It’s exhilarating (and a little scary) when our favorite books are made into motion pictures. The idea of seeing a novel that we’ve loved on the big screen is incredibly appealing, but us book nerds always wonder whether the adaptation will live up to their imaginations…which is all part of the fun. A number of books are making their way to the movie theater in 2016, from experienced writers and directors and starring polished actors, and it’s reassuring to know our favorite books are in good hands.
The 5th Wave (January 22)
The beginning of the next great dystopian film series? The Hunger Games are over, and the Divergent series is in the home stretch, so this might be the next big hit. Based on Rick Yancey’s trilogy (the last book comes out this year), the series involves increasingly devastating waves of attacks on Earth by alien “Others.” Teenager Cassie Sullivan (Elle Fanning) is one of the last survivors of the attacks, and is caught up in the aliens’ master plan or our planet. The screenplay boasts two Oscar-winning writers, Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich) and Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind).
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (February 5)
Zombies are everywhere, including in Jane Austen’s nineteenth century. It’s actually kind of surprising that it took so long to turn Seth Grahame-Smith’s surprise bestseller from 2009 into a movie, it being a truth universally acknowledged that the walking dead plus a Regency comedy of manners is pure genius. Hopefully they’ve taken some care to make the film as fun (and utterly nuts) as the book. Lily James (Downton Abbey, Cinderella) joins the long and esteemed list of actors to have portrayed Elizabeth Bennet onscreen, though she’ll probably be the first to require a stunt double.
The Choice (February 5)
Competing with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in February is The Choice. There probably won’t be a ton of overlap. This adaption of Nicholas Sparks 2013 novel will make the eleventh time one of his novels has been made into a major motion picture, with almost all of them being hits. This one is about Travis Parker and Gabby Holland, neighbors in a small coastal town who quickly fall in love. Tragedy intervenes, forcing an impossible decision on Travis.
Me Before You (March 4)
It’s not all action and science fiction with book adaptions this year. In Jojo Moyes’s 2012 romantic novel, Loisa Clark finds herself jobless and, somewhat unwillingly, winds up caring for a disabled man who had been extremely successful prior to a devastating car accident. Emilia Clark (Game of Throne’s Daenerys Targaryen) stars alongside Sam Claflin from The Hunger Games films, with Moyes handling scripting duties.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant (March 18)
The third of four films in the Divergent series, this is an adaptation of Veronica Roth’s 2013 novel of the same name. Following the previous film’s cliffhanger ending, Tris Prior now understands the true motives for the development of the five factions that exist in the ruined Chicago of the future. Learning that they’re needed outside of the city, Tris and Four become embroiled in a climactic battle. Insurgent director Robert Schwentke returns to finish up the franchise, which will climax in 2017 with Ascendant.
The Jungle Book (April 15)
There have been any number of film versions of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, none more beloved than Disney’s loose adaptation in 1967. This new live action movie from director Jon Favreau is very specifically based on that version. Remakes are usually a dodgy proposition, but this one’s got a pretty great voice cast that includes Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o and Bill Murray. Based on the trailers, the life-like CGI animals look pretty amazing as well.
The Free State of Jones (June 24)
Director Gary Ross (The Hunger Games, Seabiscuit) is at the helm of this period drama inspired by real history, as recounted in the same-titled book by historian Victoria E. Bynum. Matthew McConaughey plays Civil War rebellion leader Newton Wayne, who was injured in the Battle or Corinth in 1862 and went on to assemble a band of fellow disgruntled soldiers to fight against the Confederacy in their hometown of Jones County, Mississippi. The supporting cast includes Keri Russell, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Brendan Gleeson.
The Legend of Tarzan (July 1)
Another book with too many film versions to count, Edgar Rice Burrough’s seminal lord of the jungle is swinging back to theaters this year. Creators have struggled with Burroughs adaptations in the past (see: the underrated and underperforming John Carter). Tarzan is a character who sounds silly in the blurb, but who works best when treated with some (but not too much) seriousness. If they can nail the tone with this one, it should be a lot of fun. Veteran Harry Potter director David Yates (who is also helming another entry on this list) is directing, and in the title role, True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård absolutely looks the part.
The Girl on the Train (October 7)
Paula Hawkins’ 2015 debut thriller, about a woman who daydreams about the lives of a couple she watches from the windows of her train, only to one day witness something that changes everything she thought she knew about the seemingly “perfect” strangers, was a runaway smash, and after the acclaim that greeted the cinematic adaptation of Gone Girl, it’s no surprise Hollywood was itching for another compelling, female-fronted thriller. The adaptation stars Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, and Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, and Luke Evans, and is directed by Tate Taylor, best known for another page-to-screen success, The Help.
A Monster Calls (October 14)
The children’s book from Patrick Ness, Jim Kay, and the late Siobhan Dowd runs a bit deeper than is usual for the genre. On the surface, it’s the story of a young man’s encounters with a (seemingly) troublesome monster. Over the course of three nights, the monster shares stories with Lewis MacDougall, as the boy tries to come to terms with his mother’s terminal cancer. The movie is directed by Juan Antonio Barona, who helmed the surprisingly moving 2007 horror film The Orphanage; Sigourney Weaver leads an impressive cast.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (November 18)
The movie that returns us to the wizarding world of Harry Potter, this one will probably be to 2016 what The Force Awakens was to 2015: the year’s most anticipated, most successful smash. It promises to expand greatly on J.K. Rowling’s slim book of the same name, beginning a trilogy set about seventy years prior to the beginning of the Harry Potter series. This is, in essence, an entirely new story set in the Potter-verse, starring Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne as eccentric wizard Newt Scamander, who accidentally instigates a conflict between magical and non-magical forces in New York City of the 1920s. It’s directed by David Yates, who directed Potter films five through eight, and it’s also Rowling’s screenwriting debut, so there’s no question that Warner Brothers is exercising tremendous care with its fantastic beasts.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (December 25)
Tim Burton is the perfect choice to helm an adaption of Ransom Rigg’s creepy and unique 2011 bestseller. In the first of a probable trilogy, Asa Butterfield plays Jacob Portman, who pieces together clues from his grandfather’s life that lead him to a mysterious Welsh island and an abandoned orphanage. The book incorporates vintage photographs into the narrative, and it’ll be interesting to discover what devices Burton plans to use to further the mystery.
Which books are bringing you to the movie theater in 2016?