From World War 1 classics to Young Adult thrillers, this year is packed with film adaptations of great reads. We list 12 to look for along with our predictions for how readers will fare at the movies in 2015.
1. Paper Towns
Release Date: July 24th
The Premise: High schooler Quentin Jacobsen has been in love with the mysterious girl-next-door, Margo Roth Spiegelman, for years. Near the end of their senior year, Margo invites Quentin on a midnight adventure. But just when he thinks their relationship might have a chance, she disappears. Quentin becomes consumed in his search for Margo, which eventually involves his best friends and a cross-country road trip, using clues she left behind.
The Outlook: Paper Towns is vintage John Green: entertainingly heartfelt and bittersweet. While lacking the gigantic emotional hook of last year’s hit The Fault in Our Stars (also a Green novel, for those of you living under a rock), the friendly banter and sense of adventure in Paper Towns should translate well to the screen. In addition, Green’s rabid fan base means the movie should do well at the box office.
The Verdict: Promising.
2. Dark Places
Release Date: August 7th
The Premise: At the age of seven, Libby Day survived the massacre of her mother and two sisters. Her older brother, Ben, was put in prison for life based on Libby’s evidence. Now 31 years old, Libby has spent decades trying to forget what has been famously nicknamed “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” That is, until she becomes involved with a secret society convinced of Ben’s innocence. Libby is forced to walk backward into her past in order to answer the question of what really happened to her family that terrible day.
The Outlook: Dark Places possesses a coarse, raw feel to the narrative that could be powerful onscreen. Like last year’s wildly successful adaptation of Gone Girl, it plumbs the depths of darkness in the human heart. It’s up for debate whether or not the gory, at times nonsensical plot details will overwhelm the movie’s larger philosophical questions. But the fabulous Charlize Theron, Christina Hendricks and Chloë Grace Moretz headline a promisingly strong, mostly female cast.
The Verdict: Intriguing.
3. A Walk in the Woods
Release Date: September 2nd
The Premise: Bill Bryson’s ode to the Appalachian Trail, A Walk in the Woods is part modern travel classic, part humor writing à la Mark Twain, part paean to environmentalism. Having recently returned to the United States after 20 years in England, Bryson decides to hike the AT from South to North with minimal physical preparation and a lot of reading up on what to do in the event of a bear attack (answer: no one really knows).
The Outlook: Robert Redford stars as Bryson, accompanied by the ponderously unfit Stephen Katz, portrayed by Nick Nolte. Funnywoman Kristen Schaal plays the fabulously obnoxious hiker Mary Ellen. Despite a strong cast, the movie received “meh” reviews at its Sundance screening in January.
The Verdict: Skip it?
4. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
Release Date: September 18th
The Premise: Having conquered the Maze, Thomas and the rest of the Gladers must endure a second test conducted by WCKD (World In Catastrophe: Killzone Experimental Department): crossing a desert on foot with minimal supplies. They face scorching heat caused by solar flares that have destroyed the earth while confronting herds of Cranks—humans infected with a zombie-like virus called the Flare.
The Outlook: Along with last year’s Divergent, The Maze Runner broke the “YA movie curse” and did well enough at the box office to justify a sequel. Dylan O’Brien of Teen Wolf fame leads the cast as Thomas.
The Verdict: Come along for the ride.
5. Victor Frankenstein
Release Date: October 2nd
The Premise: The 19th-Century novel riffs on John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost and presents a philosophical exchange between Frankenstein’s monster, with his all-too-human heart, and Dr. Frankenstein himself, who denies all culpability for his creation.
The Outlook: Just in time for Halloween comes yet another remake of Mary Shelley’s Gothic horror tale. This version focuses on the doctor’s assistant, Igor, played by Daniel Radcliffe. The film explores Igor’s own history and his connection to Dr. Frankenstein. (Incidentally, Igor never appears in Shelley’s novel; the role was created for Bela Lugosi in 1942’s Son of Frankenstein and has been part of popular mythology ever since.) James McAvoy plays Victor Frankenstein, and Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey) also stars. Strong performances by the cast could elevate the potentially hokey plot.
The Verdict: Might be worth watching.
6. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
Release Date: November 20th
The Premise: If you haven’t already read the Hunger Games series, now is the time. In the final—and bleakest—installment of the series, Katniss and company take the rebellion directly to President Snow and the Capitol.
The Outlook: Given that this is the last movie in the Hunger Games juggernaut, with each film financially outperforming the previous one, Mockingjay – Part 2 should do well at the box office. What will be interesting is how the role of Gamemaker and Capitol rebel Plutarch Heavensbee is handled, given that Philip Seymour Hoffman had not yet finished recording his lines before his death.
