25 Movies and the Magazine Stories That Inspired Them
April 24, 2020 1:46 PM   Subscribe

"Here are 25 gold-standard film adaptations of magazine articles, published over the course of half a century as cover stories, features, or breaking news, as well as direct links to read all 25 stories online." (Longreads)

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019): Based on Can You Say... Hero? by Tom Junod (Esquire, 1998)

Hustlers (2019): Based on The Hustlers at Scores by Jessica Pressler (The Cut, 2015)

Beautiful Boy (2018): Based on My Addicted Son by David Sheff (The New York Times Magazine, 2005)

Spotlight (2015): Based on a Church Allowed Abuse by Priest for Years, by the Boston Globe Spotlight Team (Boston Globe, 2002)

Kill the Messenger (2014): Based on the Dark Alliance series by Gary Webb (San Jose Mercury News, 1996)

The Bling Ring (2013): Based on The Suspects Wore Louboutins by Nancy Jo Sales (Vanity Fair, 2010)

Argo (2012): Based on How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans From Tehran by Joshuah Bearman (WIRED, 2007)

Tower (2012): Based on 96 Minutes by Pamela Colloff (Texas Monthly, 2006)

Into the Wild (2007): Based on Death of an Innocent by Jon Krakauer (Outside, 1993)

Radio (2003): Based on Someone to Lean On by Gary Smith (Sports Illustrated, 1996)

Shattered Glass (2003): Based on Shattered Glass by Buzz Bissinger (Vanity Fair, 1998)

City by the Sea (2002): Based on Mark of a Murderer by Michael McAlary (Esquire, 1997)

Blue Crush (2002): Based on Lifes Swell by Susan Orlean (Women Outside, 1998)

Adaptation (2002): Based on Orchid Fever by Susan Orlean (The New Yorker, 1995)

The Fast and the Furious (2001): Based on Racer X by Kenneth Li (Vibe, 1998)

Almost Famous (2000): Based on The Allman Brothers Story and more by Cameron Crowe (Rolling Stone, 1973)

Coyote Ugly (2000): Based on The Muse of the Coyote Ugly Saloon by Elizabeth Gilbert (GQ, 1997)

The Insider (1999): Based on The Man Who Knew Too Much by Marie Brenner (Vanity Fair, 1996)

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998): Based on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson (Rolling Stone, 1971)

Boogie Nights (1997): Based on The Devil and John Holmes by Mike Sager (Rolling Stone, 1989)

Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993): Based on Fathering a Chess Prodigy by Fred Waitzkin (The New York Times Magazine, 1985)

The Killing Fields (1984): Based on The Death and Life of Dith Pran by Sydney H. Schanberg (New York Times Magazine, 1980)

All the Presidents Men (1976): Based on GOP Security Aide Among Five Arrested in Bugging Affair by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (The Washington Post, 1972)

Dog Day Afternoon (1975): Based on The Boys in the Bank by P.F. Kluge and Thomas Moore (LIFE Magazine, 1972)

In Cold Blood (1967): Based on In Cold Blood: The Last to See Them Alive by Truman Capote (The New Yorker, 1965)
posted by not_the_water (20 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
Why so down on the 70s, longreads?

Silkwood - from a Rolling Stone article on Karen Silkwood

Saturday Night Fever - based on that infamous docufiction article by Nik Cohn from New York

Urban Cowboy - based on an Esquire article by Aaron Latham

There must be more, but those are my top 3 picks

Wondering which of Jia Tolentino's articles is the first to be made into a major motion picture.
posted by morspin at 1:52 PM on April 24, 2020 [8 favorites]

What, no Biker Boyz?
posted by sideshow at 2:04 PM on April 24, 2020

Wanda (1970), the cult film by Barbara Loden, was inspired by a true crime story she read in the New York Sunday News. It is so faithfully recreated that it seems totally fictional, because of its oddness.
posted by elgilito at 2:33 PM on April 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

25 Movies and the Magazine Stories That Inspired Them

darn. I misread this. Thought this was all going to be about Them!.
posted by philip-random at 2:49 PM on April 24, 2020 [4 favorites]

