15 of the best book-to-movie adaptations you can stream right now
Not all book adaptations are worth your while. These are the exceptions.
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Adaptations don’t always do a book justice. For every Gone Girl, there’s a Girl on the Train and for every Harry Potter, there’s a Vampire Academy. However, when it happens, it’s pure magic.
Not only can the flick perfectly capture the book's spirit, but it helps you love the source material even more. As long as the movie has a tight script and a great cast, you’ll want to watch it over and over again.
Plus, while reading is usually a solitary activity, movies can be watched with loved ones. They’re a great way to share your favourite read with a friend who isn’t much of a bookworm but still appreciates a good story.
Here are some of our favourite book-to-movie adaptations available to stream in Australia.
1. The Hunger Games
- Year: 2012
- Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth
In a dystopian version of North America, the 12 districts of Panem must send a teenage boy and girl as tributes to compete in “The Hunger Games” as punishment for a past uprising. The Games are a twisted reality show where the tributes fight each other to the death, up to the point where only one victor remains. The story centres on Katniss Everdeen, who has to rely on her sharp instincts and hunting skills to survive in the dangerous arena.
The Hunger Games series remains one of the best young adult book-to-movie adaptations out there, as it perfectly captures the trilogy's gloomy atmosphere and raw emotion. The fact that author Suzanne Collins was on board to help write the screenplay probably didn’t hurt. Factor in Jennifer Lawrence's undeniable acting chops and a hit was born.
2. The Silence of the Lambs
- Year: 1991
- Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins and Lawrence A. Bonney
Bringing Hannibal Lecter to the big screen is no easy feat, but The Silence of the Lambs pulls it off beautifully, offering a haunting tale of horror and suspense.
The story follows Clarice Starling, a young FBI trainee who interviews Hannibal Lecter in her pursuit to apprehend a serial killer. Lecter is himself a cannibalistic serial killer serving life behind bars, who just happens to be a brilliant psychiatrist as well. Unfortunately for Clarice, his insights don’t come cheap.
This hypnotic adaptation will keep you glued to the screen thanks to its sheer intensity. Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster are both brilliant, showcasing their talent as they bring to life two memorable characters.
All in all, The Silence of the Lambs is a well-crafted, clever thriller not recommended for the weak of heart. Stream it immediately.
- Year: 1996
- Cast: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner and Jonny Lee Miller
Trainspotting centres on Renton, a heroin addict who has little prospects and a fairly pathetic life in Edinburgh. The movie details Renton’s heroin-fuelled exploits and the shady ways in which he finances his habit, mostly with the help of his similarly tragic friends.
Based on Irvine Welsh’s novel, Trainspotting became a cult hit, which was only made even more obvious in 2017, when a sequel was released to great success. Nonetheless, the original is still a must-see, especially if you’re a fan of black comedies.
The movie is a terrifying, yet often funny, portrayal of addiction. With Trainspotting, it’s all about the atmosphere, as the flick perfectly captures the joy and misery of getting high. You’ll be left with a hangover, that’s for sure.
4. No Country for Old Men
- Year: 2007
- Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin
Based on Cormac McCarthy's 2005 novel of the same name, No Country for Old Men follows a Vietnam veteran who makes the discovery of a lifetime when he stumbles upon $2 million in the aftermath of a Texas drug deal gone bad. He decides to keep the cash, which sets off a violent chain reaction as a merciless killer starts tracking him to recover the money.
The movie perfectly balances comedy and horror, but never goes overboard with either one. It’s about American violence, so you’ll need a strong stomach, but it’s also an allegory about life and the doom that eventually awaits us all. Fun stuff.
No Country for Old Men features some amazing performances from Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson and Tommy Lee Jones, each exquisite in their own way. If you like Westerns, you can’t pass on this one.
5. Fight Club
- Year: 1999
- Cast: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Meat Loaf
"First rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club."
In this case, we’ll make an exception. An adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s popular novel, the movie centres on a depressed man who meets a charming stranger on a business trip.
Together, they form an underground club where men can fight other men without any judgement, all in an attempt to bring some excitement to their otherwise boring lives. As one expects, mayhem ensues.
A mix of satire and social critique, Fight Club is so much more than a movie about men bonding through violence. Visually gorgeous, the film perfectly captures the discontent and anxiety plaguing many of those desperate to discover life’s true meaning. Maybe that’s why it was such a huge hit.
6. The Devil Wears Prada
- Year: 2006
- Cast: Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep and Adrian Grenier
It’s not often that a movie ends up being better than the book, but this may be one of those rare instances. That’s mainly thanks to Meryl Streep as a cutthroat fashion editor and Anne Hathaway as an aspiring journalist.
The movie is based on a novel by Lauren Weisberger and centres on Andie, who lands a job millions of young women would kill for: assistant to one of the most diabolical faces in the high-powered fashion magazine world.
The Devil Wears Prada is half satire, half melodrama, telling a tale as old as time that will resonate with anyone who hated their boss at one point or another. It’s engaging and fun, but the film’s main appeal lies in Streep’s magnetic performance. If you’re a fan of her work, you can’t skip this one.
7. True Grit
- Year: 2010
- Cast: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Hailee Steinfeld
True Grit is based on Charles Portis's 1968 novel of the same name.
After an outlaw murders her father, feisty 14-year-old Mattie Ross hires a trigger-happy lawman to help her get revenge. They join forces with a Texas Ranger and together the trio venture into hostile territory to dispense some Old West justice.
Moving and unpredictable, the movie excels thanks to delightful banter, brutal gunfight sequences and gorgeous cinematography. Hailee Steinfeld is perfectly cast as Mattie Ross, but the entire ensemble is superlative, as it features the likes of Josh Brolin, Matt Damon and Jeff Bridges.
