They say the book is better—but sometimes a great movie is just what you need. These book to movie adaptations bring to life some of literature’s best narratives, from historical dramas and epic fantasies to powerful tales of adventure and romance. The best part? They’re all streaming on Netflix now.
This post was last updated on 12/17/18.
Based on: Atonement by Ian McEwan
This sweeping English drama, based on the bestselling novel by Ian McEwan, stars Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, and a young Saoirse Ronan. Europe is on the brink of World War II, and Cecilia (Knightley) and Robbie (McAvoy) are in love. But when Cecilia’s young sister Briony (Ronan) accuses Robbie of a terrible crime, she forever alters the course of their lives.
Based on: Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman’s dark fantasy springs to life in this stylish animated feature. While exploring the nooks and crannies of her new home, young Coraline discovers a seemingly perfect parallel world—populated by button-eyed doubles of her family. But we all know trouble lurks behind those shiny black eyes.
Based on: Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet deliver powerful performances in this critically acclaimed film based on Richard Yates’ novel. Set in 1950s suburban Connecticut, Frank (DiCaprio) and April (Winslet) vow never to lead a dull life together. Yet as the years go by, they find themselves slipping into the predictable domestic confines they once despised.
Based on: Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
This searing period drama shines a stark light on Jim Crow-era south. Based on Hillary Jordan’s debut novel and starring Mary J. Blige, Carey Mulligan, Jason Mitchell, and Garrett Hedlund, the film follows two families as they endure the hardships and hatreds of post-World War II Mississippi.
Based on: Room by Emma Donohue
Author Emma Donohue served as screenwriter for this adaptation of her bestselling novel about a mother’s unbreakable love for her son. Brie Larson plays Joy, a woman kidnapped and held captive in a cramped room. She gives birth to a boy, Jack, and does her best to raise her child within their constrained surroundings. When the two finally break free, they face the outside world as mother and son for the first time.
The English Patient
Based on: The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
This award-winning drama, based on Michael Ondaatje’s romantic war epic, stars Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, and Willem Dafoe. In an Italian monastery, war nurse Hana (Binoche) tends to a badly burned man named Laszlo (Fiennes). As Laszlo heals, he pieces together his past life and lost love in the hot sands of the Sahara Desert.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Based on: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré
No one can be trusted in this Cold War thriller, based on le Carré's expertly plotted spy novel. A Soviet mole has infiltrated British Intelligence, and everyone is a suspect. Can George Smiley (Gary Oldman) uncover the double agent before it’s too late?
Into the Wild
Based on: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
This moving survival drama is based on Jon Krakauer’s biography of Chris McCandless, a passionate college graduate who hitchhikes across America towards the unforgiving Alaskan wilderness.
Beasts of No Nation
Based on: Beast of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala
Based on Uzodinma Iweala’s debut novel and starring Idris Elba and Abraham Attah, this brutal vision of war tracks the heartbreaking journey of Agu (Attah), a young boy forced into life as a child soldier.
Never Let Me Go
Based on: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s disquieting sci-fi tale, this dystopian romance stars Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Keira Knightley. Three friends lead a seemingly peaceful life at an English boarding school. But when they leave the security of their surroundings, a frightening reality reveals itself.
Based on: The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
Beautifully shot and boasting formidable performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, this adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel centers on the forbidden love between two women in 1950s New York: Therese (Mara), an aspiring photographer, and Carol (Blanchett), an older woman whose marriage is at an end.
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Based on: Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R. Tolkien
Warring orcs, adventurous hobbits, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel...You don’t need us to sell you on Peter Jackson’s magical adaptation of Tolkien’s fantasy saga. But pace yourself, Gollum: Only the first installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy is currently available on Netflix.
The Little Prince
Based on: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Gather the family for this gorgeously animated adaptation of the Antoine de Saint-Exupery classic about a pilot who crash lands in the desert and meets a bright and mysterious boy from another planet.
Like Water for Chocolate
Based on: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Based on Laura Esquivel’s bestselling magical realism novel, this delicious tale of love and family stars Lumi Cavazos and Marco Leonardi. Tita (Cavazos) is in love with Pedro (Leonardi)—yet as the youngest daughter of her clan, she’s forbidden to marry. When Pedro marries Tita’s older sister, Tita’s emotions manifest themselves in magical ways in the dishes she prepares.
The Lovely Bones
Based on: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Directed by Peter Jackson, this supernatural drama is based on Alice Sebold’s novel and stars Saoirse Ronan, Rachel Weisz, Mark Wahlberg, and Stanley Tucci. The victim of a murder, young Susie Salmon (Ronan) observes her family, as well as her killer, from her personal heaven. As her family searches for answers on Earth—and her killer looks to strike again—Susie must come to terms with her own passing.
Based on: Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky
Set during the early years of Nazi Germany’s occupation of France, this World War II drama is based on Irène Némirovsky’s posthumously published novel. Michelle Williams plays Lucile, a French villager whose husband is away at war. When a German regiment moves into town, Lucile develops a reluctant romance with the German soldier (Matthias Schoenaerts) occupying her home.
Based on: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
This impressionistic take on Flaubert’s literary classic stars Mia Wasikowska, Henry Lloyd-Hughes, and Paul Giamatti. Young Emma (Wasikowska) finds herself married to a country doctor in the rural village of Yonville. Yearning for more than the provincial life laid out before her, she searches for passion and fulfillment outside the confines of her loveless marriage.
Our Souls at Night
Based on: Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
Starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, this moving tale of autumn love is based on Kent Haruf’s literary romance novel. Addie (Fonda) and Louis (Redford) are neighbors whose spouses have both passed away. They strike up a platonic relationship to combat the loneliness. Soon, however, their relationship blossoms into something more than just friendship, and Addie and Louis must work through their grief if they hope to move forward.
Based on: Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally
Steven Spielberg’s unforgettable World War II drama is based on Thomas Keneally’s historical novel, which is itself inspired by real-life events. The movie stars Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler, a German businessman and member of the Nazi party who sets out to rescue Jews from the Holocaust by employing them at his enamelware factory.
Based on: Half in Love and Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy
Based on: Howards End by E.M. Forster
Class, wealth, and greed collide as three families vie for power in this historical romantic comedy set against the backdrop of Edwardian Britain. Based on E.M Forster’s classic novel, the film stars Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Helena Bonham Carter, and Emma Thompson.
Featured still from "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" (2011), via Focus Features