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6 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Movies That Hollywood Should Be Making Instead of Candy Land

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

This one is kind of a personal dream of mine. The debut novel of British author Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell spent some time on the New York Times bestseller list when it was released in 2004 and won a slew of awards in 2005, among them the Hugo Award and World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. Oh, and it was named the Best Novel of the year by Time Magazine, so there’s that.

Shortly after its release the book was optioned by New Line Cinema, and though the first draft of a script was finished back in 2005, a movie version of Clarke’s splendid Harry Potter-meets-Jane Austen fantasy tale is no closer to being finished (or started, really). It’s not surprising. Jonathan Strange would make a horrible movie. A 1000+ pages fantasy novel/period piece, it spans decades in the lives of its two main characters, an up-and-coming magician and his curmudgeonly mentor, one of whom goes off and fights in the Napoleonic Wars as the Duke of Wellington’s right-hand magician. There’s just no way to squeeze everything into a two-hour movie… and I know that gets said a lot about adaptations, but that makes it no less true in this case. There’s the Battle of Waterloo, and it’s not even the climax of the book, for Pete’s sake.

That said, Jonathan Strange would make a perfect BBC miniseries. Perfect. Four episodes (hell, make it six or seven, give us a whole season) would be sufficient time to flesh out the characters and their relationships, whereas a movie would probably end up having to jump from set piece to set piece just to squeeze everything in (*cough*HarryPotterandtheHalfBloodPrince*cough*). Fantasy TV is popular right now (see: Game of Thrones, Once Upon a Time) and British period dramas, though never really unpopular, have gained more visibility as of late due to Downton Abbey.

The time is right for this, and I just want it to happen so I can start thinking in earnest about whom they should cast as the gentleman with the thistle-down hair… and the Raven King… and Jonathan Strange… and the Duke of Wellington… and, well, everybody. I just really love this book.

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  • Ellen A
  • Anonymous

    There are all sorts of great novels, SF and Fantasy, that would make awesome movies but it seems that Hollywood is creatively bankrupt.  Very sad.  I don’t care if I never see Adam Sandler again, seriously.  You’d think that the movie industry would be worried enough about  decreasing movie theatre revenues and catch a clue that we’re not going because there’s nothing to see.

  • UrsNY

    Parable of the Sower, please.

  • mildred louis


    Good god, what I wouldn’t do to have that book be brought to film.

  • John Wao

    Call of Cthulhu and Mountains of Madness by Lovecraft

    A Conan movie, but instead of a movie with one major plot, make a movie made up of 3-4 of R.E. Howard’s short stories like The Phoenix and The Sword, Queen of the Black Coast and The Scarlet Citadel.

    The Foundation Series by Asimov. This would make a good miniseries.

    Myth Adventures by Robert Lynn Asprin

  • Nikki Lincoln

    At this point, shouldn’t Hollywood just let Jeff Bridges do whatever he wants? Dos anyone not like that guy?

  • Arakiba

     I was just going to suggest the Myth Adventures books too.

  • Sharmie Taffe-Fletcher

    Johnathan Strange & Mr Norrell would be the BEST. I would watch that harder than sherlock, and i love that show.

  • Anonymous

    Oh for a version of John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids instead of umpteen versions of The Day of the Triffids.

  • Julianne McCartney

    Wait….a stretch armstrong movie…why is this happening…what is going on…what………..what….why….WHY…..WHY ಠ_ಠ

  • Anonymous

    I would add “Codex Alera” to this list. Now there is a series just begging for a good movie adaptation.

  • Rose Jones

    Excellent list. While I haven’t read all of these books, they sound as if they would be great when adapted as BBC miniseries to give enough time to include all of the fantasy/sci-fi content.  Limiting it to a 2-hour movie would be a pity and cut too much out. Taking time to appreciate the canon material can pay off in the long run. Just look at the 1995 “Pride and Prejudice” that converted a generation of us into Austen fans.

  • Rose Jones

    Having read “Fables” and seen “Once Upon a Time”, they seem to be such different shows that I can’t see the latter being a rip-off of the former. “Fables” has such a different format with fairy tale characters living as refugees in Manhattan and following their strict codes of law but it could be a good miniseries if written well. Otherwise I fear it might become a soap opera what with fairy tale characters jumping in and out of bed with each other. Hands down I’d like to see Bigby Wolf, Flycatcher, Rose Red, and Jack Horner come to life.

  • Eleni

    Candy Land, Stretch Armstrong, and Ouija are all part of the Hasbro-Universal deal that gave us Battleship. Clue, Monopoly, and Magic: The Gathering are also potentially on the table (no pun intended). I’m particularly dreading a Stretch Armstrong movie…a couple years ago, Taylor Lautner was attached to star. Ugh. Hopefully that one will be stuck in development hell forever.

