As you head to the movie theater or stream a new television show this summer, you might feel a sense of déjà vu — where have I heard this plot before? That’s because some of the season’s biggest new films and TV shows draw their inspiration from major best-selling novels of the past few years and beyond. From The Time Traveler’s Wife to Where the Crawdads Sing, popular fiction is making the leap from the page to the screen. The only question is: Will you read the books first?
The show: The Time Traveler’s Wife
Based on: The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (2003)
The premise: Audrey Niffenegger, 59, struck a chord with her debut novel about a man with a genetic disorder that causes him to involuntarily travel through time: It has already been adapted into a film starring Eric Bana (53) and Rachel McAdams, and a stage musical version is coming to the U.K. this fall. In this HBO romance series, which premiered in May and was created by Sherlock producer Steven Moffat, time-traveling Henry is played by Theo James (of the Divergent trilogy), opposite Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones, The Good Fight) as his wife, Clare. Critics have been less smitten by this adaptation, but audiences continue to be swept up in this time-hopping love story.
Watch it: The Time Traveler’s Wife, on HBO Max
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The show: The Old Man
Based on: The Old Man by Thomas Perry (2017)
The premise: In this taut thriller, Jeff Bridges, 72, stars as Dan Chase, a former CIA operative who escaped from his past and lives off the grid in relative peace — until an assassin arrives to flush him out of hiding. The opponent in this cat-and-mouse game is the FBI’s assistant director for counterintelligence Harold Harper, played by John Lithgow, 76. Other members of the impressive ensemble cast include Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat as Harper’s protégé, agent Angela Adams, and Amy Brenneman, 57, as Zoe McDonald, the woman from whom Chase rents a room while he’s on the run.
Watch it: The Old Man, on Hulu
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The show: The Summer I Turned Pretty
Based on: The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han (2009)
The premise: Young adult author Jenny Han already struck gold with a trilogy of Netflix films based on her To All the Boys novels, and she’s hoping to recapture the magic with this new coming-of-age romance for Amazon Prime Video. Sure, it’s designed more for your kids or grandkids, but if you’re in the mood for a wholesome romance, you could do worse than this summery series about a girl named Belly (newcomer Lola Tung) who kicks off a love triangle with two brothers while on vacation at her family friends’ beach house. Amazon has such faith in the series that they renewed it for a second season before it premiered.
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The show: Dark Winds
Based on: Listening Woman by Tony Hillerman (1978)
The premise: For years, Lakota actor Zahn McClarnon, 55, has been quietly stealing scenes in supporting roles on Longmire, Westworld and Fargo. Now he finally gets the showcase he deserves in this AMC police drama, set on the Navajo reservation in the early 1970s. McClarnon plays Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police, who teams up with his new deputy, Jim Chee (Twilight’s Kiowa Gordon) — who’s returning to the reservation after graduating from Berkeley — to solve a double murder. It’s a good year for Indigenous-led TV series, with both Reservation Dogs (in which McClarnon also appears) and Rutherford Falls returning for their second seasons this summer.
Watch it: Dark Winds, on AMC
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The movie: Mr. Malcolm’s List
Based on: Mr. Malcolm’s List by Suzanne Allain (2009)
The premise: Think of this Regency-era romance as a PG-rated alternative to Bridgerton. Eligible bachelor Mr. Malcolm (Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù) has such high standards that he keeps a literal list of requirements for what he expects in a future wife. When Julia Thistlewaite (Zawe Ashton) is deemed unworthy, she enlists the help of her BFF Selina Dalton (Freida Pinto) to trick Malcolm into falling for her and then give him a taste of his own medicine. Much like the saucy Shonda Rhimes show, this refreshing British period drama has a racially inclusive cast that also includes Ashley Park, Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Theo James.
