23 books being made into films in 2020

Agatha Christie mysteries, literary classics and bestseller favourites hit the big screen this year

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Poirot (Kenneth Branagh)

Additional material by Kelly-Anne Taylor

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Every year, awards season proves that some of the best movies are the ones inspired by much-loved novels. Whether it’s a classic tale revived for a modern audience, an animated Disney number or a bestseller-turned-blockbuster, we’re usually in for some stellar stuff.

2020 is no exception, with a whole host of books being adapted for the big screen as well as streaming services like Netflix and Disney+, while others hit the TV.

So far, we can expect 23 films which have been adapted from books for the start of the new decade. Stories are drawn from legends like HG Wells and Agatha Christie to acclaimed authors such as Jojo Moyes and Jenny Han.

Books being made into movies in 2020

Here’s what to expect on the silver screen.

1. Just Mercy – Bryan Stephenson

Release date: 17th January 2020

Just Mercy: a story of justice and redemption is a real story written by civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson about his fight to free wrongly-imprisoned Walter McMillian, a man condemned to die on death row in Alabama, US.

The book was named book of the year by multiple publications including the New York Times and has now been adapted for the big screen.

Michael B. Jordan plays Bryan Stevenson, who defends Jamie Foxx’s Walter McMillian.

Buy Just Mercy by Bryan Stephenson

2. The Last Letter from Your Lover – Jojo Moyes

The Last Letter from My Love film
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Release date: expected 2020

Jojo Moyes’ novel The Last Letter from your Lover has been adapted into a movie of the same name following a journalist who discovers a series of letters which tell of a love affair from the past.

In 1960, a woman loses her memory in a car crash but then finds a letter from a lover she didn’t know she had.

The film stars Ncuti Gatwa (Sex Education), Felicity Jones as journalist Ellie and Shailene Woodley as 1960s Jennifer.

Buy The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes

3. The Invisible Man – HG Wells

Release date: 28th February 2020

The classic novel, The Invisible man by HG Wells’ is about a scientist who invents a serum which can turn him invisible.

In this 2020 adaptation, Elizabeth Moss plays Cecelia, a woman whose abusive ex takes his own life. He leaves her five million dollars on the condition that she is not ruled to be mentally incompetent.

Hunted by a man nobody can see, Cecilia tries to prove that her abuser isn’t really dead.

Buy The Invisible Man

4. The Witches – Roald Dahl

Anne Hathaway
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Release date: 16th October 2020

Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book follows a boy’s adventures as he stumbles across a trio of witches.

The story was adapted into a popular 1990 film, although the plotline differed from the book and Roald Dahl reportedly disliked it.

The 2020 version of The Witches is said to follow the original story more closely and will star Anne Hathaway as the Grand High Witch. Octavia Spencer, Stanley Tucci and Chris Rock have also joined the cast.

Buy The Witches by Roald Dahl

Buy Roald Dahl collection including The Witches

5. Artemis Fowl – Eoin Colfer

Josh Gad Judi Dench
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Release date: 29th May 2020.

The original book series by Eoin Colfer spans eight novels following 12-year-old mastermind Artemis Fowl.

Directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh, the film version is based on the first book in which Artemis kidnaps a fairy and holds her ransom in an attempt to find his missing father.

The film stars newcomer Ferdia Shaw as Artemis, Josh Gad (aka the voice of Frozen’s Olaf), Hong Chau and Dame Judi Dench.

Buy Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

6. Chaos Walking – Patrick Ness

Chaos Walking film
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Release date: expected 2020

Patrick Ness’s multi-award winning sci-fi trilogy depicts a world where there are no women and everyone can hear each other’s thoughts. Then protagonist Todd Hewitt encounters a girl, Viola Eade.

Unfortunately, the film adaptation has been plagued by delays since 2016. Much of the movie had to be re-shot after it was deemed “unreleasable” by execs.

This became further complicated by scheduling demands for the lead actors Tom Holland (Spiderman) and Daisy Ridley (Star Wars).

Chaos Walking is slated to finally be released this year.

Buy Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness

7. The Story of Doctor Dolittle – Hugh Lofting

Dolittle

Release date: 7th February 2020

The famous Doctor Dolittle book series about a man who can talk to animals has been adapted for the big screen once again, following two earlier films from 1967 and 1998 (the latter starring Eddie Murphy).

The new incarnation follows the books more closely and sees Robert Downey Jr. taking on the titular role in Dolittle, as he goes an adventure across the seas with his menagerie of animal friends.

The array of animated characters are voiced by a long list of stars including Emma Thompson, John Cena, Rami Malek, Ralph Fiennes and Selena Gomez.

