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21st Century Page to Screen Adaptations We Love

21st Century Page to Screen Adaptations We Love

The general opinion is that the book is always better than the movie. Oftentimes, that’s true. There are just some details that are either difficult to translate onto film or not consequential enough to be included. Sometimes sub-plots are excluded entirely. But every once in a while, there’s an adaptation that’s true to the source material or even if it’s kind of different, it’s got its own memorable spin that works just as well.

We listed some of our favorites, and a couple from guest bookworms, and wrote about what makes each of them special.

Graphic Novel and Animated adaptations

The Dark Knight (2008 film)

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Screenplay by: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, and David S. Goyer

Based on DC Comics characters by: Bob Kane

Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy raised the bar for comic book novel adaptations by creating an interpretation so thematically rich and reflective of contemporary reality that even economists and politicians use it at times to communicate ideas to the public. The middle outing of the series, 2008’s “The Dark Knight,” was a particularly effective meditation on society, order, and chaos. And its climax, with the two Gotham Island Ferries-full of citizens, has become one of the best known fictional adaptations of philoshopy’s classic “Prisoner’s Dillemma.” Besides, Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker – largely inspired by Mark Hammill’s voice work on Batman:The Animated Series – is a thing to behold.  —Remi

Watchmen (2019 TV series)

Created by: Damon Lindelof

Based on the comic book: Watchmen (DC Comics)

HBO's Watchmen is how a classic, well-revered work should be adapted. It was able to explore the Watchmen universe, move the story forward, and say something new without betraying its source material. Damon Lindelof's creative choice of setting the narrative in the present clearly demonstrates how Watchmen's philosophical questions are still relevant today. —Ilia

Persepolis (2007 film)

Directed by: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi

Screenplay by: Vincent Paronnaud

Based on the graphic novel: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical comic series is a landmark piece of graphical literature. Its black and white illustrations and bold depictions of life in Iran during the Islamic Revolution are funny, desolate, alienating, and enlightening—all at the same time. The film, directed by Satrapi as well, retains the strong but simple visual style of the comics. The result is as moving, as lush, as heartbreaking as encountering Satrapi's story on the page. —Ilia

Coraline (2009 film)

Directed by: Henry Selick

Based on the novel: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

I’d call Coraline a horror story. But this is the kind of horror story that can be told and shown to children. The animated film directed by Henry Selick, as one of the studio Laika’s first projects, is an effectively terrifying film even with a PG rating. The art style of the stop-motion treatment also gives it an eerie charm. —Anna

Period film adaptations

Little Women (2019 film)

Directed and Screenplay written by: Greta Gerwig

Based on the novel: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

It's been a while since I've read Little Women, but the story of the March sisters is one you don't easily forget. I truly appreciate Greta Gerwig's adaption for the delicate storytelling that allows a beloved story to resonate in the world today while staying true to itself. The parallel narratives—and consequently, the blurring of the lines in between—highlights the most important part of the story: growing up. Seeing each sister find her own path, then, at the end, remembering and returning to where they all started—with each other. —Hannah

Atonement (2007 film)

Directed by: Joe Wright

Screenplay by: Christopher Hampton

Based on the novel: Atonement by Ian McEwan

Whenever I think of Atonement, both the novel and the film adaptation, I am transported back in time to the 1935 English countryside it was set in, to where it all begins. Aside from that, Atonement may not be my first, serious plot twist experience, but it was the one that really felt like the rug was pulled from under me. I experienced this again in the novel, as I read it after watching, and it was the very same if not a little better for more of the little details. —Anna

Pride and Prejudice (2005 film)

Directed by: Joe Wright

Screenplay by: Deborah Moggach

Based on the novel: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice is one of the novels I sought to explore on my own outside of the classroom. It’s one of my favorite classics and I can say that Joe Wright’s adaptation does justice to Jane Austen’s quintessential work. My favorite scene would have to be Mr. Darcy baring his heart to Lizzie in the rain. Matthew Macfadyen delivered an almost desperate, vulnerable appearing performance to Mr. Darcy. —Anna

Science Fiction and Fantasy adaptations


Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Screenplay by: Eric Heisserer

Based on the story: Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang

I don't necessarily hold to the notion that one must be completely faithful to a text being adapted. Arrival is a good case study—by exploring a slightly peripheral theme within the premise of Ted Chiang's short story, it's able to give an altenative center to the story and stay true to the narrative at the same time. While Story of Your Life is more of an exploration of motherhood and the inevitable letting go that comes with having children; Arrival, the film adaptation, investigates how language is inextricably tied to our perception and experience of time. Watching Denis Villeneuve's film after reading Ted Chiang's short story is a richer, more complex experience of a life-changing alien encounter. —Ilia

