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10 Best Movies of the 2000s Based on Books

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Are most movies based on books? Not quite. But a look back at Hollywood history suggests that screenwriters have always turned to their bookshelves for inspiration. And while life sometimes gets too hectic to curl up with a favorite novel, you can still experience great literature with a streaming service and a gigabit internet connection. To get you started, here are some of the best book-to-movie adaptations of the 2000s.

The best modern movies based on classic literature

“Little Women”

Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation isn’t the first onscreen version of this beloved story about four sisters growing up in the wake of the Civil War—but it is, according to most critics, the best. Irish Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan breathes fiery life into the iconic heroine Jo March, backed by an all-star cast that includes Laura Dern, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Timothée Chalamet and Meryl Streep. Deftly condensing Louisa May Alcott’s 750-odd-page tome into a tight 2 hours and 15 minutes, this “Little Women” brings a timeless classic urgently into the here and now.

Where to stream: Hulu or Prime Video

“The Great Gatsby”

Love it or hate it, Baz Luhrmann’s opulent adaptation is a feast for the eyes and—with a deliciously anachronistic pop soundtrack—the ears. The “Moulin Rouge!” director’s trademark splendor is a perfect fit for the decadence of Fitzgerald’s superficial 1920s setting, and provides a poignant juxtaposition to the hollowness underneath. And Oscar snub notwithstanding, Jay Gatsby is the role Leo was born to play.

Where to stream: Prime Video or Vudu

The best teen movies based on YA books

“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”

Based on Jenny Han’s best-selling teen romance of the same name, this sincerely sweet high school romp transposed all the novel’s innocent charm into a world of bright bubble gum fun, buoyed by the irresistible chemistry between its two leads (Lana Condor and Noah Centineo). And with two equally romantic sequels also based on Han’s books, “To All the Boys…” represents not just a popular book-turned-movie, but the even harder-to-nail series-turned-franchise.

Where to stream: Netflix

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”

If fidelity to the source material is important to you in an adaptation, you’ll be glad to know this acclaimed teen drama was written and directed by Stephen Chbosky, who also wrote the YA novel on which it’s based. Notable for being Emma Watson’s first post–Harry Potter foray into serious acting, this film’s powerhouse ensemble brings a profoundly human warmth to a heart-on-its-sleeve story of friendship and self-discovery. Note: Both the book and the movie touch on some potentially triggering issues, including suicide, drug use and sexual abuse.

Where to stream: Hulu

The best movies based on romance books

“Crazy Rich Asians”

This big screen version of Kevin Kwan’s New York Times best seller made box office history as the first blockbuster romcom to feature an entirely Asian cast. But even beyond that, you’d be hard pressed not to fall for this dazzling fairy tale about a down-to-earth college professor (Constance Wu) who somehow makes it work with her fabulously wealthy beau (a dreamy Henry Golding), not to mention his fabulously wacky family. 

Where to stream: HBO Max

(P.S. If romance is what you’re looking for, we’ve got plenty more lovable romcom recs for you right here.)

“Call Me By Your Name”

Will we ever look at a peach the same way again? Not after this tender coming-of-age queer love story set in the idyllic Italian countryside. In the hands of director Luca Guadagnino, the novel’s sensual imagery comes to breathtaking (and occasionally heartbreaking) life before our eyes. It’s an instant classic, not only for the LGBTQ+ community, but for anyone who’s ever felt the intoxicating rush of first love. Plus, it introduced the world to breakout star Timothée Chalamet—which on its own should earn it a permanent place in the annals of cinema history.

Where to stream: Hulu

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The best movies based on nonfiction

“Hidden Figures”

Based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s true account of the Black women whose mathematical genius made space travel possible, this 2016 hit brought an astonishing and little-known story into the broader American consciousness. Taraji P. Henson (“Empire”) leads the cast as Katherine Johnson, a widowed mother and brilliant scientist who refuses to let the constraints of the era keep her from reaching the stars. It’s informative, inspiring and should be required viewing in STEM programs across the nation.