  • John Wao

    Another one I’d like to see adapted would be Km Newman’s Anno Dracula series.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    I actually dread the proposed Clue adaptation more. I mean, really, there’s already the 1985 movie starring Tim Curry. Why mess with perfection?

  • Rebecca Pahle

    *pats you on the back* I know. Believe me, I know.

  • Frodo Baggins

    Wow, fantastic choices! I’d also like to throw Anansi Boys and Watership Down on the pile.

  • Frodo Baggins

    Mountains of Madness was in production, but cancelled, I’m afraid.

  • Frodo Baggins

    Well, the Malibu Police Chief doesn’t like his jerk-off name. He doesn’t like his jerk-off face. He doesn’t like his jerk-off behavior, and he doesn’t like him, jerk-off.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve always been on the fence about a Good Omens movie, but recently someone pointed me in the direction of a fan-made graphic that featured Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston as Aziraphale and Crowley respectively (oh, fandom), and I almost lost my mind. Not saying that those two are the best choices for the roles or anything, but for the first time I actually “got” it, how much fun seeing it on the screen could be. Now I really, really want an adaptation to happen.

  • Ganieda

    When I was eight or nine, and already a wee, insufferable adaptation snob, I got the chance the thank Brian Jacques in person for not letting Warner Brothers et al anywhere near Redwall. I did this at about eight hundred words per minute with very little oxygen making its way to my brain. I still remember the gracious but completely befuddled look on his face. 

  • Brian

    Good Omens starring Dylan Moran and David Mitchell as the entities would be the best of all things.

  • Anonymous

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  • Zaewen

    In the realm of YA adaptations, I would love to see A Great and Terrible Beauty and it’s sequels be the next big trilogy to make it to the big screen. I mean seriously, female centered, period drama, boarding school with magic.That shit would sell like hot cakes.

  • John Wao

     I know and I’m still not over it….

  • Kash Mitaukano

    Sigh, no one ever talks about making a Tamora Pierce book into a movie. I mean Alanna, Protector of the Small, The Immortals? Great books with a strong female protagonist. Oh well maybe a TV series one day.

  • Melissa Leigh

    YES. A thousand times yes!

  • Mark Brown

    What about the Enchanted Forest Chronicles? It’s like DragonHeart meets Harry Potter meets Shrek, and it has a kick-ass female protagonist (and dragon politics!).

  • Ten Thousand Buckets

    Watership Down? You know that movie has been scarring children for years already, yeah?

  • Rebecca Pahle

    I’m not convinced Dylan Moran isn’t secretly Crowley anyway.

  • Rebecca Pahle


  • ainok

    On the other hand, some books should just be books and not have a horrible Hollywood version of them made.

    Kinda excited about the GO miniseries though. Crossing my fingers for awesome.

  • Abel Undercity

    Mouse Guard.

    That is all.

  • Carmen Sandiego

    OMFG, Cumberbatch and Hiddleston as Aziraphale and Crowley?  SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!

  • Carmen Sandiego

     I would die of squee if they did any Tamora Pierce book-to-movie.

  • Carmen Sandiego

     So much this!

  • Amphigorey


    I’m going to go cry in a corner at the maddening unfairness of it all.

  • Amphigorey

     Or Kindred. That would be amazing!

  • Alex T

    As for fantasy, I would love to see an Adaptation of another Diana Wynne Jones novel. Maybe live action this time? There’s a load of workable material she’s written that applies to all ages. Personally, I’d love to see Chrestomanci on the big screen or maybe The Tough Guide to Fantasyland would be fun.

  • Sarah Ashworth

    As much as I loved Good Omens, Sandman would top my list before that book. :/ Of course Sandman would have to at least be a trilogy if not a Harry Potter length movie series. Then I’d also pay to see adaptations of James Morrow’s Godhead trilogy and a JTHM film.

  • Frodo Baggins

    I’m talking a state of the art live action/CGI adaptation, without the awkward pacing or uneven visuals of the–admittedly rather impressive and mature–animated version.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been wishing for years that Robert Jordan’s Wheel of TIme series would be turned into a series (like Game of Thrones).  It is too long and detailed to make into movies.  It would make an awesome cable show.

  • Anonymous

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  • Anonymous

    Pratchett is my personal source of all “Why can’t that just make the damn movie” rage.  The TV movie adaptations of the Discworld books have been good, even exemplary at times, but There’s still that pang of What Might have Been if the big screen version of any of them got done.

