12 Sci-fi/fantasy book to movie adaptations that are worth watching


Watch some of your favorite stories come alive on the big screen.

With film, directors can bring books out of our imaginations and fully realize them on the big screen. There’s nothing quite like seeing a fantasy universe come alive right before your eyes—especially ones as rich and complex as, say, Middle-earth, or Ernest Cline’s OASIS.

While some book to movie adaptations fall a little short, the following SF/F reads have received the Hollywood treatment with out-of-this-world results. Read on to learn more about these titles, and their leap from the page to the screen.

Buy A Boy and His Dog at Amazon

A Boy and His Dog

By Harlan Ellison

A Boy and His Dog is a collection of stories about 15-year-old Vic and his telepathic canine, Blood. Now that World War IV has laid waste to America, the dwindling population must scavenge for resources in order to survive. Vic and Blood are no exception, but they also have other things on their minds—specifically, sex and women. Their relationship with a teenage girl named Quilla has disastrous consequences on their lives, though even violence and underground societies can’t diminish the strength of Vic and Blood’s bond.

The 1975 film adaptation makes some changes to the original narrative but largely maintains its integrity. At one point, Ellison was set to write the screenplay himself, but a serious case of writer’s block forced him to relinquish the role. Even so, he was very happy with the final product—in 2013, he said it was one of his favorite adaptations of his work.

Watch the film on Amazon 

Buy Journey to the Center of the Earth at Amazon

Journey to the Center of the Earth

By Jules Verne

By a stroke of luck, German professor Otto Lindenbrock has managed to get his hands on the manuscript of an Icelandic saga. While paging through it, he and his nephew, Axel, notice a peculiar coded message—and immediately try to crack it. Success comes days later, sending Otto, Axel, and their guide man on an expedition into Iceland’s Snæfellsjökull Volcano, which may lead to the center of the Earth. Along the way, the trio encounters hazardous conditions and an assortment of prehistoric creatures.

Verne’s classic novel has been adapted for the screen many times. The first (and most notable) came in 1959 and made multiple changes—including Axel’s name and the addition of two new characters. A 3D film was released in 2008, starring Brendan Fraser and Josh Hutcherson.

Watch the 1959 film on Amazon

Watch the 2008 film on Amazon

Buy The War of the Worlds at Amazon

The War of the Worlds

By H. G. Wells

H.G. Wells’ sci-fi classic has come to the big screen seven times. Moreover, its radio broadcast adaptation infamously caused widespread panic in 1938, as listeners mistook the fictional drama for a legitimate news report. Thankfully, however, aliens had not landed on American soil.

In the original novel, the inhabitants of Mars plan to invade Earth and steal resources. When the Martians finally land in England, their appearance is enough to horrify their human onlookers. Tensions soar even higher when the aliens incinerate a group of first responders, inciting a violent and bloody war. With what may be the best-known alien invasion story, Wells influenced generations of writers, producers, and filmmakers—including Steven Spielberg, who adapted the novel in 2005.

Watch the 1953 film on Amazon 

Watch the 2005 film on Amazon 

Buy The Wonderful Wizard of Oz at Amazon

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

By L. Frank Baum

A children’s novel for the ages and for all ages, Baum’s story of the ruby-slippered Dorothy and her band of brainless, heartless, and cowardly friends was called “America’s greatest and best-loved homegrown fairytale” (Library of Congress). The fictional Emerald City is rumored to be inspired by either a Michigan castle, the Chicago World Fair, or a glamorous California hotel—but whatever its origins, it goes down in history as an iconic universe of fantasy literature.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz also inspired one of the most beloved movies of all time—the 1939 adaptation starring Judy Garland. The book has seen many reiterations since, but this original film is especially beloved for its groundbreaking use of Technicolor and extravagant musical numbers.

Watch the film on Amazon 

Buy Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea at Amazon

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

By Jules Verne

In 1866, the Abraham Lincoln sets sail from New York City to slay the monster that’s been terrorizing the Earth’s oceans. But when the crew members finally go head to head with their target, three men are thrown overboard and touch the creature’s skin. Only then do they realize that the alleged “monster” is, in fact, a highly advanced submarine created by the eccentric Captain Nemo. The rest of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea follows the submarine’s adventures as its explores a whole new world beneath the surface of the deep blue.

The most well-known film based on Verne’s novel is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which Walt Disney personally produced.

Watch the film on Amazon

Buy The Giver at Amazon

The Giver

By Lois Lowry

Jonas lives in an emotionless, colorless society where every resident is assigned a lifelong role. Now 12-years-old, Jonas is about to gets his own assignment—and he’s extremely nervous. When the special day finally arrives, he’s tapped to be the new Receiver of Memory, an unusual position that gives him access to eons’ worth of memories. Once he completes his training under the current Receiver, Jonas will begin to experience the purest joys and the bleakest sorrows of all humanity. But at what cost?