The Verdict: Don’t miss this one!
7. The Martian
Release Date: November 25th
The Premise: Andy Weir crafts an against-all-odds story of an astronaut marooned on Mars who uses a rare combination of pluck ingenuity, and mechanical know-how to survive alone on the red planet. The book is a nailbiter: suspenseful, humorous and the ultimate underdog story.
The Outlook: On the heels of Gravity and Interstellar, The Martian is yet another film depicting the perils of space. Screenwriter Drew Goddard, executive producer of the acclaimed Netflix series Daredevil as well as some episodes of Lost, knows how to spin out a tense plot for his audiences. The cast is populated by a host of stars including Jessica Chastain (who also starred in Interstellar), Kristin Wiig, Matt Damon, Sean Bean and Donald Glover.
The Verdict: Should be a thriller.
8. All Quiet on the Western Front
Release Date: December 31st
The Premise: In 1928, German author Erich Maria Remarque published what many consider to be the definitive novel about World War I. Along with his schoolfellows, German infantryman Paul Baumer enlists in the Great War in high spirits, which soon turn bleak amidst the terror and mundanity of trench warfare—and the senselessness of fighting against other young men only because they are wearing different uniforms.
The Outlook: This is the third film version of Remarque’s classic, the first of which won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director in 1930. Daniel Radcliffe will have a busy year promoting two movies, as he also portrays Paul Baumer, the sensitive soldier through whose eyes the war unfolds.
The Verdict: This year’s obligatory war epic.
9. The Great Gilly Hopkins
Release Date: TBD in 2015
The Premise: Author Katherine Paterson’s inimitable heroine, Galadriel Hopkins, is a fierce 11-year-old foster child who wants nothing more than to be reunited with her mother. Defiant and brilliant at sabotaging every foster family she’s placed in, Gilly is sure that new foster parent Maime Trotter will be no exception. Much to her own surprise, Gilly finds a place within Maime’s odd little composite family: W.E., a 7-year-old boy who is terrified of almost everything and everyone, and Mr. Randolph, an elderly, blind African-American man who comes to supper every night. Unfortunately, the arrival of her maternal grandmother interrupts her newfound happiness.
The Outlook: Paterson’s son, who also penned the script for 2007’s quasi-successful Bridge to Terabithia, wrote the screenplay for this film adaptation. This movie will hopefully perform better, and the actors seem particularly well cast, especially Kathy Bates as the quirky Trotter. Paterson, a beloved author, has had several of her books made into TV movies, but The Great Gilly Hopkins is only her second feature film.
The Verdict: A thoughtful, family-oriented film.
10. A Hologram for the King
Release Date: TBD in 2015
The Premise: American businessman Alan Clay, whose family and business have fallen apart, travels to Saudi Arabia to sell holographic wireless technology as part of the construction of King Abdullah Economic City. This trip to Saudi Arabia is his last chance to “get things right.”
The Outlook: In Dave Eggers’ signature style, A Hologram for the King embodies many things, among them, the decline of America. Eggers’ work may not translate well to the screen, but with Tom Hanks headlining as Alan Clay, this could turn out to be a hit.
The Verdict: Iffy.
11. The Light Between Oceans
Release Date: TBA in 2015
The Premise: M.L. Stedman’s luminous novel follows Tom Sherbourne, a soldier who returns from World War I to keep an isolated lighthouse on Janus Rock, half a day’s journey off Australia’s coast. He eventually marries a spirited young woman, Isabel. When a boat carrying a baby washes ashore after a storm, Isabel persuades Tom that they should keep the child and raise her as their own. They are happy for years as a family, until they return to the mainland and discover that their decision has wrecked another household.
The Outlook: Michael Fassbender stars as Tom Sherbourne, the Australian soldier whose moral principles survive the war but crumble in the face of his wife’s pain over her inability to have children. That the story can’t end well eventually becomes obvious, but the powerful plot and empathetic characterization could keep audiences riveted until the very end.
The Verdict: Bring tissues.
Release Date: TBD in 2015
The Premise: A young woman is held prisoner in a backyard shed for seven years and, during that time, gives birth to a son. Told from the perspective of Jack, the five-year-old boy who believes the entire world is contained within the shed (or “Room,” as he calls it), this book is empathetic toward its characters and rich in observed detail.
The Outlook: Room author Emma Donoghue also wrote the screenplay, and author-penned scripts are often hit-or-miss in quality. In addition, evoking Jack’s near-constant interior monologue will be a challenge, both for the writer and for Jacob Tremblay, the young actor who plays Jack.
The Verdict: Might be worthwhile.
Looking for more book-to-movie adaptations? Check out our list of 10 films that premiered in 2014 based on books!