12 Literary-Based Dramas on Netflix

As a modern day writer, I have a love/hate relationship with Netflix. On the one hand, movies are another form of storytelling. In fact, many movies are based on their own literary counterparts, and as such, watching movies is a bit like studying—if you’re a writer. Or so I tell myself.

Especially if you want your book to be adapted for the big-screen, a goal that is elusive but often sought after.

I once told a friend that this is the ultimate achievement for some writers—a film adaptation—which they told me was the sign of a sell-out. But I disagree. Whether you’re in it for the money (because, who are we kidding, writers deserve some, and an adaptation just might be the only way to it for some) or the ride, film adaptations are exciting. Of course, there’s the lights, cameras, and action, but there’s also the thrill of seeing a world you made up out of thin air being acted out right before you.

On the other hand, watching movies takes away from time spent writing. In other words, it’s distracting.

So writers, if you’re going to binge, help yourself feel less guilty by taking notes. What do these films do well? Read the stories. How do the adaptations differ? And then reflect on how to improve your own stories.

Below are twelve dramas currently on Netflix based on books, short stories, or novellas:


Based on the novella The Grandmothers by Doris Lessing



Based on the book Defiance: The Bielski Partisans by Nechama Tec


Cold Mountain

Based on the book Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier


Devil’s Knot

Based on the book Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three by Mara Leberitt


The Firm

Based on the book The Firm by John Grisham



Based on the short story “Keith” in The Hotel Eden by Ron Carlson


Ordinary People

Based on the book Ordinary People by Judith Guest


The Paperboy

Based on the book The Paperboy by Pete Dexter


Silver Linings Playbook

Based on the book The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick


A Single Man

Based on the book A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood


Stand by Me

Based on the novella The Body by Stephen King


The Way Back

Based on the memoir The Long Walk by Slawomir Rawicz


Tell Us What You Think.