10 ‘Unfilmable’ Books That Made It to the Big Screen

Some books, critics say, are simply unfilmable. And it’s true — until, of course, they get filmed. This year, we feel like we can’t turn around without running into a new film adaptation of a book that has, until now, been generally agreed to be too stylistically complex, too structurally strange, too epic in proportion for the big screen. While we’re still waiting on Pale Fire and 100 Years of Solitude, we’re getting two in the next two weeks alone: Cloud Atlas and Midnight’s Children. Inspired by this turn of events, we’ve put together a list of a few supposedly unfilmable books that have been adapted into films against all odds — some with great success, and others with, well, less success. Read our list after the jump, and add your own unfilmable favorites in the comments!

Cloud Atlas

“As I was writing Cloud Atlas,” David Mitchell told The New Yorker, “I thought, ‘It’s a shame this is unfilmable.'” And he’s not just being modest. Indeed, the book seems a tough sell for adaptation — as you probably know by now, even if you haven’t read it, the structure is like that of a mirrored pyramid or a circle: the six storylines build chronologically towards the pinnacle of the furthest future, then march back down the other side, the book ending with the second half of the story the reader began some 500 pages before. But the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer, with some small (okay, enormous) tweaks in structure, managed to make it work — and the result is pretty astounding.