8 Best Fantasy Books That Need To Be Made Into Movies

These fantasy books need movie adaptations, immediately.

By Nathan Kamal | Published

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For decades, it was common wisdom in Hollywood that movie adaptations of a fantasy book had a built-in, but limited audiences of various nerds, dorks, and geeks. Then Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy came along, won a slew of Academy Awards, grossed a ridiculous amount of money, and made every great fantasy book a potential new blockbuster. Forget Game of Thrones and The Wheel of Time, we want these great fantasy books to be turned into movies.

8. The Riftwar Cycle by Raymond E. Feist

Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Cycle is a sprawling series of trilogies and sagas, all of which began with a single fantasy book: Magician, the story of an orphan boy named Pug in a quasi-Medival Euopean-style world who unexpectedly finds himself apprenticed to a master magician. From this archetypal (let’s just say this won’t be the last kitchen boy on this list to find a great destiny) beginning, the books expand into a vast interdimensional war between two opposing cultures.

The Riftwar Cycle eventually becomes a vast, generational story of heroes, villains, gods, and demons, setting up a franchise with all the source material it could ever need. Your move, Hollywood.

7. The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe

Technically, Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun series is a science fiction series, in that it takes place on Earth in the distant future, perhaps millions of years ahead when the Sun itself is cold and dying. But you’d never know it from the narrative of Severian, an apprentice torturer in a strange, fantastical nation at war who finds himself becoming a messianic figure to the world.

The Book of the New Sun is filled with bizarre, otherworldly imagery and concepts that might be difficult to translate to the screen, but we would love to see a visual master like Dune director Denis Villeneuve take at least the first fantasy book in this dark and intense series.

6. Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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Unlike many of the entries on this list, Naomi Novik’s Uprooted is a standalone fantasy book, set in a world primarily inspired by Polish folklore. That alone differentiates it from the Anglophiliac tendencies of most fantasy series, as well as having a female protagonist that neatly dodges a lot of common and dull narrative tropes.

Uprooted opens with an intriguing concept: every ten years, a wizard known as “The Dragon” selects a young girl to take to his tower, never to be seen again. But this year, instead of taking the beautiful Kasia (everyone expected), he selects her best friend, the clumsy and argumentative Agnieszka. Things only defy expectations from there.

5. The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb’s Farseer series has many similarities to George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, focusing on the complex political machinations of a Kingdom known as the Six Duchies. However, the series (and most particularly, its first fantasy book, Assassin’s Apprentice) is a coming-of-age story of a single character, the illegitimate royal child Fitz. The books are a deep look into a complex character, who tells of his long and difficult life as a shunned member of an illustrious family, a trained killer, and a wielder of an innate form of magic known as Wit, which allows him to telepathically bond with animals. A dark, tortured character who teams up with dogs to struggle against his destiny? Sounds like box office gold.

4. The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake

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The legendary Gormenghast Trilogy has been adapted for radio and a British TV miniseries, but never a feature film, which is a shame. Mervyn Peake’s trilogy of gothic fantasy begins with Titus Groan, a book set in a strange, ancient castle that seems to be all the world that exists; its inhabitants live by a complex series of rituals that no one understands, trapped within a gloomy, restrictive world.

That is, until one orphan kitchen boy (see?) named Steerpike begins to disrupt things, swiftly rising above his humble roots, forever changing this static world of stone. But things aren’t as simple as this being the story of a hero or a villain, and we need a movie to show us why.

3. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

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The Last Unicorn actually already has had one adaptation, a Rankin/Bass production from 1982, but this iconic fantasy book deserves much more (and maybe no songs from soft rock band America this time). CGI has sufficiently developed to the point where can have a convincing depiction of the ethereal beauty of the final remaining unicorn in the world searching for her missing people, and we are here for it.

Along the way, the unicorn teams up with the incompetent magician Schmendrick (we’re pushing for Nicholas Hoult) and the irascible, pragmatic Molly Grue (how about Frances McDormand), eventually coming up against the enigmatic, terrifying fire creature, the Red Bull. It’s a funny, charming, and even horrifying story that needs to come back to screens. 

2. The Kingkiller Chronicle series by Patrick Rothfuss

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Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicle takes the familiar device of an aged hero telling his life story, but there’s much more to the tale of Kvothe, a musician turned infamous wizard known as the Kingkiller than meets the eye. Each fantasy book in the trilogy takes place over a single day, in which Kvothe tells his unreliable autobiography to a scribe, with only one installment still remaining for eager fans.

However, we have more than enough tales of (as Kvothe himself puts it) how he “trouped, traveled, loved, lost, trusted and was betrayed” to make for a feature film. 

1. Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams

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Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn is arguably the greatest and most influential modern fantasy series, a self-admitted primary influence on the development of A Song of Ice and Fire. The massive trilogy of books takes place in Osten Ard, a world of dizzingly complex histories and cultures, alternating between multiple different points of views and having a morally ambiguous tone far from the simple world of Middle-Earth. Sound familiar?

But unlike the aggressively brutal world of Game of Thrones, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn is a complex, tragic tale of friendship, loyalty, loss, and romance. It begins with (you guessed it) an orphaned kitchen boy named Simon, who unexpectedly finds himself thrust into the center of a dark, growing conflict between the ghosts of the past and the seemingly peaceful, idyllic world he knows.

In many ways, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn is a series that begins where old legends end and asks what happens for the next generation. The first fantasy book in the series, The Dragonbone Chair, begins with the death of King John the Presbyter, a legendary dragonslayer elevated to a living legend, and challenges both the characters’ and readers’ expectations of exactly what heroism means.