6 Bestselling Memoirs That Made It To The Big Screen

Six Bestselling Memoirs That Made It To The Big Screen

“A memoir is an intimate look at a moment in time.”

– Jessica Dukes

A memoir is a personal narrative of a significant part of one’s life. The word “memoir” is derived from “mémoire”, the French word for “memory”. Therefore, a memoir writer recreates the chosen pivotal moment of their life from memory through storytelling. Written from a subjective point of view, the writer’s feelings are central to the narrative. Since a memoir is composed of personal experience, the author can practice greater flexibility with the accuracy of facts. Simply defined, a memoir is a slice of life and differs from an autobiography.

With increasing popularity over the years, memoirs have become a desirable choice for filmmakers who seek to adapt them to the big screen. The subject matter of a memoir appeals to the masses as a film is able to depict the intricacies of the events of one’s life in motion. The following blog lists six memoirs written by famous personalities which have been made into films.

1.Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Hawking

Jane Hawking wrote her memoir to tell the story of her turbulent marriage to renowned physicist Stephen Hawking. It was adapted into the 2014 Oscar-winning film titled The Theory of Everything. In the memoir, she confesses the trials of being the wife of a public figure as she strived to balance taking care of him with the needs of their growing family. Jane not only offers a candid account of her life while being married to Stephen but also the brilliant physicist’s debilitating struggle with motor neurone disease as he rose to academic prominence. The film, much like the book, reveals the inner strength of the author, who had written her story with unflinching honesty. Starring Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne, it is a poignant depiction of their relationship and a moving glimpse of Hawking’s personal and professional journey.

2. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert

American journalist Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey towards self-discovery is delineated in her memoir, published in 2006. At the time a bestseller due to its ability to connect meaningfully with the modern female audience, the memoir was adapted into a film four years later. Much like the book, it was a success, conveying how women can forego social expectations and take responsibility for their own contentment. A thirty-year-old woman who is seemingly successful feels spiritually unfulfilled and thus embarks on a journey across the world, which becomes a quest for self-discovery. Gilbert’s memoir and the film, starring Julia Roberts, has become a cult favourite for people who enjoy stories on the self-fulfilment of young, independent women. 

3. Becoming by Michelle Obama

One of the most inspiring and iconic women of our time, Michelle Obama became the first African American woman to serve the role of the First Lady of the United States of America. Her memoir recounts a life of meaningful, benevolent accomplishment as a lawyer, wife and mother. It is a work of deep reflection, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her. The memoir was transformed into an impactful documentary by Nadia Hallgren, also a woman of colour, in 2020. Both the memoir and the documentary are a testament to Michelle Obama’s indomitable spirit and have inspired countless women across the globe to resist social impediments and follow their dreams.

4. A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband, Danny Pearl by Mariane Pearl

French journalist Mariane Pearl’s memoir revolves around the tragic murder of her husband, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Kidnapped by terrorists in Pakistan on his search for the “investigative truth”, Daniel Pearl was eventually brutally executed, an incident which left the world shocked and devastated. The memoir is not only a tribute to her dedicated husband’s courage but also establishes Mariane as a journalist in her own right. It outlines the crucial role she played in the investigative team, negotiating cooperation between the Pakistani intelligence and the FBI. This illuminating and heart-breaking memoir was adapted to the screen in 2007. Starring Angelina Jolie, the film movingly depicts Mariane Pearl’s determined search for her husband and her relentless quest for the truth.

5. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild is the story of her 1,100-mile solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. Her journey, begun with sheer determination, ends in self-discovery and healing. Wild evocatively captures the bravery and strength of a young woman forging ahead against all odds on a dangerous and turbulent journey in one of the rockiest terrains in the world. The memoir was made into a well-acclaimed adventure film produced by and starring Reese Witherspoon, who earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her role in the film. The film chronicles Strayed’s arduous yet inspiring journey of self-discovery.

6. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

In April 1967, 18-year-old Susanna Kaysen was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for her attempts at suicide. The memoir records her experiences as a patient diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. The 1999 film of the same name is a perceptive exploration of mental illness and the treatment of patients with severe mood disorders. Kaysen recounts the bonds she formed with other female patients, who had a deep influence on her. Both the film and the memoir faithfully portray the stigma surrounding mental illness. The film, featuring a stellar cast, also emphasises the power of female solidarity within the oppressive conditions of the asylum.

Memoirs are not only inspiring to read but are also highly impactful to watch. They offer a glimpse into the unconventional experiences of someone’s life. Both in print and in motion, they have the capacity to inspire us to overcome life’s challenges. Whether you’re a book or a movie person, you can pick any of the memoirs listed above as they are the perfect inspirational anecdotes to a better life.

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