Oscar winner Jeff Bridges spent nearly 20 years trying to turn The Giver into a movie. He finally succeeded in 2014—and starred as the Giver himself. The film’s Jonas is a bit older than Lowry’s original character, but most other details stayed true to the source material.

Watch the film on Amazon

Buy Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Amazon

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

By Roald Dahl

When legendary chocolate-maker Willy Wonka announces that he’ll welcome the recipients of five golden tickets into his factory, the world goes into a frenzy. People everywhere buy Wonka candies en masse, hoping that one of the bars will contain an elusive ticket. Much to his surprise, the very poor Charlie Bucket is one of the lucky ones. But as Charlie and the other four winners tour Wonka headquarters, they find that Willy’s inventions put their self-control—and a whole lot more—to the test.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory did poorly in its initial theatrical run, but it became a cult classic after it started airing on television. Tim Burton’s Johnny Depp-fronted version, on the other hand, was a massive success right out of the gate.

Watch the 1971 film on Amazon 

Watch the 2005 film on Amazon

Buy A Wrinkle in Time at Amazon

A Wrinkle in Time

By Madeleine L’Engle

13-year-old Meg Murray is an angsty teenager, but you can’t say the girl lacks courage. Fives years have passed since her father disappeared during a science experiment—and that’s five too many, as far as Meg’s concerned. Accompanied by her younger brother and a misfit classmate, she journeys to a fantastical new world in search of her missing dad, guided by the supernatural Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit. But as the trio travels through a special fifth dimension, they realize their mission—and destiny—is far greater than they could’ve ever imagined.

The 2018 movie was the very first film direction by a black woman to make $100 million in the United States. Featuring an all-star cast that included Oprah Winfrey, the film was more than a tribute to a wonderful sci-fi novel—it was a celebration of female empowerment and diversity.

Watch the film on Amazon

Buy The Martian at Amazon

The Martian

By Andy Weir

The members of NASA’s Ares 3 mission are among the first to walk on Mars. They arrive on the planet prepared to stay for one month, but a destructive windstorm requires immediate evacuation. In their hasty exit, they leave behind Mark Watney, a missing crew mate who they presume is already dead. But Mark is actually very much alive—and now, he’s stranded on Mars with no way of contacting the other astronauts. What began as a revolutionary space adventure becomes the toughest battle of Mark’s life, as he fights to survive the four years until the next scheduled mission.

The award-winning adaptation of Weir’s novel was released just four years after the book’s publication—and also made a substantial cultural impact. The film script was launched into space with a Delta IV Heavy rocket in 2014, and NASA’s website “tracked” Mark’s journey across Mars the following year.

Watch the film on Amazon 

Buy Ready Player One at Amazon

Ready Player One

By Ernest Cline

In 2045, the Earth is in terrible shape, and its residents find solace in the virtual reality universe of OASIS. Its creator has announced a new competition—one in which the winner receives full ownership of OASIS—and teenage orphan Wade is determined to come out on top. His familiarity with the digital world pays off, leading him to the game’s first but ultimately disappointing clue. But as he continues to face off against other virtual players, he realizes that he must also face the reality he’s avoided for so long.

Only someone like Steven Spielberg could bring Cline’s book to life—and he did, with great success.

Watch the film on Amazon 

Buy Stardust at Amazon


By Neil Gaiman

At 18, Tristan Thorn is consumed by the idea of sweeping Victoria Forester’s off her feet. Giving her a fallen star seems like the surest way to her heart, and he’s prepared to do exactly that—even if it means venturing out of his village and into the magical realm across the wall. But once Tristan arrives in the world of Faerie, he’s shocked to see that his desired star isn’t a star at all, but a beautiful girl named Yvaine…

The 2007 movie did justice to Gaiman’s original story, creating a beautiful interpretation of Faerie that starred Claire Danes, Robert De Niro, Ian McKellen, and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Watch the film on Amazon

Buy I Am Legend at Amazon

I Am Legend

By Richard Matheson

A vampiric disease has wiped out the global population, and Robert Neville appears to be the sole survivor. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s all alone—in fact, the sickness seems to resurrect its victims, turning them into vicious, bloodthirsty creatures. If Robert hopes to have a future, he must not only fend off hordes of the undead, but find a way to cure them once and for all. Little does he know, they’re rising up and forming a society of their own…

The first adaptation of I Am Legend, called The Last Man on Earth, was written by Matheson himself. It was followed by two other major film adaptations: The Omega Man in 1971 and the more recent I Am Legend. Both of these versions make substantial alterations to the disease itself, portraying the infected as mutants or feral creatures.

Watch the 1964 film on Amazon

Watch the 1971 film on Amazon 

Watch the 2007 film on Amazon

This post is sponsored by Open Road Media. Thank you for supporting our partners, who make it possible for The Portalist to continue publishing the stellar stories you love.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.