There’s no shortage of movies based on books these days. It seems like every time a new movie or TV show comes out, I find out it was based on a book. As a snob, I prefer to read the book first so that I can snottily point out all the ways the adaptations deviate from the source text. I’m not proud of it, but I am who I am.
If you’re like me and you want to get ahead of these upcoming releases, check out this list of 2020–2021 movies based on books. Of course, you’ll notice some updates to our previous list of 2020 book adaptations because COVID-19 happened and changed absolutely everything about everything.
Note that this list is heavily centered on white authors.
Movies Based on Books Coming Out in 2020
The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock
This psychological thriller is a multigenerational tale featuring an ensemble of creepy characters. There are husband-and-wife serial killers, a tortured war veteran, and a preacher on the run from the law. Netflix is releasing the film in September 2020. It boasts director Antonio Campos and a chilling noir thriller feel. Moreover, the movie features an all-star cast that includes Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, and Bill Skarsgård.
The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer
Coming to Netflix September 23, 2020, Enola Holmes is based on a series by the same name. The six-book mystery series follows Sherlock Holmes’s teen sister. Book one tells the story of Enola’s search for her missing mother. The movie stars Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, and Helena Bonham Carter.
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
This classic tale of marriage and mystery is a PBS Top 100 pick for Great American Reads. Meet the second Mrs. Maxim De Winter as she tries to unravel the mysteries of her isolated new home and a sinister housekeeper. Moreover, she wonders about a husband she barely knows, and the secrets surrounding his first wife, Rebecca. Ben Wheatley’s adaptation is coming to Netflix in October 2020. Obviously, this creepy tale will be perfect for the Halloween season.
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
This detective story was first adapted into a film in 1978. A new 20th Century Studios version will be released in October 2020 and will serve as the sequel to 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express. The novel follows Hercule Poirot who is investigating the murder of a young heiress. The film is directed by Kenneth Branagh, who reprises his role as Poirot; the film also features Gal Gadot and Armie Hammer.
Last Looks by Howard Michael Gould
Tim Kirby directed this adaptation of Gould’s novel. It will premier on November 6, 2020. Charlie Waldo (played by Charlie Hunnam) is a disgraced ex-cop living off the grid who is he’s recruited to investigate a murder. Book reviewers agree that this fun story is perfect for the big screen.
Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith
20th Century Studios and director Adrian Lyne adapted this psychological thriller for the big screen. Set to release in November 2020, the story follows an unhappy couple living through a loveless marriage. In order to avoid divorce, Vic and Melinda agree that Melinda may have extramarital affairs. However, when her lovers begin to turn up dead, Vic is a prime suspect. The film stars Ben Affleck and Ana De Armas.
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
The controversial bestseller is coming to Netflix November 2020. Directed by Ron Howard, the film will star Glenn Close, Amy Adams, Gabriel Basso, and Haley Bennett. The memoir focuses on the author’s experiences growing up in Appalachia and the issues with “hillbilly culture.” Critics praised the book for providing insight into the perspectives of the working poor. Conversely, others criticized his self-congratulatory belief in meritocracy.
Dune by Frank Herbert
Warner Bros. is set to release this highly anticipated movie based on the popular book Dune in December 2020. The novel was a sci-fi triumph, winning the first Nebula Award and a Hugo Award. The story takes place on a distant planet with only one resource, but it’s one worth killing for. The film features an all-star cast including Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, and Jason Momoa. Watch the trailer here.
A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig
Break out your holiday cheer. Netflix has adapted Matt Haig’s retelling of the story of Father Christmas into a movie, premiering December 2020. This endearing tale follows a sweet boy named Nikolas as he sets out in search of his father. Directed by Gil Kenan, the film features an all-star ensemble cast that includes Jim Broadbent, Sally Hawkins, and Kristen Wiig, among others.