All in all, True Grit is a true Western, appealing to veteran fans of the genre and newcomers alike since the unusual trio’s adventures never fail to entertain.
8. To All the Boys I've Loved Before
- Year: 2018
- Cast: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Janel Parrish and Anna Cathcart
A Netflix hit, To All the Boys I've Loved Before is based on Jenny Han's 2014 novel of the same name, the first in a series.
The story follows Lara Jean, a high school student whose life takes a wild turn when a bunch of love letters never meant to see the light of day are mysteriously mailed out. What comes next is a bit of fake dating, some minor family drama and enough cuteness to keep you glued to the screen.
To All the Boys I've Loved Before is a heartwarming flick with delightful performances from everyone involved. As a result, it makes for light and funny viewing. Netflix also has both sequels, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You and To All The Boys: Always And Forever. We've also got a list of movies you'll love if you're fan of To All The Boys.
Sorry, we've found no buying or renting options for this title.
9. Schindler's List
- Year: 1993
- Cast: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Kingsley
Schindler's List isn’t a feel-good movie, but it’s a must-see one. Based on the novel Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally, it follows Oskar Schindler, a businessman who saved over 1,000 Jews from sure death during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories, which caused him to lose his fortune in the process. It’s a true story, brilliantly brought to the big screen thanks to Steven Spielberg’s skilful showcasing of humanity and compassion.
One of the most powerful portraits of World War II, Schindler's List is about an anti-hero who succumbs to his inner goodness. But it’s also about death, grief, terror, violence and empathy.
The realism and attention to detail make the movie difficult to watch, true. However, it’s the type of outstanding film everyone should see at least once.It will likely stay with you for a long, long time.
10. The Fellowship of the Ring
- Year: 2001
- Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen and Orlando Bloom
Granted, you should watch the entire trilogy, but we’ll focus on the first one for now. Based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s work, The Fellowship of the Ring centres on Frodo, a hobbit living in the fictional world of Middle-earth. Assisted by a fellowship of heroes, he embarks on an epic quest to destroy the One Ring and, consequently, its maker – the Dark Lord Sauron.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a cinematic triumph and the first movie flawlessly introduces the world and mythology. In short, it does the source material justice. Although faithful to the books, the adaptation does omit some of the story, so we advise you read the novels as well to experience even more Middle-earth goodness.
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11. The Godfather
- Year: 1972
- Cast: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and James Caan
Considered one of the best movies of all time, The Godfather is based on Mario Puzo's novel of the same name. The story, taking place over 10 years, chronicles the happenings within a New York crime family, with an emphasis on the transformation of one of the boss’s children from reluctant outsider to ruthless mafia boss.
With Marlon Brando and Al Pacino delivering glorious performances and an epic story, there’s no wonder The Godfather is one of the most imitated and frequently quoted films in modern history.
The movie exceeded all expectations, quickly becoming one of Hollywood's greatest critical and commercial successes. Not only that, but it stands the test of time and can easily be enjoyed today, thanks to a compelling narrative and great cinematography.
If you haven’t seen it yet, what are you waiting for?
- Year: 2020
- Cast: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May and Gay DeForest
Based on the 2017 non-fiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder, this wonderful movie is all about the melancholy of living on the road.
The action follows an older woman who, after losing everything in the Great Recession, decides to embark on a journey through the US. She lives in a van, looks for seasonal work and connects with fellow nomads, giving the audience a glimpse at what it's like to be houseless.
Powerful and visually dazzling, Nomadland benefits from a great performance from Frances McDormand in the lead role. The movie won the 2021 Academy Award for Best Picture, which should give you an extra incentive to check Nomadland out.
- Year: 2020
- Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Mia Goth, Angus Imrie and Bill Nighy
A dramedy for the ages, Emma. centres on the title character, a self-proclaimed matchmaker who can't help but meddle in the love lives of her friends. However, along the way, her romantic missteps lead her to find love as well, to surprising results.
Emma. is inspired by Jane Austen's classic novel and has a top-notch cast, along with terrific costumes and a sharp script. If the plot won't make you chuckle, the witty dialogue surely will.
14. Little Women
- Year: 2019
- Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen and Timothée Chalamet
Meet Jo March, an aspiring writer in the 19th century, who over the course of the movie reflects back and forth on her life.
Jo is telling the story of her sisters – young women determined to live life on their own terms. Whether that means finding a good husband or breaking convention to build a blossoming career, they know that their deep bond will survive regardless of what the future has in store for them.
Directed by Greta Gerwig, this adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's influential novel of the same name has a modern feel to it, despite mostly staying true to the book. Little Women is charming and immersive, heart-warming and well-acted. If you love the book, it's essential viewing.
15. The Invisible Man
- Year: 2020
- Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman and Oliver Jackson-Cohen
There's no shortage of H. G. Wells adaptations out there, but this one stands out due to its contemporary approach to the source material.
The Invisible Man revolves around a woman who believes that her rubbish boyfriend is stalking her, even after his apparent suicide. She suspects that he found a way to become invisible, but the authorities don't take her concerns seriously, leaving her to pretty much fend for herself.
The movie is clever, scary and thought-provoking. Add some excellent acting into the mix and you've got yourself a timely horror/thriller that is guaranteed to give you the creeps.
Once you've finished watching all of our best book-to-movie adaptations, you'll surely be on the lookout for the next best read. Take a look at our best ereaders in Australia or all the places you can buy books and e-books online.
What changed on our list?
- Little Women
- The Invisible Man
Didn't make the cut
- The Irishman
- LA Confidential
- The Hate You Give
- Silver Linings Playbook
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