    Likewise, Dreamworks had the rights to do an animated version of the Bromeliad Trilogy for years, and that never happened either. 

    All the Cosgrove-Hall stuff was good as well.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to hear anyone other than Christopher Lee as death.

  • Ashe

     It warms my heart to see another fan of that series!

  • Ashe

    I still hold out hope that Redwall gets adapted by Animal Logic, the same studio that did Legend of the Guardians and Happy Feet. Their detailed animation and appreciation for animal-centric adventure/fantasy would be a match made in heaven.

    I would also love to see Jeremy Thatcher: Dragon Hatcher be made into a film. Even as a kid, I was struck by the sincerity and depth it had; for anyone who doesn’t know, it’s about a bullied young artist finding a baby dragon that communicates with emotions and pictures and has to raise her in time to send her back to her own land. It’s a story ripe with believable characters, metaphor and allegory, even serving as inspiration for Eragon. If that piece of crap got a film adaption, this definitely should.

  • Ashe

     I have a co-worker who’s a fan of Adam Sandler, and when he saw the standee for That’s My Boy, even he admitted it looked like a bad parody.

    Hollywood, take note.

  • James Willetts

    Temeraire. The Napoleonic war. With Dragons. If The Hobbit can make a dragons work, someone needs to be pushing this out of the development stage it’s been in for years.

  • Anonymous

    Sabriel/Lirael/Abhorsen. Zombies and kick-ass young heroines (and how awesome would Benedict Cumberbatch be as Mogget? Hailee Steinfeld as Lirael?). You’re welcome, Hollywood.

  • Jaymes Eagan

    I always thought that American Gods,Planetary by Warren Ellis,and Top Ten would be better than Candy Land. Peter David’s “Fallen Angel” would be a million times better let alone a movie about searching through the multiverse for Linda Danvers & Donna Troy would rock compared to Candy Land. (really?)

  • Anonymous

    Well hell – no one’s even made Neuromancer yet.
    the CGI is finally up to Dune standards
    Stapleton’s Sirius is edgy and long overdue
    and there are enough Vance novels to run Hollywood for three decades
    Gemmel is waiting for fans waiting for year six of Martin’s Ice and Fire
    if Glen Cook’s Black Company hasn’t been made by then
    and Doris Pischeria has that comic book quality that the market likes in spades
    The Ice Queen & the Summer Queen will sweep all before them
    you’d think Hollywood never learnt toread ;)

  • Anna B

    Best idea I’ve heard all week!

  • Anna B

    This was optioned, I think, but hadn’t heard much about it since.

    I practically fell all-over myself in excitement when I thought they were going to do the movie for this one. I couldn’t stop thinking of that scene where the two, water-logged ghost girls were floating in mid-air… terrifying! But awesome.

  • Anna B

    I admit that I’m not a fan of The Giver and anthropomorphic animals as main characters in stories, but I think I might go and see The Giver just so I can learn to appreciate something that so many people seem to love.

    I think that I secretly want all the fantasy and sci-fi books I’ve read be made into movies. Certainly the ones mentioned in this article, and many more mentioned in these threads, but I was also hoping those rumors about Kenneth Oppel’s Airborn series becoming a movie were true, but alas… it’s in option limbo.

    Then again, there’s what they did to the Golden Compass…. what a waste of good book.

  • Anna B

    I think American Gods is in production right now with HBO.  But then again, I think I might have heard that about every book I’ve heard optioned.

  • Kristina Meek

    These are good suggestions all, but I have to admit I’m relieved that not ALL of the books I love have been run through the Hollywood machine. The Harry Potter francise excepted, it usually does not turn out well. It would physically hurt me to see Kavalier and Clay handled badly. Toby Maguire I could live with, but if they ever do make the movie they’ll probably end up casting Will Smith’s kids or something.

  • Wolftech

    Honor Harrington by David Weber would the the top of my list…

  • Kalynn Osburn

     *imagination goes to Benedict and Tom* Ohhhhhhhhhh for the love of gods somebody make that fucking movie.

  • Ariel

    There’s a miniseries happening next year on the BBC. Or was it 2014?

  • Anonymous

    I think there’s a wealth of awesome possibilities for movie adaptations in the writings of Diana Wynne Jones. Studio Ghibli just got the tip of the ice berg with Howl’s Moving Castle! I’m reading Homeward Bounders right now, for instance, and I would love to see someone take on the Chrestomanci series.

  • Anonymous

    js and mr n needs to be made.  i always thought that it would make a great film if you lot the napoleonic wars and got right down to the world of faerie.  its exciting to think of all the b characters whose stories one could follow.  pbs indeed.  a great solution 

  • Zac Whitney

    Snow.  Crash.

