Netflix single-handedly flipped the entertainment business upside-down with its revolutionary concept: a streaming service that makes its own originals. And while producing all their original content came at a huge price tag, they made 5.3 billion last year, so it looks like it’s paying off.
Since Netflix hauls out far more content than maybe is necessary, it’s easy to lose some of their best gems due to the massive amount of options. And something that Netflix does a fantastic job of is book adaptations for television. Where broadcast networks often fail because of the need for “x” amount of episodes per season, there are no rules in the world of streaming. If a show only needs to be four episodes, it can be. It results in a product where the story drives the number of episodes, not air time, making far better pieces of work.
And Netflix has made some excellent movies based on books too. Netflix has revitalized the TV movie and can take books that wouldn’t have gotten a big-enough audience to be a feature film and put them on the streamer instead. Of course, since Netflix has an Oscar Best Picture nom under its belt, they’re good at that too.
- Shadow and Bone
- To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
- The Queen’s Gambit
- The Babysitter’s Club
- The Kissing Booth
- The Witcher
- Honorable Mentions
- The Half of It
- 13 Reasons Why
The best book adaptations are the ones that improve upon the source material, and Bridgerton does just that (sorry Julia Quinn fans). Bridgerton is the most-streamed show of all time, with season one racking up 625.49 million viewing hours in its first 28 days.
Bridgerton follows the titular family as they embark on finding love in their Regency Era English ton. The first season is all about the eldest daughter, Daphne, played by Phoebe Dyvenor, who enters a delightful wager with a dashing Duke, Simon Basset, played by Regé-Jean Page. Simon doesn’t want to be married, so he agrees to pretend to court Daphne so she will gain the interest of other eligible bachelors.
You can chastise all you want, but Bridgerton has everything you could want in a show: pretty dresses, elevated language (they use the word burn SO MUCH), a family that loves each other, and people who grow and change. While the show pulls out the steam so much that some may fast-forward through almost an entire episode, tons of people watch Bridgerton for the sexy scenes alone.
This show is so popular that there’s already a Queen Charlotte spinoff that was greenlit after season one. And season two was almost as delightful as season one, all about the Vicar Bridgerton Anthony facing his responsibility as the head of the Bridgerton household.
Shadow and Bone
Out of all of Netflix’s epic fantasy series, Shadow and Bone is the one that you cannot miss. Adapted from Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone trilogy and Six of Crows duology, Shadow and Bone toes this excellent line of staying true to an utterly fantastic book series while changing plots and characters as needed for the story to work on screen.
The Shadow and Bone TV show has two major storylines: the first follows Alina, played by the wonderful Jessie Mei Li, a young orphan cartographer in the Ravkan second army. But after her mysterious gift is revealed, the all-magic wielding first army scouts her for the ranks and her life changes forever.
The second storyline starts in an entirely different city, the island trading port of Ketterdam, where club owner and generally scary gangster Kaz, played by spooky boy Freddy Carter, complies with his crew of cronies to steal a very important person.
The main issue with the show is the same with any fantasy series: how to absorb and understand this giant magic universe quickly so that you get what’s going on in the story. Netflix did some favors by releasing a video that explained the world of Shadow and Bone. Once you watch the show you start to catch on, but that did deter some people from watching beyond the pilot.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Based on the novel by Jenny Han, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before has a classic storyline: fake dating. This sweet three-movie series features three sisters who live with their single father. The story revolves around Laura Jean, played by Lana Condor, who writes one love letter to all of her past crushes but never sends them, keeping them in a hatbox in her closet.
But her world crashes down on her after her little sister, Kitty, played by Anna Cathcart, sends them out. So now Lana has to deal with her crushes and gets herself in a fake dating pickle with school heartthrob Peter Kavinsky, played by Noah Centino.
These movies are perfect for when you’re feeling a little sad or down and need a cute, well-thought story to pick you up.
While you absolutely cannot beat the book Passing by Nella Larsen, the adaptation was pleasantly surprising. Stylistically, the movie is filmed in black and white, which adds nuance to a film that constantly asks if the motivation of its characters is as black and white as it seems.
Passing follows Irene Redfield, played by the talented Tessa Thompson, a light-skinned Black woman who can “pass” as white as she chooses. She runs into her childhood friend Clare Bellew, played by the fantastic Ruth Negga, who chooses to pass as white all of the time. But Clare is married to a racist wealthy white doctor, played by the scary Alexander Skarsgård, so she puts both her and Irene’s life on the line by being involved.
This book and movie take you on a WILD RIDE, so just go watch the film and don’t read anything else about it!
Produced by David Fincher, Mindhunter is based on the book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit. And while this show hooked me from the first episode, it is not for the faint of heart. The show delves into the mind of notorious real-life killers like David Berkowitz, Ed Kemper, Wayne Williams, and Charles Manson.
Mindhunter follows young FBI agent Holden Ford, played by the vocally talented Jonathan Groff, who unfortunately does not sing in this show as he works for the FBI and interviews killers to teach local law enforcement better practices. He does this alongside the gruff head of behavioral science Bill Tench, played by Holt McCallany, who is a nice foil to remind Ford that these serial killers are terrible people.
If you’re one of those people who fall asleep at night to shows about murderers, this one’s for you.
The Queen’s Gambit
Based on the novel by Walter Tevis, The Queen’s Gambit exploded onto Netflix and skyrocketed the career of its star, Anna Taylor-Joy. This story is easy to love because it’s about an underdog making history.
