The 9 Best Filipino Movies Based on Books of All Time

Here, we list down the most notable book-to-film adaptations in Philippine cinema.

From The Great Gatsby to The Hunger Games, classical literature and popular novels have been a source of inspiration for Hollywood movies. Producers of Filipino movies have also turned to local bestsellers to find a source of material for stories. In fact, some of the most critically acclaimed Filipino films have been based on novels. Take a look at the most notable book-to-film adaptations in Philippine cinema below.

Maynila, sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag

Edgardo M. Reyes' novel, Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag, was originally serialized in Liwayway magazine from 1966 to 1967. Lino Brocka was approached by producer Mike de Leon to direct Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr.'s adaptation of Reyes' novel. The protagonist of the story is 21-year-old probinsyano Julio Madiaga (Bembol Roco) who goes to Manila to search for his love, Ligaya Paraiso (Hilda Koronel). Working as a construction worker and living in hard conditions, Julio struggles to survive in the dark and foreboding city.


Mike de Leon's groundbreaking film, Kisapmata, was inspired by Nick Joaquin's 1986 article titled "The House on Zapote Street," which was included in Reportage on Crime, an anthology of Filipino crime stories. Joaquin's article was based on the true story of the Cabading family. Mila Carandang (Charo Santos) and her mother Dely (Charito Solis) are dominated by the family patriarch Dadong Carandang (Vic Silayan).

Bulaklak sa City Jail

Nora Aunor is lauded by critics in this movie adaptation of Lualhati Bautista's novel titled Bulaklak sa City Jail. In fact, the Superstar won a Best Actress trophy for the movie that was directed by the late Mario O'Hara. The film shows the cruel world of a women's prison where physical and sexual abuse takes place.

Hihintayin Kita sa Langit

Carlos Siguion Reyna's Hihintayin Kita sa Langit was a Filipino adaptation of Emily Bronte's classic novel, Wuthering Heights. Instead of the Yorkshire Moors, the setting was transposed to beaches and cliffs (the film was shot mostly in Batanes). Gabriel (Richard Gomez) was a street urchin who was plucked from the streets of Manila by Joaquin Salvador and adopted into the family. Milo (Michael de Mesa), Joaquin's real son, resents Gabriel and competes with him for his father's love and attention. The story truly starts after Gabriel falls for Joaquin's daughter, Carmina (Dawn Zulueta).

Bata, Bata... Pa'no Ka Ginawa?

Lualhati Bautista's novel is about the role of women in a patriarchal society. Lea Bustamante (Vilma Santos) is a women's rights activist and the mother of two kids with different fathers. Her children—Ojie (Carlo Aquino) and Maya (Serena Dalrymple)—are growing up. Lea struggles to provide for her family and keep up with her hectic job at the women's crisis center. Ojie's father, Raffy (Ariel Rivera), returns to his son's life and plans to take Ojie to the United States to live with him and his new wife. Lea fears that her children will be taken away.

Laro sa Baga

This sex drama about a womanizer is based on the book Laro sa Baga by Edgardo Reyes (who also served as the scriptwriter of the movie directed by Chito Roño). Ding (played by Carlos Morales) is a promiscuous painter. He tells the story of his life and how it was shaped by three women including his godmother (played by Angel Aquino), her adopted daughter (played by Ara Mina), and his wife (played by Monique Wilson).


Tatarin is based on National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin's short story "Summer Solstice." It was directed by Amable "Tikoy" Aguiluz VI from a script by renowned screenwriter Ricky Lee. Set in the 1920s, Tatarin depicts the transformation of Dona Lupeng (Dina Bonnevie), from being a submissive wife into a woman who rebels against her husband Don Paeng (Edu Manzano). The story revolves around an ancient pagan ritual wherein women dance erotically around a balete tree. Rica Peralejo and Chin Chin Gutierrez can also be seen dancing and gyrating in wild abandon for the fertility ritual done during St. John's festival.

Dekada '70

Lualhati Bautista's Palanca Award-winning novel Dekada '70 tells the story of the Bartolome family, an ordinary middle-class family in 1970s Philippines, and delves into how they became aware of the political policies that ultimately led to state repression and Martial Law. In it, Amanda Bartolome (Vilma Santos) and Julian Bartolome, Sr. (Christopher de Leon) try to keep their family intact in the midst of authoritarian rule. But conflicts arise when their children—played by Piolo Pascual, Carlos Agassi, Marvin Agustin, Danilo Barrios, and John Wayne Sace—become socially active in opposing the Marcos administration. The novel and film explore the political chaos of the time period and the relationship between family and society.

Zsazsa Zaturnnah Ze Moveeh

Cult favorite Zsazsa Zaturnnah has become a pop culture icon for the gay community. The character first appeared in Carlos Vergara's graphic novel Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah. Not long after the graphic novel's publication, a hit musicale was staged. Regal Entertainment then bought the rights to produce a film based on the musical. After experiencing heartbreak, Ada (Rustom Padilla) takes his beauty parlor and his niece to the province to start a new life. One night, while singing in the shower, Ada is hit on the head by a strange pink meteorite with the word Zaturnnah etched on it. His assistant Didi (Chokoleit), a fan of Darna comics, believes the stone will give Ada super powers. Ada swallows the stone and is transformed to Zsazsa Zaturnnah (Zsa Zsa Padilla), a red-haired superheroine reminiscent of Wonder Woman and Darna.

This story originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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