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Who says Hollywood ruins books? Sometimes the movie title improves on the original.

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  • “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946)

    The classic film about how angels get their wings is based on a short story by Philip Van Doren Stern called “The Greatest Gift.” What was first a self-published booklet turned into one of the most beloved films ever, and earned five Oscar nominations. 

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  • “Cape Fear” (1962, 1991)

    Joseph D. MacDonald’s “The Executioners” has had two big screen adaptations — one in 1962 starring Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck, and one in 1991 from Martin Scorsese. In both bases they went with the title “Cape Fear.”

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  • “Dr. Strangelove” (1964)

    It took Stanley Kubrick a while to settle on a title for his take of Peter George’s satirical novel “Red Alert.” He ended up with one of the most unique titles in film history: “Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”

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  • “Apocalypse Now” (1979)

    Many filmmakers attempted to bring Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” to the big screen, but it wasn’t until Francis Ford Coppola set it in Vietnam and renamed it “Apocalypse Now” that the narrative finally got a successful adaptation.

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  • “Blade Runner” (1982)

    Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” left some people scratching their heads, but Philip K. Dick’s short story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep?” — on which it is based — would probably have just added to any confusion.

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  • “Manhunter” (1986)

    Hannibal Lecter had his big screen debut before “The Silence of the Lambs.” Thomas Harris’ first novel, “Red Dragon,” was directed by Michael Mann and retitled “Manhunter.” Brian Cox played Lecter.

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  • “Stand By Me” (1986)

    Stephen King is best known for his horror/thriller stories, but with a different tone than most of his work, “The Body” was changed to “Stand by Me” in an attempt to reflect that.

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  • “Die Hard” (1988)

    The team behind “Die Hard” changed more than just the title of Roderick Thorp’s “Nothing Lasts Forever.” John McLane was originally Joe Leland, Hans Gruber’s name was Anton, and it was McLane’s daughter office he got stuck in, not his wife’s.

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  • “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” (1988)

    The source material for “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” had a darker tone than the eventual film. “Who Censored Roger Rabbit?” saw Roger Rabbit murdered, and his ghost hires private eye Eddie Valiant to find his killer.

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  • “Field of Dreams” (1989)

    Nearly 70 years after Shoeless Joe Jackson’s baseball career ended, most people probably wouldn’t recognize the name, the take on W.P. Kinsella’s novel “Shoeless Joe” was renamed “Field of Dreams.”

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  • “Goodfellas” (1990)

    Nicholas Pileggi’s true-crime book “Wiseguys” was renamed by director Martin Scorsese. However, the nickname of “wiseguys” is mentioned in the final film.

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  • “10 Things I Hate About You” (1999)

    Based on William Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” the adaptation starring Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger brought things to the present day and gave it a more timely title, “10 Things I Hate About You.”

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  • “Cruel Intentions” (1999)

    Choderlos de Laclos’ “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” got a direct adaptation in 1988, but was given a modern spin with “Cruel Intentions,” which starred Ryan Phillippe, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Reese Witherspoon.

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  • “The 13th Warrior” (1999)

    “Eaters of the Dead” was the original title for John McTiernan’s adaptation, but author Michael Crichton supposedly was so disappointed with the film they changed the name.

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  • “O Brother, Where Are Thou?” (2000)

    This very loose adaptation of Greek poet Homer’s “The Odyssey” from the Coen brothers changed many details to fit their trademark style, including the title to “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

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  • “Adaptation” (2002)

    Coming from the mind of Charlie Kaufman, changing the title of “The Orchid Thief” to “Adaptation” was tame. Rather than telling the story of an author’s search for a rare flower, Kaufman instead told the story of his struggles to adapt “The Orchid Thief.”

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  • “There Will Be Blood” (2007)

    Upton Sinclair’s 1920s novel “Oil” served as loose inspiration for 2007’s “There Will Be Blood,” a much more dramatic title for the oil tycoon story. 

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  • “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008)

    The rags-to-riches tale that gave Dev Patel his start was inspired by the novel “Q&A” by Vikas Swarup in 2005. “Slumdog Millionaire” went on to win eight Oscars including Best Picture. 

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  • “Carol” (2015)

    The 1952 romance novel by Patricia Highsmith was later published under the title “Carol,” which is the title of T0dd Haynes’ Oscar-nominated 2015 movie.

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  • What’s in a name? These well-known books got new names for their big-screen adaptations

    Who says Hollywood ruins books? Sometimes the movie title improves on the original.

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