The Queen’s Gambit takes place in Kentucky in the 1950s. Chess prodigy and orphan Elizabeth Harmon, played by Taylor-Joy, come from humble beginnings and against all odds goes on to compete in a major international chess tournament in Moscow.
The Babysitter’s Club
Another series that Netflix should have paid more attention to, the adorable The Babysitter’s Club came out in the middle of the pandemic.
Based on the many novels by Ann M. Martin, she wrote the first 35, the later ones were written by ghostwriters, The Babysitter’s Club is about five female middle-schoolers who embark on a babysitting business together in the fictional town of Stoneybrook, Connecticut.
While a lot of my love for this series came from watching the 1995 movie, this series is more sincere than that version was. But most importantly, these tweens still use a clear landline phone, which will make many millennials feel SEEN.
The Kissing Booth
The Kissing Booth felt like someone fast-forwarded through an Instagram scroll. This movie goes a mile a minute, but you get to live in these high schoolers’ insanely lavish lifestyles without it feeling gross – like it might on Gossip Girl.
Based on the Wattpad novel by Beth Reekles, The Kissing Booth is about two platonic best friends, Ellie, played by Joey King, and Lee, played by Joel Courtney. The two have a strict list of rules about their friendship, so it falls into jeopardy when Ellie breaks one and starts to secretly date Lee’s super mysterious older brother, played by Euphoria’s Jacob Elordi.
Take this movie for what it is, a fun romantic romp about forbidden love, and you’re sure to have a good time. Plus, we can thank The Kissing Booth for skyrocketing Joey Kings’s career, since she went on to score her first Emmy nom for her role as Gypsy Rose Blanchard in The Act.
While Moxie isn’t a perfect movie, it does a really great job of showing how one person can try to make a difference, even if they don’t do a perfect job.
Moxie stars Hadley Robinson as Vivian, a high schooler who gets inspired by her mom’s old feminist ‘zines and starts one at her own school. The movie has tons of to-watch young actors and actresses, including Josie Totah, Alycia Pascual-Peña, Lauren Tsai, and Nico Hiraga. The chemistry of the cast alone makes this movie fun to watch.
Netflix loves its serial killers, and we can thank them for bringing terrifying man Joe Goldberg, played by Penn Badgley, back to life for season two after this show was axed on Lifetime. You is based on the novel by Caroline Kepnes, and the following seasons of the show are loosely based on her other books in the series. Additionally, You is by far, among the easiest show to binge-watch on Netflix.
In season one, we meet Joe Goldberg, a bookstore manager who starts dating Guinevere Beck, an aspiring writer. But things soon get gnarly and he stalks Gwen, something the audience knows but she doesn’t.
What is so great about You is that Joe Goldberg is a very likable character. He helps out his young neighbor Paco who has a tragic home life. So you want him to be good, you want him to change.
While The Witcher is more famous for being a video game, it’s also a book series by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski and the Netflix show has been a pretty substantial hit.
The Witcher revolves around Geralt of Rivia, played by Henry Cavill, a witcher, who is basically a monster hunter that people can pay to get rid of their unwanted evil creatures, and sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg, played by Anya Chalotra.
If you were a big fan of Game of Thrones, then this is going to be totally up your alley. If you get confused by big fantasy names and if people killing animals even if they are evil makes you cry, then yeah maybe skip this bad boy.
Be prepared with a box of tissues if you’re going to watch Maid, which is based on the true story of the author of the memoir, Stephanie Land. This miniseries is a gut-wrenching window into how hard it is for domestic-violence survivors to just get by.
Maid stars Margaret Qualley as Alex, a young mother who escapes her abusive boyfriend and works as a maid to pay the bills. There’s hope surrounded by darkness as she dreams of being a writer while navigating the difficulty of her situation.
The problem with Netflix really is that there is just too much to watch. Thank God they have instituted the “Play Something” feature so that you indecisive clowns out there can actually watch something instead of scrolling all night. To make your decision even harder, here few more adaptations that are worth a mention.
The Half of It, which is loosely based on the play Cyrano de Bergerac, is one of the most original, heartfelt movies. In the small narrow-minded town of Squahamish, Ellie Chu, played by Leah Lewis, lives with her widower father and helps him with his duties as the train station master. She also has a side hustle writing papers for people, so she befriends a local boy named Paul Munsky after he pays her to write love letters for his crush, Aster Flores.
If you know the story of Cyrano, you can guess how this modern take on it goes but it’s really worth a watch.
Two other series worth mentioning are Cursed and 13 Reasons Why, both starring Katherine Langford. Cursed is a cool Arthurian legend that centers around the Lady of the Lake. While the show ebbed and flowed, it’s cool to watch an Arthurian show that’s not about Arthur.
Where broadcast networks often fail because of the need for “x” amount of episodes per season, there are no rules in the world of streaming. Netflix single-handedly flipped the entertainment business upside-down with its revolutionary concept: a streaming service that makes its own originals. Since Netflix hauls out far more content than maybe is necessary, it’s easy to lose some of their best gems due to the massive amount of options. And something that Netflix does a fantastic job of is book adaptations for television. Netflix has revitalized the TV movie and can take books that wouldn’t have gotten a big-enough audience to be a feature film and put them on the streamer instead.