Filmhash List: 8 Great Children’s Fantasy Book Adaptations

A list from the esoteric brains behind Filmhash. If you have a list topic, let us know, and we’ll…come up with something!

With Mr. Popper’s Penguins as the big family film release this week, we’re running down 8 of the best children’s fantasy books made into films. For the purpose of this list, we’re ignoring anything that is part of a series. Because this would be a much, much longer list.

Babe (1995)

This is a tale of epic proportions. About a pig. I don’t know how to better describe this movie. I mean, it’s a movie about talking animals that got nominated for Best Picture! When there were only five nominees (it lost to Braveheart)! This is just an exquisitely made film. At the end of the day, “That’ll do, Pig. That’ll do.”

Coraline (2009)

This stop motion film is based on the novella by the acclaimed fantasy author Neil Gaiman. It follows the story of Coraline, a blue haired girl, and her family’s move from Ann Arbor to Oregon. The film chronicles her adventures with her strange new neighbors and an alternate reality called the “Other” World. While some children’s films move at an almost blinding pace in order to keep their intended audience pacified, like the other great films, this one takes the time to fully allow the audience to take in their surroundings. The lovingly-crafted stop motion is also one of the best 3D experiences ever.

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Based on the Roald Dahl book of the same name, this stop motion film by auteur director Wes Anderson, this is one of my absolutely favorite films. Anderson and writing partner Noah Baumbach make the smart move of taking the original work and writing a new beginning and new ending, deeping Dahl’s characters, and giving the film a more satisfying climax. It also features a stellar voice cast wit George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jascon Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, and more.

Holes (2003)

Based on the novel by Louis Sachar, Holes is a great stylized film starring a very young Shia LeBeouf. Directed by Andrew Davis, director of The Fugitive, Holes is a wonderfully stylized film fusing the feel of Cool Hand Luke with a child’s adventure tale, but is never condescending. All of the characters feel three-dimensional, adding yet another layer of depth to this wonderful movie.

Jumanji (1995)

Perhaps the best movie centered around a board game (so far), this has Robin Williams at his best manic children’s entertainment. Directed by Joe Johnson, the film effects still hold up today, and this is one of those films I watch every time I come across it on TV.

Mary Poppins (1964)

One of my favorite Disney films, Mary Poppins is “practically perfect in every way.” ‘Nuff said.

Night at the Museum (2006)

This is a fun adventure that mostly takes place within the confines of the American Museum of Natural History. Featuring Ben Stiller as a down-on-his-luck night watchmen, it features an all-star cast as the living inhabitants of the Museum, who only come alive at night. Especially notable is Robin Williams as the statue of Theodore Roosevelt. One of the better recent live action kids movies, with an emphasis on fun and imagination over jokes about bodily functions.

Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

This is a rare children’s film that is almost purely a drama. Every other film on this list has a strong comedic element, but this adaptation of the Maurice Sendak book pulls no punches. The film focuses on Max and his journey of emotional escape to the land of the Wild Things. It’s a voyage of self-discovery, and Max learns valuable lessons about life. Part of this film’s beauty is that it shows rather than tells the audience’s lessons. It’s not subtle, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with cute sayings to bring the message to the audience.