21 Films and TV Shows for Book Lovers on Netflix

Poster for Daredevil on Netflix
Category: Reading
Tagged: film, adaptations

Whether you've resisted it thus far or can't remember your life before it, Netflix has had a massive impact on the viewing habits of Scotland. 

As with everything in life, the influence of books is everywhere on Netflix. We've done our best to gather some together for different genres. If you've watched a brilliant adaptation, however, we'd love to hear about it. Please post it in the comments below. 

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N.B: These links will only work if you are logged in to your Netflix account - all films/shows available at time of publishing.



Die Hard still
Die Hard (1988)

NYPD cop John McClane’s plan to make up with his wife is rudely interrupted by terrorists, including the late Alan Rickman. You don’t need us to tell you what Die Hard is about, but many don’t realise it is actually a book adaptation of Nothing Lasts Forever by Roger Thorp. Despite some key changes to the plot, many of the scenes and dialogue are taken straight from the book. Yippy ki yi yay, book lovers!

Daredevil (2015)

A Marvel adaptation created specially for and by Netflix sees lawyer-by-day Matt Murdock become a crimefighter-by-night in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen. Matt must rely on his heightened senses for crimefighting since being blinded by radioactive waste. The upshot is, the waste accident has boosted Murdock’s senses beyond normal human ability and even given him an extra 'radar sense'.


Kids & Family

How to Train your Dragon (2010)

This charming story of a young Viking reluctant to kill a dragon for his initiation gets extra points from us for being filled with Scottish accents – and lots of great gags. Based on Cressida Cowell’s bestselling book series, this animated family film has its fair share of grown-up fans too.



Starter for 10 (2006)

David Nicholls (One Day) adapted his own novel for screen for this charming 2006 comedy. It follows the travails of Brian Jackson (James McAvoy), a working class kid with dreams of one day appearing on University Challenge who finds himself stumbling through the bewildering world of university life and new-found romance.

Election (1999)

Respected filmmaker Alexander Payne (Sideways, Nebraska) made a name for himself with this whip-smart comedy adaptation of Jim Perrota’s novel. Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) is a popular high school teacher in suburban Nebraska who places himself in the way of the ambitious and ruthless Tracy Flick's (Reese Witherspoon) campaign for class president.



Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Such was the power of this adaptation that, for most folks, when they think of Atticus Finch, they think of Gregory Peck’s face. It’s very hard to create a satisfying film version of such a well-loved novel but the screen version of To Kill a Mockingbird is now listed as the 25th best American film of all time by the American Film Institute. 

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Lasso moon-sized hankies for any viewing of this life-affirming adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. George Bailey faces setback after setback until he wishes he’d never been born. Only his guardian angel and the kindness of friends can save him. Oh, gosh, is somone chopping onions in here?


Crime & Thrillers

Headhunters (2011)

From furniture to childcare, you can put 'Scandi' in front of anything these days and Britons will sit up and take notice. This Scandi-crime drama is an adaptation of Jo Nesbø’s novel of the same name and is Norway’s highest-grossing film of all time. Watch it for the memorable/disturbing tale of corporate recruiter Roger Brown living a double life as an art thief - and the thrilling tales he weaves when first he practices to deceive.

The Firm (1993)

When Harvard Law School graduate Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise) takes a lucrative job at a prestigious law firm, his wife’s suspicions that the position is too good to be true are soon confirmed. Sydney Pollack’s adaptation of this early John Grisham novel may seem long (155 mins) but if you like a legal drama then you'll have no objections. 

Winter's Bone (2010)

The critically-acclaimed, teeth-clenchingly tense noir drama that launched Jennifer Lawrence’s career. Winter’s Bone is set in the rural Ozarks and depicts a grim part of America rarely seen on screen. An adaptation of Daniel Woodrell’s novel of the same name, the film won the Grand Jury Prize for Dramatic Film at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.



