Fall is the perfect time for curling up with a good book—or maybe a good movie. (We’re not monsters.) Even better if you can hit two birds with one stone, of course, and this after all is Literary Hub, so here we present the literary movies and TV shows—adaptations, documentaries, and other book-adjacent fare—we’re most looking forward to this season.
Loving Highsmith (in theaters, September 2)
Literary bona fides: a documentary about the life of Patricia Highsmith
Directed by: Eva Vitija
A new documentary about the creator of Tom Ripley—her legacy both beloved and complicated. “Although Highsmith boldly projected a hard, tough, callous, and diabolical exterior in her public and personal lives, the film makes the case that (like her beloved snails), she had a sensitive core she felt she must guard,” writes Olivia Rutigliano at CrimeReads. “Loving Highsmith, which is framed by Vitija’s personal affinity for the writer, is about her vulnerability, her fears, her hopes. Narrated mellifluously by Vitija and featuring the voice of Gwendoline Christie as Highsmith herself, the film sketches her childhood and family life in Texas, her breakout literary stardom in New York, and her lifelong residencies in Europe. Highsmith’s nomadism as well as her later isolation are framed as occurring as a result of her natural cravings for intimacy: as she pursues and scales back connection after grand leaps and heartbreaks, alike.”
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (Prime Video, September 2)
Literary bona fides: based mostly on the appendices of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Starring: Morfydd Clark, Lenny Henry, Ismael Cruz Cordova, Markella Kavenagh, Sara Zwangobani, Megan Richards, Thusitha Jayasundera, Dylan Smith, Maxine Cunliffe, Daniel Weyman
Everybody is doing prequels now, I guess. In The Guardian, Rebecca Nicholson writes that this one is “so cinematic and grand that it makes House of the Dragon look as if it has been cobbled together on Minecraft.” Zing! The show is set in the Second Age of Middle-earth, which is thousands of years before the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and is reportedly the most expensive television show ever made, costing $465 million for eight episodes. Spectacle, spectacle, everywhere you look.
Devil in Ohio (Netflix, September 2)
Literary bona fides: based on Devil in Ohio by Daria Polatin (2017)
An eight episode limited thriller series starring Emily Deschanel as a psychiatrist who takes in a girl who has escaped from a cult. Looks creepy as hell. Cornfields always are.
Little Women (Netflix, September 3)
Literary bona fides: very loosely based on Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)
Starring: Kim Go-eun, Nam Ji-Hyun, Ji-hy Park, Wi Ha-joon, Ji-won Uhm, Ki-joon Uhm, Kim Mi-Sook, Kang Hoon
If the trailer is any indication, this K-Drama adaptation bears almost no relation to the original novel. Not because it’s set in modern-day South Korea, or even because there are only three sisters—it’s more about the whole 70 billion won thing. Still, it’s probably worth a shot, not least because it was written by Chung Seo-kyung, who also wrote The Handmaiden, one of my favorite literary adaptations of all time.
Tell Me Lies (Hulu, September 7)
Literary bona fides: based on Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering (2018)
Starring: Grace Van Patten, Jackson White, Catherine Missal, Spencer House, Sonia Mena, Branden Cook, Benjamin Wadsworth, Alivia Crowder
The very latest in toxic romance—for filling that You-shaped hole in your life.
Pinocchio (Disney +, September 8)
Literary bona fides: based on Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Cynthia Erivo, Giuseppe Battiston, Luke Evans, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Keegan-Michael Key
This live action Pinocchio is the first of two Pinocchio adaptations coming out this year, and you could argue it’s the wholesome (and perhaps boring) one—after all, it’s got Tom Hanks. (The other one is being made by Guillermo del Toro.) No reason you (or your children) can’t enjoy both, though, if you (or your children) are into that kind of thing.
The Serpent Queen (Starz, September 11)
Literary bona fides: based on Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France by Leonie Frieda (2004)
Starring: Samantha Morton, Amrita Acharia, Enzo Cilenti, Barry Atsma, Nicholas Burns, Danny Kirrane, Sennia Nanua, Beth Goddard, Antonia Clarke, Liv Hill, Charles Dance, Colm Meaney, Ludivine Sagnier
The fascinating story of Catherine de Medici, 16th century French queen is given the Fleabag treatment in this TV adaptation of Frieda’s nonfiction book about her life.
