Novel-to-Film Adaptations That Really Got It Right


If you’ve read any of the reviews for the film adaptation of Donna Tartt’s best-selling novel The Goldfinch, you’ll know that they’re… not great.

For a novel beloved by so many, it seems that the adaptation for the screen fell a little short of expectations, which can happen a lot.

We get it, you’ve read the book, imagined the characters, fallen in love with the detail after all, The Goldfinch is over 700 pages only to see subplots get scrapped, nuance erased and characters be taken in completely different directions than you’d imagined. It’s a hard pill to swallow.

Still, when done correctly, a good adaptation will bring everything you’d imagined to life on the big screen. The performances will mimic what you’d envisioned. The casting will be spot on. The choices made by the director and cast will elevate even the smallest details, and make it a perfect companion piece to the book you love so much.

Early reports out of the film festivals seem to indicate that movie-goers will have a better time watching the latest adaptation of Little Women, adapted and directed by Lady Bird’s Greta Gerwig.

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Until then, though, we rounded up nine of the best novel-to-film adaptations from the past decade.

Gone Girl

With an Oscar nomination for Rosamund Pike as the one and only Amazing Amy, this perfectly-cast adaptation of the Gillian Flynn novel doesn’t disappoint, and is still a thrilling ride from start to finish, even if you know what’s to come.

Streaming on: Netflix

Revolutionary Road

Now, don’t get us wrong. This may be an incredible film, but it’s also deeply, deeply depressing and will stay with you for long after the credits have finished rolling.

Adapted from the Richard Yates novel, Revolutionary Road reunited everyone’s favourite famous friends, Titanic’s Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, for this drama about dreams of freedom and the prison of suburban life in the 50s.

Streaming on: Netflix

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Based on John le Carré’s 1974 novel of the same name, this Cold War spy thriller has an A-List cast that features Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch. Before winning Best Actor for Darkest Hour, Gary Oldman was nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Streaming on: Netflix

True Grit

The second adaptation of Charles Portis’ 1968 novel, the Coen brothers came through once again with True Grit, a story about a 14-year-old girl who hires a US Marshal to help her track down her father’s murderer. Although the film ended up walking away empty handed, it was nominated for a whopping 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor for Jeff Bridges and Best Supporting Actress for Hailee Steinfeld. 

Streaming on: Stan

Silver Linings Playbook

It was Jennifer Lawrence’s second Oscar nod, and first win, in this gorgeous and thought-provoking adaptation of Matthew Quick’s debut novel about bipolar disorder, mental illnesses and society.

Directed by David O. Russell, it would be the first of three films he would direct starring J-Law alongside Bradley Cooper, with American Hustle in 2013 and Joy  in 2015 to follow. As for 2014, well, J-Law and Bradley Cooper were paired up once more for Serena, which was directed by Susanne Bier.

Streaming on: Stan


Originally published as Stories of Your Life and Others, Ted Chiang’s Arrival was originally one of the short stories in his first collection, which has now been republished as Arrival. All the stories prompt the reader to pause and consider the magnitude of the universe and our place within it, which is also central to the plot of the film adaptation starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner.

Watch on: YouTube, Google Play

Hidden Figures

Adapted from Margot Lee Shetterly’s bestselling book, Hidden Figures went on to be nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It follows the journey of African American women who calculated the flight paths for rockets using a pencil and paper to map out the equations that would eventually send men to the moon.

Watch on: YouTube, Google Play


Another film based on a true story, Lion is the adaptation of Saroo Brierley’s life story as a young boy separated from his family, adopted in Australia, and the remarkable journey to find his way home to his birth family. Starring Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman and Rooney Mara, the film was nominated for six Academy Awards.

Watch on: YouTube, Google Play


Reading Emma Donaghue’s Room will have you turning pages late into the night as you wait to see whether their escape plan from the room will work. Watching it on the screen will have you holding your breath during scenes so heavy with tension you’ll be able to hear your own heart beating. Jacob Tremblay does an incredible job as Jack, and Brie Larson’s portrayal of Ma won her the Oscar for Best Actress.

Watch on: YouTube, Google Play