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There is nothing quite as satisfying as sitting down with a good book. Falling in love with a story is easy when you are transported from your living room to another time or place. The words on the page allow your imagination to take over, filling in the gaps the author left for you.
So why do so many of us flock to see the newest book to movie adaptation in theaters when the act of reading is enjoyable? Because it allows us to experience a story, we enjoy an entirely different medium.
While it may seem simple to take the written word and adapt it to the big screen, it is far more complicated than simply having actors read the words off the page. Many who try inevitably fail. We have broken down the list of the best book to movie adaptations available on Netflix and why we think these films were so successful.
What Are Book to Movie Adaptations?
A book to movie adaptation occurs when a story previously written as narrative prose is recreated and reinterpreted in a visual medium. This means that what previously needed to be explained through descriptive language can be easily shown to the audience. Instead of having to explain what the main character’s home looks like, down to the color of the front door, the director can show the viewer the entire street is a single shot.
This means that characters, which were once left up to the reader’s imagination, are now front and center. When you picture Harry Potter, does he have green eyes like J. K. Rowling described in the novels or blue ones, the natural color of actor Daniel Radcliffe’s eyes? For most, his eyes matched the books’ description until the movie came out and forced you to forever associate the child actor with The Boy Who Lived.
Now, this may seem trivial, but a major story arc in the book is how everyone who meets Harry can easily identify him as Lily’s son because “he has his mother’s eyes.” Changing the color in the movie to match the actors playing the roles may seem insignificant, but for some, it brought them out of the fantasy.
What Makes a Good Adaptation
Creating a good book to movie adaptation is complicated. It requires a combination of genius, inspiration and a good starting narrative; managing your viewer’s expectations are also incredibly important to the success of the film.
The descriptions of characters, locations, and landscapers in books allow the reader to use their imagination to construct a whole new world. Matching their expectation with the visuals on screen paves the way for a well-received adaptation. Paying too little attention to the visuals can lead to an unsuccessful adaptation but so can paying too much attention.
It is easy for the visuals to overpower the rest of the film and then the narrative is lost.
It is also important to note that there is a difference in how we consume books versus movies. Reading a book is a solitary endeavor while watching a movie is typically shared with others. When viewers go into the movie theater expecting to have the same experience, they had when they first read the book; they are setting themselves up for disappointment.
After discussing what can go wrong when creating a book to movie adaptation, now is the time to discuss when it went well. Below are our pick for the best book to movie adaptations on Netflix.
1. Bridget Jones Diary
The Bridget Jones’s Diary films are based on the books by Helen Fielding, which are actually based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The first film was released in 2001 and stars Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, and Hugh Grant.
The film is a feel good, a romantic comedy about a Londoner trying to get her life together in the new year and her quest to find a boyfriend. The success of the film is due in large part to how real the character of Bridget was originally written.
She is witty, honest and flawed; Renée Zellweger is able to capture this perfectly and deliver a believable and relatable character.
Holes is a book to movie adaptations based on a book by the same name written by Louis Sachar. Released in 2003 and starring Shia LaBeouf, Sigourney Weaver, and Jon Voight, the film follows Stanley Yelnats after he gets sent to a detention camp for boys in the middle of the desert. At camp Greenlake, campers are forced to dig holes that are five feet deep and five feet wide every day in order to build character.
Only later in the film do we begin to unravel the secrets behind the camp and the reasoning behind this particularly inventive form of discipline.
The success of this movie comes in large part from the casting. Each boy was written with a unique personality and appearance, and the casting directors followed these descriptions to the letter. Their acting skills, as well as a strong script, made this film a winner.
3. To Kill a Mockingbird
Considered one of the best book to movie adaptations, this 1962 film stars Gregory Peck, John Megna, and Frank Overton. The film is based on the book by Harper Lee and is set in a small town in Alabama in the year 1932. A black man is put on trial for rape while two young kids go on a series of adventures.
These adventures end up teaching them some valuable lessons about prejudice.
This film is considered such a successful book to film adaptation for several reasons. The cast is electric, the directing is top notch, and the care that went into converting the book into a script is evident by how well the movie flows.
The cinematography of the film, specifically in how they handle courtroom, is groundbreaking.
