10 Book-Based TV Series That Outdid Movie Adaptations

10 Book-Based TV Series That Outdid Movie Adaptations
Image credit: Hulu, Netflix

No bookworm should be missing out on these TV shows.

While movies often get the spotlight for adapting some of the greatest books, sometimes it's the TV shows that really hit the bullseye when it comes to capturing the heart and soul of our favorite reads.

These TV adaptations not only do justice to the original books but also outdo their movie counterparts giving us a better and more engaging experience.

A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017)

In 2004, Lemony Snicket books got a movie adaptation starring Jim Carrey. It was okay, but it kind of missed the mark in capturing the full story. In 2017, Netflix dropped A Series of Unfortunate Events as a TV series.

The series had the time to show us the Baudelaire orphans' adventures, and it was packed with all the eccentricities and gloomy humor we loved in the books. The series just had more room to breathe and develop, making it a fan favorite.

The Handmaid's Tale (2017)

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is a heavy hitter in the dystopian genre. The 1990 film adaptation was alright, but didn't quite hit home. Come 2017, Hulu steps up with their TV adaptation, and wow, did they bring the heat.

Elisabeth Moss as June brought such intensity to the role, something the movie couldn't quite grasp in its limited runtime. The show didn't shy away from the book's darker themes, and it even expanded on the story.

Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Pride and Prejudice has seen its fair share of adaptations, but the 1995 BBC miniseries is arguably the gold standard. Yes, the 2005 movie with Keira Knightley was lovely, but the miniseries with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy is unbeatable.

The longer format allowed for a more faithful adaptation of Austen's work, giving us all the witty banter, romantic tension, and Regency-era charm we could hope for.

Catch-22 (2019)

Joseph Heller's Catch-22 is a classic that blends the absurdity of war with dark humor. The 1970 movie adaptation was decent, but it couldn't quite capture the book's complex satire. In 2019, Hulu stepped in to save the day again with a miniseries adaptation.

The series managed to balance the dark humor and the tragic elements of the story beautifully. Plus, it had the space to explore the nuances of characters like Yossarian and his fellow soldiers, something the movie just couldn't afford.

Jane Eyre (2006)

Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre had a 2011 movie adaptation that was actually visually stunning and had great performances, but the 2006 TV series took it to another level.

With Ruth Wilson as Jane and Toby Stephens as Mr. Rochester, the series had the time to simmer, bringing out all those complex flavors in the story, from Jane’s inner strength to the brooding atmosphere of Thornfield Hall.

Emma (2009)

Jane Austen's Emma is a delightful tale, and while the Gwyneth Paltrow movie in 1996 was charming, the 2009 BBC miniseries was a real treat. Romola Garai's portrayal of Emma Woodhouse was spot-on.

The longer format allowed for a richer exploration of Austen's intricate plot and character relationships. It felt like the series offered a more comprehensive and satisfying adaptation.

Wuthering Heights (2009)

Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights is a story of intense, almost destructive love and the wild Yorkshire moors. The 2011 movie struggled to fully bring the novel to life.

But before that, there was a 2009 TV adaptation, which offered a more nuanced exploration of their turbulent relationship and the gothic elements of the story. Plus the series is starring Tom Hardy and Andrew Lincoln (The Walking Dead star).

Vanity Fair (2018)

William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair is a sprawling satire of early 19th-century British society. There have been several movie versions, but none captured the novel's scope like the 2018 miniseries.

With Olivia Cooke as Becky Sharp, the series brilliantly brought to life the novel's wit, irony, and social commentary. Going with the longer format gave the adaptation the chance to dive way deeper into the characters' lives and the intricate web of social tapestry in the novel.

Get Shorty (2017)

Elmore Leonard's Get Shorty is an ingenious mix of crime and Hollywood satire. The 1995 movie was fun and had its charm, but the 2017 TV series reimagined the premise with fresh characters and plotlines while maintaining the spirit of Leonard's work.

The TV show went all in on that dark humor and quirky character relationships, which the movie couldn't really do.

Watership Down (2018)

Richard Adams' Watership Down is a unique tale about a group of rabbits seeking a new home. The 1978 animated film is a classic, but its interpretation was quite condensed.

The 2018 animated miniseries, however, had the advantage of time. It expanded on the novel's themes, characters, and the rabbits' epic journey. Definitely a must-watch.