It’s often said that when it comes to film adaptations, the book is just better. However, there are always exceptions to the rule. These five movies were based of nonfiction books, and managed to do a pretty darn good job of adapting these true tales. It goes without saying that the films have been adjusted a little to make them screen appropriate, but you may be surprised at which of your favorite films are based on books!

*Disclosure: We only recommend books which we love and would read ourselves. This post contains affiliate links, as we are part of the Amazon Services LCC Associate Program, which may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you.

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5. A Night to Remember by Walter Lord: Inspired the Film A Night to Remember (1958)

Published in 1955, A Night to Remember is still one of the best and most detailed nonfiction books out there for fans of the Titanic sinking. This book is an enthralling account of the passengers and the events following the collision. From couples begging to stay together on lifeboats to those trapped below fighting to escape, this harrowing account keeps readers wanting more.

Within two months of publication, A Night to Remember had sold over 60,000 copies and stayed a best seller for the next half year. Following its release it has never stopped being in print and has been translated into over a dozen languages. If you love the movie Titanic, or are just interested in the details of how such an accident occurred and how people handled such a crisis, this is the book for you ! 

4. Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan: Inspired the Film Brain on Fire (2017)

Brain on Fire

Brain on Fire is the story of author Susannah Cahalan’s journey to being diagnosed with a rare form of encephalitis . Also referred to as “a great pretender”, this makes reference to a disease that is capable of mimicking another disease, generally to the extent that it can make being properly diagnosed incredibly difficult for doctors and patients alike.

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Brain on Fire is a book that recounts a story that many would classify as a horror story about a nearly impossible condition. This true account of medical discovery and overcoming a rare and almost fantastical illness is one that will captivate and enthrall you from the first few chapters. Brain on Fire was adapted and released on Netflix in 2016 into a feature film starring Chloe Grace Moretz.

3. A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar: Inspired the Film A Beautiful Mind (2001)

A Beautiful Mind

This moving tale recounts the life of mathematical genius and Nobel prize winning mathematician John Nash. Written in a biographical style by Sylvia Nasar, A Beautiful Mind has won several awards and has received great acclaim. The 2001 film starring Russell Crowe has received just as much acclaim, winning four Academy Awards.

Read this book and follow the adventure that was John’s life. From beginning to end it’s clear that his genius was shadowed by his disease. From how he interacted with people and how he used being social to study and “play” with interactions, to valuing his friends and organizing his thoughts to separate delusions from reality. A Beautiful Mind is a moving and at times heartbreaking account of a brilliant man dealing with something beyond his control.

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2. Traveling to Infinity by Jane Hawking: Inspired the Film The Theory of Everything (2014)

Traveling to Infinity

In a surprising turn for nonfiction books, Jane Hawking has decided to let us take a microscope to her life and marriage to world famous physicist Stephen Hawking. Travelling to Infinity is a memoir from Stephen Hawking’s wife first wife, documenting their many ups and downs through marriage, children and Stephen’s disease.

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The book is a true account of a love and marriage overshadowed by a debilitating disease. Full of her own hardships and struggles, Travelling to Infinity is a raw and honest account of the wife of one of the scientific community’s most famous men, and what that role really means. The 2014 adaptation The Theory of Everything was a smash hit, and one that brought Eddie Redmayne to the forefront in Hollywood, which this reader is forever grateful for.  

1. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen: Inspired the Film Girl, Interrupted (1999)

Girl Interrupted - nonfiction books

Girl interrupted is a memoir narrated more like a fictional story than a recounting of a life. Easy to read and impactful, it is based on Susanna Kaysen’s life during and after being admitted to a psychiatric facility in the 1960s.

When recounting her experiences, Susanna lets the reader know that it took under an hour with a doctor to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder; and that was only the beginning. She spent the next two years in the facility, encountering all manner of people and learn about their various reasons for having been institutionalized. An indictment of the psychiatric facilities of the time, Girl, Interrupted is a poignant story written for anyone who’s ever felt strange or out of place in the world around them. 

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Each one of these nonfiction books that have been turned into movies hold their own up against their source material. Each book is strong, interesting, and highly captivating. Multiple movies have won awards, just as each of these nonfiction books has won awards, are critically acclaimed and recognized around the world. Next time you’re looking for a nonfiction companion watch, be sure to check them out!

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