You loved the book! Will you love the movie? Hollywood thinks you will (or at least will buy a ticket), which means that hidden among the big-budget blockbusters in movie theaters and the mindless reality TV available at home are a surprising number of smarter films, TV shows and limited series adapted from best-selling biographies, literary novels and essay collections. While we wait for more award-season page-to-screen adaptations — Killers of the Flower Moon, Dune: Part Two and The Color Purple — add these eight new shows and films to your summer watch list. We promise we won’t tell if you didn’t read the book first!
Based on: American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin
The premise: Lovers of doorstop biographies devoured this 700-plus-page behemoth about theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, when it came out in 2005; it took Bird and Sherwin 25 years to research and write, and their efforts were rewarded with the Pulitzer Prize. Dunkirk director Christopher Nolan, 52, returns to World War II for this appropriately grandiose, three-hour adaptation, which stars Cillian Murphy in the title role alongside an ensemble that includes Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, 52, Kenneth Branagh, 62, and Robert Downey Jr., 58. If you need a palate cleanser after all that bomb-related doom and dread, remember that Oppenheimer releases the same day as Barbie, which also has a literary connection: Director Greta Gerwig has said she partially based the movie on Mary Pipher’s Reviving Ophelia.
Watch it: Oppenheimer, July 21 in theaters
Daisy Jones & the Six
Based on: Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The premise: Reid loosely based her 2019 historical fiction bestseller on Fleetwood Mac and the recording of their 1977 album Rumours, and there’s a bit of rock ’n’ roll history baked into the casting of the Amazon original adaptation: Daisy — the Stevie Nicks stand-in — is played by Riley Keough, the granddaughter of Elvis Presley. Of course the show wouldn’t work without legitimately great original songs, and they were largely written and produced by Blake Mills with contributions from other in-demand musicians like Phoebe Bridgers, Marcus Mumford and Dawes lead singer Taylor Goldsmith.
Watch it: Daisy Jones & the Six on Prime Video
Based on: The Wool series by Hugh Howey
The premise: Fans of Snowpiercer — the postapocalyptic movie and show set entirely on a train — will love this claustrophobic sci-fi series adapted from Hugh Howey’s book series, which he originally self-published in 2011. In a toxic future, humans find shelter in an underground bunker that stretches 144 stories below the surface, and this self-contained ecosystem is populated by a who’s who of celebrated actors, including David Oyelowo, Rashida Jones, Common, 51, and Tim Robbins, 64. Rebecca Ferguson, of Mission: Impossible fame, stars as Juliette, an engineer who works on generators in the lowest levels and starts to uncover secrets about the inner workings of their mysterious world.
Watch it: Silo on Apple TV+