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
Jiles’s novel centers on a traveling nonfiction storyteller and his adventures traversing America after the Civil War. The storyteller, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, agrees to escort a 10-year-old back to her family. However, the child has spent six years with kidnappers and is reluctant to return to the family she barely knows. Universal Pictures is releasing the film on Christmas 2020. Tom Hanks will star as Kidd.
To All the Boys: Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han
Netflix has been wildly successful with movies based on books. Han’s cozy YA romance trilogy was a huge hit with readers and the movie adaptations of the first two books were equally successful. Fortunately, the cast filmed the second and third movies back to back, so production was not delayed by COVID. Despite IMDB listing a 2020 release, Netflix has yet to confirm. Some speculate the movie will premier in February 2021, a year after the second movie’s release and just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton
Netflix and director George Clooney have adapted Brooks-Dalton’s post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller for release in 2020. Main character Augustine is an aging astronomer, stubbornly clinging to his work in an evacuated Arctic. However, Augustine’s life changes when he finds a mysterious child. The movie adaptation will star Clooney as Augustine and is titled Midnight Sky.
Movies Based on Books Coming Out in 2021
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Chaos Walking, directed by Doug Liman, is set to premier in January 2021. It is based on The Knife of Never Letting Go, the first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy. The story is set in a dystopian world where all living creatures can hear one another’s thoughts. Everyone, that is, except women—because they’ve all died of the Noise germ. Todd, a boy on the verge of manhood, believes his town is hiding dangerous secrets. He runs away, pursued by the men of his hometown. Following his escape he discovers a patch of silence in the otherwise noisy world. It turns out to be a girl. Who is she and how is she alive?
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
Beatrix Potter’s beloved tale of the mischievous Peter Rabbit has long been a favorite for young readers. Sony Pictures is releasing a second Peter Rabbit film in January 2021. Like many of the films on this list, COVID-19 delayed the original release date. Previously, Peter Rabbit 2 was scheduled to premier in April 2020.
Marry Me #1 by Bobby Crosby
In Crosby’s webcomic, Pop star Stasia Tyler jokingly accepts a marriage proposal from a random audience member at her concert. Subsequently, the pair agree to actually get married, despite their very different lives. This story sounds like it was made to become a romcom. Marry Me hits theaters in time for Valentine’s Day 2021. The movie stars Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson.
Without Remorse by Tom Clancy
Directed by Stefano Sollima, this action-packed adaptation will thrill fans of the Jack Ryan series. Paramount originally held the rights to the movie, but due to COVID-19 the movie will be released on Amazon Prime in February 2021. The novel, set during the Vietnam War, follows John Clark. The former Navy SEAL is mourning the murder of his pregnant wife. Suddenly, he finds himself in a world of drug rings, the CIA, and the Soviets in Vietnam. Clancy shows readers how an ordinary man becomes a remorseless killer. The film stars acclaimed actor Michael B. Jordan as the main character.
The Secret Service #1 by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons
Millar’s comic book series is the basis for popular action movies Kingsman: The Secret Service and Kingsman: The Golden Circle. A prequel movie, The King’s Man will explore the beginnings of the secret spy agency. Director Matthew Vaughn and crew completed filming in July 2020, but the film’s release was delayed by COVID-19. Consequently, 20th Century Studios plans to release the film on February 26, 2021. Additionally, it’s likely that the adaptations will continue with a third Kingsman movie.
Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love by Matthew Logelin
Set after the unexpected death of his wife during childbirth, this memoir chronicles the first year of Matthew Logelin’s experiences parenting their daughter. The upcoming movie adaptation, Fatherhood, is directed by Paul Weitz. COVID-19 delayed the original January 15, 2021 release date. Sony Pictures has rescheduled its release for April 2, 2021.
