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Film Studies

This guide is an introduction to the resources for Film Studies at Dartmouth. If you are interested in Television, see the separate research guide for Television.

A definition for 'Adaptation'

A pre-existing work that has been made into a film. Adaptations are often of literary or theatrical works, but musical theatre, best-selling fiction and non-fiction, comic books, computer games, children’s toys, and so on have also been regularly adapted for the cinema. Adaptations of well-known literary and theatrical texts were common in the silent era (see silent cinema; costume drama; epic film; history film) and have been a staple of virtually all national cinemas through the 20th and 21st centuries. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories (1887–1927) have been adapted in a range of national contexts but probably the most adapted author is Shakespeare, whose plays have appeared in film form as a large-budget Hollywood musical (West Side Story (Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise, US, 1961)), a historical epic set in feudal Japan (Kumonosu-jo/Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa, Japan, 1957)), a Bollywood musical (Angoor (Gulzar, India, 1982)), and a children’s animation (The Lion King (Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, US, 1994)), to name but a few. Adaptations often sit within cycles associated with a particular time and place, as with the British heritage film in the 1980s (see cycle). It is claimed that adaptations account for up to 50 per cent of all Hollywood films and are consistently rated amongst the highest grossing at the box office, as aptly demonstrated by the commercial success of recent adaptations of the novels of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Other varied US adaptations include: computer games (Resident Evil (Paul W.S. Anderson, 2002)), graphic novels (Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff, 2001)), comic books (The Avengers (Joss Whedon, 2012)); see also cinematic universe; superhero film), and children’s toys (Transformers: The Last Knight (Michael Bay, 2017)). A number of films also display a certain level of self-reflexivity regarding the process of adaptation, as can be seen in Adaptation (Spike Jonze, US, 2002) and The LEGO Movie (Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, 2012). A property ripe for adaptation is referred to as pre-sold; older works in particular are attractive to film producers because they are often out of copyright (see deal, the).

Kuhn, A., & Westwell, G. (2020). "Adaptation." In A Dictionary of Film Studies. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 16 Feb. 2022

In the Library's collections

The following are useful subject headings for searching the online catalog. The books on adapting source materials for films are shelved in the call number range PN 1997.85 on Baker Level 4.

Introductory reading(s)

Selected book titles

Other library resource(s)

Most of these are resources for actual scripts.

A short selection of adapted films

Here is a short list of adapted films located in the Jones Media Center or available through streaming. Find more film adaptations in the library's online catalog.