So many films are based on books that I decided to focus on those adaptations that I love as films in their own right. Some of them are more faithful to the original book than others, but even where the films stray in content or style, it feels to me that they retain the spirit of the original book, or have used the visual medium of film to enhance it.

Shamim Sarif

Shamim Sarif

Dr Zhivago

I was impressed all over again by David Lean's direction when I watched this epic story of love and Russian revolution recently on a large screen. Zhivago's role as an observer is beautifully captured in the way shots are framed - a glimpse of Lara's hand lit by a lamp in a dark room; a shaft of sunlight across her eyes in a shadowy library. In a world where many sweeping, large scale shots are now filled in by CGI landscapes and crowds, it is breathtaking to watch the true scale of the world created in this film. And, however you choose to picture the book's characters in your mind, it's hard to fault the casting of Omar Sharif and Julie Christie - two of the most beautiful people ever and talented actors to boot.

Carol (The Price of Salt)

I read the Patricia Highsmith novel after I saw Carol at its Cannes premiere. The book did a wonderful job of conveying the growing love between the two women at its centre, but for me, Todd Haynes' evocative film allowed Carol herself to blossom a little more as the enigmatic object of Therese's attentions. Some of that has to do with exceptional performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara that spoke volumes with scant dialogue.

The Big Short

The Big Short was my film of the year, last year. As a writer, director and viewer who is often drawn to stories with strong female protagonists, I was expecting to find this drama about the testosterone-fuelled bets behind the financial crisis merely interesting. But the film managed to elicit empathy for all its characters while also finding innovative ways to explain the 2008 housing crash. Irreverently having background characters talk to camera, introducing famous commentators in short cameos - none of it is orthodox, but all of it worked. Seriously entertaining and intelligent.

The Hunger Games

When I read the book recently, I was struck by how closely the first film in the series followed the structure and characters. What I love about the film is the vivid way in which the world of Panam is brought to life. But most moving to me is Katniss's fight to retain dignity and humanity in a morally corrupt world. Visual images have a visceral effect on us and the horrific premise of The Hunger Games hits hard.

A River Runs Through It

This evocative film by Robert Redford is sometimes languid, sometimes gripping and always poetic. The story of two brothers bound by a love of fly-fishing is not an obvious candidate for a film but the story has much to say about families, art and the transcendent nature of moments of grace. For me, one of Brad Pitt's best characters and performances as a young man with self-destructive impulses but touched with true beauty.

Out of Africa

I spent some time in Kenya when I was younger and there is a whole area on the outskirts of Nairobi that is known as 'Karen' after Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa (published under the pseudonym Isak Dineson). The film is more linear in narrative than the episodic vignettes of the book but both are entirely evocative of a particular European experience in East Africa and also of Blixen's love for the land and the people she met there.

The Last of the Mohicans

I studied some American literature in university, including James Fenimore Cooper's book. I remember the solid prose of the book being somewhat hard work to get through but the film brought alive the visceral fights for physical survival and the survival of love in at a time when cross cultural relationships between Native Americans and the English colonisers were frowned on.

Breakfast at Tiffanys

A lovely confection of a book, and a gem of a movie. It's a rare thing for actor to make a character entirely her own but Audrey Hepburn managed it with Holly Golightly. A snapshot of a certain time and stylized place and a lot of fun.

Portrait of a Lady

I thought I'd throw in an adapation that didn't quite work for me - I admire Jane Campion but the film seemed to me to highlight Gilbert's shady character too early. What I truly love about Henry James' book is the way that Isabel Archer, who seems so very self-assured, falls into the relationship in a way that you can barely fault - and yet finds herself in a morass of misery. So delicately and skillfully woven is this interior life, that it is no shame at all that the movie (perhaps only for me) didn't quite capture it.

Desert Hearts

This movie about two women who find love in 1950s Reno became known as a seminal LGBT film - in fact, it is just a good film irrespective of the gender of the couple at its heart. The casino culture and characters of that small desert town are brilliantly drawn, the soundtrack of 1950s songs ranges from Gene Vincent to Ella Fitzgerald, and the love scene (which features no music at all, just the awkward reality of real ambient noise) is moving.