Epic book-to-screen adaptations on ShowmaxBrowse all series now
How true are these series and movies to the books that inspired them?
Did you know that these series and movies were based on books? From classic texts to chick-lit, from epic fantasies to real-life memoirs, the source material for all of these binge-worthy shows, now on Showmax or coming soon, first appeared in print.
Despite several high profile roles and commercial successes, and a respectable number of award nominations to his name, Mark Ruffalo somehow still seems to be somewhat under the radar. In this adaptation of Wally Lamb’s 1998 novel, written and directed by Derek Cianfrance for HBO, Ruffalo stars in two roles: identical twin brothers Dominick and Thomas Birdsey.
Thomas has mental illness, which shapes both their lives, and Dominick fills the role of his fierce protector, despite the damage and drama wrought by Thomas, despite the anger, frustration and humiliation. It’s beautifully serious, poignant, gut-wrenching and heartbreaking. It’s about love without the sentimentality. Ruffalo is sure to pick up a few nominations for this one, and I hope he wins some too.
When the book A Discovery of Witches was published in 2011, The New York Times labeled it as “Harry Potter for grown-ups,” while NPR praised the follow-up, Shadow of Night, as “Twilight for the intellectually restless.” The All Souls trilogy went on to sell over 3.5m copies. Deborah Harkness, the author, is descended from a woman hanged in Salem for witchcraft. “My career in fiction began in September 2008, when I started to wonder, ‘If there really are witches and vampires, what do they do for a living?’ A Discovery of Witches was the unexpected answer to that question…” Season 1 of the fantasy romance drama series is streaming first and only on Showmax. Watch now »
Elena, an elderly woman, has lost her closest friend, Lila, who’s mysteriously disappeared. She recounts their six-decade-long friendship, which began in 1950s Naples, by writing a story about their tumultuous relationship. This touching series is based on the smash-hit bestseller that was the first of the four Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. The first full season is now on Showmax, and the second season is coming in August 2020. Watch now »
Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian feminist novel about an America of the not-too-distant future, in which women are classified into slaves of varying responsibilities, depending on their fertility, had its readership expand substantially when the Hulu series based on the novel took off in 2017. Season 1 is closely based on the book, while Season 2 started at the point where the book left off. Season 3 expanded June’s role in the resistance. Seasons 1 to 3 are ready to binge-watch on Showmax, and new episodes of Season 4 land weekly. Watch now »
Pamela Redmond Satran wrote the book that inspired this romcom series, created by Darren Star of Sex and the City. Redmond Satran is a Glamour contributor and novelist who, fittingly, also wrote the bestselling humour book How Not to Act Old. She says it took 10 years for her book to make it to the screen. Both the book and the show are about a 40-year-old mother who’s just left her gambling scumbag of a husband and has to start to look for work for the first time in 20 years. She can’t get a foot on the publishing ladder because she’s too old – so she gets a makeover, a whole new vocab, and poses as a 26-year-old. She lands her dream job, makes fabulous millennial friends, and bags herself a delectable twentysomething boyfriend. But before long, Liza can’t bear the thought of living a lie – and then she starts falling for her boss, who’s closer to her real age … but if she tells him the truth, she’ll lose her job. Seasons 1 to 6 are only on Showmax. Watch now »
Possibly the most epic adaptation of them all, over eight seasons, the adaptation of George RR Martin’s novels made television history from 2011 till 2019.
Lavish budgets, attention to detail, stunning locations, and a story of kings and queens and war and betrayal and incest and love and murder in a battle for control over the mythical land of Westeros, doesn’t even begin to cover it. And just for good measure, it has zombies AND dragons.
The crime novel by Elmore Leonard has been adapted twice – once in 1995 for the movie starring John Travolta, and again in this fun TV series, now on its third season. Get Shorty, in a nutshell, is about a career criminal who wants to make it big as a Hollywood movie producer.