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu, September 14)
Literary bona fides: based on The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)
Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, Alexis Bledel, Madeline Brewer, Ann Dowd, O.T. Fagbenle, Max Minghella, Samira Wiley, Amanda Brugel, Bradley Whitford, Sam Jaeger
For those still watching, the bleak and ever-closer-to-home The Handmaid’s Tale begins its penultimate season this month—but an adaptation of The Testaments, Atwood’s 2019 sequel, will be close on its heels.
The Silent Twins (in theaters, September 16)
Literary bona fides: based on The Silent Twins by Marjorie Wallace (1986)
Starring: Letitia Wright, Tamara Lawrance
Based on Wallace’s nonfiction book about June and Jennifer Gibbons, identical twin girls who famously refused to speak to anyone but each other for years.
Catherine Called Birdy (in theaters, September 23, Prime Video October 7)
Literary bona fides: based on Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman (1994)
Starring: Bella Ramsey, Andrew Scott, Billie Piper, Joe Alwyn, Dean-Charles Chapman, Ralph Ineson, Russell Brand
Trust Lena Dunham to adapt one of the classic millennial childhood texts, which won a Newbery Honor in 1995. A medieval comedy with a plucky heroine, it’s kind of wild it’s taken this long for someone to give it the big screen treatment, but from the looks of things, Dunham has done it justice.
Blank (in theaters, September 23)
Literary bona fides: well, it’s about a writer, you see
Starring: Rachel Shelley, Heida Reed, Wayne Brady
We’ve all been there: a novelist heads off on a retreat to try to conquer the blank page, and the … personalized AI assistant robot ends up trapping her inside the room with limited food and no way to contact the outside world, demanding that she “finish her work.” Could be worth it??
On the Come Up (Paramount +, September 23)
Literary bona fides: based on On the Come Up by Angie Thomas (2019)
Starring: Jamila C. Gray, Sanaa Lathan, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Method Man
Based on the bestselling YA novel from Angie Thomas, the author of The Hate U Give, On the Come Up follows Bri, a 16-year-old rapper, as she tries to hold her family together and goes viral for all the wrong reasons.
Confess, Fletch (in theaters, September 16; Showtime, October 28)
Literary bona fides: based on Confess, Fletch by Gregory Mcdonald (1976)
Starring: Jon Hamm, Marcia Gay Harden, Kyle MacLachlan, Roy Wood Jr., John Slattery
Jon Hamm steps into Chevy Chase’s 33-year-old shoes as your new Fletch in this adaptation of the second book in Mcdonald’s popular comedy/mystery series. Plus, you’ve got to be charmed by the Hamm/Slattery reunion.
Blonde (Netflix, September 28)
Literary bona fides: based on Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates (2000)
Starring: Ana de Armas, Bobby Cannavale, Adrien Brody, Julianne Nicholson, Xavier Samuel, Evan Williams
Well, the long-awaited, much-delayed, super-hyped (not least because it will be the first movie released on Netflix with an NC-17 rating) Marilyn Monroe film looks good—Ana de Armas is definitely channeling Marilyn in the trailer and early stills, and Bobby Cannavale (as “The Ex-Athlete”) and Adrien Brody (as “The Playwright”) are both very convincing. But don’t expect a traditional biopic—at Vulture, Bilge Ebiri writes, “From the flashbulbs and klieg lights and cables surrounding Marilyn that open the film to the endless cruelties enacted upon her body and soul, it’s a movie about the creation and fragmentation of identity. And it is brutal, its lush surfaces and old Hollywood recreations almost always giving way to unspeakable horrors. . . . At times, the movie feels like a slaughterhouse seen from the animal’s point of view.” Watch if you dare.
Interview with the Vampire (AMC, October 2)
Literary bona fides: based on Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice (1976)
Starring: Sam Reid, Jacob Anderson, Bailey Bass, Assad Zaman
AMC’s Anne Rice franchise push begins with a bonkers-looking modern tv adaptation of the novelist’s most famous work. Can Rolin Jones (Friday Night Lights) improve on the cult classic 1994 adaptation starring Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and Kirsten Dunst? My heart says no, but my brain says obviously—especially since it’s looking like this version will be a lot more queer (just as Rice intended).
