2016 was a year chock full of film adaptations of books – The Jungle Book, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Girl on the Train – but you may have missed a few lesser-known adaptations. (Unlike Through the Looking Glass which you probably skipped on purpose, and which is actually more fan-fiction than adaptation.)
Chances are good that you didn’t catch every bookish film to hit the theaters this year. Here are seven titles might be worth seeking out if you find yourself snowed in or have run out of things to talk about with your family or friends over the next few weeks.
The Finest Hours
Based on the non-fiction book The Finest Hours by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman, the film tells the story of a miraculous Coast Guard rescue off the coast of New England in February of 1952. Incidentally, just remembering this movie makes we want to go find a blanket. Some of the effects won’t be quite the same on a small screen, but still a good action flick to watch under a blanket on the couch.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s book also called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (and itself an adaptation of sorts), unfortunately the film version had a hard time finding its audience. This is probably because that audience required people who are 1) interested in zombie movies; 2) know enough about the original Austen P&P to appreciate the twist on a classic; and 3) aren’t so tied to the 19th century original that they object the addition of the undead to a piece of western literary cannon. But, if you (like me) hit all three of those conditions, you’re in for a fun ride.
Love & Friendship (adapted from Lady Susan)
Another Austen adaptation, this time of one of her lesser-known works and with no zombies, Love & Friendship was my favorite comedy of 2016. Austen’s epistolary novella Lady Susan serves as the inspiration for this sharp, funny commentary on gender and power in the late 18th century. If your love of Austen is based on her deeply felt romances and flawed-yet-noble leads, you might need to skip this one. But if anti-heroines are your thing, Lady Susan (played by Kate Beckinsale) is your woman and this is your movie.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Probably the most high-profile (and almost certainly the highest budgeted) movie on this list, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children under-performed at box offices, but I’d encourage you to consider it, even if – in fact, especially if – you haven’t read Ransom Riggs’ novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children on which it’s based. The film does an impressive job of bringing Riggs’ complicated and engaging world to life.
If you’ve been skimming this list and thinking to yourself “yeah, but all of these movies seem either light-hearted or inspirational. Where’s the torturous stuff that reminds us that everything is hopeless?” don’t worry. Philip Roth is here for you. Based on Philip Roth’s novel Indignation, this film adaptation tells the story of a young Jewish man in the 1950s trying to break out of Brooklyn and avoid the Korean War by attending an Ohio college. Having seen it, I think it’s fair to say Indignation has more gravity and anguish than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Lion (adapted from A Long Way Home)
OK, in fairness, you probably haven’t technically missed Lion, since it’s not in wide release yet. But when it comes to your town, brave the cold and check out the true story of Saroo Bierley. Based on his memoir, A Long Way Home, Lion tells the genuinely extraordinary story of how Bierley used Google Earth to find the Indian hometown that had been lost to him since the age of five.
Another one you likely haven’t missed yet, make sure you add Hidden Figures to your list of films to watch for in the next few weeks. Both the film and the book by Margot Lee Shetterly on which it’s based (also called Hidden Figures) tell the stories of the brilliant African-American women who worked as mathematicians for NASA in the mid-20th century. The story of the work they did to further some of the greatest moments in the space race has gone untold for too long, so feel free to check out the book AND the movie.