This film was released in 2007 and starred Keira Knightley and James McAvoy. Based on the novel by Ian McEwan, the movie tells the story of an inspiring writer in 1935. Briony Tallis is a 13-year-old when the film stats.
She sees her older sister with her boyfriend, misconstrues the situation and sets in motion a series of events that forever change their lives.
One of the most complicated parts of bringing this movie from the pages of a book to the big screen is the reliance on first-person thoughts; much of the book takes place inside its characters’ minds. The book is also especially wordy. The film takes this in a different direction and plays with the use of silence.
This 2009 film is the only non-live action picture to make the list. This stop-motion film is based on the book by Neil Gaiman and stars Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher. The story follows a young girl named Coraline who discovers a parallel universe accessible through a secret door in her new home.
The world turns out to be only slightly different from her own.
In order to create a story that works well for the movies, the filmmakers took a lot of liberties with the plot. They added backstories to some characters and even changed some of the personality traits of the main character to make her more three dimensional and well rounded.
6. The Secret Garden
This 1993 children’s movie is another book to movie adaptations based on the classic book by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It tells the story of an orphaned young girl who is sent to live with her uncle at his large estate. She befriends a wheelchair-bound young boy and discovered a hidden garden.
One of the hardest parts of this adaptation was capturing the magic that was in the secret garden. In the book, it is described with such attention to detail that the reader feels like they are walking with Mary Lennox through the flowers.
A large portion of the budget for this movie was spent to make sure the garden was what the viewers were expecting.
This 2015 book to movie adaptations is based on the 1952 novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith. Considered one of the first love stories written featuring two women where neither of the characters ends up crazy or dead. The film follows these two women, one a married older woman and the other a young women working as a clerk in a department store, in 1950s New York.
This movie took a different road from book to film than the others on this. Almost 15 years before it was a movie, Carol was converted into a play. This first step of turning the novel into a screenplay was necessary in order to tinker with the script over the years to make sure the movie captured the drama and love from the original work.
8. The Sandman
With the success of the comic book series “Anansi Boys,” Neil Gaiman has made it to Hollywood. The 10-episode adaptation will be one of Netflix’s highest-budget original productions. The author is also a producer, having helped bring “Anansi Boys” to the silver screen and “Good Omens” recently wrapped filming for its second season.
The Sandman, starring Jenna Coleman as Johanna Constantine, also stars Tom Sturridge, Kirby Howell-Baptistist, Charles Dance as the black magician Roderick Burgess, and Sanjeeve Bhaskar as Cain. Other actors slated to appear in The Sandman include Donna Preston as Desire, Joely Richardson as Despair, and David Thewlis as John Dee.
Although the Sandman comic book is long and sprawling, the first installment is somewhat slow-moving. While it’s an absorbing book, it doesn’t move quickly and is better enjoyed on a leisurely basis than binge-watching in a cinema. And the book itself is a complex work that demands patience and devotion. Despite its length, “The Sandman” is a masterpiece of Neil Gaiman’s imagination.
Adaptation efforts for The Sandman began in 1991. Despite several years of development hell, the film was finally greenlit in 2013 by David Goyer. It was set to star Joseph Gordon-Levitt until the actor left the project due to creative differences. Warner Bros. turned its attention to television adaptations after the first film failed to meet its goals.
In June 2019, Netflix signed a deal with Warner Bros. to produce the series. Filming ran from October 2020 to August 2021. The movie premiered on Netflix in 2022.
9. Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?
This is one of the lesser-known Agatha Christie book to movie adaptations. Based on Christie’s 1934 novel, Bobby Jones discovers a dying man on the Welsh coast. He asks his friend, 76-year-old socialite Lady Frances Derwent, to investigate his case.
The socialite’s reluctant help is not enough to solve the case and the film fails to live up to the book’s expectations.
This Agatha Christie book to movie adaption has received a middling rating from critics. While it has a star-studded cast, it doesn’t add much new to the story. However, fans of this author won’t be disappointed. It’s visually pleasing and features a complex plot.
Despite its mixed reception, this is one of the better Agatha Christie book to movie adaptations.
10. The Three-Body Problem
The Netflix book to movie adaptation of The Three-Body Problem has cast 12 actors for the lead roles. It is based on a book by award-winning Chinese sci-fi author Liu Cixin. The show will be produced by David Benioff and Dan Weiss, the creators of HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones.
