As an avid book lover, you no doubt relish seeing your favorite books come to life on the big (or small) screen. Seeing your book crush jump from the pages into your living room is a dream come true (if done right), and immersing yourself visually in Narnia, Middle Earth, or Endor is indeed a delight for the senses.
Over the years, many great film adaptations have been made of our favorite science fiction novels. While some leave much to be desired, others have stayed relatively true to the source material, leaving those of us who are sticklers for great lit-to-film adaptations very happy indeed.
If you’re looking for a break from your latest sci-fi read, why not try a classic sci-fi film instead? Grab your popcorn and blankets and get ready for some good old-fashioned cinematic escapism.
Below is a roundup of ten great novels, both new and old, that have been adapted into beloved sci-fi films that have stood the test of time.
Author: H.G. Wells
Starring: Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, Les Tremayne
Awards: Academy Award (Special Effects)
Where to watch: Amazon Prime, Crackle
Responding to a meteorite crash, scientists Clayton Forrester (Barry) and Sylvia Van Buren (Robinson) watch the horror unfold as aliens begin attacking the Earth with plans to colonize. After obtaining a sample of a wounded alien’s blood, Clayton and Sylvia try to find the secret to the aliens’ weakness in order to save their planet.
While this version of the film updates the original source material for a Cold War-era audience, fans of the book agree this is an iconic, visually striking sci-fi film that can’t be missed. At surface level, this movie seems like you’d be in for a fun 1950s B-movie romp. But the film stays true to the book in tone, as it is a bleak and cold speculation of the future.
Author: Arthur C. Clarke
Starring: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester
Awards: Nine awards, including an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation
Where to watch: Hulu, HBO Max
The plot follows astronauts who find themselves in a battle against their strange and increasingly sentient AI called HAL. While most people find the plot razor-thin and sometimes hard to follow, this is a visually stunning and scientifically accurate film that’s worth the watch.
Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Clarke’s short story of the same name has been dubbed one of the most boring films of all time due to its slow (and long) nature. However, some critics have also called it the best film ever made. Either way, It is one that should be watched at least once by all fans of sci-fi cinema, because it was so unique for the time and pushed the boundaries of modern film.
Author: Anthony Burgess
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Warren Clarke, Adrienne Corri
Awards: Six awards, including the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film
Where to watch: Netflix, HBO Max
Another of Kubrick’s speculative masterpieces, A Clockwork Orange follows the adventures of Alex in a futuristic, crime-riddled English dystopia. Alex and his gang of “Droogs” terrorize the city with their drug-induced violent crime sprees. After beating a woman to death, Alex is sentenced to prison and volunteers for a behavior modification program that causes him to loathe violence, once a source of delight. After being released, the former violent predator Alex finds himself the prey of his previous victims.
Author: Michael Crichton
Starring: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum
Awards: Twelve awards, including the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and a Saturn Award for Best Director
Where to watch: Amazon Prime, Apple TV
In this hit action-adventure, paleontologists (Dern and Neill) visit an almost-finished theme park featuring the most impossible of all creatures: real, live dinosaurs. This beautiful and seemingly utopic paradise turns deadly after a power outage allows the dinosaurs to break free and wreak havoc on the island and its small group of visitors.
The movie that kicked off the Jurassic World global media franchise, Stephen Spielberg’s Jurassic Park is viewed as both one of the best sci-fi novels and best sci-fi movies of all time.
Author: P.D. James
Starring: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Awards: Six awards, including both a BAFTA and National Society of Film Critics Award, both for Best Cinematography
Where to watch: Peacock, Amazon Prime
This movie centers around a (near) futuristic America in which women have inexplicably become infertile. Two decades later, in 2027, society is on the verge of extinction, as the last baby born has died. Because of the chaos, many people seek asylum in the United Kingdom, despite refugees being subjected to detainment and possible persecution upon entering the country. One such refugee is Kee, a pregnant woman seeking asylum, who tries to reach safety with the help of a civil servant (Owen).
With its all-star ensemble cast and edge-of-your-seat suspense, this dystopian thriller is definitely one to add to your watchlist.
Author: Philip K. Dick
Starring: Harrison Ford, Darryl Hannah, Sean Young
Awards: Six awards, including a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation and BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography
Where to watch: HBO Max, Amazon Prime
Director Ridley Scott creates an immersive and all-too-real dystopia where Blade Runners—a special police force—track engineered humans, who are smarter, faster, and stronger than regular people. Blade Runner Rick Deckard (Ford) is brought out of retirement to track four engineered humans who come to earth and begin murdering humans.
