Book covers against a film strip background
Book covers against a film strip background

Perhaps unsurprisingly, books are our first love. Sometimes, though, a story is just made for the screen and it's exciting to see it brought to life in glorious technicolour.

Luckily, filmmakers have long taken inspiration from stories old and new, and this year is no different. With a whole host of releases coming to cinemas and televisions, you're in for a treat. 

Here, we've picked out some of the most anticipated book adaptations coming out in 2021. 

The Tragedy of Macbeth diercted by Joel Coen, based on Macbeth by William Shakespeare (1606)

Some 400 years after his death, Shakespeare’s work continues to inspire. Written and directed by Joel Coen – the first film he’s directed without his brother, Ethan – The Tragedy of Macbeth sees Denzel Washington and Coen-favourite Frances McDormand take the lead in this classic tale of murder, madness and mayhem.

Created in conjunction with Apple Original Films and A24, the indie entertainment company behind hits such as Lady Bird, Midsommar and Room, this promises to be a bold and fierce adaptation of the Scottish Play.  

The film will be released in cinemas this December and will then join streaming platform Apple TV+ in January 2022.

The Power of the Dog directed by Jane Campion, based on The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage (1967)

Set in the American West, we meet Phil and George: bachelors, brothers and joint owners of the biggest ranch in their Montana valley, whose lives have remained much the same for 40 years.

Phil is bright, sharp and thirsty for knowledge while George is the silent type who learns slowly but devotes himself to the family business – they're opposites in every way. Everything changes when George unexpectedly marries and brings his new wife to live at the ranch, and Phil embarks on a relentless campaign to cause her misery. 

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons, this adaptation is written and directed by Academy Award winner Jane Campion. The Power of the Dog is scheduled for a limited cinema release in November before joining Netflix in December.

Passing directed by Rebecca Hall, based on Passing by Nella Larsen (1929)

Nella Larsen was a leading voice of the Harlem Renaissance and Passing is one of the seminal works to have sprung from this groundbreaking movement. Although first published in 1929, the themes of race, identity and colourism remain just as relevant for a film released almost a century later.

The novella follows two childhood friends reunite as grown-ups: one, Clare, has severed all ties to her African-American heritage and is living as a white woman while her friend Irene has not hidden her origins. As Clare and Irene come into each other's lives again, both are forced to reassess the lies they have told and the secrets they have buried.

The film adaptation marks the directorial debut of Rebecca Hall and stars Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga. Passing is due to have a limited release in cinemas this autumn, prior to streaming on Netflix in November.

The Last Duel directed by Ridley Scott, based on The Last Duel by Eric Jager (2004)

Superstar director Ridley Scott, known for epic, culture-setting films such as Gladiator and Black Hawk Down, takes the helm for the star-studded adaptation of Eric Jager’s The Last Duel.

When knight Jean de Carrouges accuses his squire Jacques Le Gris of raping his wife, King Charles VI agrees that the two can settle their dispute with a duel. Set in 1386, a few days after Christmas, as a massive crowd gathers at a Paris monastery to watch the trial by combat, Jager's book is based on the true story of the last officialy recognised duel to be fought in France – a piece of history that continue to be the source of much debate to this day.

The screenplay was written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck – the first time the pair have written together since Good Will Hunting – along with Nicole Holofcener, and stars both Damon and Affleck alongside Adam Driver and Jodie Comer. The film will be released in cinemas this October.

Across the River and Into the Trees directed by Paula Ortiz, based on Across the River and Into the Trees by Ernest Hemingway (1950)

Based on the last full-length Hemingway novel published during his lifetime, Across the River and Into the Trees follows Richard Cantrell, an American colonel living in Venice just after the Second World War.

Now middle-aged and living with a heart condition, he ploughs on with a stoic attitude, determined to enjoy a quiet weekend revisiting old stomping grounds. A chance encounter with a young countess begins to rekindle a long forgotten feeling of hope but still haunted by the shadow of the war, peace may come too late for Cantrell.

The adaptation will star Liev Schreiber and Josh Hutcherson and has been filming on location in Italy, though there's no release date as yet.

Artemis directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, based on Artemis by Andy Weir (2017)

Artemis is the second book by Andy Weir to be adapted for the big screen, after 2015’s The Martian. Weir’s novel follows Jazz Bashara, a criminal who lives on Artemis, the first city on the moon.

Jazz subsidises her work as a porter with smuggling contraband on the moon but it’s not enough. So when she’s offered the chance to make a lot of money, she jumps at it, even though it will put her into danger.

There’s not much news on the adaptation just yet but Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, known for animated hits such as The LEGO Movie, are attached to direct.

Nine Perfect Strangers directed by Jonathan Levine, based on Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty (2018)

Nine stressed city-dwellers head to an exclusive wellness retreat cut off from the rest of the world in an attempt to slow down, heal and reconnect with themselves. The retreat's owner promises her guests will undergo a huge transformation during the 10 days they're there but it but it soon becomes clear that all is not as it seems and perhaps there's something more sinister going on.

Moriarty’s Big Little Lies has already been turned into a hit TV show starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, and here, Kidman is executive producing Nine Perfect Strangers, as well as taking on the role of retreat leader Masha. The series is available to watch on Amazon Prime in the UK and features an all-star cast including Melissa McCarthy, Luke Evans and Michael Shannon. 

Cherry directed by the Russo Brothers, based on Cherry by Nico Walker (2018)

Nico Walker was a medic who served on more than 250 missions in Iraq. After leaving the military, he suffered from undiagnosed PTSD, became addicted to heroin, and began to rob banks. Cherry, his debut novel, is a semi-autobiographical novel that was written and published while Walker was serving an 11-year sentence in prison.

Cherry tells the story of a young couple who, desperate to keep their relationship alive, marry just before he ships out to Iraq. When he returns, his PTSD is profound, and both he and his wife Emily are caught up in the opioid crisis engulfing the American Midwest. Hooked on heroin, the young man turns to bank robbery to make money.

Cherry, available on Apple TV+, has been adapted with Spider-Man actor Tom Holland in the lead role, and is directed by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, who are also known for directing a number of Marvel films. 

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway directed by Will Gluck, inspired by Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit books (1893)

Everyone’s favourite troublemaking rabbit returns in his second film this year. The film focuses Bea (Rose Byrne), Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson) and the rabbits, who have now settled down as a family.

But Peter (James Corden) still isn’t satisfied and heads out into the world, where his mischief is appreciated. When his family comes searching for him, risking everything, Peter has to figure out what kind of bunny he really wants to be.

Although the film, out earlier this year, departs from Beatrix Potter’s original series, it still retains the cheekiness and fun of one of the most iconic characters in literature.

The Dig directed by Simon Stone, based on The Dig by John Preston (2007)

During the long hot summer of 1939, on the eve of the Second World War, a widowed farmer discovers buried treasure on her land.

As an archaeological excavation to uncover the treasure proceeds against a background of mounting anxiety, it’s soon clear that this is no ordinary find. Preston’s novel is based on the true story Sutton Hoo dig, the greatest Anglo-Saxon discovery ever made in Britain.

The film adaptation, released on Netflix in January, stars Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes and Lily James. 

Image: Ryan MacEachern / Penguin

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