The Best Film Adaptations Of Classic Kids' Books

Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock.
Book adaptations can go horribly wrong. Not even Meryl Streep could save the flat take on The Giver. And those failures hit moviegoers even harder if its a beloved children's book headed to the screen. Fans have been dreaming of their favorite characters coming to life for years. They're sure that they could have cast, written, and directed it perfectly themselves.
But there are still plenty of page-to-screen films that please nearly every devotee; movies that capture the voice of the author or even put a particularly imaginative twist on the source material. Movies that might even convince a reluctant reader to take a crack at the book for the first time. Use this list to prep for your book club's movie night or to comfort yourself the next time you decide to give The Cat in the Hat a try and wind up filled with regret. They'll give you hope for the next attempt.
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1 of 10
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), based on Madame Doubtfire, by Anne Fine


Mrs. Doubtfire isn't exactly a kids' film (there are a lot of sexual innuendos) but there are still plenty of moments '90s kids loved — basically anything Mara Wilson said.



2 of 10
Babe (1995), based on Babe: A Gallant Pig, By Dick King-Smith

Everything about Babe is totally bizarre, but charming. On the surface, it's using a classic kids' film trope (talking animals), but these animals are grappling with their sense of purpose and mortality.
3 of 10
Jumanji (1995), based on Jumanji, by Chris Van Allsburg

I think the success of this movie led to a generation of kids who weren't just entertained, but a little more cautious about life in general. Not a bad thing!
4 of 10
Matilda (1996), based on Matilda, by Roald Dahl

The favorite movie of bookish kids everywhere who were just waiting for their special powers to kick in. The use of a narrator keeps it close to its novel origins.

Side note: It seems like roughly 75% of mid-'90s children's film trailers featured "What's This?"
5 of 10
The Mighty (1998), based on Freak The Mighty, by Rodman Philbrick

An excellent film if you're in the mood to cry for hours. Adorable kid friendship + a tiny Culkin brother = a recipe for a sob-fest, with an added weepy bonus at the end.
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6 of 10
The Iron Giant (1999), based on The Iron Man, by Ted Hughes

Like E.T. before him, the Iron Giant is adorable and heartwarming in the bumbling way only friendly creatures who fall from the sky can be.
7 of 10
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001), based on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J. K. Rowling

There will always be die-hard fans who are still complaining on message boards 15 years after the fact that they didn't include this crucial scene or they totally miscast that character. But overall, it could have been a lot worse.
8 of 10
Holes (2003), based on Holes, by Louis Sachar

Holes is, if nothing else, incredibly faithful to Sachar's Newberry-winning novel. Plus, it gave the world this song.


9 of 10
Freaky Friday (2003), based on Freaky Friday, by Mary Rodgers

Technically a remake of an adaptation, this movie works more as a collection of moments and one-liners than a cohesive film. But when you look back fondly on the movies of your adolescence, you often want to quote them rather than rewatch them, anyway.
10 of 10
Where The Wild Things Are (2009), based on Where The Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak

There were so many challenges to creating a successful adaptation of a book that's been a bedtime staple for over 40 years — it can be tricky to transform illustrations into whimsical live-action creatures, no matter how genius the director. But everything came together to make a charming, critically acclaimed movie about imagination.
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