When books play key parts in movies, magic happens...sometimes literally.
The big-screen adaptation of award-winning bestseller The Book Thief is a beautifully-made story about the power of the written word. It follows a young girl in Nazi Germany who provides comfort to herself and to others during perilous times, first by learning to read and then by reading to a young Jewish man hiding out in her adopted parents' home. The Book Thief reminds us of other movies in which books have played key roles.
By Peter Martin
The Evil Dead (1981)
Sam Raimi kicked off the modern era of "movie books" with his low-budget horror shocker, in which five friends discover the Book of the Dead, the Necronomicon, and then make the fatal mistake of playing a tape that releases evil spirits.
The Princess Bride (1987)
A grandfather (Peter Falk) reads a wondrous fairy-tale book to his grandson (Fred Savage), sick in bed. The incredibly charming, exciting, and romantic adventure leaps off the page and into our imagination.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
After his father (Sean Connery) disappears, adventurous college professor Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) follows clues in his old man's diary to track him down. The diary has an even greater purpose: it contains information about The Holy Grail that will allow the holder to obtain it -- and its secret healing power.
What About Bob? (1991)
Dr. Leo (Richard Dreyfuss) tells his patient Bob (Bill Murray) that it's all about Baby Steps, which is both the title of his new book and the theme of his psychiatric treatment philosophy. Bob carries the book around, but what he really, really wants is Dr. Leo's personal attention, even if all the poor psychiatrist really, really wants is a summer vacation.
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
To spare her father, book-loving Belle agrees to remain in the castle of the fearsome Beast forever, but she firmly rebuffs his romantic advances. Surviving a life-threatening encounter, she opens up a little, but it's when the Beast opens up his well-stocked library to her that she beams with pleasure and begins to melt.
The Pagemaster (1994)
Young Richard (Macauley Culkin) is more fascinated by statistics than the exploits of fictional characters, but when a storm forces him to take refuge in a library, books finally come alive for him.
The Pillow Book (1996)
The titular manuscript provides information about the art of love, and it's been impressed into the mind of a young girl. She grows up to be immersed in a world filled with words, characters written on flesh, and seductive emotions.
You've Got Mail (1998)
Tom Hanks' mega-bookstore chain threatens the survival of Meg Ryan's old-fashioned little bookshop for children. As they wage war on the business front, they flirt in secret with each other's online identities. Without realizing it at first, they both share a love of books.
The Mummy (1999)
Two books figure into the plot: the solid gold Book of Amun-Ra, which provides motivation for Egyptologist Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), and the black Book of the Dead, which can bring back to life an ancient evil. Reading from those books leads to dire consequences, which must be solved by Evelyn and adventurer Rick (Brendan Fraser).
The Notebook (2004)
An older gentlemen (James Garner) reads an epic love story from a notebook to a woman (Gena Rowlands). They both reside in a peaceful nursing home, but their relationship to the young lovers in the story doesn't become clear until the very end of this poignant tale.
The Reader (2008)
Thematically, this movie is closely linked to The Book Thief. It takes place in post-World War II Germany, where the haunted Hanna (Kate Winslet) begins an affair with a young man and asks him to read to her every day the books that he is studying at school. Eventually, her past is revealed, and it all ties into … reading.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
The titular book is "wholly remarkable," containing a vast treasure trove of knowledge and little-known facts for travelers around the universe. Don't panic, but the guide is far too expansive to summarize in the space we have available here. So long, and thanks for all the fish!
The Book of Eli (2010)
The resourceful and wily Eli (Denzel Washington) wanders through a post-apocalyptic future, foraging for food as best he can and constantly pushing westward. It's a desolate landscape, where the only thing that has any real value is a mysterious book, a book for which men are willing to kill, and to die for.
The Ghost Writer (2010)
Called upon to complete the memoirs of a controversial politician (Pierce Brosnan), a longtime ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) stumbles upon secrets that put his life in danger. Will he live long enough to finish the manuscript?