Children's Books Successfully Adapted into Movies that Adults Love
Updated: Dec 17, 2020
Okay, my title is a little lengthy. But I left you no doubt as to the topic of the post, right? Lots of children’s books (and middle grade novels… my title couldn’t be THAT long!) have been converted into movies. Some of these movies have had kids dragging their parents to the theatres, while dismayed parents tried to think of an excuse to be anywhere else. Some, though, have actually been date night attractions, with adults flocking to indulge in them.
This was a difficult article for me to undertake. Not because I don’t enjoy any movie versions of children’s books; because I enjoy too many. And apparently, not entirely on an adult level. Because I’m such a lover of children’s books, I was eager to see such movies as the live action Cat in the Hat and Where the Wild Things Are. I’ve learned that these movies aren’t really on the must-see list of your average adult. So the movies on this list are movies enjoyed by adultier-adults. And they’re counted down because apparently count downs are loved by children and adults alike.
10. Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory AND James and the Giant Peach
Umm, so I cheated. I gave the tenth spot to two book-to-movie-conversions. But in my defense, their appeal is extremely similar. Both books are by the legendary
Roald Dahl and both films are directed by the talented Tim Burton. Dahl and Burton are a match made in heaven- both bizarre, dark and unmercifully creative. For anyone interested in the macabre- regardless of age- these adaptations are exquisite.
9. Jeanne DuPrau’s City of Ember
This middle grade novel has a dark, fantastical, post-apocalyptic feel that has become very popular in both books and movies over the past little while. Though I watched the movie too long after reading the book to comment on the preciseness of the plot, I can say that the film got the feel bang on. It is my o
pinion that books like City of Ember helped to usher in the heavy hitters like The Hunger Games so it’s really no surprise that adults are partial to the dark big-screen world of Ember.
8. Roald Dahl’s Matilda
Ah, yet another title by Roald Dahl. Matilda is one of those movies that I tend to forget about and then enjoy discovering all over again. I’ll see something that brings scenes from Matilda flooding back into the forefront of my mind and excitedly dig up an old copy. It appeals to the adult mind on many levels. For adults such as ourselves, the most appealing aspect might be that Matilda, the title character herself, is a wonderful bibliophile. And, honestly, who doesn’t love the cake scene?
7. Neil Gaiman’s Coraline
I’m not sure which is creepier, the book or the movie version. I’ve read some reviews of the movie by angry, unprepared parents who were shocked at the sheer eeriness of the screen version Gaiman’s creation. It is this same feature that draws in the adult audiences.
6. Lewis Caroll’s Alice(‘s Adnevntures) in Wonderland.
We’re talking the Tim Burton version here, no offence to the classic Disney version. Clearly Tim Burton has a knack for taking children’s classics and turning them into movies the entire family can enjoy. It doesn’t hurt that Burton got a kick-ass cast: Anne Hathaway, Alan Rickman and of course Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp. Basically a book worm’s dream cast.
5. Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book
Again, I’m pointing to the live-action version as compared to the original Disney classic. I mean, obviously Disney has taken some stellar stories and turned them into great animated classics but they’re all entirely G-rated and not attracting the adults by the herd. The 2016 release of The Jungle Book, however, seemed to draw in as many adults as children.
4. Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
In a foreword Stephen King wrote for an anthology, he talks about how funny is the flipside of scary. That’s how I think of A Series of Unfortunate Events. The books are both deliciously dark and brutally funny and the movie manages to bring both of those attributes to the screen. They enlisted the best possible hlp for the job- Jim Carrey. He brought the character of Count Olaf to life in a way that attracted both his adult fans and the fans of Lemony Snicket’s original series.
3. C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia
When the first installment of the movies hit theatres, I was still young enough to be considered almost age-appropriate… or I felt like it, at least. I would have been 14 that year. Still, I distinctly remember a theatre crowded with other teenagers and even lots of twenty-somethings. If you take only one thing from this list, let it be that talking animals are totally in.
2. Dr. Suess’ The Grinch
Apparently I’m all gung-ho for live action movies on this list, because again that’s the version I’m talking about. Jim Carrey stars in this movie, too, making him and Johnny Depp the obvious kings of this list. There are some classic Jim Carrey lines in this movie that are clearly for the adults. Honestly, I’m not even sure this movie is entirely appropriate for the age group that the classic book was intended for. The kiddos can keep their animated version. This one is ours.
1. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter
Number one is a no-brainer. Harry Potter seems to be truly ageless. Everyone from elementary school children, to their parents, to their grandparents have fallen in love with the entire franchise. While children and adults alike are indulging in both the books and the movies, the books were clearly originally intended for middle grade kiddos. Harry Potter h
as opened up possibilities- the sensational wizard has made it socially acceptable to read books below your reading level. Sometimes this is still poo-pooed but basically if anyone ever teases you for reading middle grade novels and watching kids’ movies, you can say “Harry Potter” and walk away like a boss.