The Living Authors with the Most Film Adaptations

An Infographic to Confirm Your Suspicions...

March 15, 2017  By Emily Temple

It seems as though every other day there’s an announcement of a new forthcoming film adaptation of a beloved (or just new) novel—after all, where else would great films come from? It’s a huge deal to have your novel adapted for the big screen, but some authors probably don’t even notice it anymore. There are plenty of writers whose works have been made into many, many films—William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Arthur Conan Doyle being the high rollers that immediately spring to mind. But with contemporary—read, living—authors, the field is a little slimmer. So I wondered—which living authors have had the most films adapted from their work (so far)? I wondered, I searched, and then I made this infographic. (Click to enlarge.)

Some notes on methodology: first of all, this information doesn’t exist in any organized place (until now), so I had to search film adaptations author by author. If I’ve missed someone, this is why. In fact, I’m sure I’ve missed someone, but all research has to stop somewhere. Next, I wasn’t picky about source material: movies adapted from novels, short stories, and novellas all count, though original screenplays written by novelists do not. I didn’t count sequels of films not themselves based on an original work—so The Mangler counts, but not The Mangler 2 or The Mangler Reborn. (I’m also not counting anthology films in which not all of the segments are adaptations, though this is only an issue for Stephen King, who doesn’t need any more of a lead.) On the other hand, single works that have been adapted twice (or split into two films) do get counted twice.

Here’s a big one: I’ve only counted films that were theatrically released—so no made-for-TV movies. This changes the data a lot—for instance, Danielle Steel has more than 20 TV movie adaptations to her name (and only one theatrical release, in Australia)—but I think this way is more faithful to what we mean when we talk about film adaptations.

Article continues after advertisement

You had to clear five “actual” films to get on my list, which is a pretty high bar. Anne Rice doesn’t cut it. James Patterson doesn’t either. I’ve counted films slated as 2017 releases where appropriate, but nothing only announced or “in production,” because the movie business is unreliable and projects crash and burn all the time. Finally, for my sanity, I’ve only counted films based on books written in English.



Stephen King: 34

Carrie (1976)
The Shining (1980)
Cujo (1983)
The Dead Zone (1983)
Christine (1983)
Children of the Corn (1984)
Firestarter (1984)
Silver Bullet (1985)
Maximum Overdrive (1986)
Stand By Me (1986)
The Running Man (1987)
Pet Sematary (1989)
Graveyard Shift (1990)
Misery (1990)
The Dark Half (1993)
Needful Things (1991)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Dolores Claiborne (1995)
The Mangler (1995)
Thinner (1996)
The Night Flier (1997)
Apt Pupil (1998)
The Green Mile (1999)
Hearts in Atlantis (2001)
Dreamcatcher (2003)
Secret Window (2004)
Riding the Bullet (2004)
1408 (2007)
The Mist (2007)
Mercy (2014)
A Good Marriage (2014)
Cell (2016)
The Dark Tower (2017)
IT (2017)

Nicholas Sparks: 11

Message in a Bottle (1999)
A Walk to Remember (2002)
The Notebook (2004)
Nights in Rodanthe (2008)
Dear John (2010)
The Last Song (2010)
The Lucky One (2012)
Safe Haven (2013)
The Best of Me (2014)
The Longest Ride (2015)
The Choice (2016)

John le Carré: 10

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1965)
The Deadly Affair (1966)
The Looking Glass War (1970)
The Little Drummer Girl (1984)
The Russia House (1990)
The Tailor of Panama (2001)
The Constant Gardener (2005)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
A Most Wanted Man (2014)
Our Kind of Traitor (2016)

Ian McEwan: 10

Schmetterlinge (Germany) (1988)
The Comfort of Strangers (Italy/UK) (1990)
The Cement Garden (UK) (1993)
Conversation with a Cupboard Man (Poland) (1993)
The Innocent (1993)
First Love, Last Rites (1997)
Enduring Love (UK) (2004)
Atonement (UK) (2007)
The Children Act (2017)
On Chesil Beach (UK) (2017)

John Grisham: 9

The Firm (1993)
The Pelican Brief (1993)
The Client (1994)
A Time to Kill (1996)
The Chamber (1996)
The Rainmaker (1997)
The Gingerbread Man (1998) *Based on an unpublished manuscript
Runaway Jury (2003)
Christmas with the Kranks (2004)

J.K. Rowling: 9

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) *”Inspired by” the book Rowling wrote as Newt Scamander

Dean Koontz: 8

Demon Seed (1977)
The Passengers (France) (1977)
Watchers (1988)
Whispers (Canada) (1990)
Servants of Twilight (1991)
Hideaway (1995)
Phantoms (1998)
Odd Thomas (2013)

Clive Barker: 8

Rawhead Rex (UK) (1986)
Hellraiser (UK) (1987)
Nightbreed (1990)
Candyman (1992)
Lord of Illusions (1995)
The Midnight Meat Train (2008)
Book of Blood (UK) (2009)
Dread (UK) (2009)

