Book to movie adaptations: eight to add to your TBR and watch list

Our Ladies, the adaption of Alan Warner’s much loved The Sopranos is out today after long delays to the release date. So, to celebrate, here’s a list of some Scottish book to movie adaptations just in time for the weekend if you’re anything like me and have gone back into hiding.

The Sopranos/Our Ladies

The Book: Alan Warner’s 1998 novel is about a choir from Our Lady of Perpetual Succour School for Girls who are headed to the national finals in the city. The Sopranos – Orla, Kylah, (Ra)Chell, Amanda Konky and Fionnula are up for pub-crawling, shoplifting and body-piercing being the top priorities but first they have to lose the competition…

The Movie: Initially slated for release after its premier at the 2019 BFI Film Festival, Our Ladies was delayed due to the pandemic by over a year. Directed by Michael Caton-Jones it stars Tallulah Greive, Abigail Lawrie, Rona Morison, Sally Messham, Marli Siu and Eve Austin.


The Book: Set in late 1980s Leith, Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting is a collection of linked short stories of a group of mates, most of whom are heroin addicts. This book is the quintessential Scottish cult classic and a definite must read. It’s been referred to as an inspiration to so many Scottish writers including ScotLit faves Graeme Armstrong and Aidan Martin.

The Movie: Just as much of a cult classic as the book the adaptation barely needs any introduction, but here’s a brief one. Directed by Danny Boyle, Trainspotting was released in February 1996. It stars Ewan McGregor, Ewan Bremner (FACT: who actually played Renton in the previous stage adaptation), Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, Robert Carlyle and Kelly MacDonald.


The Book: Sick Boy is back in Edinburgh after a long spell in London. Having failed spectacularly as a hustler, pimp, husband, father and businessman, Sick Boy taps into an opportunity which to him represents one last throw of the dice. However, to realise his dream of directing and producing a pornographic movie, Sick Boy must team up with old pal and fellow exile Mark Renton. But they find out that they have unresolved issues to address concerning the increasingly unhinged Frank Begbie, the troubled, drug-addled Spud, but, most of all, with each other.

The Movie: Danny Boyle returned to direct the 2017 sequel to Trainspotting. The original cast all returned to star in it once again too. Set a decade after the original they wanted to wait until the cast had aged enough to portray this accurately.


The Book: Yep, it’s another Irvine Welsh…With the festive season almost upon him, Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson is winding down at work and gearing up socially – kicking off Christmas with a week of sex and drugs in Amsterdam. There are irritating flies in the ointment, though, including a missing wife, a nagging cocaine habit, a dramatic deterioration in his genital health, a string of increasingly demanding extra-marital affairs. The last thing he needs is a messy murder to solve. Still it will mean plenty of overtime, a chance to stitch up some colleagues and finally clinch the promotion he craves. But as Bruce spirals through the lower reaches of degradation and evil, he encounters opposition – in the form of truth and ethical conscience – from the most unexpected quarter of all: his anus.

The Movie: Starring James McAvoy the 2013 film adaptation of Filth was directed by Jon S. Baird. Allegedly, McAvoy used to drink up to half a bottle of whiskey every night before filming in order to look as rough as possible.

The Last King of Scotland

The Book: The Last King of Scotland is a 1998 published novel by Giles Foden. It focuses on the rise of former Ugandan President Idi Amin and his reign as dictator from 1971 to 1979. The novel, which is part fiction/part truth, is written as the memoir of a fictional Scottish doctor, Nicholas Garrigan, employed by Amin.

The Movie: Starring Forest Whitaker and James McAvoy the 2006 film was directed by Kevin Macdonald. Would you like a fact? According to imdb, the black limousine used in the film was actually one of Idi Amin’s.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

The Book: Romantic, heroic, comic and tragic, unconventional schoolmistress Jean Brodie has become an iconic figure in post-war fiction. Her glamour, unconventional ideas and manipulative charm hold dangerous sway over her girls at the Marcia Blaine Academy – ‘the crème de la crème’ – who become the Brodie ‘set’, introduced to a privileged world of adult games that they will never forget. 

The Movie: Starring the inimitable Dame Maggie Smith this 1969 film was directed by Ronald Neame. DMS went on to win a best actress Academy Award for this role.

Hallam Foe

The Book: Hallam has an unusual teenage hobby – voyeurism. He spies on everyone: on the gardener’s sex life, on his father’s ridiculous plans for a underground village, on his wicked stepmother, whom he holds responsible for his mother’s suicide – until he is set up, and set adrift. He moves to Edinburgh, where voyeurism is more dangerous, particularly when Hallam has revenge on his mind…

The Movie: Starring Jamie Bell (who is also in Filth) Hallam Foe was directed by David MacKenzie and released in 2007. Although most of the movie was filmed in Edinburgh they avoided showing Edinburgh Castle, which would have been visible at the majority of locations if they weren’t being weird about it.

Young Adam

The Book: Set on a canal linking Glasgow and Edinburgh, Young Adam is the masterly literary debut by one of the most important post-war novelists. Trocchi’s narrator is an outsider, a drifter working for the skipper of a barge. Together they discover a young woman’s corpse floating in the canal, and tensions increase further in cramped confines with the narrator’s highly charged seduction of the skipper’s wife. Conventional morality and the objective meaning of events are stripped away in a work that proves compulsively readable.

The Movie: Another David MacKenzie directed film, Young Adam was released in 2003. This “erotic drama” stars Ewan McGregor and Tilda Swinton. McGregor’s nude scenes were going to be cut from the US version of the film but he objected and so they were kept in.

Let’s call this a part one, because there are definitely more book to movie adaptations we want to share with you in the future. On top of that there’s a whole bunch of Scottish books that have ended up on TV, or inspiring TV, or are optioned for TV or film. So aye, this is very much the tip of the iceberg!