Buy The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

8. P.S. I Still Love You – Jenny Han

PS I Still Love You
PS I Still Love You

Release date: 12th February 2020

Jenny Han’s novel To All The Boy’s I’ve Loved Before follows teenager Lara Jean whose secret letters to her crushes are inexplicably delivered to them.

The book was made into a successful Netflix film and now the second in Han’s trilogy, P.S. I Still Love You is being adapted for the streaming service.

In this follow up entitled, To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, another recipient of Lara Jean’s letters turns up just as she and Peter have made their relationship official.

Buy To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before collection

9. Emma – Jane Austen

Release date: 14th February 2020

Jane Austen’s novel Emma follows headstrong Emma Woodhouse, who fancies herself as a match-maker and begins meddling in the potential marriages of her friend.

The classic is being adapted once again and the latest screenplay is written by Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton (she won for The Luminaries which she is adapting into a TV series starring Nicole Kidman).

The comedy stars Anya Taylor-Joy as Emma alongside a cast which includes Josh O Connor, Bill Nighy and Miranda Hart.

Buy Emma by Jane Austen

Buy Jane Austen Complete Collection

10. The Call of the Wild – Jack London

Release date: 19th February

Jack London’s story follows a dog named Buck who is sold to work as a sled dog in Yukon, Canada in the 1890s.

In the 2020 film, Harrison Ford plays John Thornton, a man who befriends Buck before the pair embark on an adventure in icy, mountainous conditions.

Buy The Call of the Wild by Jack London

11. The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter

Peter Rabbit

Release date: 27th March 2020

One of Beatrix Potter’s best-loved characters, Peter Rabbit was made into a children’s film starring James Corden as the voice of Peter in 2018.

In the sequel, Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, Bea marries Mr Thomas McGregor and her books about the antics of the rabbits gain popularity. Peter decides to sneak away and live up to his badly-behaved reputation.

James Corden stars again as the voice of Peter Rabbit with Rose Byrne as Bea and Domhnall Gleeson as McGregor.

Buy The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

12. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

The Personal History of David Copperfield, Lionsgate

Release date: 24th January

The Dickens’ classic David Copperfield was the author’s own favourite piece of work and follows the life story of the titular character and interweaves fiction with real events from Charles Dickens’ own life.

The Personal History of David Copperfield is the 2020 film adaptation which stars Dev Patel as Copperfield as he negotiates life and the colourful characters he meets along the way.

The contemporary remake is directed by Armando Iannucci (The Thick of It, Alan Partridge) and also stars Hugh Laurie, Tilda Swinton and Peter Capaldi.

Buy David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

13. Dragon Rider – Cornelia Funke

Dragon-Rider-Film
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Release date: 6th August 2020

The originally German story follows a silver dragon named Firedrake who teams up with Ben, an orphaned boy, and Sorrel, a mythical creature called a Brownie.

The children’s book follows the trio in their search for the Rim of Heaven, a safe new home for dragons in the Himalayas.

The book is being made into an animated film which is due for release this summer, with Patrick Stewart, Felicity Jones and Freddie Highmore voicing the cast.

Buy Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke

14. Death on the Nile – Agatha Christie

Murder on the Orient Express - Poirot (Kenneth Branagh)
Murder on the Orient Express – Poirot (Kenneth Branagh)
20th Century Fox

Release date: 9th October 2020

Death on the Nile is one of Agatha Christie’s most popular murder mystery novels featuring the acclaimed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.

Sir Kenneth Branagh directs and stars following the success of his 2017 adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express.

The film’s cast includes Gal Gadot (Wonderwoman), Emma Mackey (Sex Education), Letitia Wright (Black Panther), Russel Brand as well as both (Dawn) French and (Jennifer) Saunders.

Buy Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Buy Poirot collection including Death on the Nile

15. Dune – Frank Herbert

Timothee-Chalamat
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Release date: 18th December

Frank Herbert’s acclaimed science fiction saga is set in the future in an interstellar society.

Paul Atreides’s family is entrusted with the planet Arrakis which is the only source of “the spice”, a precious element that extends life and helps the people navigate space.

The 2020 film stars Timothée Chalamet as Paul, Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica, Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho and Zendaya as Chani.

Buy Dune by Frank Herbert

16. News of the World – Paulette Jiles

Tom Hanks
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Release date: 25th December 2020

The 2016 novel News of the World follows Captain Kidd, a man who makes his living travelling to small towns, charging locals a dime to read them the news.

Then, a 10-year-old hostage girl, Johanna is released after four years of captivity and Captain Kidd must travel to Texas to try and reunite her with her aunt and uncle.

Tom Hanks stars in the lead role as Captain Kidd with Helena Zengel as Johanna.

