Books and movies are two different forms of media, and each provides different experiences. However, when creators merge both mediums together to craft a body of work, the resulting experience becomes incomparable to anything else. Over the past few decades, we have seen a number of book series brought to our screens, bringing both readers and film lovers’ excitement, from the Twilight series to Harry Potter – which is currently the most successful book-to-film adaptation.
When filmmakers or television producers adapt book series into films or TV shows, there is often an expectation for them to perform well due to the existing fan base surrounding the books.
Although over the years some of the book-movie adaptations have been excellent, some have been just average, while some should have remained just books, fueling the argument of whether the book was better than the movie. Here are some of the best book adaptations to make their way to our screens in the last 10 years.
The Great Gatsby (2013)
Based on the 1925 novel by Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby is a romantic drama that had Leonardo DiCaprio playing the lead role of Jay Gatsby. The movie tells the life of Jay Gatsby, a self-made millionaire, who is head over heels for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan played by Carey Mulligan. Gatsby hosts extravagant parties every night in the hope that Daisy will show up. The movie is played out through flashbacks of New York writer and trader Nick Carraway, played by Tobey Maguire, who recounts the events he experienced in the summer of 1922 as Gatsby’s neighbour.
Divergent is the first instalment in the Divergent series. The science fiction action-packed movie is based on the 2011 novel by Veronica Roth. The film depicts a dystopian society that divides people into five factions based on their personal traits and virtues. Divergent stars Shailene Woodley, who plays the role of Beatrice Prior, a divergent who teams up with Four played by Theo James when they discover a plot to destroy Divergents. The first of the Divergent series was successful, grossing $288.9 million worldwide against its budget of $85 million.
The Fault In Our Stars (2014)
Next up on our list of book adaptations is John Green’s fourth solo novel, The Fault in Our Stars, which was released in 2014. The romantic drama follows the love story between 16-year-old cancer patient Hazel Lancaster played by Shailene Woodley and 17-year-old Augustus Waters played by Ansel Elgort. Hazel and Augustus meet at a cancer support group and bond almost immediately. This movie adaptation effectively replicates the depth of feeling present in the book, portraying their doomed, moving, and hauntingly sad story.
Little Women (2019)
This Greta Gerwig film is the seventh book adaptation of Louisa Alcott’s 1868 novel, Little Women. This film is set in the 19th century after the American Civil War and tells the story of the four March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, from childhood to young adulthood. Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Eliza Scanlen, and Florence Pugh all star in the film. The book adaptation shows their lives through flashbacks and flashforwards until they are all reunited when Beth develops an illness. The movie gained some success receiving six Academy Award nominations, and won the award for Best Costume Design. It also grossed an estimated $218 million against a $40 million budget.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
The second installment of The Hunger Games film series, released in 2013 is based on the 2009 novel Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. The movie tells the story of protagonists Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson respectively. Their victory in the first games sparks rebellion against the Capitol. They become targets of the Capitol, who soon throw them back into the arena for another harrowing round of the ‘Hunger Games’.
Gone Girl (2014)
Gone Girl is a psychological thriller film based on the 2012 novel by Gillian Flynn. It tells the story of a couple’s marriage that once seemed blissful and takes a huge turn when the husband, writing teacher Nick Dunne played by Ben Affleck, on their fifth wedding anniversary returns home and finds out his wife, Amy is missing. Things only go from bad to worse for Nick who becomes the prime suspect in the case. This leads to a wild media frenzy that unfolds the couple’s ‘perfect’ image.
It ( 2017)
The first horror film on our list of best book adaptations is It. This supernatural horror film released in 2017 is the first film in the It film series. Based on the 1986 novel by the master of horror literature himself, Stephen King, It tells the story of a group of seven kids who call themselves The Losers’ Club and their attempt to destroy a shape-shifting monster, that disguises itself as a clown, played by Bill Skarsgård. The book adaptation was a huge success becoming one of the highest-grossing horror movies of all time with a budget of $35 million, earning more than $700 million. A sequel, It: Chapter Two was released in 2019 featuring the same kids from the first chapter.
The Handmaid’s Tale (2017)
Based on the 1985 novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale is an American television series produced by Hulu. The Handmaid’s Tale tells the story of how women in the dystopian society called Gilead are infertile, except for a small group of women who are then turned into handmaids who are then forced to conceive babies for privileged couples. The first season of The Handmaid’s Tale won eight Primetime Emmy Awards from 13 nominations as well as the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series. The series starred British-American actress Elizbeth Moss, who won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series and the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Television Drama Series.
Dune: Part One (2021)
Dune: Part One is a sci-fi movie based on Frank Herbert’s 1965 book, Dune. The movie is set in a futuristic desert world called Arrakis and it follows the story of Paul Atreides played by Timothée Chalamet and his involvement in a war for Arrakis and its “spice”, a drug that extends life and enhances mental abilities. The movie featured an ensemble cast made up of Josh Brolin, Oscar Isaac, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Zendaya, and Jason Momoa. Dune proved to be a box office hit gaining $402 million on a $165 million budget. The success of Dune is evident in the many nominations it got including the Golden Globe win for Best Original Score.
Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
The romantic comedy-drama directed by Jon M. Chu is based on the 2013 novel by Kevin Kwan. The film features an almost-all-Asian cast, which received some criticism for casting biracial actors over fully ethnically Chinese ones. Crazy Rich Asians follows the story of a Chinese-American professor, Rachel Chu portrayed by Constance Wu and boyfriend Nick, played by Henry Golding. Rachel accompanies Nick to Singapore for his best friend’s wedding, she then discovers that Nick’s family is one of the wealthiest families in Singapore. Crazy Rich Asians was mostly praised for it representation of Singaporean wealth which was not a thing that was common in movies.