Literary Adaptations

Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre

The worlds of film and literature have long been intertwined, each with the ability to open up the other in remarkable ways. The films selected in this list, covering all age groups, are particularly successful adaptations of classic books which are often to be found on the curriculum and in the classroom.

Ranging from the remarkably faithful to the audaciously radical, all of the titles have made a significant impact with audiences, and retain messages that remain relevant to young people, even if their source material was written generations ago. Whether they are used in the classroom to aid teaching of a particular text, or simply as great films in their own right, we hope they will inspire young people to return to the source material with fresh eyes, or perhaps pick up something new for the first time. 

You can find separate specific film lists for adaptations of Shakespeare and Roald Dahl, as well as a separate film list for adaptations of slightly more alternative, but equally engaging works. 

 

The Gruffalo

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration27 mins

The Gruffalo(2009)

Animated tale of a clever little mouse who uses his wits to stop being eaten by the scary Gruffalo as he takes a walk through the woods.

This bestseller from Julia Donaldson has quickly become a bedtime staple in many households and is known as much for its vivid illustrations as its story. This half-hour animated adaptation does a fantastic job of capturing the humour and spirit of the well-known tale as well as bringing the vibrant illustrations to life, enthralling the audience in the process.

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Winnie the Pooh

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration69 mins

Winnie the Pooh(2011)

This gentle, whimsical animated Walt Disney feature uses the old-school, hand-drawn style of the classic A. A. Milne children's books it's based on.

A.A. Milne’s stories of the bear with a big heart who loves honey have been enchanting children for generations. This gentle animation is the perfect companion piece to those books, using traditional animation and oodles of charm to capture the hearts of a whole new audience.

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The Iron Giant

CertU

Age group5–14

Duration86 mins

The Iron Giant(1999)

Superbly animated adaptation following young Hogarth's discovery of a colossal, friendly robot, and his plight to protect him from government agents.

Based on Ted Hughes’ classic story The Iron Man, this animation has long been one of the most popular titles at Into Film and is now regarded as a genuine classic of children’s cinema. With its roots in the space race of the 1960s, the film is full of heart and is guaranteed to ignite the imagination of young people.

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Watership Down

CertU

Age group7–14

Duration88 mins

Watership Down(1978)

Moving and rewarding animation about rabbits on a long journey to safety.

Adapted from Richard Adams' novel, Watership Down is a moving and rewarding experience for all viewers, although the film does not shy away from exploring dark subject matter. The tale is an enchanting one, and a classic of British cinema, but should be viewed beforehand before showing to younger audiences.  

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Charlotte's Web

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration93 mins

Charlotte's Web(2006)

Charlotte's Web, adapted from the popular children's novel, captures the magic of a wonderful friendship between a pig and a spider.

E.B. White’s children’s classic is a wonderful story of friendship, in this case between a pig and a spider. Full of charm and magic, this film is a worthy adaptation of one of the most popular children’s books of all time, dealing with friendship, community and the environment.

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Babe

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration89 mins

Babe(1995)

A heartwarming and very funny family tale of a pig with a penchant for sheep-herding, much to the chagrin of the local sheepdog.

Talking pigs of course also play a key part in Babe, adapted from Dick King Smith’s The Sheep-Pig about a pig who is desperate to be a sheep-dog. As well as being terrifically entertaining and full of cheeky charm, the fillm contains wonderful messages about refusing to simply accept your apparent role in life.

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Muppet Treasure Island

CertU

Age groupAll ages

Duration95 mins

Muppet Treasure Island(1996)

Trademark Muppet lunacy abounds in this musical adventure about a quest to claim buried treasure using an old pirate map.

As always, the Muppets prove once again that they are as capable of turning a classic book into a great film as anybody. Robert Louis Stevenson’s swashbuckling tale is turned into a slightly mad musical comedy, but Long John Silver is never far away and the book’s spirit remains intact.

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration92 mins

Diary of a Wimpy Kid(2010)

Funny and painful by turns, Diary of A Wimpy Kid is a clever take on pre-teen angst.

A perennial favourite amongst young Into Film members, this school comedy based on Jeff Kinney’s series of books has a fantastic message about learning to be yourself. Its painfully funny take on pre-teen angst will appeal to anyone who ever wanted to be the popular kid in school.

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Swallows and Amazons

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration97 mins

Swallows and Amazons(2016)

Adaptation of Arthur Ransome’s timeless novel about four siblings embarking on an extraordinary adventure whilst on holiday in the Lake District.

When school is out, the best thing to do is to go in search of adventure. Arthur Ransome’s timeless classic about young siblings on holiday in the Lake District is winningly adapted here, taking in themes of self-discovery, adventure and exploration, offering a perfect antidote to our increasingly digital lives.

