The Short Stories Behind 10 Famous Films

We’ve been anticipating the audiobook release of John McManusStop Breakin Down — the short story collection that won him a prestigious Whiting Writers’ Award, for which he was the youngest recipient. “Here is rage on the page,” the Los Angeles Times wrote of McManus’ stories about “people driven to the brink of endurance and survival.” Writer Dane Elcar narrates the audio version, imbuing the tales with a cinematic quality. The release got us thinking about the ways literature is translated from page to screen and the many short stories that have made the leap to cinema. Here are ten of our favorites for your comparison and perusal.


Don’t Look Now

Nicolas Roeg’s 1973 film Don’t Look Now, famous for its realistic sex scenes between stars Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, looked to Daphne du Maurier’s 1971 short story collection Not After Midnight to inform the emotionally devastating tale. Both versions follow the unraveling of a married couple who retreat to Venice after the death of their daughter, but the causes of the little girl’s demise vary. The Guardian wrote of Du Maurier’s dark story:

“‘Don’t Look Now’ is a deeply unsettling story. Its power arises in part from its few supernatural effects, but is more a function of the slow, inexorable accumulation of incident and feeling that almost imperceptibly acquire a kind of critical mass, to the point that tragedy inevitably occurs — and when it does, it leaves the reader both shocked and relieved, for an intolerable tension has at last been relaxed. This is narrative control of a very high order.