  • mwakholi

    As a fan of Tamora Pierce, I’m partial to a Trickster series myself. But that, of course, would leave open the issue of potential (probable) whitewashing of the Raka. Given the Carthaki are more or less meant to be Egyptian/Nubian, I always assumed that the Raka were South or South East Asian (Indonesian, in particular). But who is to say any producers of a Trickster series will agree with me? Worse, they might ignore the fact that Saraiyu & Dovasary are mixed-race…On second thoughts, maybe i should wait until I can produce the series myself :)

  • Jason Dabrowski

    The Avengers doesn’t quite count. It’s the very first movie in a NEW Franchise. Have we seen these characters before? Sure. It would be different if the book didn’t exist and someone just decided to create a super team out of random Marvel heroes, but that isn’t the case.
    The Avengers is actually a NEW franchise. It’s actually quite new in that the characters are all played by actors from other franchises, something we haven’t seen done before, if I’m not mistaken. It’s actually quite new and unique in that regard.
    I noticed you didn’t mention the Nth Batman movie…..

  • Anonymous

    Gentleman with Thistledown Hair = David Bowie in Labyrinth. Casting done, you’re welcome.

  • Erin Oliva

    That said, I kind of want to see them stay away from good things after what they did to: Narnia, John Carter, Avatar (good GOD!) 

    I cannot express in words my utter HATRED of those Madagascar movies, ALL OF THEM literally make me feel sick to my stomach. BTW can anybody pin-point the moment when almost all “kid’s” “entertainment” became aimed at 3 years olds? 
    Dreamworks animation started sucking WHEN they made SHREK. That movie is a morality monstrosity, and IDK who says it’s good, or funny, or anything! The second one was surprisingly a lot better, and then we got #3, etc. and the suckage started all over again. I’m also sad that Tangled did better than The Princess & the Frog, not that Tangled was bad, I liked it a lot, but I LOVE The Princess & the Frog. It really was so nice to see Disney get edgy again, and I guess it’s over now… damn! 

  • John Hubbling

    As one person mentioned, there is so much great scifi that would make great movies.  I’ve been reading scifi (and collecting; 2000 and climbing) since the 1950′s and I could create a list of hundreds that never seem to have been considered.  One just wonders that we seem to have to keep creating new crap (some exceptions) when so much gold is lying around.  So, top of my list, Alfred Bester’s classic (60 yrs old and still fresh today) “The Stars My Destination”.

    It is interesting that the works of Phillip Dick have been so attractive: starting with Blade Runner (“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”).  Over a dozen of his works and counting.  May it is the “sequel” thing again:  with B.R.’s success (albiet it took years to be recognized as the masterpiece it is), they just kept going to the well (in this case, thankfully).

  • Tamora Pierce

    As much as I love love love Fables, HEY!  What about Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, hunh?  Death as the ultimate kick-butt female hero, AND she has a sense of humor, Delirium deliriuming onto and off of camera . . .  You coulda had Sandman instead of THE GIVER, whic *has no ending.*

  • Mandy

    As much as I loved and devoured this series I don’t think it’d be a good movie. :/ I guess I just don’t trust some random Hollywood person to adapt it well. Maybe if they brought the author on to help with the script/consult. There are just so many interesting little details in the books! I don’t think Holywood would know what to do with an all female main cast, period drama, fantasy story!

  • Delphi Psmith

    Great list.  Surprised you left out Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books, though.  I mean yes, there’s Ramoth’s mating flight, but I’m sure they can soft-focus that and get it an R rating.  CGI is finally good enough to do believable dragons, and come on, a sky full of dragons wouldn’t be awesome??  Plus Lessa is a great female protag. :)  Or they could start with Menolly’s story (fewer dragons = cheaper to make).

    Any (or all!) of Sharon Shinn’s Samaria books, starting with Archangel.  Sheri Tepper’s The Gate to Women’s Country or Gibbon’s Decline and Fall would be great as well.

    A little-known book but that one that I would LOVE to see done as a movie is Barbara Cohen’s Unicorns in the Rain — YA dystopia/apocalypse, long out of print but a really striking tale.

    I can’t imagine how Strange/Norrell would translate to the screen, though, since you’d lose all those scholarly footnotes; for me that was half of the fun of it and it created such a rich setting for the story, backing it with all that “scholarship.”

  • Delphi Psmith

     Ooh.  Did not know it was in development.  This would be fun to see…

  • Delphi Psmith

     Ha!  Perfect…

  • Delphi Psmith

     It would run for ten years…