True Detectives: 7 Movie Capers Based on Books

There’s nothing quite like sinking your teeth into a juicy detective novel full of the kinds of twists and turns that keep your mind busy and your heart racing for hours on end. Author Elmore Leonard is one of the best at delivering these colorful and complex novels full of memorable characters and razor-sharp story lines, and on August 29 another one of his tales comes to the big screen.

In Life of Crime (based on Leonard’s The Switch, and opening in limited release), two petty criminals find themselves in over their heads after kidnapping the wife of a wealthy real-estate developer for ransom. Problem is, he doesn’t want her back. Jennifer Aniston, Mos Def, Isla Fisher and Will Forte star. If you’re jonesing for a few more deliciously additive capers based on great novels, here are some of our favorites.


Jack Reacher

The Book: One Shot by Lee Child

The Movie: As the star of 19 novels and counting, Jack Reacher finally made it to the big screen with help from Tom Cruise in this cool slow-burner that feels like a punchy ‘70s throwback as its twisty plot unravels. Cruise plays Reacher, a loner, drifter and ex-military man whose brought onto a case after the gunman in a mass shooting fingers him as the guy with all the answers.

Trivia: Author Lee Child makes a cameo in the film as the cop who gives Jack Reacher his things back when he leaves jail.


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Book: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Movie: The first part of the Millennium trilogy was the basis for not one, but two movies. First there was a Swedish version starring Noomi Rapace as the pierced and pale-skinned computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander. It’s she who reluctantly teams with a disgraced journalist to help solve a mystery involving a wealthy man’s missing great-niece. In the American version, Rooney Mara portrays Salander (with Daniel Craig playing the journalist) in a cold, stark thriller that keeps you guessing till the very end.

Trivia: Prior to casting Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander, other actresses up for the part included Kristen Stewart, Anne Hathaway, Ellen Page and Scarlett Johansson.


The French Connection

The Book: The French Connection: A True Account of Cops, Narcotics, and International Conspiracy by Robin Moore.

The Movie: Remembered fondly for its epic car chase sequence, William Friedkin’s 1971 adaptation of this true-life story starred Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider as a couple of New York cops who stumble upon a heroin shipment arriving from France. The film won several Oscars, most notably becoming the first R-rated movie to ever win Best Picture.

Trivia: The iconic car chase was filmed without any New York permits, with off-duty cops assisting in traffic control. Many of those same cops were also involved in the real-life case the movie (and book) is based on.


L.A. Confidential

The Book: L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy

The Movie: If it wasn’t for Titanic, this dangerously seductive neo-noir crime tale set in 1950s Los Angeles may have won more than two Oscars (it was nominated for nine). As such, Curtis Hanson’s adaptation of James Ellroy’s hot-tempered novel — about three L.A. policemen investigating a series of murders on their own somewhat seedy terms — earned Kim Basinger a gold statue and helped propel guys like Russell Crowe and Guy Pierce to stardom.

Trivia: While preparing for production, the cast and crew watched classic noir movies like Kiss Me Deadly, The Killing, The Bad and the Beautiful and Bad Influence.


Jackie Brown

The Book: Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard

The Movie: Notable for being writer-director Quentin Tarantino’s first adaptation, Jackie Brown is a funky tribute to the blaxploitation films of the 1970s, specifically movies like Foxy Brown, which starred Pam Grier, who’s also featured here. With an eclectic cast including Robert De Niro, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton and Robert Forster, the film interweaves the stories of its colorful characters around a plot that centers on a down-on-her-luck flight attendant (Grier) who winds up stuck between the dangerous gun-runner (Jackson) she works for and the law enforcement intent on taking him down.

Trivia: Pam Grier came close to starring in another of Quentin Tarantino’s movies, having tested for the part of “Jody” in Pulp Fiction. The role eventually went to Rosanna Arquette.


The Da Vinci Code

The Book: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

The Movie: A worldwide phenomenon when it first hit shelves back in 2003, this mega-popular novel became a movie in 2006 thanks to star Tom Hanks and director Ron Howard. The duo were tasked with the difficult job of adapting the book’s ridiculously addictive narrative — about a Harvard professor (Hanks) who teams with a police cryptologist in search of the legendary Holy Grail. The book (and subsequent movie) wasn’t without controversy and criticism, especially from the Roman Catholic Church, but that didn’t hurt its box office take as The Da Vinci Code was the second highest-grossing movie of 2006 behind Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.

Trivia: France gave rare permission for filmmakers to shoot scenes inside the famed Louvre museum.


The Maltese Falcon

The Book: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

The Movie: Though first adapted in 1931 and then loosely adapted in 1936, it was the 1941 version of The Maltese Falcon that has since gone on to become one of the greatest detective movies of all time. Starring Humphrey Bogart as detective Sam Spade and Mary Astor as his femme fatale, the hard-boiled noir tale tracks Spade as he attempts to unravel a murder mystery that revolves around a priceless jewel-encrusted falcon statuette.

Trivia: Legendary director John Huston made his debut with the film, which was nominated for three Oscars including Best Picture.

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