Our Favorite Movies Based on Books
August 10, 2021
While television shows and movies based on books may not be every fan’s favorite, most book lovers have those special reads they’d love to see adapted for the big screen. Whether it’s an action-packed thriller, a classic tale as old as time, or a legendary historical retelling, seeing what you envisioned in your head come to life is a feeling like no other. Recognizing the power of the written word, as well as the cinema, we’ve put together a curated list of our favorite books based on movies and television shows for you to check out!
When a letter that was never meant to be read by another soul finds its way into high school senior Evan Hansen’s hands, he’s thrust into the middle of a family’s grief and given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. All Evan has to do is stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend. A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation. You can check out this much-anticipated movie Dear Evan Hansen in theatres this September!
Room came to life on the big screen in 2015 and received excellent critic reviews. The national bestselling book by Emma Donoghue tells the story of five-year-old Jack and his Ma, whose entire world is one room. The room is where Jack was born; it’s where he and his Ma eat, sleep, play and learn; and at night, it’s where his Ma shuts him away safely in the wardrobe to sleep. At once shocking and riveting, Room is one of those harrowing movies based on books that’s definitely worth checking out.
Now a major motion picture adapted for young adults, Just Mercy tells the true story of Bryan Stevenson as he works to protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society. As viewers watch Stevenson help the poor, the wrongly convicted, and those whose lives have been marked by discrimination and marginalization, they’re sure to find themselves called to action and compassion in the pursuit of justice.
Anna Fox lives alone as a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times, and spying on her neighbors. Then, Anna sees something she shouldn’t, and her world begins to crumble. What is real? What is imagined? Readers and watchers alike will struggle to tell the difference in this psychological thriller, now a Netflix feature film and one of our absolute favorite movies based on books.
Next up, a popular TV show based on a book! You started as a thrilling and bone-chilling novel published in 2018, telling the story of Joe Goldberg and the beautiful, aspiring writer who strides into the East Village bookstore where he works. Joe is starstruck and does what anyone, he wagers, would do: he Googles the name on the gorgeous customer’s credit card and plans the perfect “chance” meeting with this new dream girl, Guinevere Beck. Altogether terrifying and mesmerizing, You is a highly recommended read that brings to light the dangers of our hyper-connected digital age.
Calling all lovers of love – The Last Letter from Your Lover is a beautiful romance written by Jojo Moyes. This sophisticated, page-turning double love story spans forty years, starting in 1960 with Jennifer Stirling after she wakes in the hospital without her memory. She doesn’t remember the car accident that put her there, her wealthy husband, or even her own name. Searching for clues, Jennifer finds a passionate love letter signed simply from “B.” Years later, in 2003, journalist Ellie Haworth finds the same letter and is determined to discover the unknown lover’s fate—hoping it will inspire her own happy ending. The Last Letter from Your Lover is coming to Netflix in July 2021, and so we recommend every hopeless romantic to give this book a read before it comes to the big screen!
Dubbed “Dumplin'” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. But after her confidence begins to waver as she falls for a hot former jock, Dumplin’ sets out to show the world that every girl is beautiful by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant. Dumplin’ is an inspiring story by Julie Murphy and was adapted into a hit film back in 2018 that younger (and older) adults are sure to enjoy.
The classic novel written by F. Scott Fitzgerald was spectacularly brought to life in 2013 with the help of stars like Leonardo Decaprio, Toby Maguire, Carey Mulligan and more. The story focuses on narrator Nick Carraway and his interactions with his mysterious millionaire neighbor, Jay Gatsby, who’s obsessed with the idea of reuniting with his former lover, Daisy Buchanan, who happens to be Nick’s cousin. The Great Gatsby is one of the best movies based on books that we can think of, and no classic-lover should miss it!
Next on our list of movies based on books is The Art of Racing in the Rain, a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life—as only a dog could tell it. Now a major motion picture starring Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried, and Kevin Costner, this heartfelt story lets you meet the dog who shows the world how to be human.
Balram Halwai, the white tiger of this story, is a poor Indian villager whose great ambition leads him to the zenith of Indian business culture. On the occasion of the president of China’s impending trip to Bangalore, Balram writes a letter to him describing his transformation and his experience as a driver and servant to a wealthy Indian family, which he thinks exemplifies the contradictions and complications of Indian society. Irreverent, deeply endearing, and utterly contemporary, The White Tiger is a must-read and must-watch narrative that’s now available on Netflix.
A Long Way Home tells the true story of Saroo Brierley, who got lost on a train in India at only five years old. Unable to read or write, recall the name of his hometown, or even his own last name, he survived alone for weeks on the rough streets of Calcutta before ultimately being transferred to an agency and adopted by a couple in Australia. Still longing to know where he came from as an adult, Saroo turned to Google Earth to find the clues that would help him remember. This miraculous and beautiful story of triumph was the inspiration for the 2016 Academy Award-nominated movie, Lion.
Little Women is recognized as one of the most beloved classic children’s stories ever written. This is accredited to writer Louisa May Alcott’s ability to transcend the boundaries of time and age, making Little Women as popular with adults as it is with young readers, even 151 years after publication. The iconic story of the March girls enduring hardships and enjoying adventures in Civil War New England is truly an American classic that reflects the tension between cultural obligation and artistic and personal freedom. The latest cinematic debut of Little Women was in 2019 and starred famous actresses such as Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Meryl Streep and more.
The News of the World movie was released in 2020 and starred Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel. Set long before there were movies based on books, this story follows a civil war veteran who agrees to deliver a girl back to her aunt and uncle against her will, after she was taken by the Kiowa people years ago. They travel hundreds of miles and face grave danger as they search for a place that either of them can call home. The original book was published in 2016 by Paulette Jiles, and it’s an exciting and adventurous read for all book lovers!
