There is something so intriguing about seeing your favourite ya fantasy series adapted to a movie or TV Series. But Movie adaptations are so hit and miss. That’s why I’ve compiled the absolute best movies based on ya fantasy books.
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I personally love seeing my favourite ya fantasy books visualised. Even if the book is better. However, it's rare for a movie to do the original book series justice. But sometimes you can find a movie adaptation that is actually better than the original book.
So I thought I would recommend some insanely good movies based on YA Fantasy books. These movie adaptations are 100% worth your time!
What defines a ya book?
As a general rule, YA books feature protagonists age 12-18 and they discuss themes that appeal to a teenage age group in an accessible writing style. YA Books commonly include themes such as coming of age, friendship, family and first love. As a whole, they avoid graphic content and tend to have a positive ending.
What makes a book ya fantasy?
A YA Fantasy book contains magical elements with no basis in scientific fact and is targeted to an audience of 12-18 year olds. They often feature dangerous quests, mythical creatures and fantastical characters or worldbuilding.
What are the best movies based on ya fantasy books?
These are suggestions for movies and TV Series that have already been released. There are some fantastic upcoming adaptations that I'm super excited about. You can check out this post from Collider to see upcoming fantasy book adaptations.
1. Hunger Games
I thought I would start with one of the most popular movies based on a YA Fantasy book. The Hunger Games is an incredible adaptation of a trilogy of YA dystopian books.
The Hunger Games takes place in Panem. A Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen year old Katniss Everdeen lives alone with her mother and younger sister. And she regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games.
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson
I thought I would start with the more popular movie adaptations. I wouldn't be able to write an article on movies based on YA Fantasy books without mentioning paranormal romance Twilight. Whether you love or hate these movies, they were a huge box office success.
Based on the books written by Stephanie Meyer, they follow Bella Swan. She moves to Forks, Washington to live with her father. And she's expecting her life to be dull and ordinary.
She's convinced that Edward Cullen in particular hates her. But she feels a strange attraction to him. Even though he seems determined to push her away.
However Bella soon discovers the true reason for Edward's coldness. He and his family are vampires.
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart
3. Maze Runner
The first Maze Runner movie did a great job with the adaptation. The books and movies are a great choice for any fans of The Hunger Games.
Thomas wakes up in a lift. All his memories are gone. Teenage boys greet him and welcome him to the glade. Outside the glade is a dangerous maze.
And it's the only escape.
Starring: Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario, Dylan O'Brien
4. Shadow and Bone
I was so happy when I discovered the Grishaverse was going to become a TV Series. If you haven't read Leigh Bardugo's work or watched the Netflix series then I highly recommend both.
The once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh
We follow Alina Starkov. She has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked, she reveals a dormant power that saves his life. And she is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha.
Starring: Ben Barnes, Archie Reneux, Jessie Mei-Li
5. School for good and evil
This Netflix original has received so much positive praise online and I knew I had to include it.
It follows best friends Sophie and Agatha. They're about to discover where all the lost children go - the School for Good & Evil. A School where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains.
Sophie has always dreamed of being in an enchanted world. And she knows she'll earn top marks at the School for Good.
Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil
Starring: Sophia Anne Caruso, Cate Blanchett, Kit Young
6. A Series of Unfortunate events
This series follows three orphans – Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire. They’re investigating their parents’ mysterious death.
However, they’re saddled with an evil guardian. And he will do anything to get his hands on their inheritance.
This is an excellent adaptation. And it’s a really addictive series to binge-watch.
Starring: Neil Patrick-Harris, Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes
Stardust is such an underrated movie. It's easily one of the best movies based on a YA Fantasy book. It's beautiful and whimsical with an excellent storyline.
It follows Young Tristarn Thorn. He lives in a rural English village known as wall in the 1800s. A large stone wall separates it from the Faerie land beyond.
He will do anything to win the heart of beautiful Victoria. Even fetch her the star they watch fall from the night sky. But to do so, he must enter the Faerie lands on the other side of the ancient wall.
Starring: Sienna Miller, Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer
Coraline is a personal favourite of mine. It's a creepy, atmospheric read perfect for autumn. Plus it's an absolute classic.
Coraline is fed up with the lack of attention from her parents. In her family's new flat are twenty-one windows and fourteen doors. Thirteen of the doors open and close. The fourteenth is locked, and on the other side is only a brick wall, until the day Coraline unlocks the door to find a passage.
She discovers another flat identical to her own. And a family from a parallel universe who give her everything she could possibly want. But is everything as it seems.
