Best book-to-movie adaptations ever – and where to watch the films

James Norton, Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan and Timothee Chalamet during the "Little Women" photocall
(Image credit: Mike Marsland/WireImage)

Some of the best book-to-movie adaptations have been released in the last decade and thanks to the rise of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, there are more book adaptations on the way.

With so many films taking their inspiration, characters and plots from some of the most successful books, it’s no surprise that some make the transition to the silver screen better than others.

Whether it’s a period drama, a family film or even a thriller, when it’s done right, there is nothing better than seeing your favourite book brought to life on screen. The best book-to-movie adaptations introduce brand new readers to novels they may have read before, because after watching adaptations, some viewers are then inspired to delve into the original material.

So be inspired to lose yourself in these transporting storylines, however you prefer to enjoy them. Here we share our pick of the best book-to-movie adaptations ever.

See our picks for the Best Books 2020

Best book-to-movie adaptations ever

Emma by Jane Austen

Emma, adaptations

Autumn de Wilde’s adaptation of this regency classic has all the elements that made the novel so beloved. Telling the story of matchmaking Emma Woodhouse, Anya Taylor-Joy perfectly embodies the lead role.

She is supported by the wonderful Bill Nighy as her father and Miranda Hart as the comedic Miss Bates. Together with the sumptuous costumes and settings, this adaptation is a compelling version of the age-old tale.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsOwj0PR5Sk

Shop the book -Emma by Jane Austen (Waterstones)

Watch Emma on Amazon Prime Video

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train, Adaptations

As with many adaptations, the setting in this 2016 film was changed from the UK to US, though Emily Blunt’s masterful portrayal of alcoholic divorcee Rachel is no less captivating and she went on to receive a Bafta nomination.

Though the novel holds back the crucial twists and turns from its readers for longer than the film, the dramatic conclusion and pacing is sure to draw you in.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5yk-HGqKmM

Shop the book -The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Waterstones)

Watch Girl on the Train on Amazon Prime.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women, Adaptations

With Oscar nominations and praise galore, Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel is a wonderful blend of the original tale with elements of the author’s second volume, Good Wives. Gerwig also helps viewers to really become immersed in the story, by reimagining it with fan-favourite Jo March as the author of the novel Little Women.

This explores her journey to creative success in more detail and also gives the film an updated feel and a sense of breaking new territory, whilst retaining the essence of Alcott’s characters and story. A charming adaptation, perfect for family viewing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AST2-4db4ic

Shop the book -Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Waterstones)

Watch Little Women on Amazon Prime.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl, Film Adaptations

Sinister and psychological, Gillian Flynn’s 2012 novel made for dramatic on-screen material. With Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck taking the lead roles, this chilling plot is in good hands. Flynn herself took a huge role in adapting her novel for the silver screen and the unreliable narration, suspense and dramatic reveals that made it so successful similarly work in the film released two years later.

After Nick Dunne is accused of being involved in his wife's disappearance, he is determined to discover what happened to her. But is he really ready for the truth?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-_-1nJf8Vg

Shop the book -Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Waterstones)

Watch Gone Girl on Netflix.

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Wizard of Oz, film adaptations

The source material has undergone several reprints since it was first published, though the beloved 1939 adaptation stays generally faithful. Dorothy’s signature footwear is perhaps the most iconic difference, changing from silver shoes to the ruby slippers we all know and love.

The film brings to life an already imaginative story of farm girl Dorothy’s journey through Oz in a colourful, song-filled film enjoyed by adults and children the world over. The level of detail in the set and costumes is delightful and playful, keeping audiences intrigued and capturing the essence of the book.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_3T4DGw10U

Shop the book -The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (Waterstones)

Watch The Wizard of Oz on Amazon Prime Video.

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

My sister's keeper, Adaptations

Just as tear-jerking as the book, the 2009 adaptation of Jodi Picoult’s novel brilliantly encapsulates one family's unfathomable struggle. Despite shifting the focus for film audiences and the ending being a big departure from the book, the spirit of it remains.

Lead actress Abigail Breslin brings great maturity to her role as 13-year-old Anna, raised as a saviour sibling for her sick sister Kate. This story is powerful and thought-provoking, however you choose to enjoy it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGEDVTiI6E4

Shop the book -My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult (Waterstones)

Watch My Sister's Keeper on Amazon Prime Video.

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

The Devil Wears Prada, adaptations

Known for giving us one of the most fashionable villains, Lauren Weisberger’s book reaches even greater heights in the 2006 adaptation. Meryl Streep's performance as demanding fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly earned her an Oscar nomination.

The relationship between Miranda and her new assistant played by Anne Hathaway is spell-binding. Though the film’s ending is a departure from the book, the resolution it provides is utterly enjoyable to watch. This is a feel-good film with scene-stealing costumes as far as the eye can see.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZOZwUQKu3E

Shop the book -The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger (Waterstones)

Watch The Devil Wears Prada on Amazon Prime Video.