Adrift is a heart-stopping memoir that’s now a major motion picture starring Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin and directed by Baltasar Kormákur. Adrift tells the true story of Tami Oldham and her fiancé Richard Sharp, a couple young and in love, who set sail from Tahiti, with Tami’s hometown of San Diego as their destination. Unbeknownst to them, the two free spirits and avid sailors would sail directly into one of the most catastrophic hurricanes in recorded history. This suspenseful, teeth-gritting memoir is a must-read and must-watch.
From the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling novel A Dog’s Purpose comes A Dog’s Way Home, the story of Lucas Ray, who is shocked when an adorable puppy jumps out of an abandoned building into his arms. Though the apartment he shares with his mother, a disabled veteran, doesn’t allow dogs, Lucas can’t resist taking Bella home, opening their hearts to the incredible power of love and resilience that only a pet can offer. The movie made it to theatres in January of 2019, and we recommend you prep the tissues before you watch it!
Did you know that The Girl on the Train was actually a book before it was on the big screen? It tells the story of Rachel, who takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day, the train stops at the signal that allows her to watch the same couple on their deck. Over time, she begins to feel like she knows this couple—Jess and Jason, as she calls them. Their life, as she sees it, is perfect, not unlike the life she recently lost. But then, Jess goes missing, and as Rachel works to uncover the truth of Jess’s disappearance (and later murder), she might find herself on top of the suspect list.
It’s time for one of our favorite (and heart-wrenching) movies based on books. Five Feet Apart tells the story of Stella Grant, a girl who likes to be in control— even though her totally out-of-control lungs have sent her in and out of the hospital most of her life. At this point, what Stella needs to control most is keeping herself six feet apart from anyone or anything that might pass along an infection and jeopardize the possibility of a lung transplant. Six feet. No exceptions… until she meets the most wonderful, frustrating and dangerous exception in the world—a boy named Will Newman.
This beautiful story of star-crossed soulmates who can never be together is now a motion picture featuring Cole Sprouse and Haley Lu Richardson.
Best known for her deeply engaging narrative, Charlotte Bronte continues to inspire readers in Jane Eyre, a timeless masterpiece about love, family and independence. Orphaned as a young child, Jane displays great courage as she pursues personal and professional fulfillment. Filled with romance and complex character development perfect for any teen or young adult reader, it’s no wonder the original film from 1943 was re-adapted in 2011!
The year 2012 marked 110 years since Beatrix Potter published The Tale of Peter Rabbit. The lovable and classic story of a mischievous rabbit named Peter and his nerve-wracking encounter with Mr. McGregor entertains children and adults alike even after all this time. Peter Rabbit most recently entered theatres in 2018 and is fun for every age to read and watch.
Technically, this book was published after the beloved show The X-Files stopped airing on TV, but hear us out! Agent of Chaos gives super-fans the much-requested origin story of Fox Mulder as he experiences the life-changing events throughout his teenage years that will set him on the path to becoming an FBI agent. If you’re a fan of all things extraterrestrial and The X-Files, it’s time to read Agent of Chaos by Kami Garcia.
Safe Haven is a mysterious and endearing story written by #1 New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks. When an allusive young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into not one but two reluctant relationships. A must-read book if you love romance novels with a twist, this book was later brought to life in 2013 as a feature film starring Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough.
You’ve probably heard of Bird Box, the horror/science fiction film starring Sandra Bullock that blew up the internet at release in 2018. Bird Box explores the terrifying prospect of a world where something unknown is out there… something terrifying that must not be seen. They say only one glimpse will drive a person to violence, and no one knows why. It sounds like a scary movie, right? But did you know that Bird Box was originally a novel published in 2015 written by Josh Malerman? Now you know! We highly recommend you give Bird Box (the book!) a read if you want to maximize the suspense that this story can deliver on screen.
Diamond Doris tells the true story of Doris Payne, who grew up during the Depression in a segregated town in West Virginia. Doris Payne, a young and poor Black girl, was told her dreams of being more than a teacher or a maid were unattainable. Determined to fight poverty and racism and fuelled by a desire to help her mother escape an abusive relationship, Doris began shoplifting small pieces of jewelry from stores. Over six decades, Diamond Doris pulled off unimaginable diamond heists, feigning arrest until 2013. If you’re captivated by Doris’ tale, we highly recommend you read Diamond Doris and watch one of our favorite movies based on books, The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne, released in 2013.
This is Where I Leave You is a riotously funny, emotionally raw novel about love, marriage, divorce, family, and the ties that bind them—whether we like it or not. It follows the Foxman family as they gather for a rare family reunion after a death occurs. During this reunion, estranged siblings are forced to return home and live under the same roof where, over seven days, longstanding grudges resurface, secrets are revealed, and old passions are reawakened. This unexpectedly belly-laughing and emotional story was adapted into a film in 2014 and starred an epic cast, including Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and Jane Fonda.
This list of movies based on books wouldn’t be complete without the 1976 classic Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. This must-read and must-watch story was released as a made-for-TV movie in 1978. A painfully beautiful story, set in Mississippi at the height of the Depression, follows the Logan family as they struggle to maintain their integrity, pride, and independence in the face of racism and social injustice. Through one turbulent year, together, the Logan family will learn that, no matter how others may degrade them, they possess something no one can take away.
If you’re like us, the feeling of seeing beloved books come to life on the big screen can be one like no other. We hope that this list of our favorite TV shows and movies based on books allows you to experience that feeling of awe and wonder over and over again. If you have any other suggestions for feature film or television screen-adapted novels, please feel free to leave them in the comments below! We would love to hear what your favorite tv shows and movies based on books are.