What if one of the best books from your childhood had been adapted into a kickass movie and you didn’t even know it? Originally, The Giver was a 1993 Young Adult novel by Lois Lowry that quietly won over a generation. Now that those early readers are all grown up, they can use Netflix to stream The Giver, an overlooked movie that is one of our favorite sci-fi thrillers.
Even though the novel came out long before more modern Young Adult hits like The Hunger Games, you’ll notice right away that The Giver has many of the tropes that have defined this genre. In both the book and movie, we have a dystopian future society, repressed young people, and more social commentary than you can shake a sci-fi stick at. That particular formula may seem a little tired by now, but trust us when we say that the film adaptation of The Giver feels remarkably fresh amid a crowded field of cinematic competitors (including the recently released Hunger Games prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes).
A big part of what makes The Giver work onscreen is the talented cast. Brenton Thwaites and Odeya Rush do a great job as the young people driving the story forward, but it’s actually the older cast members who end up stealing scene after scene. We get thrilling performances from Meryl Streep and Alexander Skarsgård, but the real standout is Jeff Bridges, whose Giver character knows all the dark secrets that his society is secretly built on.
Speaking of Jeff Bridges, he has been a fierce champion of The Giver for many years. He originally wanted to film an adaptation in the ‘90s while the book was still fresh on everyone’s minds, but various behind-the-scenes events (including the film rights being repeatedly bought and sold) kept delaying his plans. Interestingly, the film was delayed so long that even though Bridges wanted his father (who died in 1998) to play the Giver decades ago, Bridges himself was old enough to play this wizened character once the 2014 film finally came out.
By the time The Giver came out, it got something of a mixed reaction, especially between critics and fans. For example, on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie has a 35 percent rating, with critics complaining that we didn’t get enough of the literary elements from the original novel. However, fans seemed to enjoy it a bit more: not only did The Giver make $67 million at the box office compared to its modest $25 million budget, but it ended up winning or getting nominated for awards at nine different awards.
You’ve probably figured this out by now, but The Giver is an acquired taste: some audiences appreciate the movie because it adapts a book that helped blaze the modern trail for Young Adult authors everywhere. Others don’t vibe with the movie because, ironically enough, they wish it was more like The Hunger Games and other YA epics that came out more recently. Fortunately, you don’t have to volunteer as tribute and risk your life to check this film out… all you have to do is stream The Giver on Netflix today to discover your new favorite sci-fi movie.