Watch it: Mr. Malcolm’s List, July 1 in theaters
The movie: The Forgiven
Based on: The Forgiven by Lawrence Osbone (2012)
The premise: In his review of Osborne’s second novel, New York Times critic Dwight Garner wrote, “This is a lean book that moves like a panther.” Director John Michael McDonagh, 55, helms this dark thriller with a wicked satirical streak about an unhappy couple, played by Ralph Fiennes (59) and Jessica Chastain, who are headed into the Atlas Mountains of Morocco to attend a swanky party when the unthinkable happens: He accidentally hits and kills a local child with his car. It’s a thought-provoking look at privilege, power and morality that will have you talking and debating long after the credits roll.
Watch it: The Forgiven, July 1 in theaters
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The show: The Terminal List
Based on: The Terminal List by Jack Carr (2018)
The premise: The last time Chris Pratt was on a TV show, he played the lovably schlubby Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation. He’s packed on the muscles for his latest role as Lt. Cmdr. James Reece in this revenge thriller based on the book by Navy SEAL-turned-author Jack Carr. After Reece’s entire platoon is ambushed and killed during a covert mission, he sets out to uncover the forces working against him, protect the people he loves and use the skills he learned as a SEAL to punish those responsible. The ensemble cast includes Constance Wu, Taylor Kitsch, Jeanne Tripplehorn (59), Riley Keough and Patrick Schwarzenegger, Pratt’s real-life brother-in-law.
Watch it: The Terminal List, on Amazon Prime
The movie: The Gray Man
Based on: The Gray Man by Mark Greaney (2009)
The premise: With a reported budget of $200 million, this is Netflix’s most expensive original project to date, and it boasts two directors who know a thing or two about making blockbusters. Brothers Joe (50) and Anthony Russo (52) helmed four Marvel Cinematic Universe films, including Avengers: Endgame, which currently ranks as the second-highest-grossing film of all time. The globe-trotting action thriller by Mark Greaney — who collaborated with Tom Clancy and continued the Jack Ryan saga after Clancy’s 2013 death — follows skilled CIA mercenary Court Gentry (Ryan Gosling) as he’s forced to go on the run when he uncovers dark agency secrets. Leading the manhunt is Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans), a psychopathic rogue operative who puts a bounty on Gentry’s head and recruits a team of international assassins. Netflix reportedly hopes to turn the film into Hollywood’s next big action franchise.
Watch it: The Gray Man, July 15 on Netflix
The movie: Where the Crawdads Sing
Based on: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (2018)
The premise: After Reese Witherspoon included this book as part of her Hello Sunshine book club, sales skyrocketed; as of mid-June, it had spent 163 weeks on the New York Times best seller list and had sold more than 12 million copies. Set between 1952 and 1969 in a fictional town on the North Carolina coast, the book follows a girl named Kya who grows up isolated and alone in the marsh and later becomes a murder suspect when a local celebrity turns up dead. Starring as Kya is English actress Daisy Edgar-Jones, who has experience playing recent literary heroines: She earned a Golden Globe nomination for her work in the 2020 Sally Rooney miniseries Normal People and recently costarred in Under the Banner of Heaven, which is based on a book by Jon Krakauer, 68.
The movie: Bullet Train
Based on: Bullet Train by Kōtarō Isaka (2010)
The premise: This fast-paced action comedy is set aboard a bullet train zooming between Tokyo and Kyoto, as unlucky hit man Ladybug (Brad Pitt, 58) tries to leave behind the killing life only to be pulled back in for one last job by handler Maria Beetle (Sandra Bullock, 57). Once on board, he encounters a web of other assassins who have interconnected objectives, and the star-studded cast includes Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry and Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny. The man behind the camera is David Leitch, whose brief filmography is a lesson in expertly choreographed action sequences: John Wick, Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2 and Hobbs & Shaw.
Watch it: Bullet Train, Aug. 5 in theaters
Nicholas DeRenzo is a contributing writer who covers entertainment and travel. Previously he was executive editor of United Airlines’ Hemispheres magazine and his work has appeared in the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Sunset and New York magazine.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Sept. 14, 2020. It has been updated with a new selection of movies and TV shows to watch in 2022.