I’ve loved Book to Film adaptations even before I knew I loved them—The Wizard of Oz or Wizard of Boz as I used to call it as a toddler, then Wuthering Heights (even though as a child I knew their love was unhealthy, I thought I wanted to meet someone who loved me enough to haunt me). And then I watched all the fairy adaptations: Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty and countless others. While I typically go into these films expecting that I will still love the book more than the movie or show, there’s a beautiful magic to diving into the story once more through a different medium. It’s almost like reading it again for the first time!
Cinematography like The Lord of the Rings and Memoirs of Geisha are truly breathtaking. The soundtrack in The Perks of Being a Wallflower captured the teenage experience of discovering music that makes you feel seen and present and connected. And it’s so exciting to see how actors will interpret our favourite characters (even as we try to forgive them if it just doesn’t pay off). But when it does pay off, they go on my list to watch on repeat and share with all of you wonderful, beautiful people.
As we head into Fall and start getting cozy in the evenings, I thought it would be fun to recommend some of my favourite Book to Film adaptations, as well as some that I’m really looking forward to in 2022 and beyond. Please share in the comments some of your favourites and most anticipated!
The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)
Published in 1844 by French author, Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo is a revenge story centred on falsely accused and imprisoned, Edmond Dantès. After many years, Dantès escapes and assumes the identity of the Count of Monte Cristo in order to exact revenge on all of those who wronged him.
My favourite film adaptation is the 2002 release, directed by Kevin Reynolds and starring Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce, Dagmara Dominczyk, Henry Cavill (baby Superman), and Richard Harris (yes, that is Dumbledore, folks). The film has the perfect mixture between substance and fun, as it explores themes of justice and forgiveness, but also incorporates humour, romance, treasure, and sword fighting. Who doesn’t love seeing bad dudes get some delayed karma?
On IMDB, I noticed a lot of people mentioning that it’s very good, but that it doesn’t touch the book. I think the only way we could have an adaptation that even touches the quality of the book would be to see it made into a mini-series that can explore all the different characters and be truly faithful to the novel. I’d be down for that.
Little Women (1994)
I’m going to write as if you’ve somehow managed to never hear about this classic coming-of-age novel written by Louisa May Alcott. I remember exactly where I was sitting when I first read it, and how I devoured all the rest of the books in the series. You know how people talk about getting the warm fuzzies? This book does that for me.
I’ve watched ALL the film adaptations, except for the silent film, and while I feel like there’s something to love about all of them, my favourite is still the 1994 one. Maybe it’s because I grew up watching it. Maybe it’s because I listen to the soundtrack whenever I’m stressed out. Maybe it’s because for a short window of time I wanted to be 1990’s Winona Ryder. Or, maybe it’s just because it’s actually the best version? I cry every time I watch it and I’m not ashamed. Directed by Gillian Armstrong, the film stars Winona Ryder, Kristen Dunst, Trini Alvarado, Christian Bale, and Susan Sarandon.
I usually watch Little Women closer to Christmas time, but if you haven’t read the book yet, that gives you time to pick it up before watching the movie! Lucky you.
Jane Eyre (2006)
Published in 1847, Charlotte Bronte's bildungsroman novel explores the harsh childhood of Jane and her journey towards finding independence and happiness as an adult. I'm going to repeat myself here. Like Little Women, I've watched so many different adaptations of this novel. I really loved the cinematography of Cary Joji Fukunaga's 2011 version and the other worldliness Charlotte Gainsbourgh gave to Jane's character in the 1996 version. Honestly, I loved something about every single one (okay, except maybe the George C. Scott edition; I just couldn't vibe with that one).
If I had to pick just one adaptation though, it would always be the 2006 four-part mini-series by BBC, starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens. First, their chemistry is excellent. Second, Ruth fits perfectly with how I envision Jane--innocent yet wise, odd yet captivating, reserved yet passionate. The benefit to it being a mini-series is that the script can lean into the different plotlines, as well as having time to show how Jane and Rochester's initial friendship develops into a passionate, soul connection type of love. Ah, swoon.
The Princess Bride (1987)
There's no such thing as a perfect mov--Oh, wait a sec. Here comes Rob Reiner and the beautiful, hilarious magic of The Princess Bride. The film stars Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Wallace Shawn, André the Giant, and Christopher Guest.
While I have read the novel by William Goldman and remember enjoying it, I will always love the film best. Growing up, when I wanted to watch a movie with my mom, she would usually ask for Mulan or The Princess Bride. I watched it so many times during my childhood, I can still recite entire scenes, but I have a particular soft spot for the mawage, sorry, marriage scene. It really bwings the whole thing toogeder, you know?
The story centres around Buttercup and her love for farm boy, Westley. Westley leaves to seek fortune so they can start their life together, but is captured and presumably killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Buttercup, while still mourning, is chosen by Prince Humperdinck to be his bride. And with a name like that, he has the confidence to pick any bride! Before the wedding, she is kidnapped by Vizzini, the giant and rhyme loving Fezzik, and swordsman Inigo Montoya. Soon, the outlaws realize they are being pursued by a mysterious man in black. Just in case you haven't already watched this gem, I won't say anything more.