Whenever I remember that Adaptation is technically, actually, Charlie Kaufmann's attempt at adapting The Orchid Thief I always get a small burst of joy at the mere prospect that the whole thing even got green lit...would love to have been in the room during that pitch.
posted by windbox at 3:51 PM on April 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

during that pitch

“Then, suddenly, they get into a wreck! Nic hurtles through the windshield and lands on the road, a sack of crushed potatoes. Nic, behind the wheel, is taken aback, his gaze rapt with shock.”
posted by mwhybark at 4:07 PM on April 24, 2020

The Fast and the Furious (2001): Based on Racer X by Kenneth Li (Vibe, 1998)

The splendid absurdity of the F&F franchise having its origins in investigative journalism is one my favorite bits of trivia about the 21st century so far.
posted by belarius at 4:43 PM on April 24, 2020 [13 favorites]

I remember being pleased when I learned that the EatPrayLove Elizabeth Gilbert and the Coyote Ugly Elizabeth Gilbert were the same Elizabeth Gilbert.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:02 PM on April 24, 2020 [9 favorites]

l love Adaptation. I never read the article, but I did read the Orchid Thief book (and my understanding is that the book was the basis of the movie, not the article). I can almost see why Kaufman wrote the movie he did -- there almost isn't enough story in the book from which to make a movie, much less a book (though I enjoyed the book and learned a lot about Florida and orchids from it).
posted by lhauser at 6:52 PM on April 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

If there was a Travolta trifecta, it might include 'Perfect' (1985), which is not quite a film about a specific magazine article, but a kinda meta-thingy about some possible magazine articles...
posted by ovvl at 6:53 PM on April 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

I remember being pleased when I learned that the EatPrayLove Elizabeth Gilbert and the Coyote Ugly Elizabeth Gilbert were the same Elizabeth Gilbert.

I am amazed by this every time I learn it. I periodically discover this fact, then forget it, and then discover it all over again. It ceases to amaze me in the between times but then I get the joy of being amazed again, re-amazed, each time.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:33 PM on April 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s 90s work for Esquire and Spin, and I’ve posted here in the past about when I realized she was the same Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote Eat Pray Love.

Gilbert’s early work was smart, incisive, and self-aware. I’m curious if Eat Pray Love is as vapid and oblivious as its public perception, or if this is yet another case of our culture inherently denigrating anything that involves a woman talking about herself to a predominantly female audience.
posted by Ian A.T. at 10:32 PM on April 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

My favorite tidbit about the largely fictionalized profile that became the basis for Saturday Night Fever is the the reporter set out to write a true article, but “when he arrived a drunken fight was taking place outside the club, and one of the participants rolled over in the gutter and threw up on Cohn's trouser leg, leading him to return to Manhattan.” Oh well, I did my best…time to go home and make shit up.
posted by Ian A.T. at 10:43 PM on April 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm about 50% through this - I've read some of these stories before from Longreads. I love them all.
posted by bendy at 4:07 AM on April 25, 2020

The movie of In Cold Blood wrecked me emotionally. I didn't think the article could possibly hit me any harder. I was so fucking naive.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:07 PM on April 25, 2020

Yeah man, Capote could write.
posted by mwhybark at 12:30 PM on April 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Okay, just got back from reading "Fear and Loathing," which people have been telling me for years I should read because of that time I was accidentally overmedicated and simultaneously accidentally drunk and still out of my mind with pain and thought I was hallucinating the top of the Stratosphere and the giant face of Barry Manilow out the window of the Las Vegas Hilton. But at the end of the article I still can't decide which character is Pam and which one is Archer.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:51 PM on April 25, 2020

Not sure how they could miss Bernie by Richard Linklater - sure Linklater knew the story as a good Texas boy, but the Texas Monthly article "Midnight in the Garden of East Texas" was in the credits as the inspiration.

Fantastic movie, regardless of your feelings for Jack Black, and it speaks to the current obsession with true crime storytelling as well.
posted by jkosmicki at 12:03 PM on April 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

So many Texas Monthly articles fit the bill, including what jkosmicki mentioned.
posted by St. Hubbins at 5:19 PM on April 27, 2020

I thought Dark Waters did a masterful job based on this article, and damn if didn't make me want to destroy all my non-stick pans and burn Dupont to the ground
posted by edgybelle27 at 7:46 PM on April 27, 2020

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