We know, we know, the book is almost always better than the movie—but book-movie adaptations can be great for talking about how stories get translated into different forms (part of the Common Core standards). Here are some of our favorite book-movie adaptations to use at very grade level.
Best book-movie adaptations for grades K-3:
For 53 years, the Grinch has lived in a cave on the side of a mountain, looming above the Whos in Whoville. The noisy holiday preparations and infernal singing of the happy little citizens below annoy him to no end. The Grinch decides this frivolous merriment must stop.
Matilda is a sweet, exceptional young girl, but her parents think she’s just a nuisance. She expects school to be different, but there she has to face Miss Trunchbull, a kid-hating terror of a headmistress. When Matilda is attacked by the Trunchbull she suddenly discovers she has a remarkable power with which to fight back.
Follow the adventures of the bravest little mouse with a loving big heart. The book and movies differ entirely in terms of story line, but the love and kindness of Stuart Little are at the center of both.
A young boy, lying awake one Christmas Eve, is welcomed aboard a magical trip to the North Pole. Through dark forests, over tall mountains, and across a desert of ice, the Polar Express makes its way to the city atop the world, where the boy will make his Christmas wish.
Best book-movie adaptations for grades 4-5:
Harry has no idea how famous he is. That’s because he’s being raised by his miserable aunt and uncle who are terrified Harry will learn that he’s really a wizard, just as his parents were. But everything changes when Harry is summoned to attend an infamous school for wizards, and he begins to discover some clues about his birthright.
The Baudelaire orphans are sent to live with their “Uncle” Count Olaf, who is very clearly after their enormous fortune that was left to them by their parents, who died in a mysterious fire. With more questions than answers, these funny and tragic 13 books beg you not to look. (The movie covers books 1-3, the Netflix show will cover them all.)
Jess Aarons has been practicing all summer so he can be the fastest runner in the fifth grade. And he almost is, until the new girl in school, Leslie Burke, outpaces him. The two become fast friends and spend most days in the woods behind Leslie’s house, where they invent an enchanted land called Terabithia.
Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change and a great sacrifice.
When Coraline steps through a door to find another house strangely similar to her own (only better), things seem marvelous. But there’s another mother there, and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go.
Best book-movie adaptations for middle school:
10. The Hunger Games
Each district sends one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games,” a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games.
11. The Help
Skeeter, a 22-year-old college graduate; Aibileen, a black maid who is raising her 17th white child; and her best friend Minny, a sassy cook who just lost another job, ban together to write a tell-all book about the work of a black maid.
What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the most handsome prince of all time and he turns out to be … well … a lot less than the man of her dreams? Fencing. Fighting. True love. Strong hate. Harsh revenge. A few giants. Lots of bad men. Lots of good men. And beasties monstrous and gentle.
Stanley Yelnats is unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake, where there is no lake. He and the other boys dig holes all day, every day. It quickly becomes apparent that they are not just digging for character improvement; The warden is looking for something.
14. The Outsiders
Ponyboy is pretty sure he’s got things figured out, especially with his buddies, who are also “greasers.” Their only problem is the Socs, a vicious gang of rich kids whose idea of a good time is beating up on greasers like Ponyboy. Life is simple, until one night someone takes things too far.
Berlin,1942: Bruno’s father receives a promotion and the family moves to a new house, far away. A tall fence stretches as far as the eye can see at the new house, cutting off people in the distance. Bruno befriends a boy on the other side of the fence, and everything changes.
16. Ender’s Game
Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training. Growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers, Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders.
In 1956, Stevens, a long-serving butler at Darlington Hall, decides to take a motoring trip through the West Country. The six-day excursion becomes a journey into the past of Stevens and England, a past that takes in fascism, two world wars, and an unrealized love between the butler and his housekeeper.
Best book-movie adaptations for high school:
18. The Kite Runner
Amir is a young Afghani from a well-to-do Kabul family; his best friend Hassan is the son of a family servant. Together the two boys form a bond of friendship that breaks tragically on one fateful day. Years later, Amir is called back to Kabul to right his wrongs.
First dates, family drama, and new friends. Sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Devastating loss, young love, and life on the fringes. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie must learn to navigate those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.
20. Life of Pi
Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, a Tamil boy from Pondicherry, explores issues of spirituality and practicality from an early age. This is all brought to a boiling point when he is suddenly the lone survivor of a sinking cruise ship. Well, him and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger.
21. Jurassic Park
An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Now humankind’s most thrilling fantasies have come true. Creatures extinct for eons roam Jurassic Park with their awesome presence and profound mystery, and all the world can visit them—for a price. Until something goes wrong …
The story of a young Alabama girl, her sleepy Southern town, and the crisis of conscience that rocked it. This story explores the roots of human behavior—innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos.
A man-eating shark terrorizes a beach town, and it’s up to Chief Brody, scientist Matt Hooper, and the gruff fisherman Quint to do something about it.
Holly Golightly knows that nothing bad can ever happen to you at Tiffany’s. She has no job and lives by socializing with wealthy men, who take her to clubs and restaurants, and give her money and expensive presents; she hopes to marry one of them.
What are your favorite book-movie adaptations?