Book-to-Film Adaptations to Stream at Home

01 Jun 2020 BY Michael Prescott in Film Features

7 mins

Though some schools are starting to re-open in England from this week, many students still find themselves at home in these uncertain times. To bridge the gap, the latest in our series of articles on films to stream at home sees us recommending some fantastic book-to-film adaptations.

With time recently on our side throughout the lockdown period, both reading and film watching have become go-to activities, and this list of titles suitable for both primary and secondary audiences allow for comparison between the source text and its screen version. All titles are available to stream online, and to order through our DVD distribution service, which has now resumed.

The ten films below are examples of great books being turned into great films, covering key texts from acclaimed authors and exploring a wealth of relevant themes.

Note: While most streaming platforms require a paid subscription or one-off rental fee, many offer a free trial that you can make use of. In addition, our recommendations will always include at least one title which is available on a free-to-watch platform.

Note: The information about films on streaming services is aimed at people at home only, and not for any film clubs running in schools. Licensing conditions do not permit the access of streaming platforms from a school setting. Into Film Club leaders should use our DVD service to order the films.

If you wish to find out the complete details of where any given title is available to watch or purchase, please visit

Primary (Ages 5-11)


  1. Available to stream on NOW TV (Subscription required - free trial available)

Written in 1997 by British sci-fi and fantasy author Neil Gaiman, and brought to the big screen by director Matthew Vaughn and screenwriter Jane Goldman a decade later, Stardust is a story about a young man who enters a magical kingdom to retrieve a fallen star for his would-be beloved. But when he reaches it, there's a shock in store: the star is actually a woman, and he's not the only one pursuing her.


Dick King-Smith's 1983 children's novel The Sheep-Pig was turned into a feature film 12 years later in the form of Babe. The much-loved story sees a farmer win the little orphaned piglet of the title at a county fair, before taking him home to meet the other animals. Babe quickly learns that he needs to be useful in order to not be eaten, and so begins to do anything possible to prove that he's worth keeping around.


One of the more modern entries on this list is Holes, originally released in 1998 as a young adult novel - receiving the US National Book Award for Young People's Literature that year - with the film following just five years later in 2003. The text follows the seemingly unlucky teenage protagonist Stanley Yelnats, who is played by Shia LaBeouf in the film adaptation - a role which would launch his career. Stanley is sent to a juvenile corrections facility in the Texas desert and for some strange reason, along with the other inmates, must simply keep digging holes...

Swallows and Amazons (1974)

A 2016 remake of this film proved to be a sweet story of summertime adventures, but young audiences may be less familiar with the 1974 original. Adapted from the novel of the same name written by English author Arthur Ransome in 1930 - the first in a series of twelve books - it tells the tale of four siblings who sail their dinghy in the Lake District during the summer holidays and soon become rivals with another family over the territory.

Charlotte's Web

E.B. White's Charlotte's Web was published in 1952 and, like Babe, features a plot which involves a farmer threatening to do away with his prize pig - in this case, Wilbur. This story, however, is told from the perspective of the pig's friend - a spider named Charlotte. Unlike the other animals in the farm, she is glad to be Wilbur's friend and puts together a plan to try and save his life, spelling out messages in her web in support of her porky pal.

Secondary (Ages 11-19)

Sense and Sensibility

Adapted from Jane Austen's 1811 novel - which was originally published anonymously ("by a lady") - comes Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility, with an Oscar®-winning screenplay from Emma Thompson, who also stars alongside the likes of Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman. As with Austen's other works, the story investigates society of the period, this time through the Dashwood family, exploring themes of class and gender, while still having an affecting, heartfelt romance at its centre.

Much Ado About Nothing (2012)

Whilst making mega-blockbuster Avengers Assemble, cult writer-director Joss Whedon was also creating Much Ado About Nothing on the sly. Shot at his own home in just 12 days, Whedon reunites familiar collaborators from his other works, creating an intimate, witty and stylish black-and-white take on Shakespeare's mid-career comedy, thought to have been written at the very end of the 16th century.

Great Expectations (1946)

No list of great adaptations can be complete without an example from the works of Charles Dickens. Though his texts have received many re-workings over the years, Great Expectations (initially published as a serial in a weekly periodical between 1860 and 1861) is one of his most well-known, and this 1946 adaptation is perhaps the most revered film version of it. Acclaimed British filmmaker David Lean helms this interpretation of the story in which an orphan becomes a gentleman with the help of a unknown benefactor. Lean would go on to direct another Dickens tale, Oliver Twist, for his next film.

The Hate U Give

The most recent piece of writing on this list, The Hate U Give made a huge splash upon its publication in 2017, debuting at number one on The New York Times' young adult best-seller list and remaining there for almost a year. It also received the quickest turnaround from book-to-film, reaching cinemas in October 2018 and garnering acclaim for its nuanced interrogation of complex and weighty themes around police brutality, the Black Lives Matter movement, identity and young love.

Testament of Youth

Published in 1933, Testament of Youth was the first volume - covering 1900 to 1925 - in Vera Brittain's seminal memoirs, lauded for its perspectives on World War I and its feminist depiction of a young woman's struggles during the period. Brought to cinemas in 2014, it helped to propel the early careers of British stars such as Taron Egerton and Kit Harrington, as well as Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, who plays the role of Vera.

Check out more film lists below for further suggestions of great adaptations to watch.

Michael Prescott

Michael Prescott, Curation Coordinator

Michael has an MA in Film Studies with Screenwriting from Sheffield Hallam University. He has previously worked at the British Council and on the BFI Film Academy, and has volunteered at organisations including Sheffield Doc/Fest and Cinema for All.

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