Are you familiar with the Criterion Collection? These are films for film lovers, with a special emphasis on producing vital contemporary and classic movies with high quality technical work and boatloads of extras. They’re fantastic editions for those who are movie aficionados, as well as viewers who find themselves seeking out sometimes hard-to-find films. I think of Criterion as the Folio Edition of the film world.
Criterion films are currently on deep discount at Barnes & Noble through November 30, making it the perfect time to stock up for your winter indoor entertainment. Bonus: Criterion makes for outstanding gifts this holiday season, too.
Find below a wide range of rad book-to-film adaptations you can snag on sale before November ends. Note: because adaptations have historically been very white and very male in authorship, that’s reflected here. But as always, with more adaptations being made from books and authors of color, I suspect Criterion especially will be working hard to get those preserved and available for a long, long time.
Note: some of these are Blu-ray while others are DVD, and a few may be sold out online because of the sale. You should still be able to order through a local store for pickup at the same discounted price.
Directed by Michael Radford, you’ll see many (too many?) parallels to today’s sociopolitical world in Orwell’s classic.
Starring Daniel Day-Lewis , Michelle Pfeiffer, and Winona Ryder and directed by Martin Scorsese, this multiple Oscar–winning film is an adaptation of Edith Wharton’s 1920 novel of a romance between an upperclass man and ostracized woman. Like many of Wharton’s stories, this is a scathing commentary on the hypocrisies of this era of upperclass city elite.
Based on a novel by Shichiro Fukazawa, this story follows a custom in Japan wherein younger people within a remote mountain village take the citizens over the age of 70 to the top of a mountain. Here, those elderly were expected to die of exposure and meet the fate with acceptance and stoicism. But…not all of the citizens agree with this and suddenly, everything about the tradition is put into question.
Main character Betty, played by Béatrice Dalle, is a free spirit who isn’t entire balanced mentally—but as she becomes more and more obsessed with a writer she meets named Zorg, the instability in her life becomes untenable.
Adapted from the comic by Julie Maroh, viewers follow 15-year-old Adèle working to understand her sexuality. This is a raw, intimate look into what it is to understand who you are and what it is you want in a relationship. While the film has won numerous awards and critical acclaim and focuses on a lesbian relationship, many have noted that it being viewed from the straight male gaze raises concern—perhaps a reason in and of itself to watch it, then read the comic and compare.
Pick Flick. Tracy Flick is running for student body president and by all means should be elected. But one of her enemies convinces his friend to run against Flick, and now, the race is on. This satirical comedy is wildly relevant to today’s political world, and it’s a great performance by a young Reese Witherspoon. Based on the novel by Tom Perrota.
Hunter S. Thompson’s psychedelic novel makes for a natural adaptation, as it follows Raoul Duke (Thompson’s alter ego) on a drug-addled road trip. The film is packed with cameos including Cameron Diaz, Flea, Lyle Lovett, Mark Harmon, and Thompson himself.
Need a comedy? You’ll want to see the 1952 adaption of Oscar Wilde’s most well-known work, starring Michael Redgrave, Edith Evans, and Michael Denison.
For those who can’t get enough of My Favorite Murder or true crime more broadly, it’s time to visit one of the first books within the genre. Capote’s work follows the murder of the Clutter family in small Holcomb, Kansas, and the two ex-convicts who are believed to be the murderers (whether or not they truly are is forever one of the questions readers and viewers take away from the story).
William Golding’s novel meets the big screen, following 30 school boys whose plane crashes on an island and, to put it mildly, chaos ensues as the boys vie for power and survival.
For viewers who love being immersed in a period story, this is a total winner. Set in pre–World War II Japan, the film follows the four Osaka sisters and how they see, experience, and interpret quickly-shifting social and political realities.
An adaptation of William S. Burrough’s novel, fans of beat literature and/or Hunter S. Thompson will love this bizarre story of bugs, hallucination, and a paranoid landscape called Interzone.
You’ll want to watch the film about the sinking of the Titanic that came 40 years before Titanic if this historical moment at all fascinates you. The film is told in “real time,” only half an hour or so shorter than the actual tragedy itself.
You know Orson Welles from The War Of The Worlds, but did you know he directed this Shakespeare adaptation? What makes this particular adaptation unique is that it was super low budget and yet completely effective.
Unlike the others on this list, Pan’s Labyrinth was a film before it became a book. But it’s the film’s enduring popularity and legacy which led to its development as an immersive reading experience for young adults, written by Guillermo del Toro—the film’s director—and Cornelia Funke. Visit this visual delight if you like your stories magical.
Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, and Mandy Patinkin star in Rob Reiner’s beloved adaptation of William Goldman’s book.
This is the first adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry’s stage play about an African American family living on Chicago’s South Side, and it served as the blueprint for the countless adaptations to follow. Directed by Daniel Petrie and starring Sidney Poitier, Claudia McNeil, and Ruby Dee.
The classic psychological thriller by Daphne Du Maurier gets the Alfred Hitchcock treatment.
Jodie Foster + Hannibal Lecter. Does more need to be said? Perhaps that this is a multiple Oscar award winner directed by Jonathan Demme.
Adapted from the novel by Dorothy Macardle, this is a ghost story for horror fans who love haunted houses and endings that are unexpected. There aren’t many special effects here, which makes it all the more memorable and chilling (this was my introduction to Criterion films and it’s a great one).
Jacqueline Susann’s novel caused a stir upon publication over 50 years ago, though the adaptation to film tones down the original story of the ups and downs of three young women whose lives center around men, booze, drugs, and fame.
Sofia Coppola’s film rendering of Jeffrey Eugenides’s novel stars James Woods, Kathleen Turner, and Kirsten Dunst and was her directorial debut. The story follows a Midwestern American family that begins to fall apart under the weight of mental illness. When a local psychologist recommends the sisters begin to socialize more outside the home, a whole new set of problems emerges: boys.
Though special effects have come a long way, the 1953 adaptation of the story remains an inspiration for more modern adaptations. H.G. Wells’s story is adapted here much like Orson Welles’s radio performance, setting the meteor-like crash in modern southern California rather than Victorian England.
If you want a grim story about death, this will be your jam. A creation myth narrated by rabbits, the story seems cute and simple on the surface, but it’s really a mature story that many may find depressing while others find absolutely contemplative.