The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003 films)

Directed by: Peter Jackson

Screenplay by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Stephen Sinclair

Based on The Lord of the Rings novels by J.R.R. Tolkien

Most long-time Middle Earth readers and enthusiasts have a bone to pick with the inaccuracies of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy—whether it's Arwen's expanded savior-like role or the missing scouring of the Shire. However, the trilogy remains one of the most ambitious film endeavors in history: introducing the innovation of extending film production across a series of films; paying unprecedented attention to the accurate depiction of fictional languages created by Tolkien; and commiting serious dedication to production design details (please google ""Weta Lord of the Rings) to bring Tolkien's world to life.

It would also be unjust not to credit Peter Jackson's vision and creation for ushering a new class of fantasy films (not to mention TV series, too—one could argue that Game of Thrones could not have been made without the success of LOTR). It showed the world both the narrative and economic viability of taking dense literary fantasy material and translating that to the screen. —Ilia

Annihilation (2018 film)

Directed and screenplay written by: Alex Garland

Based on the novel: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Annihilation is many things all at once. It’s science-fiction; it’s horror; it’s fantasy; it’s adventure.  Alex Garland’s adaptation may not be a perfect page-by-page of Jeff VanderMeer’s novel, it’s even almost a different story, but they are the same at their cores. In the novel, VanderMeer allows our imaginations to go wild. In the film, Garland treats us to lush visuals that are both enchanting and horrifying. It’s difficult to explain without dropping spoilers, but the film is definitely worth watching and the book is a fairly quick read too. —Anna

The Handmaid’s Tale (2017 TV series)

Directed by: Bruce Miller

Based on the novel: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The themes in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale when it was published in 1985 are proven to be just as relevant today with the first season of the 2017 Hulu series. It’s set in a dystopian not-so-distant future New England, where the totalitarian government of Gilead took over the United States. It’s not the kind of future where technology is super advanced; it’s where everything is still familiar to us but effectively lets us know that it’s all still wrong at the same time.  —Anna


The Devil Wears Prada (2006 film)

Directed by: David Frankel

Screenplay by: Aline Brosh McKenna

Based on the novel: The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

Just by the sole fact that Lauren Weisberger's book was set in the fashion world—The Devil Wears Prada seems fated to be better portrayed in a moving visual medium like film. How else are we to savor the marvelous clothes and the frantic frenzy inside Runway's offices? Casting Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly was absolute genius. With Streep's once-in-a-lifetime talent for embodying characters, she transformed Miranda into an iconic figure, a frame through which many Millenials will seek to understand their bosses and mentors. This is a film that will be rewatched far longer than the book will be reread. After all, we all want our own montage of walking all over New York in fabulous outfits, don't we? —Ilia

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008 film)

Directed by: Peter Sollett

Screenplay by: Lorene Scafaria

Based on the novel: Nick and Norah's Inifnite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist doesn't just tell a story; it embodies a feeling—and that feeling is the cheesy old saying, "the night is young and so are we." The fleeting magic of youth, and the inevitable growing up that lies ahead. I feel like the movie has a better grasp of this feeling, and is able to showcase it more effectively through the midnight chases down the streets of NYC, just the right mix of sarcasm and sincerity in the dialogue, and, of course, the perfect soundtrack. While the book is more introspective, the movie is able to bring out the heart of the story: an adventure in the middle of the night, the unknown waiting just on the other side. —Hannah

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018 film)

Directed by: Susan Johnson

Screenplay by: Sofia Alvarez

Based on the novel: To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

In To All the Boys I've Loved Before, we go on an emotional journey with Lara Jean to discover that wearing your heart on your sleeve is one of the hardest but most rewarding experiences in life. The warmth you feel when you read about LJ’s very close relationships with her family is such a joy to see on screen with their quick-witted banters. The way the LJ and Peter’s “fake” relationship kept you on your toes with every “fake” date had pretty much the same level on anticipation. They really couldn’t have cast a better Lara Jean than Lana Condor. Her natural facial expressions and overall energy embodies the Lara Jean we love in the books—a little awkward, but has a lot of heart. Having two different versions of the same story means getting to enjoy it twice as much! On the page and on the screen, Lara Jean Song Covey is still the girl who unapologetically loves love in all ways she’s able to experience it—in family, in friendships, and in romance. —Aia

