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HolidayFeb 6, 20235 min

5 Romantic Movies and Shows That Are Better Than the Books They’re Based On

Looking for something romantic to watch for Valentine’s weekend? These five book-inspired love stories are the best page-to-screen adaptations to check out.

By Emily Calkins

Keira Knightly stars in the 2005 film adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice.
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Fictional love stories abound in both books and film, so it’s no surprise that some of the most popular romantic novels have been adapted for the screen. The question is, is seeing those longing glances and almost-kisses as satisfying as reading about them? In the case of these five adaptations, we say yes.

1) The Notebook
The Notebook poster

Love him or loathe him, Nicholas Sparks is extremely consistent. His emotional, heart wrenching books have inspired more than 10 movies, but none of the other Sparks adaptations are as good as The Notebook. Is it emotionally manipulative? Sure. But it also has the combined star power of a young Ryan Gosling and a young Rachel McAdams. Both went on to become mega movie stars after this film, and rightly so. Their grounded performances and their off-the-charts chemistry take a movie that could’ve felt cheap and manipulative and turn it into a rainy day standby, the perfect movie to revisit for a good cry.

2) Bridgerton
Bridgerton poster

Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton novels are breezy delights. Readers know exactly what they’re in for: balls, banter, and a happily ever after for a seemingly unlikely couple. The Netflix series based on the novels takes those elements and turns the volume up to 11, giving viewers scene after scene of gorgeous, lavish sets and costumes and simmering sexual tension, all while updating the series with a racially diverse cast of ridiculously beautiful people.

3) Call Me By Your Name (2017)
Call Me By Your Name (2017) poster

Another case where the book isn’t bad, but the movie is something special, not least because it launched the career of Gen Z icon Timothée Chalamet. The film also garnered a host of nominations, awards, and other accolades, including a Best Picture Oscars nomination and a nod for Chalamet. André Aciman’s introspective novel elegantly captures the complexities of a sexual coming-of-age, but for sheer vibes (and the Italian scenery), the movie takes it.

4) Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Pride & Prejudice (2005) poster

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is obviously a masterpiece. It’s the romantic comedy ur-text. It’s sharp, funny, and deeply romantic. Has there ever been a confession of love more adorably idiotic than Darcy’s bumbling “My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you?" There has not.

But Austen’s classic is also more than 200 years old, and both the deep emotion and the wittiness of her writing can be tricky for contemporary readers to access in the old fashioned language of her work. Should you still read it? Absolutely. But readers feeling daunted by the book should start with one of the two excellent adaptations from the last 30 years, and then go back to the text that inspired them.

5) Pride & Prejudice (1995)
Pride & Prejudice (1995) poster

There’s no shortage of online debate about whether the 1995 BBC miniseries or the 2005 movie starring Keira Knightley is the best adaptation. For emotional drama, go with the 2005 movie, where the characters wear their hearts a bit closer to the surface. For wit, go with the BCC version, which hews very closely to Austen’s original dialogue, with excellent performances across the board capturing the humor that can be tricky to understand from the text alone. Or better yet, watch both wonderful adaptations and read the novel, and spend the month of February enjoying the romance that shaped romances for centuries to come.

Hungry for more Valentine's Day recommendations? Likewise has you covered with our list of the best Enemies-to-Lovers movies that Likewisers can't get enough of!

Alternatively, if you're feeling a bit more apathetic about this holiday's vibes, make sure to check out our 22 Anti-Romance Movies And Shows list!

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