They say the book is always better, but sometimes the movie comes close. These 10 adaptations streaming on Netflix are totally lit.
Happy literary adaptations are all alike; every unhappy literary adaptation is unhappy in its own way. Keira Knightley stepped into the role of Tolstoy’s doomed heroine in Joe Wright’s ornate film, which in hindsight almost feels like a forerunner to Baz Luhrmann’s maximalist take on “The Great Gatsby.” Ol’ Leo might not have enjoyed the theatrical bent, but he was always a bit of a grouch.
For his directorial debut, actor-turned-filmmaker Brady Corbet took a short story from Jean-Paul Sartre and made it wholly his own. The film’s vision of a soon-to-be fascist in his early days is akin to a supervillain’s origin story, not to mention far more relevant than such subject matter should be in this day and age, but here we are. Try not to get Scott Walker’s ominous score stuck in your head.
No, not that “Great Gatsby.” Jack Clayton beat Baz Luhrmann to the punch by about 30 years, with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow as Gatsby and Daisy, respectively, and Francis Ford Coppola on screenplay duty. The result is more mannered but also more befitting F. Scott Fitzgerald’s boats-against-the-current novel, which has still yet to receive a film adaptation that fully captures its power.
Aleksei German went literary with the film that ended up being his swan song, adapting Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s sci-fi novel. Taking place on another planet in the future, it resembles nothing so much as Europe circa the Middle Ages. German draws our attention to the blood, guts and other bodily substances in stark black-and-white, making “Hard to Be a God” something of an endurance test — but one well worth finishing.
“Manchester by the Sea” writer/director Kenneth Lonergan has big shoes to fill with the miniseries version of E.M. Forster’s novel he’s penning: In addition to the book itself, he has this Merchant Ivory production to live up to. Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Helena Bonham Carter and Emma Thompson star in the film, which won Academy Awards for its screenplay and Thompson’s performance.
Before he went to Carcosa, Cary Fukunaga visited Thornfield Hall. His take on Charlotte Brontë’s classic tome more than does justice to her wispy, stream-of-consciousness prose and Gothic plotting; that’s thanks in large part to the ease with which Mia Wasikowska settles into the title role.
Jim Thompson’s novel was previously adapted in 1976, but that version wasn’t as faithful — or as controversial — as Michael Winterbottom’s. The film features a number of prolonged scenes depicting violence against women (namely Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson), which even proponents will readily admit make their stomach churn (that is the point, after all). Whether it takes things too far remains a matter of debate, but there’s little denying the strength of Casey Affleck’s performance.
Rare is the literary adaptation that’s both faithful to its source material and an experience unto itself. “No Country for Old Men” is one of them, with the Coen Brothers’ sensibility aligning with Cormac McCarthy’s so seamlessly that it’s almost a marvel it took them so long to collaborate. (Bonus points for nailing the final scene.)
Stephen King isn’t a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s take on his book — he’s famously called the director someone who “thinks too much and feels too little” — but the oft-adapted author is squarely in the minority. One of the best, most nerve-jangling horror films of all time, “The Shining” is required viewing for anyone with even a passing interest in the genre.
Now that we’ve collectively agreed to pretend that “Go Set a Watchman” never happened, take some time to revisit the original — whether on the page or on the screen. Gregory Peck gave life to Atticus Finch like no one else could have, making one of literature’s greatest heroes into one of cinema’s as well.