3 best book adaptations to stream on Netflix, Disney+ and Prime Video

With 3 Body Problem proving hugely successful, here are 3 other things to stream based on classic novels

All Quiet on the Western Front (Netflix)
(Image credit: Netflix)

We love a good story. Whether it be a book, comic or cave painting, humankind has always found a way to tell amazing tales. And Hollywood has almost always taken the best and turned them into movies or TV shows.

We're currently blessed with 3 Body Problem, from the same creative team behind Game of Thrones, but there are so many more besides. We'll even get a TV adaptation of Neuromancer from Apple TV+ in the next couple of years. 

But they are far from the first major, classic novels to have been made for the small or big screen.

So, with that in mind, we've scoured the streaming services to find three of our favourite book adaptations for you to watch right now. They are all movies and available on one the main platforms. Enjoy.

All Quiet on the Western Front

  • Where: Netflix
  • Stars: Felix Kammerer, Aaron Hilmer, Albrecht Schuch, Daniel Bruhl, Moritz Klaus
  • Directed by: Edward Berger

Released in 1929, and based on the real experiences of author Erich Maria Remarque, Im Westen nichts Neues (translated to All Quiet on the Western Front) was a wake up call for the post first World War generation. In stark contrast to the other novels of the time, which glamorised the conflict, the novel hammered home the sad reality of modern mechanised warfare.

It's a novel that holds nothing back, showing the brutality, futility, and horror of war. Nor does the Netflix adaptation.

Following four friends from a small village in Germany, who head to the front line in 1916, the movie is helmed by Edward Berger and is faithful to the text. It is an unrelenting grind of a film that holds nothing back and hides nothing. We watch as the friends are slowly but surely stripped of their humanity, as they accept that a quick death on the battlefield is a nigh-on certainty. 

It is a dark watch – bold, beautiful and shocking. Set pieces are grand in their scale, but never seem to lose intimacy as we follow our protagonists. It is at times difficult to get through but is ultimately, like the source material, important as a lesson to be learned.

Oscar nominated for very good reason, All Quiet on the Western Front is a prime example of what a streaming service like Netflix can do when given solid source material and having the bravery to fully commit to it.

Romeo + Juliet

  • Where: Disney+
  • Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, Paul Rudd, John Leguizamo, Pete Postlethwaite, Harold Perrineau, Paul Sorvino
  • Directed by: Baz Luhrmann

When it comes to high concept, pop culture-drenched big screen blockbusters, nothing says "source material" like a five-act tragedy written in 1594 by a drunken Englishman.

This is what Baz Luhrmann thought back in 1996, anyway.

Taking the hottest young stars of the day, a pre-Titanic DiCaprio and a post-My So Called Life Danes, Luhrman threw in a supporting cast of some absolute legends and shifted the tale of love and loss to a modern day setting. Cue muscle cars, customised guns and shootouts that John Wick himself would be proud of.

The film is a stunning piece of work, with unique and memorable visuals, a fantastic contemporary soundtrack, and Luhmann's signature design and directorial style of quick cuts. It is flashy, loud, bright and bold. It brings real Hollywood magic to typically staid subject material.

A simple sign of its success and influence came in 1996 when at University I found that everybody you met not only had seen the movie, but also owned the soundtrack and knew the script word for word. It made Shakespeare cool and inspired an entire era of subsequent and mostly inferior adaptations. 

Romeo & Juliet remains a prime example of not having to change the source material to be successful. It's just a shame that because of this DiCaprio went on to make that horrendous and overlong movie about the boat that sank... an unpopular opinion, I know.

The Silence of the Lambs

  • Where: Amazon Prime Video
  • Stars: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glen, Ted Levine
  • Directed by: Jonathan Demme

Once in a lifetime a writer creates a character so powerful that it seems impossible to restrain them to the pages of a book.

Thomas Harris's creation, Hannibal Lecter, is one such character.

Upon its release in 1991, The Silence Of The Lambs reinvented the crime and detective genre. Gone were the days of car chases and hero cops beating wave after wave of bad guys, and villains that always got what was coming to them in the end.

Jonathan Demme used the works of Harris to end this and create something new.

The Silence Of The lambs is raw, unrelenting, bold, and adult. It features a world where the cop is never perfect, afraid, and can be vulnerable, while a villain can actually win. With Lecter, cinema found its first truly loved psychopath. 

Even today, the novel stands as being fresh and well structured. It has not only aged well but still holds its own against those that would imitate it. The same follows the film it inspired. There has never been another monster quite like Hannibal Lecter, no hero quite like Clarice Starling, and no film quite like The Silence Of The Lambs.

In terms of the serial killer genre, it stands out as the peak.

Brian Comber

Liverpool lad, mid-life crisis survivor, writer of short fiction, screenplays, articles, reviews and opinion pieces. Brian is totally in love with cinema in all its many forms. He writes for websites, blogs and published magazines, including Screen Rant, IGN and Purple Revolver in the constant hope it will help him avoid getting a real grown-up job. In his free time, he's a gym obsessive and previously good guitarist.