Call the Midwife (2012)
I can't actually remember if I read the 2002 memoir by Jennifer Worth before I watched the television series or vice versa. However, what I do remember is that I read it and watched it while pregnant with my first child. I worked at a bookstore at the time and had access to all the new mom-to-be reference guides. I put down all the parenting books as I found them way too anxiety inducing and picked up Call the Midwife instead. Somehow, reading about the different experiences of childbirth and motherhood experienced by women in the condemned tenement buildings of the 1950's really calmed me down. Jennifer, or Jenny, worked as a midwife for Nonnatus House (pseudonym). The memoir reflects about Jenny's time at the convent as well different women’s unusual or traumatic deliveries.
Why did it calm me down? I'm not totally sure, but I think there are two main reasons. One, I found it tremendously comforting to compare our modern medical care system to what they were working with or without in the 1950's. Medical advances are such a balm to my anxiety! Second, I found this enormous sense of courage and strength in the pages. Women have given birth to children in so many extreme and dangerous conditions, and still continue to do so. We are so strong and amazing. But yes, medical advances really helped calm me down.
Still going since it's release in 2012, Call the Midwife has eleven seasons to enjoy. The cast and characters have changed a bit since the earlier seasons, but quite a few are still there to enjoy. Such as my favourite, Sister Monica Joan played by Judy Parfitt.
I've loved many of the adaptations of Emma (particularly the 2009 mini series starring Romola Garai), but the 2020 version is visually stunning, the costuming is next level, and has my favourite interpretation of Mr. Knightly to date. Johnny Flynn is able to navigate the oft lecturing Mr. Knightly without making him too austere, adding vulnerability, humour, and sweetness. Plus, he sings.
The film is based on Jane Austen’s 1815 novel of the same name. Main protagonist, Emma Woodhouse, is beautiful, clever, and pampered. And as any well-meaning, but bored young lady is wont to do–she starts interfering and trying to be a matchmaker for the inhabitants of the fictional country village of Highbury. Of course, the matchmaking doesn’t go well, and through her mistakes, Emma eventually understands her own heart.
A Discovery of Witches (2018)
I’ve read the All-Soul’s Trilogy by Deborah Harkness three times. There’s something about the mixture of history, paranormal and romance that takes me right back to my teenage years. I thought I would be an archaeologist, visit a haunted estate in Scotland during a ground-breaking dig, and promptly fall in love with a rugged Scotsman along the way. Which, side bar, is actually the plot of Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley if you haven’t picked it up before. Minus some of the dangerous bits, it was basically my fantasy for an embarrassing number of years.
Now that we’ve gotten that tangent out of the way, I would highly recommend the television adaptation called A Discovery of Witches. The series premiered in 2018 and completed it’s third and final season, wrapping up the trilogy, in 2022. What’s not to love about a brilliant, extremely powerful witch that meets another brilliant, handsome Vampire? Beyond the love story between Diana and Matthew, the plot centers around their search for the bewitched manuscript Ashmole 782, thought to contain information on the origin of supernatural species. I love books about books and the adaptation doesn’t disappoint!
Okay, the next recommendation I’m a little salty about. They cancelled the show due to the main executive producer and frequent director, David Fincher, being too busy with other projects (Excuses, David! I don’t want your excuses). Mindhunter is a psychological thriller based on the 1995 true-crime book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit written by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker. The plot centers around naive and ambitious FBI agent Holden Ford and his partner, level-headed Special Agent Bill Tench. Together, they begin interviewing imprisoned serial killers in order to better understand, predict and catch criminals through profiling. They are joined in the BSU by psychologist Wendy Carr who helps them standardize their methodology and approach to the interviews. Plus, she helps feed a stray cat, so she’s automatically cool in my books.
The show is immaculate. The production level makes it feel like you’re watching a film rather than a television show. The acting is so good that your skin will crawl when they interview well-known serial killers such as Edmund Kemper and Charles Manson. I know there’s only two seasons, but I still highly recommend checking it out. I read the book afterwards and enjoyed it as well.
But seriously, David—come on!
Adaptations I’m looking forward to! (And you should be, too)
My Best Friend’s Exorcism (September 30th, 2022)
By the time you read this, I have good news, it’s out and you can watch it! Based on Grady Hendrix’s novel of the same name, the horror film is directed by Damon Thomas and stars Elsie Fisher, Amiah Miller, Cathy Ang and Rachel Ogechi Kanu.
Recommended for lovers of Stranger Things, the plot centers around best friends Abby and Gretchen. Everything is going great until high school (says just about every person on the planet), when Gretchen starts to change. But it’s not just normal teenage hormones! She needs an exorcism, y’all!
The trailer looks SO fun, and I’m stoked to watch it this fall season
Pinocchio (December 2022)
In December of this year, the long await stop-motion animated musical of Pinocchio will be released. Guillermo Del Toro is the producer and director, so expectations are high! Disney also just released a live-action film starring Tom Hanks. So now it’s a battle of the puppets! So far, I’m team stop-motion.
Red, White and Royal Blue (2023)
I read Casey McQuiston’s novel of the same name back in 2019 and I cannot wait to see it adapted to film. The book follows the secret romance between Alex, the son of the U.S. president, and Henry, the Prince of England. The two characters will be played by Taylor Zakhar Perez (The Kissing Booth 2 & 3) and Nicholas Galitzine (Cinderella, 2021). Yay!