The Literary Film and TV You Need to Stream in May
In Case It’s Still Raining Then Too
Every month, all the major streaming services add a host of newly acquired (or just plain new) shows, movies, and documentaries into their ever-rotating libraries. So what’s a dedicated reader to watch? Well, whatever you want, of course, but the name of this website is Literary Hub, so we sort of have an angle. To that end, here’s a selection of the best (and most enjoyably bad) literary film and TV coming to streaming services this month. Have fun.
White House Plumbers
HBO Max, May 1
Literary bona fides: based on Egil Krogh and Matthew Krogh’s The White House Plumbers: The Seven Weeks That Led to Watergate and Doomed Nixon’s Presidency (2007, reissued 2022)
Pushed back from its original release date in March, this period drama is finally hitting HBO. The “White House Plumbers” were members of a covert group in Nixon’s White House, tasked with plugging (ha, ha) any and all leaks to the press. The group was led by E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, who will here be portrayed by Woody Harrelson and Justin Theroux respectively, and joined by a very fun cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Lena Headey, Kiernan Shipka, Ike Barinholtz, Yul Vazquez, Judy Greer, David Krumholtz, Rich Sommer, and F. Murray Abraham, among others. Plus: the clothes!
Apple TV+, May 5
Literary bona fides: based on Hugh Howey’s Silo series, beginning with Wool (2011)
Graham Yost (Justified) is the creator and showrunner of this sci-fi series, in which a highly regulated—and highly secretive—community survives a supposedly toxic future by living in a giant silo deep underground, and Graham Yost is always a good sign. Rebecca Ferguson leads, along with Rashida Jones, David Oyelowo, Common, Harriet Walter, Avi Nash and Chinaza Uche.
American Born Chinese
Disney+, May 24
Literary bona fides: based on Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese (2006)
Michelle Yeoh leads the cast of this adaptation of the beloved and bestselling graphic novel (also a National Book Award finalist), in which a young Chinese-American boy struggling in his new school gets mixed up in the affairs of some mythological Chinese gods. Fun!
City on Fire
Apple TV+, May 12
Literary bona fides: based on Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire (2015)
Attention, Upper East Siders: Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (The O.C., Gossip Girl) are taking on Hallberg’s New York City crime drama, which is famous for being one of the most expensive debuts ever sold. Also, it’s huge. 927 pages in eight episodes? Bring on the drama!
The Last Unicorn (1982)
Hulu, May 12
Literary bona fides: based on The Last Unicorn by Peter s. Beagle (1968)
Beagle also wrote the screenplay for this adaptation of his wonderful fantasy novel, in which the last unicorn in the world seeks the secret of her missing brethren. Mia Farrow is the unicorn! Alan Arkin is Schmendrick, Jeff Bridges is Prince Lír, Angela Lansbury is Mommy Fortuna, and Christopher Lee is King Haggard. Come on now.
Peacock, May 1
Literary bona fides: based on Clockers by Richard Price (1992)
Spike Lee directs this New York City crime drama about men—cops and criminals—who are reluctantly trapped in their own circumstances, starring Harvey Keitel, John Turturro, Delroy Lindo, and Mekhi Phifer. Not exactly casual viewing, but like pretty much everything Lee does, complex and difficult and worth it.
Hulu, May 1
Literary bona fides: based on Atonement by Ian McEwan (2001)
A big, swoony period adaptation starring Keira Knightley, from Joe Wright, the king of big swoony period adaptations starring Keira Knightley (see also: 2005’s Pride and Prejudice and 2012’s Anna Karenina). Bring your tissues.
True Grit (2010)
Amazon Prime, May 1
Literary bona fides: based on True Grit by Charles Portis (1968)
It’s no secret how much I love Portis’s True Grit, and his singular narrator Mattie Ross; the Coen brothers can’t compete, of course, but they—and Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, and Matt Damon—do the book proud, and give us a pretty rollicking good time while they’re at it.
Bless Me, Ultima (2012)
Hulu, May 1
Literary bona fides: based on Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya (1972)
The film adaptation of Anaya’s beloved coming of age novel set in 1944 New Mexico isn’t exactly a classic, but Miriam Colon’s Ultima makes it worth the watch.
The Glass Castle (2017)
Netflix, May 1
Literary bona fides: based on The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls (2005)
Brie Larson does a fantastic job as Jeannette Walls in this generally uneven adaptation of her bestselling memoir, which details her tumultuous and nomadic childhood and her subsequent coming of age—and coming to terms with her family.
I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
Amazon Prime, May 1
Literary bona fides: based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript Remember This House
Raoul Peck’s excellent documentary, based on James Baldwin’s unfinished book detailing his memories of civil rights leaders Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Evers, and unpacking the continuing problem of race relations in America, won the BAFTA Award for Best Documentary in 2017, and should be required watching for all Americans.
Hulu, May 1
Literary bona fides: based on It by Stephen King (1986)
It’s hard to top Tim Curry, but there’s no denying that Bill Skarsgård makes a pretty terrifying Pennywise.