John Travolta starred in the movie, which is also on Showmax. The brilliant and darkly comic series is headed by Chris O’Dowd (who gets to keep his Irish accent), along with Ray Romano and Sarah Stiles (who is an exceptional singer and Broadway star, which is put to good use in Get Shorty; she’s also in Billions on Showmax and the latest season is a cracker).
Elton John, born Reginald Dwight, has written one official autobiography called Me. This biopic is based on that memoir, and stars Taron Egerton as Elton John. And yes, Egerton did sing the songs. Perhaps the highest praise that can be given to such a project is from the subject himself. “Not only is John pleased the film finally came to fruition, he also thinks it’s the version he truly wanted to be made. The winding yellow-brick road to getting the film made took well over a decade,” says Bustle.
Choosing to open and close with John’s acceptance of his drug problem and seeking help, Rocketman takes us back through his life story, from childhood piano prodigy to stratospheric success. The music, of course, is wonderful, as you’ll hear in the soundtrack below.
If you’ve held JRR Tolkien’s books in your hands, you’ll know that Lord of the Rings is a trilogy, also available in one volume, and The Hobbit – which is essentially the prequel – is a thin little thing. Then along came Peter Jackson, who not only first made LOTR into a sweeping saga of many, many hours, but later transformed the humble little hobbit tale into no fewer than three movies with a whopping theatrical running time of 474 minutes (extended edition 532 minutes) – every single minute of which is available to stream on Showmax.
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is living his peaceful life in the Shire when the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan) arrives at his door one day and convinces him to go on a Big Adventure. It’s on this journey that Bilbo meets Gollum and acquires the one ring to rule them all.
Power couple Ed Burns and David Simon (The Wire) adapted the 2004 novel by Philip Roth for this six-part HBO miniseries that imagines an alternative history in which Charles Lindbergh beats Franklin D Roosevelt to what would have been his third term in the White House, on the cusp of World War II.
The story is told from the point of view of the Levin family: patriarch Herman (Morgan Spector), his wife Bess (Zoe Kazan), and their two sons, Sandy (Caleb Malis) and Azhy Robertson as Philip, the younger one. Winona Ryder plays Evelyn Finkel, Bess’s older, unmarried, independently minded sister, who is having an affair with a married man but then falls for the charismatic rabbi and Lindbergh supporter, Lionel Bengelsdorf, played superbly by John Turturro. At the heart of the series is Lindbergh’s anti-Semitism and the effect on the Levins.
Our very own Deon Meyer is a bestselling crime author whose books are translated and sold all over the world. His tale of espionage, international terrorism, and smuggling has made a compelling transition to the small screen.
Made in collaboration with HBO’s sister network Cinemax and Germany’s public broadcaster ZDF, Trackers is a superbly homegrown work of art which illustrates the calibre of South African acting talent as well as the scope of the stunning locations across the country.
The Goldfinch is the film adaptation of Donna Tartt’s bestselling, Pulitzer-winning novel about a 13-year-old boy whose mother is killed in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Directed by BAFTA winner John Crowley (Brooklyn), the multigenerational cast is led by Golden Globe nominee Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver, The Fault In Our Stars) as Theo Decker and Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (The Undoing, Big Little Lies) as Mrs Barbour, supported by Golden Globe winners Sarah Paulson (Ratched, American Crime Story) and Jeffrey Wright (Westworld, The Hunger Games).
Based on Eleanor Cattin’s Booker Prize-winning novel, The Luminaries is an epic story of love, murder and revenge set on the Wild West Coast of New Zealand during the gold rush.
Starring Eve Hewson (The Knick, Behind Her Eyes, Robin Hood), Teen Choice nominee Himesh Patel (Yesterday, Tenet), and Golden Globe nominee Eva Green (Penny Dreadful, Casino Royale), the six-part series was hailed by TIME as “enchanting, enthralling” and The Guardian as “simply addictive TV… glorious escapism… a must-see full of intrigue, opium and political machinations.”