9 Movies That Succeeded By Ignoring The Source Material

Losing in terms of accuracy, but gaining in terms of wild success.

Daniel Plainview There Will Be Blood
Paramount Vantage

The book-to-film transformation has been a crucial pillar of the movie-making business for decades. With thousands of readers having already turned the pages of an original idea, a firm audience already exists for the source material, compelling Hollywood to buy out the rights and get production rolling on a more visual incarnation.

Adaptations are a sure-fire bet for any filmmaker looking for a script to translate, but moving it to the screen is more complicated than you'd think. Concessions need to be made, casting needs to be handled carefully and moving too far in the wrong direction can draw the ire of both the community and the original author.

Be that as it may, many a film has been able to overcome the dangers posed by ignoring the source material. They've diverged from the original stories, using them more as inspiration rather than straight gospel. As we've seen through the decades, this has resulted in some truly excellent film productions that transcend the original sources they came from.

All of the following are standout films that ditched their literary sources and became hugely successful as a result - even if the original authors didn't always agree.

9. Adaptation

Daniel Plainview There Will Be Blood
Sony Pictures Releasing

As one of the better movies to star Nicholas Cage in the leading role, Adaptation is a wild deep-dive into the struggles of a creative talent.

Ironically titled, it moves away from its original inspiration to explore the mind of a struggling screen-writer. The premise is both self-aware and meta in its execution, involving a film screen-writer planning a full on recreation of "The Orchid Thief" by American writer Susan Orlean.

In the process, leading man Charlie Kaufman (played by Cage) finds himself drawn to the same orchid drug in the book and a cycle of hilarious misfortune ensues. The film takes a very different approach from other films using books as a base, embracing its story whole-heartedly and having it show up in real life.

In the book, readers follow attempts to capture a known orchid dealer and the results the drug has on those investigating it. Based on real events in 1994, it's far more serious and straightforward. Initially Orlean herself was shocked at the direction the film took, but eventually warmed to its trappings in meta-cinema.

By taking this intentional direction, Adaptation went on to receive many awards from countless film boards and carved out a unique identity in the process.


A tough but fair writer and critic broadly covering games, movies and just about every type of entertainment media. Spent a good part of the last seven years blogging and more recently, making amateur videos under "The Cainage Critique". You can follow my work on my website https://robc25.wixsite.com/thecainagecritique and my YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCftJ6WcozDaECFfjvORDk3w