Where to stream: Disney+

“Nomadland”

Winner of 2021’s Academy Award for Best Picture may not be based on a true story per se, but it draws its inspiration from journalist Jessica Bruder’s chronicle of a distinctly American phenomenon: so-called “nomads,” displaced after the Great Recession of 2008, living in their vehicles as they travel from place to place seeking seasonal work. The film’s fictional protagonist, Fern (Frances McDormand in her third Oscar-winning role), serves as a stand-in for these real life itinerants, lending a familiar face to a remarkable and little-known subculture. The movie may not turn you into a nomad, but if its heart-stopping cinematography doesn’t make you long for a cross-country road trip, we don’t know what will.

Where to stream: Hulu

(ICYMI, we’ve put together a roundup of where to stream all this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Picture.)

The best movies based on suspense and horror books

“Room”

This adaptation could have gone terribly wrong. Told through the eyes of a five-year-old imprisoned with his mother in (and subsequently released from) a predator’s makeshift dungeon, the novel relies on its narrator’s childish innocence to soften the horrifying reality of his circumstances. How could the film, which can’t be confined to only one character’s perspective, accomplish this? Through the miracle casting of Brie Larson—in a deservedly Oscar-winning turn—and child prodigy Jacob Tremblay, that’s how. Without a trace of artifice, Larson and Tremblay turn what could have felt like exploitative trauma porn into a powerful story about the resilience of the human spirit and the unbreakable bond between mother and child.

Where to stream: Hulu

“It” and “It Chapter Two”

This two-part feature film adaptation of Stephen King’s horror classic had a lot to live up to—not only a 1,000-plus page novel, but a 1990 miniseries that made an entire generation terrified of clowns. Nevertheless, these flicks managed to stand on their own two feet, thanks in large part to knockout performances by their ensemble cast, especially the gang of lovable tween misfits that get the whole spooky thing started. Also, this version corrects one of the most bizarre (and, frankly, creepy-in-a-bad-way) missteps in all of horror literature… and if you don’t know what we’re talking about, we’ll leave you in blissful ignorance.

Where to stream: HBO Max (Chapter 1, Chapter 2)

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11 responses to “10 Best Movies of the 2000s Based on Books”

  1. Jacqueline says:

    You failed to mention Price and Prejudice, epic.

  2. Patricia Robertson says:

    One of my favorite movies is Little Women & the one I’ve enjoyed the most is the one with Katherine Hepburn. I haven’t seen the one you mention but I will because In my opinion Meryl Streep is today’s most superb actress.
    And I agree Leo was the very best Gatsby!!
    Haven’t seen the other movies you mention but the trailers have made me think that I need to see the movies, all except the horror movies. I don’t like horror movies!

    • Nancy Pannell says:

      I think I’ve seen every production of “Little Women”! My favorite remains the one that starred Peter Lawford, Elizabeth Taylor, Janet Leigh. Right now my feeble brain can’t pull up the name of the main female star who played the role of Jo.

  3. Nancy Pannell says:

    I think I’ve seen every production of Little Women. My favorite remains the one that starred June Allyson, Peter Lawford, Elizabeth Taylor, and Janet Leigh.

    • Sarah McCarty says:

      I like the one with Winona Ryder best. Although the one you mention was very good as well.

  4. Alex Abarca says:

    Hidden Figures is inspirational

  5. Lizz says:

    There’s literally hundreds of epic films that should rank way above these, although these are good.

  6. Sarah McCarty says:

    It’s always easy to tell the approximate age of the people who make up these lists. The inclusion of a couple of “coming of age” films says they were young, probably mid to late 20s. Still, I’ve seen 7 of them, but many better films were left off.

  7. Alan Sanborn says:

    How on Earth do you have a list of the best movies based on books and NOT include the Lord of the Rings trilogy?!! They would definitely be the best movies on this list!

  8. Keith Cornin says:

    My best ever Dr Zhivago

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