10 Book-To-Film Adaptations That Succeeded (And 15 That Failed)

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Adaptations
As tomorrow’s big Netflix release, the second go-around at adapting A Series of Unfortunate Events, proves, adaptations of beloved source material are not easy to make.

Books and film, like all arts, have a special relationship. The turn of the century saw a massive increase in adaptations of epic fantasy and science-fiction, particularly for the coveted youth market, thanks mostly to two big franchises – Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. Both legitimized fantasy as big-budget spectacle and prestige entertainment, when done with care. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and the years since are littered with attempts at replicating the magic of those films, including the original Unfortunate Events movie, which is first up on our list (as an ambitious-but-flawed failure).

Now, in the age of Peak TV, adapting these massive sagas are possible on television too. The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones both kicked open doors to imitators in the same ways Potter and Rings did, in terms of scope and budget. Shows like MTV’s Shannara and Hulu’s upcoming The Handmaid’s Tale, both based on famous books, draw directly from this trend. It’s also given second life to properties that didn’t work as features, such as Unfortunate Events.

For this article, I focused on the biggest in YA and children’s literature, in honor of Unfortunate Events return to screens (I’ll be recapping a “book” aka two episodes a day starting tomorrow morning!), while focusing on the criteria to rank them by. When it comes to judging these stories – some classics, some decidedly not – I kept in mind whether the films a) received a sequel b) made money at the box-office and c) were critically acclaimed.

  • Honorary success mentions: Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, Stardust, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
  • Honorary failure mentions: Bridge to TerabithiaCharlotte’s Web, The Host

Click Next to scroll through all the failures and successes.

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Sam Flynn

Sam Flynn

Sam is a writer and journalist whose passion for pop culture burns with the fire of a thousand suns and at least three LED lamps.

  • andrew

    This is complete rubbish. The Lemony Snicket books are dark and grim. The film was closer to this then the new show is. I think it’s a brilliant adaption.

    • Samuel Patrick Flynn

      I really like that movie too! It falls under failures because it didn’t start a franchise, which it very clearly was intended to. And, with the author heavily involved in the Netflix show, I expect it to have just as much grimness and darkness as it needs while being fun.

  • DCDeathstroke

    Awesome List.. Disagree with Potter at 2 and Lord of the rings at 1.. Think it should be switched around. But still an awesome list.

    • Samuel Patrick Flynn

      Thanks! You know, originally I had it that way too! Upon editing it, I realized that I thought the impact Rings had – both production and reception – was so great that it allowed Potter to come together as awesomely as it did. My reasoning was, if Rings hadn’t happened exactly the way it happened, Potter might be an entirely different, probably worse, film series. My two cents!

      • DCDeathstroke

        Sounds about right.. But maybe I just feel that way since I am a huge Potter fan and not so much Lord Of The Rings – Fell asleep twice watching Return of the King. But again, Awesome list.

  • amin2302

    you have to ad Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children to that list. Probably the worst adaption of 2016.

  • Matias Gagliardone

    I completely agree about LOTR being first because it’s the greatest adaptation in my opinion! But I don’t think Maze Runner should be there while the first one was acceptable the second one was just awful I had to get out of the theater