19 Books Coming to TV and Film in 2021

From "Macbeth" to "Where the Crawdads Sing," here are the adaptations to look forward to this year

Popcorn in front of home TV
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The movie industry had to suffer a pause unlike anything it had ever seen before when theaters had to be shuttered due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The delay in film releases came at an inopportune time for many of us, who would love to watch new cinema while isolating at home—either because it reminds us of the world we feel cut off from, or because it distracts us from a world that feels more and more dystopian. But between Netflix series and HBO streaming some new films on release, we’re still finding ways to go to the movies without going to the movies—and with these screen adaptations of classic and contemporary novels set to hit in the next year, you can also read books without reading books. Here are some of the books that will be brought to life in 2021.

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

Release Date: January 22, 2021

The White Tiger is a film about a driver for a rich upper class’s couple in India who is forced to cover up a crime for his employers. Touching on the implications of India’s caste system, The White Tiger promises to be an emotional rollercoaster and a darkly funny consideration of class akin to Parasite.

Passing by Nella Larsen

Release Date: January 30, 2021

Nella Larsen’s Passing is a novel by Nella Larsen that focuses on childhood friends Irene and Clare, who cross paths as adults when Clare is living as a white woman, keeping her race secret from everyone including her husband after one writes the other a letter. Written and directed by Rebecca Hall, Passing stars Tessa Thompson and Andre Holland, which like everything they’re in, means it can’t help but going to be good.

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Firefly Lane is another Netflix adaptation, from acclaimed author Kristin Hannah. The series follows two friends, played by Katherine Heigl and Sandra Chalke, from the beginning of their friendship to the present, as they experience life through three decades together.

Guantánamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi (movie title: The Mauritanian)

Release Date: February 19, 2021

Guantánamo Diary was written and published while Slahi was still imprisoned in Guantánamo Bay. The film, starring Jodie Foster, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Tahar Rahim (in the titular role), was made and is being released after Rahim is finally free, and with material that was previously censored.

Cherry by Nico Walker

Release Date February 26, 2021

Cherry teams up the Russo brothers and Tom Holland in a movie adapted from Nico Walker’s semi-autobiographical novel, written while the author was incarcerated, Holland stars as the title character, who is an ex-soldier dealing with PTSD and a drug addiction, and decides to try to rob a bank.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (movie title: Chaos Walking)

Release Date: March 5th, 2021

Ness is involved in writing this screenplay, so fans of his science fiction YA novel, about a world with no women where everyone can hear each other’s thoughts, can at least be assured that it will be faithful to the book. The fact that Mads Mikkelson and David Oyelowo will get the chance to out-cool themselves in scenes will only make this movie even better. 

The Reincarnationist Papers by D. Eric Maikranz (movie title: Infinite)

Release Date: May 28, 2021

Infinite is based off of the book The Reincarnationist Papers, about a man who realizes that the images he is seeing are not just hallucinations, but visions from the past. Directed by Antoine Fuqua of Training Day fame, this movie should be a lot of fun. 

Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith

Release Date: August 13th, 2021

Ben Affleck and Cuban actress Ana de Armas star in anthis adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel. Director Adrien Lyne (Jacob’s Ladder) will head this project starring the real-life couple playing a husband who is the prime suspect in the disappearance of his wife. Highsmith novels make great adaptations (see: Strangers on a Train, The Talented Mr. Ripley) so we have high hopes for this one.

Dune by Frank Herbert

Release Date: October 1st, 2021

There may not be a movie that is as anticipated as Dune this year, a rare feat since that might have also been true last year. Ever since David Lynch’s acid-dream of an ‘80s adaptation, it feels like Hollywood has wanted to A.) never try to remake Dune again and B.) couldn’t wait to try to remake Dune again as soon as possible. Because it is a giant space opera, half of Hollywood is involved, but piloted by Denis Villeneuve, who has slowly shifted to more and more sci-fi films since Sicario (with Arrival and Blade Runner 2049), this film looks like the rare combination of Oscar bait and potential box office hit (assuming we can go out and see movies again.)

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Release Date: December 22, 2021

The Nightingale is directed by Mélanie Laurent, whose prior directorial work includes Galveston (and who is also know for her role as Shoshana in Inglourious Basterds) and stars the Fanning sisters, Dakota and Elle, as sisters who are torn apart during the start of World War II.

The Emigrants by Vilhem Moberg

Release Date: December 25th, 2021

Moburg’s novel was published a few years after World War II and focuses on rural families. The novel, which is about a few people emigrating from Sweden to the United States in the mid-1800s, spoke to a lot of what was felt and going on at the time. Sixty years after it was first published, this story still speaks to the immigrant experience not only the moment it was written about the immigrant experience. 

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Release Date: 2021

Macbeth with Denzel Washington. 

What more do you want? This will be must-watch cinema.

The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage

Release Date: 2021

The Power of the Dog is a dark book about two brothers who get into a fight after one of them gets married. New Zealand writer/director Jane Campion heads the film, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst.

Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates

Release Date: 2021

Ana de Armas plays a fictionalized Marilyn Monroe, with Adrien Brody and Bobby Cannavale starring alongside her. Directed by Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford) fame, this will be a beautifully shot film that brings Joyce Carol Oates’s novel to life.

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Release Date: 2021

Australian author Liane Moriarty’s latest novel is about nine strangers who all end up at the Tranquillum House, hoping to put the stresses of their lives and the cities away. For many of us stuck in isolation looking for a way out of our troubles, following these characters as they go through the Tranquillum House during this Hulu Series will be sure to be a treat.

Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta

Release Date: 2021

Taylor Sheridan (of Sicario and Hell or High Water fame) writes and directs this film based on the Michael Koryta novel of the same name. As is often the case with Sheridan, the stakes are high from the beginning, as a teenager who witnesses a murder has a survival expert trying to protect him from two assassins and a forest fire. Starring Angelina Jolie and Jon Bernthal, this will be an intense film.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Release Date: 2021

Shadow and Bone is set in a folklore-inflected fantasy world, where protagonist Alina must develop her previously hidden magical power under high-stakes conditions. The Netflix series also includes elements of Bardugo’s bestselling Six of Crows, a magical heist novel set in the same universe. Starring Jessie Mei Li of All About Eve, this promises to be a beautifully shot series.

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

Release Date: 2021

Based on the bestselling novel by Nancy Mitford, The Pursuit of Love tackles the themes of love amidst different classes and divisions of people—and during one of the more divisive periods of recent history, this seems like a timely adaptation. Originally published in 1945, The Pursuit of Love is set between the two World Wars, and will star Emily Beecham and Lily James. This show will air on BBC One.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Release date: 2021

Delia Owens’s Where the Crawdads Sing is a murder mystery starring Daisy Edgar-Jones. The film, set in North Carolina, follows Kya, who lives in the Deep South and is a suspect in the murder of her former partner.

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