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It's usually the case that hit plays get turned into movies. But more and more nowadays, the opposite is happening, with films being translated for the stage. Some say it's a sign of intellectual bankruptcy in theatre. Hollywood has the same problem, but there are a lot more new successful movies in the last two decades than new successful plays. So the stealing ends up being one way.

These are usually musicals even when they weren't in the first place (see All Musicals Are Adaptations); Adaptation Decay usually occurs here. Movie musicals are also frequently adapted for the stage, and these tend to acquire additional songs in the stage version.

This trope can be taken one step further, by going from movie, to stage musical, to Recursive Adaptation movie-of-the-stage-musical.


Film musicals adapted for the stage:


Stage musicals based on non-musical films (original film in parenthesis if neccessary):

  • Against All Hope
  • Applause (All About Eve)
  • Big
  • Billy Elliot
  • Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
  • Evil Dead
  • Hairspray
  • Heres Love (Miracle on 34th Street)
  • High Fidelity
  • Little Shop of Horrors (The Roger Corman B-movie The Little Shop of Horrors)
  • Nine (8 1/2)
  • Reefer Madness
  • Road House
  • Shrek
  • Silk Stockings (Ninotchka)
  • Spamalot ("Lovingly ripped off from" Monty Python and The Holy Grail)
  • Young Frankenstein
  • There's going to be a musical stage version of Star Wars.
  • Spider Man Turn Off the Dark (Heavily, if unofficially, based on the first two movies about the character)
  • La Cage aux Folles
  • Legally Blonde
  • Passion (Passione d'amore)
  • Sweet Charity (Nights of Cabiria)
  • Tanz der Vampire (The Fearless Vampire Killers)
  • The Red Shoes
  • Shenandoah
  • Fanny (Marcel Pagnol's film trilogy)
  • The Wedding Singer
  • Saturday Night Fever
  • Love Story
  • Catch Me If You Can
  • The Full Monty
  • Ghost: The Musical
  • Nosferatu the Vampire
  • Metropolis
  • Return to the Forbidden Planet
  • Urban Cowboy
  • The Toxic Avenger
  • Elf the Musical
  • Smile
  • Sister Act
  • Barbarella
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's. (Considered one of the biggest flops in Broadway history -- it only had four previews, and never officially opened)
  • The Goodbye Girl (Adapted by screenwriter Neil Simon himself)
  • Donnybrook! (The Quiet Man)
  • Windy City (Based on the play The Front Page, which was adapted to the screen 4 times, twice under it's original name (1931 and 1974), as His Girl Friday in 1940 and as Switching Channels in 1988)
  • Woman Of The Year
  • A Wonderful Life (Its a Wonderful Life)
  • Carnival (Lili)
  • Promises Promises (The Apartment)
  • Minsky's (The Night They Raided Minskys)
  • My Favorite Year
  • A Man of No Importance, Based on the 1994 film of the same name starring Albert Finney.
  • Peggy Sue Got Married
  • Priscilla Queen of the Desert (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; both the movie and musical are written by Stephen Elliot)
  • King of Hearts
  • Make a Wish (The Good Fairy, which in turn was based on a play of the same name)
  • Whistle Down the Wind
  • Grand Hotel
  • Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
  • Look to the Lilies (Lilies of the Field)
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • Sugar (Some Like It Hot; in fact a 1992 London staging used that title instead)
  • Henry, Sweet Henry (Both the novel and movie The World of Henry Orient)
  • Heathers
  • Illya Darling (Never on Sunday)
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit (A production adapted from the 1988 movie was first performed in 1993 by a community theatre in Naperville, Illinois and in Los Angeles in 1994)
  • Hazel Flagg (Nothing Sacred)
  • 9 to 5
  • The Baker's Wife (La Femme du Boulanger)
  • Grey Gardens (Adapted from a documentary!)
  • Busker's Alley (Sidewalks of London; intended for Broadway but closed during its out-of-town tryout)
  • Carmelina (Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell, which also inspired the book for Mamma Mia!)
  • Some stage adaptations of novels had input from people involved with movie adaptations of them.
    • The musical version of Carrie shared a scriptwriter with the movie and is still a Broadway byword for unmitigated failure in Screen-To-Stage Adaptationalizing. So Bad It's Good or unredeemably awful? You decide. (Betty Buckley, who played Miss Collins in the movie and Carrie's mom here, still salvaged a song for her album though.)
    • The Color Purple counted among its producers two people who worked on the movie version -- Quincy Jones (co-producer) and Oprah Winfrey (she played Sofia).
  • Back to The Future (currently in development with Alan Silvestri writing songs and Robert Zemeckis producing)

Non-musical stage adaptations of movies:

  • Clue: The Play
    • Sadly, there is to date no commercially available stage adaptation of the film. A few players have obtained special permission, and any other performance was and would be technically illegal. There is a musical stage version, but it has nothing to do with the film.
  • Night of the Living Dead: The public domain status, and relatively low budget the film had makes it an easy and convincing transfer onto stage.
  • The 39 Steps has been staged in a recent production with four actors.
  • The Pink Panther Strikes Again (Adapted for amateur stagings in The Eighties)
  • Point Break Live! is a tongue-in-cheek retelling that uses an audience member to fill Keanu Reeves's role (dialogue is provided on cue cards).
  • 12 Angry Men: Technically, it was a play before it was a movie. However, it started as a teleplay on CBS' Studio One program.
    • Does it count as an adaptation if the two versions have almost exactly the same script? The movie has an extra, very short, intro scene and that's about it.

Stage musicals based on manga and/or anime (these tend to be series of musicals that follow successive story arcs):


Special Mention

  • Gyakuten Saiban −Yomigaeru Shinjitsu, based off the Ace Attorney video game series.

Stage adaptations from other sources:

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