Coraline always reminds me of Fall. If you're looking for Fall Movies to Watch then I have a whole list of recommendations. You can check out my post on fall movies to watch here.
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders,
9. Ms Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Ms Peregrine's home is a charming ya fantasy book featuring a hidden world, magic and children with strange powers.
Ms Peregrine’s home for Peculiar Children follows Jacob. His grandfather escaped the Holocaust and grew up at an orphanage for children with strange powers. He even has photographic evidence.
As he grows up, he stops believing the stories. But one day a horrible tragedy occurs. And Jacob starts to wonder – could it have been real?
Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterworth
10. Golden Compass
Golden Compass is another insanely underrated adaptation. The Golden Compass is an all time YA Fantasy classic. And they did such a good job of adapting this YA Fantasy book into a movie.
It follows Lyra. She's a small girl who is rushing to the cold North, where the Gobblers take the children they steal--including her friend Roger. Where her uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world.
Can one small girl make a difference? Lyra is as fierce and true a champion as either Roger or Asriel coould want. But to help one of them she must betray the other.
Starring: Daniel Craig, Nicole Kidman, Dakota Blue Richards
11. City of Ember
City of Ember is a dramatic and exciting YA Fantasy book with a lot of heart.
It's set in the city of Ember. Years ago the city of Ember was created by the Builders to contain everything needed for human survival.
But now the storerooms are almost out of food and corruption is spreading throughout the city. Worst of all - the lights are failing. Soon Ember could be engulfed in darkness.
But when two children discover fragments of an ancient parchment, they begin to wonder if there could be a way out of Ember. Can they find a new future for the city of Ember.
Starring: Bill Murray, Saoirse Ronan, Toby Jones
You can't beat a good retelling. There are so many good Beauty and The Beast Retellings. And this movie adaptation doesn't disappoint.
Beastly is a contemporary YA Fantasy retelling where you can find out what Beauty and the Beast was like for the Beast.
It follows Kyle Kingsbury and is set in New York City. He was a happy guy with perfect looks, money and the perfect life.
But a witch casts a spell on him. And he becomes a beast. And he will stay that way forever unless he can break the spell
It's set in New York City and follows the Beast. He will still a Beast forever unless he can break a spell the witch cast on him.
Starring: Vanessa Hudgens, Mary-Kate Olsen, Alex Pettyfer
Divergent is wildly popular, successful and slightly ridiculous. It also divides fans a lot and I wasn't sure whether it should be in this post. But it’s also entertaining so I’m including it.
If you enjoy books like the Hunger Games chances are you’ll love this one. In Divergent the world is divided into 5 factions. Each faction is based on a personality trait which that faction embodies – Candor (honesty), Dauntless (bravery), Amity (peaceful), Erudite (intelligent) and abnegation (selfless).
Each sixteen year old must choose a faction. To help them decide, they take a test telling them which faction they belong to. Those who don’t fit into one faction are divergent.
Starring: Shailine Woodley, Kate Winslet, Theo James
14. The 5th Wave
The 5th Wave follows Cassie. After the 1st Wave, only darkness remain. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.
Cassie runs from Them. Beings who look human and kill anyone they see. Cassie believes she must stay alone to stay alive.
Until she meets Evan Walker.
Evan might be Cassie's only hope for rescuing her brother. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Matthew Zuk, Gabriela Lopez
15. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is an absolute classic. And it has one of the most magical secret fantasy worlds.
The Chronicles of Narnia follows four children who are evacuated to a country house. They find a magical kingdom called Narnia at the back of a wardrobe.
But Narnia has been enchanted by a White Witch. And it is frozen in an eternal winter.
The Lion, The Witch and The wardrobe has one of the most magical concepts behind it. The concept is also familiar to everyone and makes it easy to follow.
Starring: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley
16. Ella Enchanted
I know this movie is a bit older now. But I had to include Ella Enchanted because it absolutely nailed the movie adaptation. Honestly, this movie adaptation is so good that I sometimes forgot it's even based on a book.
At Birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by a young fairy named Lucinda. She bestows on her the "gift" of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey.
When her mother dies, she leaves her in the care of an absent father and a loathsome stepmother. And Ella's life seems to be in grave peril. So Ella sets out on a quest to find Lucina and undo the curse.
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Hugh Dancy
17. A Monster Calls
Conor has the same dream every night, ever since his mother first fell ill, ever since she started the treatments that don't quite seem to be working.
But tonight is different.
Tonight, when he wakes, there's a visitor at his window. It's ancient, elemental, a force of nature. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.
Starring: Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell