10 Best Surprising Classic Source Materials Revealed (2023) Release Date

10 Best Surprising Classic Source Materials Revealed (2023)

Since the early days of the film industry, Hollywood has been diving into timeless literary treasures. It’s no wonder that some of the most beloved movies are born from existing works, as filmmakers have a talent for injecting new life into these tales to enthral a whole new generation.

But it’s not just the straightforward adaptations that captivate us. Equally fascinating are the movies that take a slightly unconventional or indirect approach to bringing classic stories to the big screen. While Shakespeare’s masterpieces have always been a crowd-pleaser, it’s worth mentioning that Hollywood has also ventured into unexpected territory to create some of its most popular films. These choices may not be immediately obvious, but they certainly guarantee an intriguing and entertaining experience for the viewer.

1. Demolition Man’ Is ‘Brave New World’ With Some Confusing Seashells

Demolition Man' Is 'Brave New World' With Some Confusing Seashells
Demolition Man brought together two of the biggest action stars of the 1980s and early 1990s for a unique adaptation. Wesley Snipes and Sylvester Stallone take on the roles of a ruthless criminal and an equally ruthless policeman who awaken from cryogenic freezing in a future where all crime has been eradicated. The film not only delivers an action-packed storyline but also injects humor by highlighting the peculiar customs of this futuristic world. One such example is the replacement of toilet paper with seashells, which leaves Stallone’s character just as bewildered as the audience.

The world depicted in Demolition Man bears a striking resemblance to the dystopian society envisioned by Aldous Huxley in his 1932 novel. While the 1993 film makes nods to other influential dystopian works, it pays special homage to Brave New World by naming Sandra Bullock’s character Lenina Huxley. Lenina’s first name is also borrowed from a key character in Huxley’s book.


2. She’s the Man’ Is ‘Twelfth Night’ With Amanda Bynes

She's the Man' Is 'Twelfth Night' With Amanda Bynes
The turn of the millennium witnessed a plethora of pop culture adaptations of Shakespeare that were particularly noteworthy. She’s the Man, a delightful and whimsical comedy, may not appear overtly Shakespearean at first glance. However, it is clear that it owes a great deal to the gender-bending comedy Twelfth Night. In this film, Amanda Bynes takes on the role of Viola Hastings, who assumes the identity of her twin brother Sebastian to attend his boarding school and join the men’s soccer team.

Although the story is set in the present day, the characters closely resemble those of Twelfth Night, with many of them retaining their original names. Disguised as Sebastian, Viola finds herself unexpectedly falling in love with her teammate Duke Orsino, portrayed by Channing Tatum. Duke, in turn, seeks Viola’s assistance in pursuing another classmate, Olivia, portrayed by Laura Ramsey. Meanwhile, Olivia develops feelings for “Sebastian,” leading to a complex love triangle.

The film, despite its convenient resolution where Viola reveals her true identity to Duke and Olivia ends up happily with the real Sebastian, also explores the idea that gender is merely a performance. This notion, quite radical for a teenage comedy from the mid-2000s, is underscored throughout the story.


3. My Own Private Idaho’ Is ‘Henry V’ With Modern Surrealism

My Own Private Idaho' Is 'Henry V' With Modern Surrealism
Gus Van Sant is widely regarded as one of the most visionary directors in Hollywood. His films are known for their combination of difficulty and beauty, and this is exemplified perfectly in My Own Private Idaho. This movie stars River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves as a pair of hustlers on a journey to find their homes and parents. It’s a unique blend of surrealism, road trip, and buddy film, with a touch of Shakespeare added to the mix.

In many ways, My Own Private Idaho can be seen as a contemporary American retelling of Shakespeare’s Henry V. The story revolves around a wayward young man, Scott (played by Reeves), who inherits his father’s wealth and subsequently abandons his former friends, including Mikey (played by Phoenix). This film captures the bohemian lifestyle but also manages to be bittersweet, touching, and somewhat tragic, staying true to its Shakespearean origins.


4. Ex Machina’ Is ‘Frankenstein’ With Artificial Intelligence

Ex Machina' Is 'Frankenstein' With Artificial Intelligence
Ex Machina is the moment Alex Garland proves himself as a director to watch. It showcases his keen understanding of the literature that inspired the sci-fi film genre. The movie delves into human anxieties about technological advancements, with a focus on Ava, a robot portrayed by Alicia Vikander, who exhibits signs of genuine sentience. Throughout her interactions with programmer Caleb, played by Domnhall Gleeson, Ava reveals surprising depths of consciousness and a longing for a life beyond the confines of the lab.

The plot may sound familiar, and that’s because it draws inspiration from Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, Frankenstein. In both stories, we witness a brooding, gothic atmosphere and connect with the so-called “monster” who yearns to escape the pain and isolation of being treated as a mere experiment. Thankfully, Ava’s journey takes a more positive turn compared to Shelley’s creature. She ultimately achieves the freedom she desperately craves, even if it means betraying her creator and Caleb along the way.


5. The Big Lebowski’ Is ‘The Big Sleep’ With A Very Important Rug

The Big Lebowski' Is 'The Big Sleep' With A Very Important Rug
The Coen Brothers are experts at using their vast knowledge of film and literature to create their masterpieces. The Big Lebowski, a crime comedy from 1998, is no exception and continues to have a significant impact on popular culture. The main character, known as “The Dude” (played by Jeff Bridges), finds himself in a dangerous situation due to mistaken identity. He then becomes entangled in a kidnapping plot involving a millionaire named Jeffrey Lebowski, all while seeking retribution for a ruined rug.

