for inflation. In addition, it won all 11 of the Academy Awards for which it was nominated, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Inflation-adjusted worldwide gross: $1.4 billion
Actual gross: $205.8 million
Year released: 1967
Although it was not the first film adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s literary work, Disney’s “The Jungle Book” was certainly the most successful. First released in 1967, “The Jungle Book” received largely positive reviews and spawned albums to capitalize on the film’s well-received musical soundtrack.
Inflation-adjusted worldwide gross: $1.63 billion
Actual gross: $215.9 million
Year released: 1961
One of the most successful Walt Disney movies of all time was the animated feature “101 Dalmatians,” which was based on the 1956 novel “The Hundred and One Dalmatians” by Dodie Smith. The plot follows two couples, human and Dalmatian, in a London-based love story that is nearly derailed by the film’s antagonist, Cruella De Vil.
Inflation-adjusted worldwide gross: $2.25 billion
Actual gross: $441.1 million
Year released: 1973
Based on the 1971 William Peter Blatty novel of the same name, “The Exorcist” is the second-highest grossing film of all time, when adjusted for inflation. The film chronicles the demonic possession of a young girl and her exorcism by two priests. It was named the scariest movie of all time by Entertainment Weekly. The success of the film spawned a number of sequels, which were released in 1977, 1990, 2004 and 2005.
Inflation-adjusted worldwide gross: $6.52 billion
Actual gross: $400.2 million
Year released: 1939
The highest grossing movie based on a book is also the highest grossing movie of all time, when adjusting for inflation. “Gone with the Wind,” first released in 1939, was based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name by Margaret Mitchell. The film starred Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard and Olivia de Havilland, among many others. It won 10 awards (including eight Oscars) and to date remains the longest American sound film ever made at around four hours.