This adaptation will follow the characters of the Chinese version of the book, which was published in 2011.
The Three-Body Problem is the first book in a trilogy by Chinese author Liu Cixin. The Netflix book to movie adaptation has enough material to last several seasons. The story focuses on the discovery of alien life, and how humankind prepares for the arrival of this alien force.
However, this isn’t an easy story to adapt. So how can Netflix make it as interesting as possible?
The Netflix book to movie adaptation is a sci-fi saga inspired by Liu Cixin’s trilogy of novels. It takes place in the near future, and is set during the Cultural Revolution in China. A female scientist discovers signs of alien life from outer space, and her actions have far-reaching consequences for mankind. In the meantime, world governments must prepare for an alien invasion, which may come decades or even centuries later.
The story also features political intrigue and assassination attempts.
11. The School for Good and Evil
The School For Good And Evil Netflix book to movie adaptation is set to star Charlize Theron as Lady Lesso, Kerry Washington as Professor Dovey, Laurence Fishburne as the Schoolmaster, and Michelle Yeoh as Professor Anemone. Filming is currently underway in Northern Ireland and additional entries in the franchise are possible.
After all, the series wrapped up last year, and four more novels are ripe for adaptation.
The Netflix adaptation is slated for a July release. The cast is still largely a mystery, but we do know that Charlize Theron and Kerry Washington will play the infamous Schoolmaster and his mistress, Lady Lesso. Both actresses have been known for their roles in movies like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Star Trek: Discovery,” respectively.
Despite the fact that the book has never been made into a television series, the cast of “The School for Good and Evil” is a top-notch ensemble. Originally starring in the Broadway musical Beetlejuice, Caruso has the experience of portraying a female lead in an action movie. She also played Agatha in the Disney film High School Musical.
Cate Blanchett plays the narrator, and Charlize Theron will play the headmistress Lady Lesso. Michelle Yeoh plays the role of Professor Emma Anemone, and Kerry Washington plays a character named Lady Lesso.
“The School for Good and Evil” is the first book in Soman Chainani’s series of novels. With over 2.5 million copies sold, the book has been translated into 30 languages across six continents. Feig wrote the movie script and directed it, and the film is co-produced by Joe Roth and Laura Solon of the Roth Kirschenbaum Company.
12. Jane Austen’s Persuasion
When you’re on a Netflix binge, you may be wondering how to watch Jane Austen’s Persuader. While it’s true that Austen was a prolific writer, Netflix has chosen a largely unknown novel to make its debut on streaming service.
The story is set in Regency Bath and Lyme Regis, towns Jane Austen knew well. “Persuasion” is often thought of as a personal novel, but it’s not because Austen wasn’t personally invested in the story; she had other romances and strong family connections to the navy.
As Austen’s final completed novel, Persuasion was published posthumously in 1817 along with Northanger Abbey. This literary classic follows Anne Elliot, the middle daughter of a wealthy but not very beautiful baronet. She was deeply in love with naval officer Frederick Wentworth but his family rejected him, because he was not a wealthy or promising enough a match for her.
Anne still pins for Wentworth and has a difficult time finding someone to marry.
Persuasion is one of the most controversial Austen adaptations, and critics have panned the film. Nonetheless, if you love Austen or are a fan of her books, you should at least give the movie a chance.
Even if you’re not a fan of the film, you and your friends can still sit down and enjoy the film together. The truth is, art is subjective and everyone has different tastes.
If you’re interested in watching the adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel, you can now watch it on Netflix. However, it’s important to note that the Netflix version of Persuasion is not the same adaptation as the famous book. The movie tries to translate modern-day culture into Regency England, but ends up being overly ham-fisted.
Instead of making the book come to life, the movie spoon-feeds viewers with a summary of Austen’s storyline.
13. Mystic River
“Mystic River” is a tense psychological thriller based on the bestselling novel by Dennis Lehane. The movie stars Kevin Bacon, Sean Penn, and Laurence “Morpheus” Fishburne. The cast also features Laura Linney and Marcia Gay Harden.
While the movie is dark and lacking in music, it still boasts a brilliant script and superb acting.
Mystic River is a great choice for a book-to-film adaptation. This film focuses on the lives of three teenagers in Boston who write their names in wet cement. Two of the men in the movie pretend to be cops, but are actually child molesters. It will definitely make you think twice before you watch it.