Mr. Harrigan’s Phone (Netflix, October 5)
Literary bona fides: based on “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” a novella by Stephen King published in If It Bleeds (2020)
Starring: Donald Sutherland, Jaeden Martell, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Joe Tippett
Another day, another Stephen King adaptation, this one of a novella (a cool 88 pages) directed by John Lee Hancock. It’s set in the early days of iPhones, which is frightening enough without what happens after one is buried with a billionaire.
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile (in theaters, October 7)
Literary bona fides: based on Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile by Bernard Waber (1965)
Starring: Shawn Mendes, Javier Bardem, Constance Wu, Winslow Fegley, Scoot McNairy, Brett Gelman
The beloved children’s book is now a feature film, regrettably starring Shawn Mendes and not a shirtless Javier Bardem as the titular Lyle, who apparently also sings in this version, and may or may not be a victim of hustle culture. Take your kids!
Luckiest Girl Alive (Netflix, October 7)
Literary bona fides: based on Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll (2015)
Starring: Mila Kunis, Finn Wittrock, Scoot McNairy, Thomas Barbusca, Jennifer Beals, Connie Britton
Knoll wrote the screenplay for this adaptation of her 2015 thriller, in which a woman who has carefully papered over her childhood traumas finds them clawing their way to the surface.
Let the Right One In (Showtime, October 9)
Literary bona fides: based on Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist (2004)
Starring: Demián Bichir, Anika Noni Rose, Grace Gummer, Madison Taylor Baez, Kevin Carroll, Ian Foreman, Jacob Buster
Here’s another series based on a classic vampire novel that has already been made into a very good film (and an acceptable American remake); in it, a young boy befriends a new next-door neighbor, who turns out to be a vampire turned at the tender age of 12. One of the most human vampire stories in the canon.
Becoming Frederick Douglass (PBS, October 11)
Literary bona fides: a documentary about the life of Frederick Douglass
Directed by: Stanley Nelson and Nicole London
A new documentary about the great writer, orator and abolitionist—paired with a complementary film about Harriet Tubman—from Firelight Films and PBS, which “explores how Douglass controlled his own image and narrative, embracing photography as a tool for social justice, and the role he played in securing the right to freedom and complete equality for African Americans.”
Shantaram (Apple TV+, October 14)
Literary bona fides: based on Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (2003)
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Richard Roxburgh, Radhika Apte, Alexander Siddig, Antonia Desplat, David Field, Fayssal Bazzi
The novel—a redemption story based in part on the author’s life—is beloved for, among other things, its evocative depictions of 1980s Bombay and its underworld; a glossy high profile adaptation could be just the ticket.
White Bird: A Wonder Story (in theaters, October 14)
Literary bona fides: based on White Bird by R.J. Palacio (2019)
Starring: Ariella Glaser, Orlando Schwerdt, Bryce Gheisar, Gillian Anderson, Helen Mirren
Palacio’s 2019 graphic novel White Bird is a companion piece to his best-selling Wonder and collection Auggie & Me, in which Julian’s Grandmère takes center stage with a WWII story; Gheisar will be reprising his role as Julian from the 2017 film adaptation of Wonder.
The School for Good and Evil (Netflix, October 19)
Literary bona fides: based on The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani (2013)
Starring: Charlize Theron, Kerry Washington, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Yeoh, Sofia Wylie, Sophie Anne Caruso, Jamie Flatters, Earl Cave, Kit Young
Children being whisked away to a magical school that looks like a castle? Could be a replacement for your kids’ problematic fave.
The Peripheral (Prime Video, October 21)
Literary bona fides: based on The Peripheral by William Gibson (2014)
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Gary Carr, Jack Reynor
The latest project from Westworld creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy stars Chloë Grace Moretz as Flynne Fisher, “a woman trying to hold together the pieces of her broken family in a forgotten corner of tomorrow’s America.” The trailer looks very cool . . . even to those of us who’ve been hurt by Nolan and Joy before.
Voodoo Macbeth (in theaters, October 21)
Literary bona fides: a dramatization of the making of Orson Welles’ famous 1936 production of Macbeth
Starring: Inger Tudor, Jewell Wilson Bridges, June Schreiner, Jeremy Tardy, Ashli Haynes, Daniel Kuhlman, Wrekless Watson, Gary McDonald, Hunter Bodine
In 1936, a 20-year-old Orson Wells staged a production of Macbeth in Harlem—moving the setting from Scotland to the Caribbean and casting Black actors in all the roles. His so-called “Voodoo Macbeth” was highly controversial at the time but has of course become legendary; this film tells the story behind the show (and has ten different directors).