Tank Girl (1995)

Based on the British post-apocalyptic comic created by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin, this 1995 film stars Lori Petty, Ice-T, Malcolm McDowell and Naomi Watts. Tank Girl was a bit of a flop upon its initial release in '95, recouping only $6-million of its $25-million budget. The critics weren’t kind and director Rachel Talalay grumbled about studio edits. Regardless, the film has found a cult audience since, and has been praised for its feminist themes.

Barfly (1987)

'Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.' It’s hard to get more cult than a film written by Charles Bukowski and starring Mickey Rourke. Rourke stars as Henry Chinaski, Bukowski’s literary alter-ego who spends his time drinking and fighting his way through gritty Los Angeles bars. Dark stuff. 



We Need to Talk About Kevin still
We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)

Some adaptations provide a straight retelling of the source material, some adaptations do so much more. Scottish director Lynne Ramsay (Morvern Callar, Ratcatcher) plays with time and elicits powerful performances from her cast in this fantastic take on Lionel Shriver's acclaimed novel. No one shines more than Tilda Swinton, who struggles to bond with her first born as he journeys from fussy toddler to sociopathic teen. Disturbing yet essential viewing.

There Will Be Blood (2007)

The critics have spoken: There Will Be Blood was the best film of the noughties. From Daniel Day Lewis’ barnstorming performance to a brain-searing score from Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, Paul Thomas Anderson’s film will be talked about for years to come. What isn’t as often mentioned, however, is that it was inspired by Upton Sinclair’s novel, Oil!, a social and political satire from the 1920s.



The Babadook (2014)

'If it's in a word. Or it's in a look. You can't get rid of ... The Babadook, ‘dook, ‘dook.' You’ll never look at children’s books the same way after watching this disturbing Aussie horror about a picture book that begins to haunt the house and dreams of a troubled widow and her son. Critically-acclaimed, this is a high-brow horror that lingers long in the memory.

Carrie (1976)

Even if you haven’t read Stephen King’s Carrie or watched its adaptations, you’ll probably still be aware of its more memorable scenes. Adapted again in 2013, viewers should seek out this original, directed by Brian De Palma. It gathered two Academy Award nominations, for Sissy Spacek, in the titular role, and Piper Laurie as her mother. For extra fun, see if you can spot a young John Travolta. 



The End of the Affair (1999)

Directed by Neil Jordan (The Crying Game) this Graham Greene adaptation stars heavyweight acting talents Ralph Fiennes and Julianne Moore, who notched up an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for her performance. The story is set in the years following World War II and follows a novelist who has an unexpected run-in with a friend whose wife he once shared a passionate affair with. Things get complicated when his friend confides in him that he suspects his wife of committing adultery and hires a private detective to investivate. Oh, Ralph. 

North and South (2004)

This 2004 BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1855 novel follows Margaret Hale, a young lady from the south of England who must move to the north with her family. In the industrial English north the reception is frosty but, despite the BBC’s low expectations for the series, audiences loved this adaptation, voting it the best drama of 2004 in the auntie’s online poll.



Testament (1983)

Based on a three-page short story rather than a book, this adaptation of Carol Amen’s ‘The Last Testament’ tells the tale of one small suburban town called Hamelin, which slowly falls apart after a nuclear bomb destroys nearby San Francisco. This hidden gem is a favourite of famed film critic Roger Ebert and well worth checking out.



Friday Night Lights
Moneyball (2011)

The adaptation of The Big Short author Michael Lewis’s book on baseball’s Billy Beane is an entertaining look at the arrival of big data in sport, and how it blew up received wisdom. Brad Pitt stars and the screenplay is co-authored by Aaron Sorkin. Even if you don’t like sports films, or like sports films but hate baseball, this is an entertaining watch. 

Friday Night Lights (2004)

H.G. Bissenger’s profile of the economically depressed Texan town of Odessa and its relationship with its high school football team (20,000 fans come out to watch the team play every Friday night) is hailed by many as the greatest sports book even written. It’s little wonder that his exploration of the trials and tribulations of the Permian Panthers has inspired this mawkish yet enjoyable TV series for teens (and adults). Watch it with clear eyes and a full heart and you can't lose. 


Please post your favourite book-to-screen adaptations available on Netflix in the comments. 

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