The movie Blade Runner is loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s classic sci-fi novel Do Androids Dream of Sheep? Interestingly enough, however, the title of the movie actually came from William S. Burrough’s 1979 novella entitled (oddly enough) Blade Runner: A Movie.
Author: Frank Herbert
Starring: Sting, Kyle Maclachlan, Patrick Stewart
Awards: Saturn Award for Best Costume Design
Where to watch: Hulu, HBO Max, Amazon Prime
In the year 10191, melange is the most valuable spice in the universe, as it allows its users to live indefinitely. Its only source is the desert planet Arrakis, a fiefdom awarded to Duke Leto Atreides, who wastes no time in expelling his enemies, the Harkonnens. When the Harkonnens violently seize back their fiefdom, Leto’s son Paul (Maclachlan) leads the people of Arrakis to fight for their planet and end the melange drug trade.
Another darling of the sci-fi literary realm, Dune reigns supreme as one of the most beloved sci-fi novels ever written. The film, however, has also been called one of the worst films ever made by critics, but it has a huge cult following, especially for fans of the novel and director David Lynch. A new version is being released in October of this year, starring Jason Momoa, Timothée Chalamet, and Zendaya, but of course, you have to watch the original version first!
Author: Douglas Adams
Starring: Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Martin Freeman
Awards: Five awards, including a BAFTA for Best Graphics
Where to watch: Hulu, Amazon Prime
Arthur Dent (Freeman) is trying to save his house from being bulldozed when he is suddenly saved by his friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def), who inexplicably whisks him away into space. Turns out, Arthur’s seemingly human friend Ford is actually an extraterrestrial who saved him from Earth’s complete destruction. As he traverses across the galaxy, he befriends a varied and colorful cast of characters, including beautiful Earth refugee Trillian (Deschanel), and the (sometimes) two-headed, charming President Zaphod Beeblebrox (Rockwell).
If you’re looking for a more humorous sci-fi movie pick with dry, witty English humor, this one will surely fit the bill. It’s a fun, quirky caper through space with a delightful cast that is sure to please.
Author: Suzanne Collins
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Stanley Tucci
Awards: Twenty-eight awards, including a People’s Choice Award for Favorite Movie and Jennifer Lawrence won a Saturn Award for Best Actress
Where to watch: Hulu, TNT
In a futuristic society, America is now called Panem, made up of 12 districts. To keep the unhappy and oppressed people of Panem in line, despotic President Snow hosts the Hunger Games every year, in which tributes (children and teens aged 12-18) are “reaped” from a random lottery to participate. It’s a fight to the death in a brutal, televised contest where children kill children for the most coveted prize of all: enough money and food so their families never have to go hungry again.
When Katniss’s younger sister Primrose is reaped, Katniss volunteers as tribute and enters the games with her childhood acquaintance, Peeta (Hutcherson). Katniss quickly becomes the symbol of the resistance, changing the trajectory of her life forever.
One of the newest films on the list, The Hunger Games film became an instant classic when it debuted in 2012. Fans flocked to see their favorite heroine Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) battle her way through the arena in the thrilling adaptation of the dystopian hit series. While some viewers didn’t care for the frenetic, jumpy filming style, I think it perfectly immersed the audience into the fear and chaos of Katniss’s world.
Author: Margaret Atwood
Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Alexis Bledel
Awards: To date, the series has won over 20 awards, including a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series and a Golden Globe for Best Television Series
Where to watch: Hulu
In this dystopian tragedy, America is the country of Gilead, now a religious theocracy instead of a democracy. Gripped by an epidemic of infertility due to sexually transmitted disease and environmental pollution, the government creates a solution: round up all of the fertile women in the country and force them to be handmaids (surrogate mothers) for the ruling class (the Commanders and their wives). The show’s protagonist, June Osborn, is one such woman, who is ripped from her family to become a veritable slave for Commander Waterford and his barren wife Serena. Season one stays true to the book, following June’s harrowing journey as a handmaid and the brutality she and other women endure in Gilead as she plots her escape.
While not technically a movie, each episode of this exquisite series is like a mini-movie, and one of the best shows ever made (in my humble opinion). It is worth noting that there was a star-studded adaptation in 1990 starring Natasha Richardson as Offred, Robert Duvall as the Commander, Faye Dunaway as Serena Joy, and Aidan Quinn as Nick, but it was neither a critical or viewer sensation. I usually recommend watching the originals first but can definitely say this one is worth skipping as it is emotionally bland and utterly forgettable. Watch the series instead, which is in its fourth season. Pro tip: keep your tissues handy.