Top 21st Century Novels Based Movies on Netflix: It’s finally Friday. Perhaps you intend to return home and relax with a good book. Or maybe you’ve been reading all week and you’re exhausted, your feet hurt, your eyes are blurry, and all you want to do now is go home and watch some Netflix.
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(Of course, this is all assuming you don’t have any Real Plans—Real Plans, in my opinion, are for Saturdays.)
However, perhaps you’d like your Netflix binge to have some literary content (you do have a personal brand, after all). If that’s the case, here are a few ideas for modifications, and beyond that, you can stream into your home right now. As though by magic!
1. Carol (2015)
Based on: Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt (1952)
A lovely and subtle 1950s romance based on the novel by Highsmith, which is widely referred to as “the first love story between two women where neither ends up crazy or dead,” according to Rolling Stone.
The novel was inspired by an incident Highsmith had while working at the Bloomingdale’s toy department in 1948 when a lovely woman in a mink coat came in to order a doll. She regarded it as her most personal work, and it is a fantastic film.
Based on: Lev Grossman, The Magicians trilogy (2009-2014)
I’m not sure why more people aren’t enamored by The Magicians. It’s ridiculously good. Okay, so the first season was merely adequate.
But don’t be fooled: the second and third seasons are quite wonderful, especially if you’re a pop culture junkie who can appreciate all of the referencing, lampshading, and doubling back on the genre that this show so masterfully accomplishes.
I mean, there’s an entire discussion based on SFF allusions…
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obviously to deceive the spying Faerie Queen.
You can enjoy the witty, whip-smart repartee and top-shelf female characters even if you aren’t a big nerd like some folks. Just try it: if Margo, the cruel girl who makes good, doesn’t attract you, I’ll eat some magical cupcakes.
Based on: Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace (1996)
The Handmaid’s Tale is great, but it’s only available on Hulu.
Alias Grace is a fantastic miniseries based on a fantastic book based on a frightening true story: that of “celebrity murderess” Grace Marks, a maid convicted of murdering her boss and his housekeeper, but whose sentence caused controversy.
This is not only a gripping murder mystery but also a psychological drama and a look at the nature of celebrity.
Based on: Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road (1962)
Another period drama set in the 1950s, this one focusing on a dysfunctional marriage as well as the troubled promise of the American dream.
Even with Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, and Kathy Bates, the picture isn’t quite as wonderful as the book it’s based on—debut, Yates’s which was a National Book Award nominee and is truly frightening. Still, if you have enough emotional capital, I’d recommend both.
Based on: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the Sherlock Holmes stories (1887-1927)
Although my personal favorite Sherlock Holmes expert would argue that Jeremy Brett is the only true on-screen Holmes, I can’t help but admire the updated, tech-infused Sherlock, which transports the consulting detective (who holds the record for “most portrayed movie character”) into contemporary London.
Both leads are fantastic, and while some dignity has been sacrificed, it has been replaced with a lot of pleasure.
Based on: Neil Gaiman, Stardust (1998)
I came across this children’s film by chance and immediately fell in love with it.
Claire Danes is a fallen star, Michelle Pfieffer is the witch who has to kill her to stay young, Charlie Cox is trying to bring her back as a gift to his loving nasty girl Sienna Miller, and Robert DeNiro is a delighted cross-dressing pirate king in this silly, poignant, and hilarious film.
You’re aware! As you’d expect from anything associated with Neil Gaiman, it’s all extremely smart, entertaining, and winking, but it also manages to be rather profound, at least once or twice.
Based on: David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas (2004)
Oh, this movie is a shambles.
But it’s a big, gorgeous mess, and if you love the novel it’s based on as much as I do, the bagginess is worth it to see the story’s best sections brought to life.
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Plus, no one has ever disliked a film starring Tom Hanks.
Based on: Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1978)
It appears that adapting a novel deemed “flawless” by both Dostoevsky and Nabokov would be difficult—but I guess it isn’t, since it’s been done a million times.
Depending on how you feel about Keira Knightley, the most current film adaptation, with a script by Tom Stoppard, is either really good or simply mediocre.
In any case, I think it’s worth watching—especially if you haven’t read the book. Don’t you want to finally understand why everyone is always making rail jokes?
Based on: John le Carré, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974)
The search for a Soviet mole embedded in MI6 never seems to get old in Cold War spy films, and this is one of the best in recent memory.
It’s also based on one of the best books in the genre, finely balanced and dramatic, with fewer explosions and more secrets than others.
It was “not only the greatest spy novel ever written, but the source of a 1979 BBC adaptation that’s the greatest spy show ever made,” according to Roger Ebert, and John Powers of NPR called it “not only the greatest spy novel ever written, but the source of a 1979 BBC adaptation that’s the greatest spy show ever made”—a show that, in fact, might be even better than the 2011 film.
However, you’ll have to go to the BBC to get the rest of your fix on that one.
Based on: Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain (1997)
The narrative of a wounded Confederate soldier who has fled and set out on foot to return to his beloved is told in this National Book Award-winning novel turned Academy Award-winning film (well, Academy Award-winning Renée Zellweger, at least).
Not only is Zellweger’s performance outstanding, but so are those of Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Eileen Atkins, Brendan Gleeson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Natalie Portman.