6 of the best Agatha Christie film and TV adaptations

Posted by Simply HE on

The queen of crime, Agatha Christie, is arguably the bestselling writer of all time. She’s written 66 detective novels and is the creator of the world-famous sleuths Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. We’ve handpicked our favourite film and TV adaptations for you to investigate further…

The first trailer is out for Kenneth Branagh’s new adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, and it promises to be a lavish and very starry production.

Pulling into cinemas this November, this is the biggest Agatha Christie film adaptations in years. It boasts a cast of A-listers, a glittering mix of modern and classic acting talent. And it’s going to be a blockbuster.

Kenneth Branagh has cast himself as Hercule Poirot, and his supporting cast includes Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Derek Jacobi, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penélope Cruz, Daisy Ridley, Olivia Colman and Willem Dafoe.  

We cannot wait! But the original film adaptation, made by Sidney Lumet in 1974 is going to be a tough act to follow. See below for details of the multi Oscar-winner and more of our Christie favourites…

 

Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

“Murder on the Orient Express’ is a splendidly entertaining movie of the sort that isn’t made anymore” – Roger Ebert.

The earliest screen adaptation of the iconic whodunnit novel about a murder on a train where every passenger appears to have a motive. It was directed by master of cinema and five-time Oscar-nominee Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men). This film is regularly cited as the best film adaptation of a Agatha Christie whodunit.

Albert Finney was nominated for an Oscar for his memorable performance as the eccentric detective Poirot. Co-stars include Sean Connery, Lauren Bacall, Martin Balsam, Jacqueline Bisset, John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael York and Ingrid Bergman, who went on to win the best support actress Oscar, playing a dim-witted, Bible-quoting missionary.

Agatha Christie, who famously dismissed film adaptations of her work, admitted she was “persuaded to give a rather grudging appreciation to this one.” There was apparently only one mistake “It was Albert Finney, as my detective Hercule Poirot. I wrote that he had the finest moustache in England — and he didn't in the film. I thought that a pity — why shouldn't he?”

 

Death on The Nile (1978)

“This is pure Agatha Christie, steeped in nostalgia and atmosphere.” – Empire Online

Our collection of favourites has to include Peter Ustinov as Belgian detective Hercule Poirot! 

Another star-studded and stylish adaptation of a Christie classic. John Guillermin directs this dark 1930s-set whodunnit, where a woman is killed abroad a ship on the Nile. Luckily Poirot is on board, and must work out the culprit before the ship reaches the port and they have a chance to escape. The film was shot on location in Egypt, and boasts some impressive imagery of Egypt’s cultural highlights.

Peter Ustinov stars as the film’s Poirot, and unusually brought out the more human side to the character. The supporting cast included a fantastic array of talent including Bette Davies, George Kennedy, Angela Lansbury, David Niven, Maggie Smith and Jack Warden. The film also won an Oscar for Best Costume Design. Controversially though, ITV watchdogs have ruled that due to a suicide scene in the film, it was deemed too violent to be screened on daytime television.

 

And Then There Were None: BBC Mini-Series (2015)

“A murder mystery to die for” - Variety

This three-part TV adaptation was commissioned by the BBC to mark the 125th anniversary of Agatha Christie’s birth. It became the most watched show of Boxing Day 2015, with over 6 million viewers.

Ten strangers are invited to an island by a mysterious host, but start to wonder if a killer is among their group when people start being murdered one by one.

Proving to be one of Christie’s darkest TV murder mysteries, the production team was applauded by critics for delivering a thriller unlike the formulaic and cosy TV whodunnits.

Unusual for not featuring either of Agatha Christies iconic detectives, Poirot or Miss Marple, And Then There Were None focuses on its charismatic ensemble cast of characters, played by Game of Thrones actors Charles Dance and Noah Taylor, Aidan Turner from Poldark, Jurassic Park’s Sam Neill and double Oscar-nominee Miranda Richardson.

 

ITV’s 4:50 from Paddington (2004)

The Emmy-nominated TV film is one of the finest from ITV’s Agatha Christie’s Marple series first broadcast between 2004-2007. BAFTA-winner Geraldine McEwan gives a memorable and witty performance as the elderly sleuth Miss Marple. Her co-stars include Emmy-winner David Warner, John Hannah, Celia Imrie, Heartbeat’s Niamh Cusack, Pam Ferris from Call the Midwife, acclaimed period actor Pip Torrens and an appearance from Rob Brydon as Inspector Awdry.

In this period drama, a friend of Miss Marple’s is woken suddenly on her train and sees a woman being strangled in a train passing by in the opposite direction. Miss Marple is soon called in to investigate.

 

Witness for the Prosecution (2016)

“Perfectly crafted, expertly cast and beautifully scripted by Sarah Phelps” – Guardian

Sarah Phelps’ two-part BBC adaptation of an Agatha Christie short story is a bloodthirsty tale about a man accused of killing his lover to inherit her wealth.

Only his solicitor, penniless John Mayhew, believes Leonard is innocent even when all the evidence suggests otherwise. Can Leonards wife, an enigmatic chorus girl named Romaine, prove her husband is blameless?

The BAFTA-nominated series currently has a 100% approval rating from critics on review site Rotten Tomatoes, unsurprising as it boasts a brilliantly compelling script and lavish cast bringing Christie’s characters to life

Toby Jones (Detectorists) steals the show as the solicitor and the supporting cast includes Sex and the City’s Kim Cattrall as the glamorous and rich woman found bludgeoned to death. Multi-award-winning Andrea Riseborough (Brighton Rock) was universally praised for her subtle but finely-tuned performance as the fragile witness torn apart about testifying. Will she save her husband or will his infidelity make her seek revenge?  

 

Evil Under the Sun (1982)

“As Poirot, Peter Ustinov creates a wonderful mixture of the mentally polished and physically maladroit.” – Roger Ebert

This famously flamboyant Christie story centres around a Broadway actress who is found murdered on a luxury island resort in the 1930s. Many faces familiar to Agatha Christie fans return for this production, directed by James Bond maestro Guy Hamilton, including Maggie Smith and Colin Blakely, while stars Roddy McDowall, Diana Rigg, Jane Birkin and James Mason are also added to the glossy line up.

This adaptation deviates from the original source material in many ways, including the humour, characterisation and location. Christie’s novel was set in Devon but the film was made in Spain to create the fictional and very sunny Island of Tyrania.

 

These are only a handful of our favourites. Follow the link to browse our complete collection of Agatha Christie adaptations.

And if there’s one film we truly recommend you watch in the next few months it’s Murder on the Orient Express! You can then compare it to Kenneth Branagh’s new production unveiled in cinemas across the UK in November.

 

 

By Hannah Page


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