By Ashly Moore Sheldon • September 18, 2022
As readers, we love a good book-to-screen adaptation. Literary-inspired films can be a great way to get kids to pick up a book. Make it a family project. Read the book, watch the movie and discuss the differences between the two. Here are 25 book-to-screen adaptations for a range of ages.
Note: the recommended age for the movies doesn't always match perfectly with that of the reading material.
A full-length feature film can be tough for a toddler. Music helps, as well as a healthy dose of whimsy. Really young children may have a hard time understanding the concept of make-believe, so frightening content should be avoided. Here are a few movies that work well for this age group.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
This animated classic remains faithful to A. A. Milne's beloved series about the mild-mannered bear and his forest friends. There are a few mildly perilous scenes that could scare littler kids, like when a swarm of bees chase Pooh.
The Jungle Book (1967)
This music-infused Disney film gives a jaunty, jazzy vibe to the tale of Mowgli, a boy who is adopted by a wolf pack. Originally written in 1894, by Rudyard Kipling, the book is more appropriate for older children.
Alice in Wonderland (1951)
The surreal tale originally dreamed up by Lewis Carroll gets a vibrant, comical makeover in this animated classic, another Disney project. We also love the star-studded 2010 live action adaptation, but it's more appropriate for older kids.
Horton Hears a Who! (2008)
It's been 50 years since Dr. Seuss published this perennial favorite about a faithful elephant dedicated to protecting the tiny community of souls only he can hear. This delightful adaptation with Jim Carrey and Steve Carell gives it new life.
Kids between the ages of 5 and 7 will be able to follow the straightforward plots and appreciate the simple morals found in these movies based on a variety of popular titles.
Charlotte's Web (2006)
E. B. White's Newbery-winning 1952 novel about a sensitive, principled farm girl, a radiant, humble pig, and a wise, magical spider gets a fresh new look with this live-action/CGI film starring Dakota Fanning and Julia Roberts.
People may not realize that the adorable Disney animated film is actually based on a 1923 coming-of-age novel by Austrian author Felix Salten. The story traces the experiences of a young deer as he grows up in the forest.
Mary Poppins (1964)
This musical fantasy introduced Julie Andrews to film history as the magical nanny for Jane and Michael Banks. The original adaptation of P. L. Travers's middle-grade novel remains as "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" as ever.
Hailed as a brilliant film for all ages, this computer-animated film was the first of its kind. The story of an endearing ogre who sets off on a daring quest to rescue a feisty princess is based loosely on a 1990 picture book by William Steig.
This live-action animated hybrid adapts Michael Bond's series about a marmalade-loving bear who travels from the jungles of "Darkest Peru" to the streets of London where he finds a home with the Brown family.
This enduringly wonderful family film starring a young Elizabeth Taylor is based on a 1935 novel by Enid Bagnold. She plays Velvet Brown, a horse-crazy girl who wins a spirited horse and decides to train for a prestigious national horse race.
This is an exciting age when children are beginning to be able to follow more complicated storylines and appreciate the sometimes tricky dilemmas between right and wrong. They also have a clear grasp on the idea of fiction vs. reality. Here are some great films to share with kids who are eight and older.
This is a spectacular adaptation of The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Produced and directed by none other than Martin Scorsese, the 3D film earned praise from critics, despite underperforming at the box office.
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
We prefer the OG adaptation of Roald Dahl's scrumdiddlyumptious novel about a poor boy who wins a tour through a magical candymaker's enchanted factory. The Mel Stuart-directed film stars the late, great Gene Wilder as Wonka.
The Black Stallion
This gorgeous film is based on Walter Farley's 1941 novel. It is the story of a boy who bonds with a wild Arabian stallion when they are shipwrecked on a deserted island together. After being rescued, the boy trains to race the powerful horse.
The Princess Bride
Rob Reiner's film, starring Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, and Mandy Patinkin, captures the wit and charm of William Goldman's 1973 fantasy. It is the story of a farmhand who must rescue his true love from an odious prince.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Starring Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner, this film is loosely inspired by Judith Viorst's 1972 picture book. The story centers on a boy who wakes up with gum in his hair and things go downhill from there.
The Secret Garden
Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1911 novel has inspired several adaptations, but we prefer this lovely 1993 version. It is the story of three young friends who find solace and healing in a wondrous garden.
Mara Wilson shines as a brilliant girl with magic powers in this adaptation of the quirky fantasy by Roald Dahl. Constantly mistreated by her family, Matilda can only take so much before she decides to fight back.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
This adorable comedy centers on the social anxieties of a boy entering middle school. The comical illustrated novel by Jeff Kinney is framed as a journal, documenting the travails of Greg Heffley, an awkward tween.
On the verge of adolescence, kids ages 10 to 12 are ready to absorb more sophisticated topics and storylines. They can handle more conceptual ideas, as well as heavier subject matter.
Little Women (2019)
Louisa May Alcott's beloved story about the independent, forward-thinking March sisters is another title with several adaptations. Although we also love the 1994 version, the new Greta Gerwig-directed film gets our recommendation.
We love this smart adaptation of Louis Sachar's darkly humorous jigsaw-puzzle of a novel. The story centers on a boy who is accused of a crime he didn't commit and sent to a youth detention camp with an unusual work detail.
Based on the bestseller by R. J. Palacio, this is the heartwarming story about a fifth-grade boy with an extraordinary face. Entering mainstream school for the first time, he will teach his new classmates about compassion and acceptance.
This tale about rabbits on a desperate quest for a new warren has been credited with themes like tyranny and environmental destruction. But author Richard Adams always insisted his novel was "just a story about rabbits."
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit
A Jewish family living in pre-WWII Germany is forced into exile in Judith Kerr's poignant novel. The story is told from the point of view of Anna, a young child who can't understand why she and her family must flee their home.
Let us know if you have any good family-friendly book-to-screen adaptations to recommend.