Buy News of the World by Paulette Jiles

17. The One and Only Ivan – Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan
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Release date: 14th August

In Katherine Applegate’s children’s book, a silver-backed gorilla named Ivan lives in a mall with his elephant friend Stella. Ivan is content with his life unlike Stella, who can remember happier times with the circus and longs to live in a zoo.

After Ivan sees the treatment a young elephant named Ruby experiences when she arrives at the mall, they hatch a plan to escape.

Sam Rockwell voices Ivan, Angelina Jolie is Stella and Brooklynn Prince is Ruby while other voices include Helen Mirren and Danny DeVito.

Buy The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

18. Without Remorse – Tom Clancy

Michael B Jordan
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Release date: 18th September 2020

In the book, Navy SEAL John Clark’s pregnant wife is killed in a car crash before he later begins a relationship with a hitchhiker named Pam. He eventually learns Pam is an escaped drug mule and prostitute before she is recaptured and killed. John is set on a path for revenge which wraps him up in complicated missions.

From the descriptions of the film so far, it seems that the plot is slightly different from the book. It’s John Clark’s wife who is murdered and he seeks revenge for her death, rather than the character Pam.

Michael B. Jordan plays John Clark, getting lost inside a deeper conspiracy in his quest to avenge his wife.

Buy Without Remorse by Tom Clancy

19. The Devil all the time – Donald Ray Pollock

The Devil All the Time film
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Release date: expected 2020

Donald Ray Pollock’s 2011 debut is set in post-World War II Southern Ohio, US during the 1960s.

The story follows a collection of disturbed characters including a veteran struggling with the psychological damage of the war, a false preacher and a serial killer husband and wife.

The film, expected to be released this year, is produced by Jake Gyllenhaal and stars Tom Holland (Spiderman), Eliza Scanlen (Little Women) and Robert Pattinson (Twilight).

Buy The Devil all the time by Donald Ray Pollock

20. Minamata – W. Eugene Smith and Aileen M. Smith

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 02: Johnny Depp attends the 'Murder On The Orient Express' World Premiere at Royal Albert Hall on November 2, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images)

Release date: expected 2020

Minamata is the work of photojournalists and married couple W. Eugene Smith and Aileen M. Smith.

The pair documented the pollution of fish by a chemical company in Japan. The pollution caused mercury poisoning in the people of Minamata, who then took on the company and the government.

In the film adaptation, Johnny Depp stars as war photographer W. Eugene Smith but it is not yet clear whether Aileen will also be central to the film.

Buy Minamata by W. Eugene Smith and Aileen M. Smith

21. Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

Secret Garden

Release date: 17th April 2020

This classic children’s story, first published in 1911, tells the tale of Mary Lennox, an unloved, neglected child raised in India, who finds herself orphaned after a Cholera epidemic kills her parents. Mary is sent to Yorkshire to live with her wealthy hunchbacked uncle, Mr Archibold Craven at Misselthwaite Manor.

The story follows the adventures of Mary, her brother Dickon and her cousin Colin and their magical encounters in the Secret Garden.

The tale has been adapted for the big screen and will star Dixie Egerickx as Mary, Colin Firth as Archibald Craven and Julie Walters as Mrs Medlock.

Buy The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

22. The Woman in the Window – AJ Finn

Release date: 15th May 2020

The New York Times Bestseller focuses on a child psychologist, Anna Fox, who lives alone in New York. Crippled by Agoraphobia, Fox has not left her house in 10 months and has taken to spying on her new neighbours.

She witnesses a disturbing act of violence, which forces her to confront her fears as she seeks to uncover the truth about what really happened.

An adaptation, peppered with suspense, has been made for the big screen, starring Amy Adams as Dr Anna Fox and directed by Joe Wright.

The release date was pushed from October 2019 to May 2020 due to reshoots; the movie reportedly left test audiences baffled. It may be a good idea to read the novel before you watch the film!

Buy The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn

23. The Turning – Henry James

The Turning movie
The Turning movie
Universal

Release date: 24th January 2020

Based on Henry James’ novella ‘The Turn of the Screw’ this hauntingly modern adaptation of the classic is coming to the big screen early 2020.

DreamWorks Pictures takes us deep into the countryside, where newly appointed Nanny Kate has been employed to care for two disturbed orphans, Flora and Miles. She quickly discovers that everything is not what it appears and the house, and the children, are harbouring deep secrets.

This haunted-house thriller is directed by Floria Sigismondi. Starring: Mackenzie Davis, Finn Wolfhard, Brooklynn Prince and Joely Richardson.

Buy The Turning of the Screw by Henry James

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If your favourite isn’t out yet, you can now get a limited 2 for 1 Sky Cinema offer with Now TV to catch up on some of last year’s best adaptations while you wait.