Philip Roth: 8

Battle of Blood Island (1960)
Goodbye, Columbus (1969)
Portnoy’s Complaint (1972)
The Human Stain (2003)
Elegy (2008)
The Humbling (2014)
Indignation (2016)
American Pastoral (2016)

Nick Hornby: 7

Fever Pitch (UK) (1997)
High Fidelity (2000)
About a Boy (2002)
Fever Pitch (2005)
Born a Star? (Italy) (2012)
A Long Way Down (2014)
Slam (Italy) (2016)

William Goldman: 7

Soldier in the Rain (1963)
No Way to Treat a Lady (1968)
Marathon Man (1976)
Magic (1978)
Heat (1986)
The Princess Bride (1987)
Wild Card (2015)

Thomas Harris: 6

Black Sunday (1997)
Manhunter (1986)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Hannibal (2001)
Red Dragon (2002)
Hannibal Rising (2007)

Stephenie Meyer: 6

Twilight (2008)
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (2011)
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012)
The Host (2013)

Larry McMurtry: 6

Hud (1963)
The Last Picture Show (1971)
Lovin’ Molly (1974)
Terms of Endearment (1983)
Texasville (1990)
The Evening Star (1996)

Emily Temple
Emily Temple
Emily Temple is a senior editor at Lit Hub.

  • Pingback: Living Writers with Most Film Adaptations – Slushpile()

  • kenyancoffee

    That’s a lovely graphic but the choice of typeface is unappealing.

  • Pingback: The Living Authors with the Most Film Adaptations | Art of Conversation()

  • Rebus at play

    Interesting and nicely done! What about John Irving?

  • August Canaille

    What about the films that had nothing to do with the original story and the author had his name removed?

    (The Running Man)

    • You may be thinking of The Lawnmower man – there was even a lawsuit with that one.

      The Running Man he claims – wrote it under his penname.

      • August Canaille

        Yes….Lol. I meant Lawnmower Man. Stupid movie spoonerism.

        Thank you.

  • Stephen King’s list is pretty incomplete. What about the TV movies – they are still movies – for King, such as the first IT, The Stand, The Langoliers, etc? They are not on the list. Also it does not show both versions of the Shining, just one, or Bag of Bones. Is this list only meant to be movies shown in a theater? The title doesn’t reflect that.

  • Where is Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry? That’s his most famous movie/book.

    • maryw

      She did say in the article that TV adaptations were not bring included only big screen.

      • I overlooked that apparently. With this author though that was his crowning achievement so seeing him on the list without Lonesome Dove almost seems a crime!

  • I didn’t know Koontz had so many movies. The Servants of Twilight was excellent in book and movie form.

  • djsmps

    If Elmore Leonard hadn’t died a couple of years ago, he would have come in second with 21 films.

  • Dr. New Jersey

    One thing that struck me was how long it has been since there has been a Grisham adaptation, and it seems like he has a number of works that would still work on the screen. I’d like to see a Christian film maker take a try at The Testament. I expect Cormac McCarthy with four and a screenplay have more than one adaptation of his work. And as Rebus noted, Irving has five. If you count adaptations of plays, I think David Mamet makes it.

  • Kimmare Rojas

    I was quite confused at your results, as my research uncovers many more credits for Stephen King. Also, there is a comprehensive list of all credits available at the IMDb web site, so selection of the authors by the researcher introduces unintentional bias into the results. Your “study” also uses very narrow research criteria, and eliminates data for your convenience. All these would skew the data considerably.

  • ratatattle

    I am not so sure the numbers are right. Stephen King’s Carrie has been made atleast 4 times into a movie. Apart from the 1976 version (which I assume was a mainstream movie) there was atleast one more which had a proper commercial release – the 2013 movie starring Chloe Grace Moretz and directed by Kimberley Pierce. And I have taken into account all the exceptions you have made.

  • Roger Foreman

    Philip K. DIck….?
    Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (1990 & 2012), Minority Report (2002), A Scanner Darkly (2006), Screamers (1996), Paycheck (2003), Next (2007), Radio Free Albemuth (2008), The Adjustment Bureau (2011), Impostor (2010)….

  • Roger Foreman

    Patricia Highsmith?
    Strangers on a Train, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Ripley’s Game, Ripley Under Ground, The Cry of the Owl, The Two Faces of January, Carol, A Kind of Murder (The Blunderer)…

  • donsmith

    Philip K Dick? I think there are about 8~10 movies, no?

  • THElaulauman Man

    Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry? Granted, it was a made-for-TV film adaptation…… and the best Western in my humble opinion ever that I’ve watched. There are a dozen that are tight for a very close second!

More Story
The Future: Where Sexual Ambivalence Meets Sexual Gentrification “[I]t is always a question of how complicated we can allow people to be without feeling the need to punish them for it.” –Adam...