Although The Big Lebowski is widely recognized as a quintessential stoner comedy, filled with memorable quotes and moments that have become popular memes, many fans are unaware of its connection to Raymond Chandler’s detective fiction, specifically his novel The Big Sleep, published in 1939. While the film only incorporates certain plot elements from the book, it captures the protagonist’s feeling of being out of his depth and being pulled into a complex world and plot that he struggles to comprehend. However, unlike The Big Sleep, The Big Lebowski trades the brooding tone of a noir detective story for a lighter and more eccentric atmosphere, complete with an extravagant dance sequence inspired by bowling and accompanied by Kenny Rogers’ music.


6. Chicken Run’ Is ‘The Great Escape’ With Fowl Inmates

Chicken Run' Is 'The Great Escape' With Fowl Inmates
DreamWorks Animation, especially in its earlier years, was not afraid to take creative risks. One example of this is the collaboration with Aardman Animations to adapt a classic prisoner-of-war story with chickens. The result was Chicken Run, a hilarious stop-motion film that tells the story of poultry trapped on a farm and their plot to escape from their miserable living conditions. The farmers who own them treat them as mere egg-laying machines, so it’s no surprise that they yearn to fly the coop, quite literally.

At its core, Chicken Run is a modern take on the iconic 1963 prison-break film, The Great Escape. However, this animated gem adds a lighthearted twist while still delivering a powerful message about the cruelty of factory farming and the exploitation of animals for human consumption.


7. Barb Wire’ Is ‘Casablanca’ With A Stiletto-Stomping Femme Fatale

Barb Wire' Is 'Casablanca' With A Stiletto-Stomping Femme Fatale
Pamela Anderson rose to fame with her iconic voluptuous appearance on the TV series Baywatch from 1989 to 1990. However, during the late ’90s, there was speculation that she might transition into a successful film career. This led to her role in Barb Wire, where she portrays the title character, a formidable nightclub owner in a not-so-distant future America. Set in 2017, a time almost two decades ahead of the movie’s release, the country is torn apart by another civil war.

Barb gradually gets entangled in a larger conflict as she tries to sell illegal identity lenses on the black market to secure passage into Canada. Amidst her endeavors, she also finds a brief opportunity to rekindle a romance with a former lover. The story concludes with Barb passing on the lenses to a young rebel and her partner, enabling their escape to Canada by plane, while Barb herself remains behind.

If this plot sounds familiar, it’s because the core elements bear a striking resemblance to the beloved film Casablanca. The primary difference lies in the reversal of genders for the main characters. As Barb Wire is based on a comic book, the film embraces bombastic and sensual elements. Despite receiving criticism upon its release, it has since gained a cult following, possibly due to its unacknowledged borrowing from Casablanca.


8. Forbidden Planet’ Is ‘The Tempest’ In 1950s Outer Space

Forbidden Planet' Is 'The Tempest' In 1950s Outer Space
The 1950s was a golden era for sci-fi movies, and one of the classics from that time is Forbidden Planet. This film revolves around a group of explorers who venture to a distant planet in the hopes of finding survivors from a previous lost expedition. The cast includes talented actors such as Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francies, and Leslie Nielsen. The story delves into themes of exploration, love, and the dangers of arrogance, as the humans uncover the advanced technology left behind by the planet’s former inhabitants, known as the Krell.

For those well-versed in literature, it’s hard to miss the similarities between the film’s plot and William Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest. While the play is set on a remote island, Forbidden Planet cleverly adapts the story to a remote planet. The characters of Morbius and his daughter Altaira can be seen as modern equivalents of Shakespeare’s renegade magician Prospero and his daughter Miranda. The brilliance of this film lies in its ability to take Shakespeare’s timeless template and bring it to life in a new genre, catering to a new generation of viewers.


9. Warm Bodies’ Is ‘Romeo & Juliet’ With A Zombie

Warm Bodies' Is 'Romeo & Juliet' With A Zombie
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is widely known for its tragic romance, having been retold in various forms countless times. But one telling of the story stands out as particularly unique – Warm Bodies. In this adaptation, the traditional obstacle of Capulet versus Montague is replaced with the obstacle of the living versus the undead. Our protagonist, R, is a hopeless romantic zombie who unexpectedly falls in love with Julie, a human.

Despite its apocalyptic setting, Warm Bodies shares many similarities with Shakespeare’s play, although it is actually based on a novel of the same name. However, the most significant difference lies not in the setting, but in the ending. Unlike Shakespeare’s tragedy, Warm Bodies concludes on a positive note. The apocalypse is averted, zombies, including R, are able to regain their humanity, and Julie and R continue their relationship happily ever after.


10. The Warriors’ Is Xenophon’s ‘Anabasis’ (From A 1965 Book)

The Warriors' Is Xenophon's 'Anabasis' (From A 1965 Book)
Though not as widely recognized as Plato, Xenophon, an ancient Greek philosopher and military leader, penned an incredibly significant work known as Anabasis. This text chronicles the expedition of the Ten Thousand, a band of Greek mercenaries dispatched to seize the Persian throne around 400 BCE. Led by Xenophon himself, the exploits of this group have been immortalized in the pages of Anabasis and even found their way into contemporary popular culture, notably in the film The Warriors.

Released in 1979, The Warriors is technically based on a 1965 novel by Sol Yurick. However, the influence of Xenophon’s work on both the novel and the film is evident. Rather than featuring Greek soldiers, the story is set in the bustling streets of New York City, following a street gang known as “The Warriors.” Instead of journeying from Persia to Greece, the Warriors traverse from the northern Bronx to their own turf in Coney Island. Despite these variations, the film remains true to the core elements of a dedicated group of fighters striving to find their way back home. In this way, the ancient Greek text maintains its relevance in the modern era.


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