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Holes

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration112 mins

Holes(2003)

Offbeat film about a kid who's sent to a sinister correctional facility in the desert to dig holes after being falsely accused of theft.

This comedy adventure, faithfully adapted from Louis Sachar’s novel, is imaginative, inventive family entertainment, full of visual flourishes and a genuine weight to its story. Like the book, the film is likely to enchant as well as challenge its young audience.

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A Wrinkle in Time

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration109 mins

A Wrinkle in Time(2018)

Thirteen-year-old Meg must travel throughout the universe to find her father who has been missing for four years.

Madeline L’Engle’s 1962 novel introduced themes of spirituality and fate to a younger audience whilst also telling an exciting and inclusive adventure story with children at its centre. With this adaptation, director Ava Duvernay became the first Black woman to direct a live-action film with a budget of more than $100 million alongside casting a diverse and recognisable cast.

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Ernest and Celestine

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration77 mins

Ernest and Celestine(2012)

A beautiful animation about an unlikely friendship between a big clown bear and a clever orphan mouse, from the makers of A Town Called Panic!

Based on a series of children’s books from Belgium, written and illustrated by Gabrielle Vincent, the visuals in this film take their cue from the gorgeous watercolour images of its source material. Friendship and tolerance is explored through a lovingly rendered prism of an exciting adventure story for the ages.

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Where The Wild Things Are

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration99 mins

Where The Wild Things Are(2009)

Spike Jonze's live action adaptation of Maurice Sendak's children's classic about tameable monsters and an angry little boy.

Having stood the test of time to become one of the most well known children’s books of the modern age, Maurice Sendak’s universal tale of the importance of fantasy and storytelling during childhood comes alive on screen. Director Spike Jonze captures the scariness of being young and experiencing new things in this dazzling adaptation full of giant but friendly creatures.

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The Giant Pear

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration78 mins

The Giant Pear(2017)

After the town’s beloved mayor disappears, two friends receive a message suggesting he’s still alive, and set out on an adventure to find him.

Taking a cue from Roald Dahl and another famous giant fruit, this is a rip-roaring adventure filled with gorgeous animation, sea dragons, pirates and ghosts. Adapted from the Danish children’s book ‘The Incredible Story of the Giant Pear’, young audiences will be drawn into a surreal story that is nevertheless grounded by themes of friendship and exploration.

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Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

CertU

Age group5–14

Duration95 mins

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2(2013)

Intrepid inventor Flint Lockwood and his crew travel to a mysterious island to fend off a new breed of mayhem causing food-animals!

Written and illustrated by husband and wife team Judi and Ron Barrett in the 1970s, the original novel ‘Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs’ was voted as one of the Top 100 Books for Children by American teachers. After the worldwide success of this zippy animated feature, the book began to gain more recognition worldwide and is now viewed as a well-loved classic bedtime story.

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Great Expectations

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration113 mins

Great Expectations(1946)

Classic David Lean adaptation of the Dickens novel about an orphan with a mysterious benefactor.

Lean also found great success adapting Dickens in this classic adaptation from 1946. Known for its fidelity to the source material, and remaining remarkably accessible, the film is ideal for helping young people to unlock the complexity of what can be quite a challenging text.

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Lord Of The Flies

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration88 mins

Lord Of The Flies(1990)

Based on William Golding's famous novel about a group of boys stranded on a desert island who create their own brutal society.

William Golding’s seminal story of a group of boys trapped on a desert island has had a huge influence on film and literature. This adaptation differs from the text in interesting ways, placing more focus on the character of Ralph, and has acquired a cult following. Full of visual spectacle, it brings the book to life in vivid ways.

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Dorian Gray

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration107 mins

Dorian Gray(2009)

Adaption of the classic Oscar Wilde novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

This adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s legendary novel about a man seemingly untouched by the passing of time also ramps up the horror. Full of the writer’s unparalleled wit and turn-of-phrase, the story is told in accessible, crowd-pleasing fashion, but without shying away from the text’s darker and disturbing themes.

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Jane Eyre

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration118 mins

Jane Eyre(2011)

Charlotte Bronte's much-filmed 1847 novel is reinvigorated for a new generation in this brooding period romance.

The 2011 adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s novel oozes gothic romance and haunting atmosphere. Energetically directed and full of startling imagery, this is another example of classic pieces of literature being powerfully brought into the 21st century without compromising any of their text’s themes, language and setting, opening themselves up to new audiences.

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Atonement

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration118 mins

Atonement(2007)

Epic tale of love, betrayal and guilt which begins in a country house in 1935 and spans several decades.

The costume drama also receives a vivid modern updating in Joe Wright’s lively, seductive adaptation of Ian McEwan’s Booker-prize nominee. Famed for its breathtaking depiction of World War Two Dunkirk in particular, this star-driven film is also romantic, epic and emotionally raw, opening up the text in many insightful ways.

