House of Usher

8 Classic Books to Read Before They Become Movies and TV Shows

Classic novels and stories coming soon to the silver and small screen. Time to wipe the dust from the ole collection and get to page-turning.

With themes as resonant as ever, narratives as timeless as they come, and characters that nestle into our hearts and minds, classic novels will always influence contemporary content. Whether using the basis of a tale to weave something more modern or directly adapting the source material, classic novels provide bottomless pools of inspiration for filmmakers. Here are the classics you should read before they become movies and TV shows. 

‘The Last Voyage of the Demeter’ | “The Captain’s Log” in ‘Dracula’

The Last Voyage of the Demeter is based on a single chapter — “The Captain’s Log” — from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Stoker’s 1897 novel was not the first story about a blood-sucking vampire, as that honor belongs to Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1871 novel Carmilla. However, Stoker’s narrative has arguably influenced the vampiric landscape to a greater extent, as over 200 films have been made featuring The Count. 

As for The  Last Voyage of the Demeter, the tale is set aboard the Russian Schooner Demeter —chartered to transport 24 unmarked crates of private cargo from Carpathia to London. The story will follow the seafarers aboard the ship who do all in their power to survive the voyage, as they are terrorized by a dark presence nightly. When the ship finally arrives at the harbor, there is no trace of the crew. André Øvredal (Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, The Autopsy of Jane Doe) directs the upcoming film starring Corey Hawkins (The Walking Dead, In the Heights), Liam Cunningham (The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Clash of the Titans), and Aisling Franciosi (The Fall, The Nightingale). The Last Voyage of the Demeter will premiere in theaters on August 11, 2023.

‘A Haunting in Venice’ | ‘Hallowe’en Party’

A Haunting in Venice is an Agatha Christie adaptation with Detective Poirot at the helm once again. Following in the footsteps of Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, A Haunting in Venice sees Detective Poirot come out of retirement to solve the death of a man who lost his life during a seance.

Unlike the previous two murder mysteries directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh in the title role, this film will enter into the horror landscape, boasting jump scares, an eerie atmosphere, and quite the foreboding score. Inspired by Agatha Christie’s 1969 novel Hallowe’en Party, the sequel stars Kelly Reilly of Yellowstone, Jamie Dornan of the Fifty Shades trilogy, funny lady Tina Fey, and Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh. The film premiers in theaters on September 15, 2023. 

‘Wonka’ | ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ 

Though not a direct retelling of Roald Dahl’s 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Wonka will serve as a prequel to the tale set forth in the Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp-led adaptations. 

The upcoming movie musical will trace Willy Wonka’s journey to becoming a famous chocolatier. Timothée Chalamet will take on the iconic cooky candyman, with Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Grant, Olivia Colman, and Ryan Gosling rounding out the primary all-star ensemble. Director Paul King (celebrated for his work on Paddington and Paddington 2) spearheads the film he co-wrote with Simon Farnaby (Ghosts, The Phantom of the Opera). The highly-anticipated fantasy is scheduled to premiere in theaters just in time for Christmas on December 15, 2023.

‘The Color Purple’ | ‘The Color Purple’ 

Nearly 40 years following the film that made Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg household names, The Color Purple will return to the silver screen with an all-star ensemble led by Fantasia, Taraji P. Henson, Ciara, Halle Bailey of the live-action The Little Mermaid, Corey Hawkins, and Danielle Brooks (Orange Is the New Black).

The Color Purple, by Alice Walker, documents the trials, tribulations, and gradual triumph of Celie (Fantasia) — an African American teenager raised in rural Georgia. Celie narrates her experience via painful letters written to god in a story that examines race and racism, spirituality, self-realization, and more. The Color Purple is scheduled to premiere in theaters on December 18, 2023. 

‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ | ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ 

Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher is one of the author’s most celebrated short stories. Though not exactly a book, its legacy warrants its place on this list, and you will find it in any notable collection of Poe’s works. Capitalizing on the eerie and medieval atmosphere akin to gothic fiction, the tale puts forth themes of isolation, family, and madness to lay the groundwork for the eventual collapse of a decaying mansion. 

The story follows an unnamed narrator who is called to visit The House of Usher by his childhood friend, Roderick, who is slowly dying. The narrator, empathetic for a man on his deathbed, heads to the mansion (and stays longer than he should) out of respect for his childhood friend’s final wishes. 

Mike Flanagan — the genius behind the Netflix adaptations of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game, and Henry James’ Turn of the Screw (The Haunting of Bly Manor) — helms the upcoming series. Flanagan, in a manner similar to Quentin Tarantino, likes to call upon the same actors; thus, it should come as no surprise that this series will star Carla Gugino, Kate Siegel, Rahul Kohli, and Annabeth Gish — all of whom have worked on multiple Flanagan productions. The series is expected to drop on Netflix in the fall of 2023. 

‘Harold and the Purple Crayon’ | ‘Harold and the Purple Crayon’

Originally scheduled to premiere in theaters this summer, the live-action retelling of the beloved children’s classic is now scheduled to premiere sometime in 2024. The story will follow Harold as he embarks on a magical mission with the help of his purple crayon. 

While Sony has remained rather tight-lipped about who’s playing who in the upcoming film, we do know a handful of the A-listers set to take center stage. Zachary Levi, Zooey Deschanel, Ravi Patel (Animal Control, Come As You Are), and Camille Guaty (Prison Break, Daytime Divas) are all set to star in the film from Rio and Ice Age director Carlos Saldanha. Writers Dallas Clayton (An Awesome Book of Love) and David Guion and Michael Handelman — who worked together on Slumberland, Dinner for Schmucks, and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb — penned the screenplay/ 

‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ | ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ 

A movie in 2002. A British TV series in 1956. A TV miniseries in 1998. A 2023 ViX original series starring William Levy. And, now, an upcoming film from Director Matthieu Delaporte starring Pierre Niney (It Boy, Masquerade) in the title role. In short, The Count of Monte Cristo remains a timeless and captivating story from French author Alexandre Dumas. 

The novel chronicles a man’s revenge-seeking journey following his escape from prison and contemplates themes of vengeance, mercy, justice, forgiveness, betrayal, transformation, power, and identity. 

Screenwriters Delaporte and de La Patellière told Variety that their film, “will be told from the point of view of Edmond Dantès, the first French superhero, who steps from the light into the shadows, assuming the identity of masked avenger.” The film will premiere in French cinemas on October 23, 2024. An American release date — whether theatrical or streaming — has yet to be announced. 

‘Lord of the Flies’ | ‘Lord of the Flies’ 

You have quite some time to read this William Golding classic — if you haven’t already read it as part of your high school literature requirements — as the BBC series was only just announced in April 2023. British playwright Jack Thorne (Best Interests, Help, Kir) will take on the challenging task of adapting this complex story, which relies heavily on symbolism and inner dialogue to establish conflicts and thematic undertones. 

The BBC limited series will be the first-ever on-screen adaptation of Lord of the Flies, consisting of four one-hour episodes. The narrative follows a group of young boys who wind up stranded on a tropical island, giving rise to themes of civilization vs. savagery, power and control, loss of innocence, and more. A cast and release date have yet to be announced, but be sure to check back with Thought Catalog for updates.

About the author

Josh Lezmi

Josh is an entertainment writer and editor at Thought Catalog.