The Good Nurse (Netflix, October 26)
Literary bona fides: based on The Good Nurse by Charles Graeber (2013)
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Eddie Redmayne
Based on the true crime book—which Janet Maslin compared to In Cold Blood—about Charles Cullen, a night nurse who may have, over the course of a 16year spree, secretly been the most prolific serial killer in history. Chastain stars as Amy Loughren, another nurse who begins looking into Cullen’s behavior.
The Novelist’s Film (in theaters, October 28)
Literary bona fides: just what it says on the tin
Starring: Lee Hye-young, Kim Min-hee
In South Korean director Hong Sang-soo’s understated black and white film, a novelist with a bad case of writer’s block decides she’ll try and make a movie instead, setting off a string of encounters. “All Hong films are tangrams to an extent, arriving at slightly different forms from the same foundational pieces,” writes Guy Lodge. “The Novelist’s Film is no exception, repurposing multiple narrative, thematic and stylistic elements from its predecessors, but culminating in a mood of quizzical artistic self-interrogation that still feels spry and distinct—with at least a trick or two added to the director’s rumpled, well-worn bag.”
My Policeman (in theaters October 21, Amazon Prime November 4)
Literary bona fides: based on My Policeman by Bethan Roberts (2012)
Starring: Harry Styles, Emma Corrin, Gina McKee, Linus Roache, David Dawson, Rupert Everett
You guys like Harry Styles, right? Here he plays a policeman in 1957 Brighton, who marries Marion, a local schoolteacher, though he’s secretly in love with Patrick, a curator. Seems like a stable situation where nothing bad could happen! (For extra literary aplomb, the story is based on E.M. Forster’s affair with his own policeman, Bob Buckingham.)
Dangerous Liaisons (Starz, November 6)
Literary bona fides: based on Dangerous Liaisons by Choderlos de Laclos (1782)
Starring: Alice Englert, Nicholas Denton, Lesley Manville, Carice van Houten, Paloma Faith, Michael McElhatton, Kosar Ali
The second adaptation of this classic novel this year (not to mention the already perfect Cruel Intentions) is being billed as the “origin story” of the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont—which means it is very likely to be both juicy and disastrous.
A Couple (in theaters, November 11)
Literary bona fides: a film about Sofia Tolstoy
Starring: Nathalie Boutefeu
A 64-minute film, made by the 92-year-old Frederick Wiseman, about the relationship between Sofia and Leo Tolstoy—told through her eyes, in monologues adapted from her diary entries. “It is a thoroughly intelligent production,” wrote Peter Bradshaw, “a film festival event that could not exist in the rough-and-tumble of regular movie distribution but will I hope find a home on streaming services.”
My Father’s Dragon (Netflix, November 11)
Literary bona fides: based on My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett (1948)
Starring: Jacob Tremblay, Gaten Matarazzo, Leighton Meester, Judy Greer, Adam Brody, Ian McShane, Alan Cumming, Golshifteh Farahani, Whoopi Goldberg, Charlyne Yi
Another wonderful children’s book finally being transformed for the big screen this year—though the art isn’t half as magical as in the original—in a film directed by Nora Twomey (The Breadwinner).
She Said (in theaters, November 18)
Literary bona fides: based on She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey (2019)
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Zoe Kazan
The movie of the book about the article that broke the Harvey Weinstein story.
Bones and All (in theaters, November 23)
Literary bona fides: based on Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis (2015)
Starring: Taylor Russell, Timothée Chalamet
Timothée Chalamet and Luca Guadagnino reunite (sans Armie Hammer) for this film, in which two young lovers trek across Reagan-era America—and also they’re cannibals, particularly tricky since Maren (Russell) tends to eat anyone she cares for.
Kindred (FX, November)
Literary bona fides: based on Kindred by Octavia Butler (1979)
Starring: Mallori Johnson, Micah Stock, Ryan Kwanten, Gayle Rankin, Austin Smith, David Alexander Kaplan, Sophina Brown, Sheria Irving
This TV adaptation of Butler’s beloved novel is definitely one of Literary Hub’s most anticipated adaptations of the year. Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins—Pulitzer Prize finalist, MacArthur fellow, and consulting producer on HBO’s Watchmen—wrote the pilot, and executive produces alongside Courtney Lee-Mitchell (The Reluctant Fundamentalist), Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Joe Weisberg (The Americans) and Joel Fields (Fosse/Verdon). No official release date, but Variety has the 8-episode show premiering in November, so fingers crossed.
