10 Underrated Movie Adaptations Based On Classic Books, According To Ranker

Recently, Netflix released the trailer for their new film adaptation of Jane Austen’s latest novel, Persuasion, coming July 15. Starring Dakota Johnson and Henry Golding, the Netflix version will offer a fresh take on the classic book, sharing the story in a stylistic new take on Anne Elliot breaking the fourth wall.

Of Pride and Prejudice at the count of Monte Cristo, many adaptations of popular classic literature have been released, but Ranker has put together a list of those films that have been overlooked. The reasons could stem from a film receiving mixed reviews or creative decisions like the theater aesthetic being too artistic for a general audience.

Note: Ranking lists are live and continue to accumulate votes, so some rankings may have changed after this posting.


ten Anna Karenina (2012)

Stream on HBO Max

A connoisseur of adapting classic tales, director Joe Wright gave his description of Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina, starring Kiera Knightly, Jude Law and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Anna Karenina focuses on her marriage to Alexei Karenin and the life-changing romance between her and Count Vronsky.

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At the time, Wright saw a lot of criticism for his lavish adaptation, with many stating that he changed much of the original content to suit his vision. Despite this, the film had four Oscar nominations and was highly stylized and lavish in its production, winning Best Costume Design. He is considered underrated due to his genius storytelling through the eyes of a theatrical “picture book” production.

9 Jane Eyre (2011)

Stream on Starz

Mia Wasikowska starred in the 2011 adaptation of Charlotte Brontë Jane Eyre as the titular protagonist, Jane Eyre. Alongside Michael Fassbender, Jane Eyre follows a governess who finds her true love but holds a dark secret that ruins her life forever.

The film lacks a few key elements of the book, such as the sidelining of Blanche Ingram. Additionally, the general visual style used by the director and the attempt to condense a rather complicated book makes the film understated. The set plays in the dark at the heart of the story, with the desaturated and grimy depiction showing the audience Jane’s fears throughout.

8 The Giver (2014)

Stream on Netflix and the Roku Channel

the giver - no christmas

The donor was originally a 1993 American novel written by Lois Lowery, set in a dystopian world without war, pain, suffering, differences or choice. In the film version, Brenton Thwaits played the protagonist who learns the pleasures of the real world.

While the film received some negative reviews, the film’s fan discussed the intriguing content of sharing the good and bad sides of modern humanity. This gives more depth to the book’s supporting characters and doesn’t detract from any plot from the original novel. Throughout, the film’s art direction to portray emotion was also praised, particularly the use of patterns of color and vibrancy as the protagonist begins to learn more about the world.

seven Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Rent on AppleTV, Amazon, Google Play, VUDU and Redbox

Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley) and Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) in "Pride and Prejudice."

One of Jane Austen’s most famous novels, Pride and Prejudice, has continued to be adapted for the big screen. However, the 2005 version saw Kiera Knightley take on the role of protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet, alongside her Mr. Darcy, Matthew Macfadyen.

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Compared to other variations, fans gravitated towards this version due to the chemistry and raw passion, which left viewers wanting more. Emphasis was placed on the main characters more than previous versions, allowing for a greater in-depth understanding of the motives and the desired romance. While the acting had been the main payoff, the stunning visuals and choices to cut out parts of the book improved, with fans appreciating the downplayed characters and the change in personality – Ms. Bennet’s annoying attitude.

6 The Crucible (1996)

Rent on AppleTV, Amazon, Google Play, VUDU and Redbox

Winona Ryder with a group of women in The Crucible

Set in the midst of the 1692 witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts, the 1996 adaptation of the crucible follows Abigail, played by Winona Ryder, attempting to accuse her ex-lover’s wife of witchcraft.

Fans praise this adaptation for its depiction of early Christian migrants living in America and the manipulation of beliefs within a small community. Although the film is visually average, the balance between drama and comedy makes this film an underrated watch.

5 Animal Farm (1954)

Rent on Vudu & Flix Fling

One of George Orwell’s most famous short stories, farm animal, was adapted into animation by the CIA as a propaganda film about the effects of USSR fear and communism. It was widely distributed, being the first British animated feature film.

Despite its heavy messages in a political climate, the animation was a mere metaphorical explanation of equality used as a mask for the abuse of power behind the scenes. The animated feature has a slightly comedic value while staying true to Orwell’s overall message of his book – allowing it to be understood by a variety of audiences.

4 The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)

Stream on Max Go

Asa Butterfield stars as Bruno in the 2008 adaptation of The boy in the striped pajamas, written by John Boyne. The film follows the friendship between the Nazi camp commander’s 8-year-old son and an 8-year-old Jewish prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp.

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Although it is a retelling of a horrific event in history, the story focuses more on the connection between humans and the pursuit of adventure. The adaptation leaves quite a bit behind from its novel counterpart, but the film still remains impactful for the viewer. There’s a considerable amount of in-depth character detail to make them feel real, depicting what really happened, but not too much for the film to be considered overwhelming.

3 The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)

Stream on Hoopla

Dantès with beard in prison The Count of Monte Cristo 2002

Kevin Reynolds’ 2002 adaptation of the 1844 French novel, the count of Monte Cristo, starred Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce in the story of false imprisonment, jealousy and revenge.

While the film is considered loosely based on the source material, it’s one of the adaptations that fans weren’t bothered by the changes made, with some viewers saying it improved the film. The film has a perfect cast for the sly antagonist and the innocent yet shrewd Count, as well as an incredible soundtrack.

2 Lord of the Flies (1990)

Buy on AppleTV, Amazon and Redbox

lord of the flies 1990 jack

lord of the flies – written by William Golding – was made into films twice for the big screen in 1954 and 1990. The story follows a group of school children stranded on an island after their plane crashes. They split into two groups – one valuing civilization and the other embracing the animal nature of survival.

There are different aspects of the book to the 1990 iteration, but it made the viewing experience more enjoyable for fans. The acting, which was done entirely by children, was considerably good, and the director captures the essence of the savagery the book was trying to convey with one of the tribes.

1 Of Mice and Men (1992)

Stream on Roku Channel, Kanopy, Pluto TV and Tubi TV

A must read in high school, Of mice and Men, written by John Steinbeck, was made into a feature film adaptation starring Gary Sinise and John Malkovich. The book and film follow two men trying to make money during the economic depression of the 1930s in order to fulfill their dream of running their own farm.

Fans criticized the length for deviating from the short book, but the realistic depiction of the characters was spot on. The actors’ performances convey a down-to-earth message and allow viewers to connect with the characters.

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