LBSW Film Club: Book-to-Film Adaptation Recommendations

Our film club was designed to not only bring together the London Book and Screen Week team through our shared love of book-to-film adaptations, but also connect us with our wider online community.

From pages to the silver screen, we’ve gathered a selection of favourites. While sure, adaptations don’t always do a book justice, when they do, it’s pure magic. Thank you to all who suggested a movie or two. If you’re wondering what to watch next, here’s a little selection of book-to-film adaptations for you to peruse and stream over and over again.

Little Women (2019)

My book to screen adaptation recommendation is Little Women. I’m embarrassed to admit that I have never read the book but the film was by far one of the best I have seen in a long time. I left the cinema fully prepared to go back and watch it all over again. It’s heart-warming and heart-breaking in a breath and the acting is fab.

Recommended by Amy.

Stardust (2007)

A fun fantasy film that is filled with dry wit and quirky humour. Based on the novel by Neil Gaiman, Stardust is hugely entertaining; telling the story of a young man named Tristan who enters a magical realm in search of a fallen star, to give to the woman he is infatuated with for her hand in marriage. This story could have been predictable, but with the injection of humour and its brilliant cast, this film is both charming and engaging. As my friend and I joke, one of Robert De Niro’s greatest performances is in this film.

Recommended by Ellie.

Call Me by Your Name (2017)

I love a book-to-film adaption and this is one of my all-time favourites. Call Me by Your Name (based on André Aciman’s novel) is the most gorgeous film for escaping everyday (and lockdown) life. It transforms you to the Italian countryside packed with blue skies and idyllic countryside. Set in the summer of the early 1980s, Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and his parents host Oliver (Armie Hammer), an American grad student invited to spend six weeks to help Elio’s dad with research. A love story unfolds between Elio and Oliver, resulting in incredible on-screen chemistry that is rare to find sometimes. The film is slow but by no means dull – expect to be blown away by terrific performances (Chalamet was robbed of his Oscar), stunning cinematography and a soundtrack so good, you’ll be seeking it out immediately after the credits (Sufjan Stevens’ Mystery of Love and Psychedelic Furs’ Love My Way particular highlights).

Recommended by Ashley (Midas).

The Girl on the Train (2016)

The book, by Paula Hawkins, was a hit when it came out in 2015. The film adaptation came out not long after in 2016, and although I had seen it before, I was compelled to revisit it recently as I had done last year when I went to see the stage adaptation – back when we were allowed to visit such things called theatres. Unlike the film, the stage version was lacklustre, and dare I say hammy. On screen, however, Emily Blunt perfectly takes us on the thrilling ride and the overall journey is atmospheric and gripping. Even though you may know the story, the suspense in the film is real and keeps you guessing as to where it will all end up. 

Recommended by Helen.

Atonement (2007)

Atonement by Ian McEwan is an incredible novel, dealing with the concepts of memory and storytelling, love and truth, and perhaps most impressively, it has a near perfect film adaptation. Brought to life by Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Romola Garai and a young Saoirse Ronan, it follows Briony, a thirteen-year-old in 1935, who misinterprets the relationship between her sister Cecilia and housekeeper’s son Robbie, setting in motion a heart-breaking series of events that span the next sixty years. Directed by Joe Wright (whose other Kiera-Knightley packed book adaptations include Anna Karenina and Pride and Prejudice), the Atonement movie conjures all the emotion, doubt and nuance of the book and projects it onto a sumptuous cinematic backdrop. And whether on the screen or the page, it remains one of the most gut-punching endings in fiction.

Recommended by Ben (Midas).

Pride and Prejudice (1995)

While not a film, this book to screen adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1813 novel, adapted by Andrew Davies, is a delight. This series does everything in its power to ensure that the book’s integrity is not sacrificed and includes the small details of the book that make the novel so wonderful. Jennifer Ehle plays Elizabeth Bennet brilliantly; delivering looks, remarks and comments with soft smirks and subtle sarcasm, embodying the intelligence and wit of the original character. Colin Firth is equally brilliant, pulling off Mr Darcy’s cool and calm exterior, effortlessly. All in all, this series has an amazing cast and is great to watch with a friend, a bottle of wine and a tonne of snacks.

Recommended by Ellie.

Emma (2020)

When Jane Austen sat down to pen Emma she famously wrote to her nephew that she planned to create “a heroine whom no one but myself will much like”. It is Emma’s appeal despite her unflinching self-interest and cruelly acerbic wit that has always made this one of Austen’s most intriguing – and amusing – novels. Autumn de Wilde’s 2020 feature film starring Anya Taylor-Joy perfectly balances laugh-out-loud comedy with, at times, truly painful moments of tension (that picnic scene!). Above all this is a film that revels in the comedy of Emma, which makes it a hugely enjoyable and light hearted 120 minutes of Regency escapism.

Recommended by Edwina (Midas).

Death in Venice (1971)

Based on the novella by Thomas Mann, the film adaptation is directed by Luchino Visconti.

So rarely one gets to see the deepness of emotions transferred from the written word to the screen. This is one of them and I want to give extra credit to one of my favourite writers and movie directors.

Recommended by Aynur.

The Princess Bride (1987)

“Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

It’s been thirty plus years since The Princess Bride was released, and many years since I first watched the film, and yet this classic line still manages to draw out a smile. Adapted by William Goldman – who also wrote the book – and directed by Rob Reiner, it’s a delightful tale for people of all ages, and a simply wholesome movie to lounge in front of. The film’s nifty framing preserves the novel’s narrative style; the film flicks between experiencing the fairy tale and following the story of the narrator – a grandfather reading to his sick grandson. While, essentially, a damsel-in-distress movie, this film is also a refreshing mix of swashbuckling, romance and comedy that has “fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love [and] miracles…”. Does it get any better? I think not.

Recommended by Jennie.

 On Chesil Beach (2017) 

A classic from the inspiring mind of Ian McEwan. I stumbled across this adaptation one Sunday evening. In a nutshell the story, which beautifully translates from page to screen, is evocative and stylish. True to McEwan’s style it’s a compelling tale of love and heartache, and the perfect tear jerker for a cosy night in. 

Recommended by Helen.

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