They say the book is always 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.
Related: The 12 Best Movies Based on Books
This post was last updated on 3/20/20.
Based on I Heard You Paint Houses, by Charles Brandt
In case you haven't heard, Martin Scorsese recently released yet another mob film featuring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino. But you may not have realized the mob movie was based on the 2004 nonfiction book I Heard You Paint Houses. Both the book and film attempt to answer the question of what happened to Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino), a Teamster who disappeared in 1975. It's unclear just how "true" this true crime story is—but either way, it makes for a great story.
The Danish Girl
Based on The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff
Loosely inspired by the lives of Danish artists Gerda Wegener and Lili Elbe, The Danish Girl is a biographical romantic drama film set in 1920s Copenhagen. Based on the 2001 novel of the same name, Eddie Redmayne stars as Elbe, one of the first known people to have undergone sexual reassignment surgery. His performance earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, while his co-star, Alicia Wegener, won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Based on The Double by José Saramago
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, this movie is loosely based on José Saramago’s The Double. A depressed school teacher falls asleep while watching a movie a coworker recommended to him. When he makes up, the movie is still playing—and he sees a man who looks exactly like himself on the screen. He becomes obsessed with finding his doppelgänger...and then things get very weird.
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.
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers & The Return of the King
Based on the books of the same name by J.R.R. Tolkein
Oddly, the first Lord of the Rings film isn’t on Netflix right now, though you can download it from Amazon if you’re determined to have a ten-hour marathon. But even if you skip The Fellowship of the Ring, the second and third parts of the trilogy are just as gripping—soon you’ll be wrapped up in all the best parts of Tolkein’s masterpiece.
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.
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.
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.
Based on Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
Though Dumplin' is based on a young adult novel, it tells a story that will resonate with viewers (and readers) of all ages. Danielle Macdonald plays Willowdean Dickson, who is nicknamed Will by her friends and Dumplin' by her mother, Rosie (Jennifer Aniston). Rosie is a former beauty queen who is still entrenched in the pageantry world, leaving Will to be mostly raised by her Aunt Lucy. But after Lucy passes, Will must figure out how to rebuild her relationship with her mother.
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.
Based on Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King
Based on Stephen King’s novella, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, this 1994 film starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman is one of the most-loved films of all time. A beautiful story about a man who’s been wrongfully accused of murdering his wife, Shawshank proves that Stephen King is much more than a horror master .
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.
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.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Based on The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Based on Patricia Highsmith’s famous thriller book of the same name, The Talented Mr. Ripley is one of the best psychological thriller movies of the 1990s. Without giving too much away, the film is about Tom (Matt Damon), a man whose talent for lying is about to get him—and those around him—in quite a bit of trouble.
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 "The Irishman" (2011), via Netflix