Best Movie & TV Adaptations of Jon Krakauer Books, Ranked – MovieWeb

Best Movie & TV Adaptations of Jon Krakauer Books, Ranked – MovieWeb

Jon Krakauer has had three of his non-fiction novels adapted to either film or TV series. Here’s how the adaptations rank.
Jon Krakauer is an author best known for stories that take a mediative journey through nature. The author and mountaineer has written seven non-fiction novels as of 2022. To date, three of his novels have been adapted for film (or TV miniseries). Indeed, Krakauer’s second novel, Into the Wild, was his first to become a bestseller. The novel spent two years on The New York Times Best Seller list back in 1996. The film, also named Into the Wild, stars Emile Hirsch as the infamous Christopher McCandless or, as he liked to call himself, Alexander Supertramp. McCandless ultimately gave up his life savings after graduating to begin a cross-country trek to Alaska.
Krakauer’s third and most decorated novel, Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster, has been adapted to film twice now. The first adaptation was a made-for-TV movie that aired in 1997 titled Into Thin Air: Death on Everest. The second adaptation, Everest, was more popular, though Krakauer himself called the film “total bull” in an interview with the LA Times, via The Guardian. Krakauer wrote the novel as a personal account of an ill-fated climb atop Mount Everest in 1996.
His latest adaptation comes in the form of a miniseries on Hulu starring Andrew Garfield. The show, Under the Banner of Heaven, is named after Krakauer’s fourth non-fiction novel, which talks about the brutal murders of a Utah mother and daughter in 1984 and the Latter Day Saints (LDS) community. The first two episodes were released on April 28, 2022, and will follow an episode a week release through June 2, 2022. In 2006, Tom Elliott and Pawel Gula released a documentary inspired by the novel called, Damned to Heaven. For the purpose of this article, we will exclude the documentary from the list below.
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This 1997 made-for-TV movie is the fictionalized version of the true story about a tragic climb atop Mount Everest. Krakauer was invited on this climb and was able to witness firsthand the ill-fated event which occurred in 1996, one year before the book and film were released. Sony purchased the rights to the film almost immediately after the book was published. Krakauer was not particularly happy to see the rights sold so quickly, but it can be assumed the author prefers this film to the 2015 second adaptation of the same novel, Everest.
Into Thin Air: Death on Everest did stay true to the editorial viewpoint Krakauer provides in his book, especially regarding the causes of the tragedy that left eight dead. It is important to note that the film does take some liberties regarding who was "responsible" for the deaths. Krakauer himself reached the summit of Mt. Everest before heading back down the mountain to safety, whereas many in his group did not.
A seven-part miniseries, Under the Banner of Heaven aired on FX and Hulu from April 28, 2022, to June 2, 2022, with each episode ranging a little over an hour in length. The miniseries covers the origination and evolution of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) and the true double murder of Brenda Lafferty and her infant daughter. Similar to the book, the series flashes back between the past a present to allow the viewer an insight into the history of LDS people and how they were related to the brutal murder.
The controversial topics of faith and violence are tested in this crime drama starring Andrew Garfield, who plays Detective Jeb Pyre. Pyre himself is a devoted LDS person who finds his faith tested the further into the murder case he gets. As he investigates the once prestigious Lafferty family, he questions how blind faith and violence can relate to one another — a point Krakauer emphasizes throughout the book. At the time this article was originally written, the series is still releasing new episodes.
While Krakauer was not a fan of this adaptation, fans loved the 2015 film, Everest. The film is also based on Krauker's Into Thin Air, but only loosely. The main concepts including the deaths, backstory, and characters involved are the same, but, according to Krakauer, it is not an accurate adaptation of his book. His character is included in this adaptation as well, but he is written as cold and unhelpful, which is completely fictional.
The feature-length film is an adventure film that will also make you cry. It follows the lives of climbers with the Adventure Consultants group that has led people up Mount Everest for years prior. The film starts with the climbers meeting up and follows them through their training and then the actual summit on May 10, 1996. Led by Rob Hall, played by Jason Clarke, the entire team makes it up the mountain, but very few survive.
Related: Here are 7 Best Movies About Characters Having an Existential Crisis
Arguably Krauker's best know film is Sean Penn's 2007 film, Into the Wild. Based on the true story of Christopher McCandless, the recent college grad donates his savings, packs a few essentials in his Dotson, and sets off for Alaska. McCandless adopts the name Alexander Supertramp to go along with his new life. Both the book and the movie follow this trek from Emory University to Alaska. Over the 20-month journey, Alex meets people who make an impact in his life and him in theirs.
Krakauer's novel is actually an expanded version of an article written for a magazine called Outside. What started as a 9000-word article turned into a best-selling novel that is being taught in many high school curriculums. Using McCandless' journal as well as interviews of some of the people he met on his journey, Krakauer was able to write a great account of a brilliant young man. One of the best parts of Penn's film is that he was able to carry out McCandless' story in an inspiring way. Yes, he perished because of poisonous plants, but he did survive 113 days in Alaska, which means he was able to at least achieve his goal. In June 2020, the bus McCandless lived on was airlifted out of Alaska to prevent any further deaths, as many hikers had lost their lives trying to locate the bus.
Writer, movie buff, and book fanatic.

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