The DVD also has special features like commentary from the stars, featurettes from the cast, and even trailers.
“Mystic River” is a tense whodunit based on a novel by Dennis Lehane. Its characters are flawed and layered, which makes the film worth watching. Mystic River is currently streaming on Netflix and I recommend checking it out!
14. Dangerous Liaisons
If you’re a fan of the classic crime drama, Dangerous Liaisons is available to stream on Netflix. The movie is directed by Clint Eastwood. The plot follows a man who has failed to protect John F. Kennedy from assassination. Now, a brilliant psychopath has vowed to kill the president. His clever tactics lure Frank Horrigan into a deadly confrontation.
Only one man will survive the battle. Luckily, the film blends intense action with introspection and a surprising romance.
Whether you prefer drama or romance, Dangerous Liaisons is a great choice. The series is centered on revenge, a high-society affair, and John Malkovich’s stellar performance is sure to get you hooked. The actors do a fantastic job and John Malkovich is the perfect choice for Glenn Close.
If you’re not a fan of Eastwood, you can try Space Force, written by Greg Daniels, which focuses on the return of man to the moon.
Cry Macho, Eastwood’s latest film, is an action-packed neo-western that has all the elements of a classic Eastwood neo-western. The film’s ending has a way of pulling at sensitive chords in the viewer’s psyche. Read on for a full explanation. You can watch Clint Eastwood’s Dangerous Liaisons on Netflix now!
15. Luckiest Girl Alive
If you’ve been awaiting the release of Jessica Knoll’s newest novel, you might be interested in watching the upcoming American mystery film, Luckiest Girl Alive. Directed by Mike Barker, the film is based on the novel by Knoll.
This thriller will have you guessing about who is behind the mysterious death of a woman. However, you may not know the full story of the girl’s disappearance until the movie comes out.
The story of the Luckiest Girl Alive is a modern-day thriller based on the New York Times best-selling novel by Jessica Knoll. The book has sold over a million copies worldwide and has been translated into 38 languages, including Mandarin and Japanese.
The Netflix adaptation was made with Knoll’s voice in mind. She worked hard to make this story as believable as possible, and it shows.
The film is directed by Mike Barker, the director of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The screenplay was written by Knoll, while Kunis will produce. The movie is set to debut on Netflix in 2018.
If you’re looking for a scary movie adaptation, this might be the right choice for you. Based on Stephen King’s short story, “1408” is a psychological horror movie starring John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson. This film was released on June 22, 2007 and received mostly positive reviews. It performed well in the box office. You can watch Stephen King’s 1408 on Netflix or purchase a copy.
“Stephen King’s 1408 on Netflix” is one of his most recent works. The adaptation from a short novel by Stephen King was directed by Vincenzo Natali, who successfully recreated the atmosphere and the unbearable guilt that accompanies the author’s work.
The omnipresence of rats – the presence of which he can’t escape – turns out to be an unbearable burden. Wilfred’s sanity soon goes awry.
17. The White Tiger
The White Tiger is a Netflix original movie based on a novel by Aravind Adiga. Adarsh Gourav plays the title character, a villager who becomes a successful entrepreneur in modern India. He is hired to drive for two new aristocratic men, Ashok and Pinky, who have returned from America.
Through his adventures, Balram learns more about his new masters and the dark side of corruption in India.
The book, “The White Tiger,” was published in 2008 and won the Man Booker Prize. The film adaptation is directed by Ramin Bahrani, an acclaimed film director and friend of Adiga. The movie is being produced by Priyanka Chopra Jonas. The White Tiger is a powerful story about caste and exploitation in India. The underlying themes of social injustice and human greed are universal and relevant to contemporary society.
The White Tiger, a book to movie adaptation on Netflix, is a powerful novel about class struggles in India. The story follows Balram Halwai (Adarsh Gourav), a poor boy from Bihar, who moves from his hometown to Dhanbad to make his way to the capital. The story spans time, but is still a powerful portrayal of the Indian class system.
While book to movie adaptations are common, only a select few are done well. Those that make it start with a well-written novel full of engaging characters. Then, with proper direction and guidance, the film is able to capture the essence that made the book so special.
Fortunately for you, these picks are currently available on Netflix so you can experience them yourself and decide if you agree with our list.