The 25 Best Movies Adapted From Plays

18. Glengarry Glen Ross (James Foley, 1992)

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

A struggling real estate firm in Chicago attempts to regain their grounding in the competitive market. The agents resort to illegal and unethical tactics in order to secure their jobs while maintaining control of their less than perfect lives. They all seek to be successful in closing big deals and win a coveted prize, yet internal turmoil in their company could ruin their worlds.

“Glengarry Glen Ross”, the Pulitzer Prize winning play by Chicago playwright David Mamet, debuted onstage in London in 1983. As a play, various productions have won several other awards. By the time the 1992 film adaptation was released, Mamet had re-written the screenplay and added the character Blake (played by Alec Baldwin). Despite being well received by critics and a stellar well known cast, the film was a commercial failure, but is still considered a classic in acting and screenwriting courses.


19. Vanya on 42nd Street (Louis Malle, 1994)

VANYA ON 42ND STREET, Wallace Shawn (l.), 1994, (c)Sony Pictures

An elderly professor, Aleksandr Serebryakov has retired and meets with his surviving family members to discuss the future of their estate in the countryside of Russia in the late 1800s. He feels a sense of emptiness despite having a prolific career, a beautiful young wife, Yelena, and the support of those around him. Ivan (aka Vanya) is his son from Aleksandr’s first wife and primary handler of the estate, a hypochondriac and regrets not pursuing Yelena ten years before she became his stepmother along with other opportunities in a misspent youth.

Anton Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” premiered on stage in Moscow in 1899, but was published two years prior. In 1994, the play was adapted in English by David Mamet and the screenplay for the film by Andre Gregory. Directed by Louis Malle (his last film), the cast does a compelling read through rehearsal, with minimal props and no major set changes, in a dilapidated theatre on 42nd Street in New York City.


20. Hellcab aka Chicago Cab (Mary Cybulski, 1997)


A gruff Chicago cab driver carries on throughout an emotionally intense all day shift during a cold Christmas Eve. His passengers consist of lawyers, Christian conservatives, bickering or fornicating couples, drunk businessmen, angry foreigners, potentially dangerous criminals, a rape victim and a few sane characters with insightful words.

The original play written by Will Kern debuted in Chicago, 1992. Five years later, he would adapt the script for the film version, directed by Mary Cybulski and John Tintori. It features Paul Dillion as the unnamed Cab Diver and cameos from John Cusack, Michael Ironside, Julianne Moore, Gillian Anderson, along with many more.


21. Psycho Beach Party (Robert Lee King, 2000)

PSYCHO BEACH PARTY, Nick Cornish, Andrew Levitas, Nicholas Brendon, Thomas Gibson, 2000

At a Malibu beach in the early 1960s, Florence “Chicklet” Forrest becomes first girl surfer, but suffers from a dissociative identity disorder and blackouts. A series of gruesome murders begin to take place and Captain Monica Stark is investigating the case. Possible suspects range from Chicklet, to her perfectionist mother, a hunky surfing guru and a bubbly blonde B-movie actress.

In 1987, “Gidget Goes Psychotic” debuted as a play that was spoof of psychodramas, beach movies and slasher flicks. Due to copyright concerns, it was renamed for the film. Director and screenplay writer, Charles Busch, had portrayed the teenaged Chicklet in the original stage production, but for film added the police chief detective and filled that role in drag. A modest cult campy hit that pulls off its purpose convincingly and the stage production has expand to the United Kingdom and Australia.


22. Bug (William Friedkin, 2006)


Agnes is a cocktail waitress on the run from her violent ex-con ex-husband, when she’s introduced to Peter, a paranoid AWOL Gulf War veteran. They hole up in a seedy Oklahoma hotel and notice a heavy bug infestation. Intense discussions of government conspiracy theories to intimacy issues, fuel their depleting sanity.

American writer, Tracy Letts’ 1996 multiple award winning play premiered in London with Michael Shannon in the lead role, then later stage productions in Chicago and New York. He would go on to star with Ashley Judd in the 2006 film version. It received positive reviews and noteworthy, Oscar caliber performances by the lead actors.


23. Sleuth (Kenneth Branagh, 2007)


Successful and aging mystery writer, Andrew Wyke, lures his soon-to-be ex-wife’s lover, Milo Tindle, into his mansion to stage a robbery of her jewelry. Much to his dismay, the young charming actor sets his sights on the turning the tables. Is it all a product of Andrew’s overactive imagination or is treacherous game of cat and mouse for real?

English writer Anthony Shaffer’s play was first performed on Broadway in t 1970. Two years later he would revise his script for the 1972 film adaptation starring Michael Caine as Milo and Laurence Olivier as Andrew. For the 2007 remake, Caine would play the aging writer and Jude Law as the young actor. Unfortunately, it latter version wasn’t well received by the masses.


24. Rabbit Hole (John Cameron Mitchell, 2010)


Becca and Howie are a married couple in their late thirties who are coping with the accidental death of their four year old son, Danny. They attended group grief counseling meetings, but they are at odds with each other about how to move on with their lives. Becca seeks out a friendship with the alienated, but artistic teenager, Jason, who is responsible for their loss.

The Pulitzer Prize winning play by David Lindsay-Abaire made its stage debut in New York in 2006. John Cameron Mitchell retained the original script for his 2010 film adaptation with Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart. The feature was nominated for several awards and received positive reviews from critics and audiences, despite the painful subject matter.


25. Venus In Fur (Roman Polanski, 2013)


A theatre director and play writer Thomas Novachek is exhausted with trying to cast the female lead in an adaptation of “Venus in Furs”, by Leopold Von Sancher-Masoch. On a thundery and rainy dark night, a young actress, Vanda Jordan, barges in abruptly and demands an audition. The director isn’t readily convinced that she is cultured or experienced enough to endure such a commanding role, but goes a long with it and reads the part of Severin Von Kushemski. Over the course of the evening, they both become the characters that they are reading, while the balance of power is reversed.

David Ives’ 2010 play opened as an Off-Broadway play in New York, but became a success in other countries like Australia, Canada and Lebanon. Roman Polanski is in that class of directors who can pull off a ninety-minute feature with only two actors and stir up pure and powerful performances that will captivate its audience.

Author Bio: James Leon is a screenwriter/director currently residing in the Bay Area of California. His first feature length film, “Dropping Like Flies”, is gearing up for a release in September of 2015. He loves cats, coffee & collage art.