The Reincarnationist Papers by D. Eric Maikranz
This suspenseful novel focuses on outsider Evan Michael. He meets a group of people who, like him, can recall their past lives. The group is part of a powerful secret society and Michael will have to prove himself before he’s allowed to join. Academy Award winning director Antoine Fuqua is directing Paramount’s adaptation, entitled Infinite. The action thriller stars Mark Wahlberg, Dylan O’Brien, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Its release date has been postponed to Memorial Day (May 31) 2021.
Fear Street: The New Girl by R.L. Stine
Netflix has bought the rights to the first three books in R.L. Stine’s teen horror series, Fear Street. The movie trilogy will be directed by Leigh Janiak. Although unconfirmed, rumors suggest the movies will be released in summer of 2021. Stine’s series of interconnected tales all take place on Fear Street in the fictional town of Shadyside. Of course, fans of Goosebumps should be looking forward to this trilogy!
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
With an expected release date of December 2021, The Nightingale should arrive just in time to be a holiday hit. Based on the bestselling historical novel by Kristin Hannah, The Nightingale takes place during World War II. Hannah’s story explores the lives of two sisters living in German-occupied France. Mélanie Laurent directed the movie, which stars real-life sisters Dakota and Elle Fanning.
The Witches by Roald Dahl
Warner Bros. is releasing a second movie adaptation of The Witches by Roald Dahl sometime in 2021. (Previously, Nicolas Roeg directed an adaptation for Warner Bros. The 1990 film starred Anjelica Houston.) Directed and written by Robert Zemeckis and Guillermo del Toro, The Witches promises creepy fun. The book follows a boy and his retired witch hunter grandmother as they try to stop an evil plot. The new movie stars Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, and Stanley Tucci.
Paramount Pictures and Apple TV+ are partnering with acclaimed director Martin Scorsese for this eagerly awaited adaptation. The 1920s true crime western will begin filming in February 2021 with an anticipated release later in the year. Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro star in this story of the mysterious deaths of members of Osage Nation. Undoubtedly, the tribe’s rich oil reserves were a motive for murder. Thus, the newly formed FBI sent a young J. Edgar Hoover to investigate.
The Stars at Noon by Denis Johnson
Johnson’s novel is set in Nicaragua during the revolution of 1984. Romance blooms between two foreigners, but lies and sinister secrets threaten to engulf them. Is the woman really an American journalist? Who is the English businessman, really? Although the exact date is TBA, the movie adaptation is slated for 2021. The film is directed by Claire Denis and stars Robert Pattinson and Margaret Qualley.
Dear Zoe by Philip Beard
Beard’s novel follows 15-year-old Tess DeNunzio as she copes with the loss of her younger sister, Zoe, who died in a hit-and-run on September 11, 2001. Unfortunately, the larger events of the day overshadow Zoe’s death. Beard wrote the book as a series of letters from Tess to Zoe. The film is set to release in 2021, but the date is still TBA.
Movies Based on Books that Should Come Out in 2020–2021
While the titles above have confirmed their release dates, many films still have uncertain futures. Below, you’ll find a few more titles to hope for.
There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins
Perkins’s teen slasher is coming to Netflix. Supposedly, the film will hit the streaming service by Halloween 2020. Sydney Park will star as a teenager who recently moved in with her grandmother in Nebraska. A string of gruesome murders will force Park’s character to confront the secrets she’s running from.
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
Finn’s psychological thriller focuses on Anna Fox, a woman with agoraphobia. Shortly after her new neighbors move in, she witnesses the wife’s murder. The family, however, denies it. Further, there’s a new woman in place of the victim. The film wrapped in 2018, but underwent changes in spring of 2020. COVID-19 then delayed the anticipated March 2020 release. Thus, we don’t know for sure when we’ll get to see Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, and Anthony Mackie bring this story to life.
The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage
Savage’s powerful novel explores brotherhood, marriage, repressed queer sexuality, and masculinity. On top of the amazing source material, the film will star Benedict Cumberbatch and Kiersten Dunst. Currently, the film is in production after delays due to COVID-19. It will likely appear on Netflix in 2021.
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