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Regeneration

Cert15

Age groupAll ages

Duration108 mins

Regeneration(1997)

Based on the World War I experience of soldier-poet Siegfried Sassoon, who suffered a mental breakdown on realising there was no point to the fighting

World War One is the focus for another epic based on a Booker-prize nominated novel, Pat Barker’s Regeneration. Based on the experiences of Siegfried Sassoon, the film vividly captures life in the trenches, but also the horrific effect the fighting had on the mental health of countless soldiers.

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The Kite Runner

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration125 mins

The Kite Runner(2007)

This adaptation is a powerful story of friendship and betrayal set in Afghanistan.

Providing a child’s insight into more modern warfare, this film, adapted from the 2003 bestseller about a young Afghani boy fleeing to the west after his country is invaded gives an important insight into a world largely only seen on the news. With two boys' friendship at its heart, it is a valuable example of storytelling generating empathy for people less advantage

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To Kill A Mockingbird

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration124 mins

To Kill A Mockingbird(1962)

Harper Lee adaptation about an idealistic white lawyer in 1930s Alabama who takes on the case of a black man accused of an awful crime.

Harper Lee’s story of a white lawyer who takes on the case of a falsely accused black man uses a child’s perspective of the world to highlight issues of racism, prejudice, ignorance and injustice. The film is a bona-fide classic, Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch remaining one of cinema’s most popular characters.

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Beloved

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration165 mins

Beloved(1998)

Unsettling drama based on Toni Morrison's novel about a mysterious woman who enters the life of a former slave and is related to her disturbing past.

Toni Morrison’s disturbing novel uses elements of the gothic-horror genre to examine America’s legacy of slavery. Despite its star power, the film admirably eschews pursuing commercial appeal in favour of doing justice to its source material, refusing to compromise or sanitise its representation of the horrific.

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Frankenstein

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration68 mins

Frankenstein(1931)

Based on Mary Shelley's classic Gothic horror novel about a misunderstood monster hounded through Transylvania's foggy graveyards.

Frankenstein may be one of the most fearsome horror icons in the world but the novel, and this early film from Universal, paint him as a more sympathetic figure and fascinating character in his own right. Now considered a masterpiece, much like the original novel, there is much to be discussed from a contemporary perspective through this timeless, and still shocking, story.

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Anita and Me

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration89 mins

Anita and Me(2002)

Meena, a young British-Asian girl, comes to idolise the older white Anita, whilst struggling with entrenched prejudice in this coming of age drama.

Released during a period of popularity for films about young British-Asians, Anita and Me explores how a girl's Hindu upbringing clashes against the predominantly white, working-class society that she lives in, leading her to confront her heritage head on. The novel, by Meera Syal, became a best-seller and has been adopted as set-texts at many schools in the country.

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Never Let Me Go

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration100 mins

Never Let Me Go(2010)

What begins as a love triangle between students at an English boarding school soon evolves into a science fiction tale of what it means to be human.

The British-Japanese writer Kazuo Ishiguro has won many literary awards but this novel may be his most famous and well regarded amongst younger readers. Melancholy, moody and with fantastic philosophical insight, this film adaptation, starring some of Britain’s great young actors of the time, taps into many of Ishiguro’s complex ideas in an accessible and propulsive way.

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The Little Stranger

Cert12

Age group14+

Duration111 mins

The Little Stranger(2018)

British gothic horror set in 1948 in which a doctor becomes a close acquaintance of a wealthy family who believe they are being haunted.

Continuing the British tradition of superb gothic horror novels written by women, Sarah Waters’ 2009 book is faithfully and atmospherically adapted here by director Lenny Abrahamson. Through a subtle, metaphorical narrative and clever use of horror tropes, The Little Stranger explores themes such as grief and memory in a way perfectly suited to literature students.

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Wuthering Heights

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration129 mins

Wuthering Heights(2011)

Emily Bronte's classic book is revived with a brutal intensity as a poor English boy is taken in by a wealthy family and falls for his foster sister.

One of this country’s most beloved and famous novels is given a radical makeover by Andrea Arnold here, retaining the passion and emotional power of the source material whilst using contemporary filmmaking techniques to give a different aura to the windswept Yorkshire moors. Intimate and modern, this adaptation strives to make audiences see this classic story in a new way.

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Half of a Yellow Sun

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration106 mins

Half of a Yellow Sun(2013)

Adaptation of a best selling novel following the lives of two sisters and their families prior to and during the Nigerian civil war.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of the most popular and important writers of the 21st century, giving voice to Black women throughout the world. Her ability to craft stories that resonate universally is evident in Half of a Yellow Sun and this film adaptation gives life to the sights and sounds of Nigeria with well-rounded and relatable characters at the heart of the narrative.

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