A Time to Film: John Grisham on the Big Screen

Has it really been 17 years since the movie version of "The Firm" was released? Tom Cruise a mere thirtysomething? Pre-Oprah couch jumping? So many of today’s biggest stars made early box office booms in movies from John Grisham’s biggest bestsellers — Julia Roberts in "The Pelican Brief," Matt Damon in "The Rainmaker," Matthew McConaughey in "A Time to Kill," and, of course, unforgettably, Tom Cruise in "The Firm." No word just yet on John Grisham’s newest novel, The Confession, being made into a movie and what young Hollywood up-and-comer will have his or her shot at joining those ranks, but while you’re waiting, here’s the complete list of John Grisham’s bestsellers that have been turned into box office gold. Check out how many you have seen.

The Runaway Jury by John Grisham The Runaway Jury (2003)

Starring John Cusack, Gene Hackman, and Dustin Hoffman; Directed by Gary Fleder

"The Runaway Jury" on IMDB

Trials are too important to be decided by juries.

Wendell Rohr is a torts lawyer taking on the gun lobby. Rankin Fitch is the jury consultant for the Defendants and between them the battle is for the hearts and minds of the jury. But there is someone on the inside. Nicholas Easter is a juror with a girlfriend, Marlee, on the outside. They have a past … and their own agenda. Based on the novel The Runaway Jury by John Grisham.

The Rainmaker by John Grisham The Rainmaker (1997)

Starring Matt Damon, Danny DeVito, and Claire Danes; Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

"The Rainmaker" on IMDB

They were totally unqualified to try the case of a lifetime … but every underdog has his day.

Rudy Baylor is a jobless young attorney. However, he is also the only hope of an elderly couple whose insurance company will not pay for an operation that could save their son’s life. In this judicial drama, Rudy learns to hate corporate America as he falls in love with a battered young married woman. Will he be up to the task? Based on the novel The Rainmaker by John Grisham.

The Chamber by John Grisham The Chamber (1996)

Starring Chris O’Donnell, Gene Hackman, and Faye Dunaway; Directed by James Foley

"The Chamber" on IMDB

Time is running out.

Having survived the hatred and bigotry that was his Klansman grandfather’s only legacy, young attorney Adam Hall seeks at the last minute to appeal the old man’s death sentence for the murder of two small Jewish boys 30 years before. Only four weeks before Sam Cayhall is to be executed, Adam meets his grandfather for the first time in the Mississippi prison that has held him since the crime. The meeting is predictably tense when the educated, young Mr. Hall confronts his venom-spewing elder, Mr. Cayhall, about the murders. Will mercy soften Mr. Cayhall’s heart? Based on the novel The Chamber by John Grisham.

A Time to Kill by John GrishamA Time to Kill (1996)

Starring Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, and Samuel L. Jackson; Directed by Joel Schumacher

"A Time to Kill" on IMDB

A lawyer and his assistant fighting to save a father on trial for murder. A time to question what they believe. A time to doubt what they trust. And no time for mistakes.

Jake Tyler Brigance, a young and highly skilled attorney, is faced with the toughest case of his life, one that on many occasions may also threaten it. In the southern Mississippi town of Canton, the K.K.K. is active and the tension is high when the black majority is angered at the raping and slaying of a black man’s 10-year-old daughter. The distraught father takes revenge, gunning down the two criminals in the local courthouse. Brigance must decide, along with his new, eager assistant, whether he and his family can run the risk of defending the father. Based on the novel A Time to Kill by John Grisham.

The Pelican Brief by John GrishamThe Pelican Brief (1993)

Starring Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, and Sam Shepard; Directed by Alan J. Pakula

"The Pelican Brief" on IMDB

Two Supreme Court Justices have been assassinated. One lone law student has stumbled upon the truth. An investigative journalist wants her story. Everybody else wants her dead.

Darby Shaw, a twenty-four-year-old law student, writes up an insightful theory about the recent murder of two Supreme Court justices, one of whom, Abraham Rosenberg (Hume Cronyn), served as her professor’s mentor. When her professor shares this so-called “Pelican Brief” with buddy Gavin Verheek, an FBI lawyer, the document makes its way to White House personnel, who believe it could topple the current administration. When Darby’s professor is murdered and the President convinces the FBI to hold off on investigating Darby’s theory, the resourceful student must go into hiding. Her only escape is working with an investigative reporter, Gray Grantham. Can they stay alive? Based on the novel The Pelican Brief by John Grisham.

The Firm by John GrishamThe Firm (1993)

Starring Tom Cruise, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Gene Hackman; Directed by Sydney Pollack

The Firm on IMDB

Power can be murder to resist.

Mitch McDeere is a young man with a promising future in law. About to sit his bar exam, he is approached by the “Firm” and made an offer he doesn’t refuse. Seduced by the money and gifts showered on him, he is totally oblivious to the more sinister side of his company. Then, two associates are murdered. The FBI contacts him, asking him for information and suddenly his life is ruined. He has a choice – work with the FBI, or stay with the Firm. Either way he will lose his life as he knows it. Based on the novel The Firm by John Grisham.

And for your holiday viewing:

Christmas With the Kranks by John GrishamChristmas With the Kranks (2004)

Starring Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Dan Aykroyd; Directed by Joe Roth

Christmas With the Kranks on IMDB

Their Christmas will turn the town upside down!

Luther Krank is fed up with the commerciality of Christmas; he decides to skip the holiday and go on a vacation with his wife instead. But when his daughter decides at the last minute to come home, he must put together a holiday celebration where hilarity ensues. Based on the novel Skipping Christmas by John Grisham, just out in trade paperback!

Here’s a complete list of John Grisham titles – see which have yet to make it to the big screen!

Trivia Question: What movie, based on a New York Times Notable book, has its main character use a reference to John Grisham novels?

Answer: “Thank You for Smoking.”

Main character Nick Naylor, flack for the tobacco companies, played by Aaron Eckhart, explains what he does for a living as such:

Few people on this planet know what it is to be truly despised. Can you blame them? I earn a living fronting an organization that kills one thousand two hundred human beings a day; twelve hundred people. We're talking two jumbo jet plane loads of men, women, and children. I mean there's Attila, Genghis, and me, Nick Naylor, the face of cigarettes, the Colonel Sanders of nicotine. This is where I work, the Academy of Tobacco Studies. It was established by seven gentlemen you may recognize from C-Span. These guys realized quick if they were gonna claim cigarettes were not addictive they better have proof. This is the man they rely on, Erhardt Von Grupten Mundt. They found him in Germany. I won't go into the details. He's been testing the link between nicotine and lung cancer for thirty years, and hasn't found any conclusive results. The man's a genius; he could disprove gravity. Then we got our sharks. We draft them out of Ivy League law schools and give them timeshares and sports cars. It's just like a John Grisham novel. Well, you know, without all the espionage. Most importantly we got spin control. That's where I come in. I get paid to talk. I don't have an MD or law degree. I have a baccalaureate in kicking ass and taking names. You know that guy who can pick up any girl? I'm him on crack.