Crazy Rich Asians (2018 film)

Directed by: John M. Chu

Screenplay by: Peter Chiarelli & Adele Lim

Based on the novel: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

The 2018 film adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s best selling satire on the Asian JetSet, Crazy Rich Asians, is as opulent and as hilariously absurd as it deserves. There were some notable differences, especially in characterizations. An example would be with Astrid, I personally liked how she was more able to stand up for herself in the film. But the one scene I’d pick as a favorite is Colin and Araminta’s wedding. The set design of the church for the wedding was exquisite and as over the top as you’d expect — with water flooding the aisle, flowers floating on it, a river for Araminta to wade through to the altar. —Anna

Drama and Thrillers

Bridge to Terabithia (2007 film)

Directed by: Gabor Csupo

Screenplay by: Jeff Stockwell and David Peterson

Based on the novel: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson

I think the true magic of children's stories is in the way it stays with you forever, whether you're aware of it or not. If I remember correctly, I've only seen Bridge to Terabithia once, but I will never forget its magic. For young actors, Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb were extraordinary. Terabithia was brought to life not just by the visual effects, but by their exceptional performances—how they embodied friendship and imagination, how they dealt with forces bigger than them (as most things are for children). Bridge to Terabithia is a story that's full of heart, both on page and on screen, and while it has the power to stick with you after just one viewing, I think it's worth going back to over and over again. —Hannah

Room (2015 film)

Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson

Screenplay by: Emma Donoghue

Based on the novel: Room by Emma Donoghue

Emma Donoghue's book is about a boy who grows up in a world of four walls, a television, and a window. The room is his entire universe—it is a place of both discovery and terror, of delight and violence. Lenny Abrahamson was able to translate the complexity of Room's story, its joys as well as its horrors onto the screen, ably aided by stellar acting from Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. Abrahamson built a literal 11ft by 11ft set to simulate the shed where Joy and Jack where held captive—and this was crucial in really bringing us viewers into their claustrophobia-inducing world. Emma Donaghue also wrote the screenplay, which really does seem to be the tried-and-tested way to adapt a novel satisfactorily. —Ilia

Call Me By Your Name (2017 film)

Directed by: Luca Guadagnino

Screenplay by: James Ivory

Based on the novel: Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

The story of Call Me By Your Name is one of desire. Set over the course of a summer in Italy, we are let into the romance that blossoms between Elio and his family’s guest for that summer, Oliver. Over the course of the story we feel the imprints of Elio and Oliver in the places where they spend time together, almost not letting us forget about them as much as they couldn’t forget each other. —Anna

The Spectacular Now (2013 film)

Directed by: James Ponsoldt

Screenplay by: Scott Naustadter and Michael H.Weber

Base on the novel: The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

The main plot of The Spectacular Now may not be as dramatic or as heavy as the other teen coming-of-age stories of its time, but I think that's where its magic lies. Sutter and Aimee's senior year was authentic and nostalgic—it almost feels like your own memory, and this was shown beautifully by the performance of the lead actors. Miles Teller was so comfortably casual and Shailene Woodley was just the right kind of awkward—they were both real people. As one critic said, "We have known them. We have been them." Though the book may have offered more insight into the characters' thoughts, the emotions seeped through every scene, every line, every subtle glance. —Hannah

Gone Girl (2014 film)

Directed by: David Fincher

Screenplay by: Gillian Flynn

Based on the novel: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gillian Flynn wrote both the novel and the screenplay and it's a credit to her skill that she was able to condense the story into roughly two and a half hours; maintain the tension; and keep the audience on edge—while also making them root for the "villain" (or anti-hero, depending on your inclinations). It takes a certain humility to be able to deconstruct your work for a different medium and be confident that your audience will still get to where you want them to arrive—without relying on the exposition that novels allow writers to do. Gone Girl is a perfect thriller film for the 21st century, where the horror is played through the warped modern lenses with which our lives are viewed: credit scores, social media accounts, the non-stop 24/7 news cycle feeding people who just can't stop scrolling. —Ilia

And those are our the page to screen adaptations we love. We covered stories of all kinds, from sci-fi to romance, to settings in the past and into futures we can only imagine. Did you see your favorite adaptation on this list? Share yours and jump into the conversation at Bookworm Corner at Fully Booked.

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