Women Talking (in theaters, December 2)
Literary bona fides: based on Women Talking by Miriam Toews (2018)
Starring: Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Frances McDormand
Lit Hub’s other most anticipated adaptation of the season is Sarah Polley’s Women Talking, based on Miriam Toews’ excellent novel of the same name, in which a group of Mennonite women gather to decide what to do after they discover that the men in their community have been sexually abusing them. It sounds dark, and it is, but it’s also an incredible, luminous novel about the human spirit, and early reports suggest the film will be the same.
Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies (in theaters, December 2)
Literary bona fides: based on Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies by Michael Ausiello (2017)
Starring: Jim Parsons, Sally Field, Ben Aldridge
Michael Showalter’s latest is based on the memoir by Ausiello, which tells (as the title suggests) the story of the last year of his partner’s life after his diagnosis with terminal cancer.
The Wonder (Netflix, December 7)
Literary bona fides: based on The Wonder by Emma Donoghue (2016)
Starring: Florence Pugh, Tom Burke, Niamh Algar, Elaine Cassidy, Kíla Lord Cassidy, Toby Jones, Dermot Crowley, Brían F. O’Byrne, Ciarán Hinds
In which a British nurse (Pugh) is summoned to visit with an 11-year-old girl who has apparently given up food but continued to thrive in 19th century Ireland.
The Whale (in theaters, December 9)
Literary bona fides: based on The Whale by Samuel D. Hunter (2012)
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Sadie Sink, Hong Chau, Samantha Morton, Ty Simpkins
Brendan Fraser has already been making headlines and drumming up Oscar buzz for his role in Darren Aronofsky’s latest—from a screenplay adapted by Samuel D. Hunter from his own play—in which he plays an overweight dad trying to reconnect with his daughter.
The Adventures of Saul Bellow (PBS, December 12)
Literary bona fides: the first ever documentary about Saul Bellow
Directed by: Asaf Galay
The first documentary about the novelist uses archival footage and interviews—from the likes of Charles Johnson, Salman Rushdie, Stanley Crouch, Martin Amis, and even Philip Roth—to tell the story of his life and work.
Living (in theaters, December 23)
Literary bona fides: written by Kazuo Ishiguro; an adaptation of an adaptation of The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy
Starring: Bill Nighy, Aimee Lou Wood, Alex Sharp, Tom Burke
Kazuo Ishiguro wrote the screenplay for this modern reimagining of Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 film Ikiru—which is itself an adaptation of Tolstoy’s novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich—set in 1950s London. Bill Nighy plays a civil servant who, after discovering he’s terminally ill, resolves to leave something good behind him: a playground. At Rolling Stone, David Fear called it “an absolutely gorgeous, heartbreaking piece of work,” and described the script as “immaculate.”
The Pale Blue Eye (in theaters, December 23, Netflix, January 6)
Literary bona fides: a mystery starring one Edgar Allan Poe
Starring: Henry melling, Christian Bale, Gillian Anderson, Lucy Boynton
Christian Bale is a detective come to West Point to solve a gruesome mystery—where he picks up an apprentice . . . named Edgar Allan Poe.
White Noise (Netflix, December 30)
Literary bona fides: based on White Noise by Don DeLillo (1985)
Starring: Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig, Raffey Cassidy, André Benjamin, Alessandro Nivola, Jodie Turner-Smith, Don Cheadle
Who else to bring DeLillo’s brilliant postmodern classic and literary hipster bible to the big screen other than Noah Baumbach? But still, there are questions: Will it be any good? Is the production cursed? Why so green? We’ll just have to wait until December to find out. (At least it’s not called Wheat Germ.)
Turn Every Page (in theaters, December 31)
Literary bona fides: a documentary about Robert Gottlieb and Robert A. Caro
Directed by: Lizzie Gottlieb
Something charming and revitalizing for the holidays: a portrait of the friendship between Robert A. Caro (86), Pulitzer Prize winning biographer, and his editor, the legendary Bob Gottlieb (91), as Caro plugs away at the last volume of his Lyndon Johnson biography on his typewriter and the two fight over semicolons, directed by Gottlieb’s daughter.
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