The most anticipated book adaptations at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival

Book adaptations have become a staple in the film industry because there are some stories so good they just have to be adapted to screen for both their die-hard readers and also to reach new audiences. This year’s 2020 Sundance Film Festival was no exception and the popular indie film festival embraced a love of adaptations, including entries from every genre imaginable. This year’s book-to-screen adaptations offered a wide range of amazing stories. Below are the are the most anticipated book adaptations that premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and information on how you can watch them. Make sure to add these books to your TBR list so you can read them before they head to a theater near you!

The Glorias (adapted from My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem)

The Glorias is a biographical feature film directed by Julie Taymor based on feminist icon Gloria Steinem’s 2015 bestselling autobiography My Life on the Road. The film covers the life of the trailblazer and key figure in the American feminist movement starting with Steinem’s early impressions of gender inequality based on perceptions of her mother’s unhappiness, being forced to write under a male pseudonym and the injustices Steinem later witnessed during a two-year fellowship in India. Such experiences – in addition to those she herself experienced in the male-dominated field of journalism – lead Steinem to co-found the liberal feminist magazine Ms. in 1972 and later drove her toward social activism and a leadership role during the modern women’s movement. The film stars Alicia Vikander who will portray Steinem from ages 20-40 and Julianne Moore playing her beyond 40.

(The Glorias premiered at Sundance on January 26, 2020, not yet picked up for distribution.)


The Last Thing He Wanted (adapted from The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion)

Adapted from bestselling author Joan Didion’s novel of the same name, The Last Thing He Wanted follows journalist and single mother Elena McMahon who has rigorously investigated Contra activity in Central America for years. Frustrated when her coverage is censored, relief comes in an unexpected package: her acerbic father falls ill and leaves her a series of unfinished and unsavory arms deals in that very region. A guilt-propelled errand for her father thrusts her from byline to unwitting subject in the very story she’s trying to break and makes her a pawn in a risky and unfamiliar game alongside a U.S. state official with whom she has a checkered past. Elena needs to parse her own story to survive and with her disenchanting life awaiting her back home, she is forced to consider what she really wants. The film stars Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, Willem Dafoe, and Rosie Perez.

(Premiered at Sundance January 27, 2020, will screen on Netflix TBD.)


Lost Girls (adapted from Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker)

Lost Girls is an upcoming drama mystery directed by Liz Garbus based upon Robert Kolker’s bestselling novel of the same name. When Mari Gilbert’s 24-year-old daughter Shannan Gilbert mysteriously disappears, police inaction drives her own investigation into the gated Long Island community where Shannan was last seen. Determined to find her daughter at all costs, Mari retraces Shannan’s last known steps, driving her own investigation to an insular gated community near the desolate outer banks of Long Island. Her discoveries force law enforcement and the media to uncover more than a dozen unsolved murders of sex workers – young lives Mari will not let the world forget. The film stars Amy Ryan, Thomasin McKenzie, Lola Kirke, Oona Laurence, Gabriel Byrne and Miriam Shor.

(Premiered at Sundance on January 28, 2020, will screen on Netflix TBD.)


Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made (adapted from Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis)

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is based on the bestselling book of the same name by middle-grade author Stephan Pastis. The film follows the hilarious exploits of a quirky, deadpan hero, Timmy Failure, who, along with his 1,500-pound polar bear partner Total, operates Total Failure Inc., a Portland detective agency. An elementary school oddball, the clueless but confident Timmy must navigate the world of adults around him, including his overburdened mother, her well-meaning boyfriend, his teacher/nemesis and a school-mandated guidance counselor, all in his quest to become the best detective in the world. The film stars Winslow Fegley, Ophelia Lovibond, Kyle Bornheimer, Wallace Shawn and Craig Robinson.

(Premiered at Sundance on January 25, 2020, will screen on Disney+ on February 7, 2020.)


Snowpiercer (adapted from Snowpiercer by Jacques Lob)

Perfect for fans of The Hunger Games, the TNT original tv series Snowpiercer is based on the critically acclaimed graphic novel series and film of the same name. The post-apocalyptic dystopian thriller is a reboot of the film and set more than seven years after the world has become a frozen wasteland and centers on the remnants of humanity who inhabit a perpetually moving train, with 1001 cars, that circles the globe. Class warfare, social injustice and the politics of survival play out in this riveting adaptation starring Jennifer Connelly and Daveed Diggs and directed by award-winning Bong Joon-ho.

(Not an official Sundance entry but clips premiered at the TNT Presents Snowpiercer Panel & Reception in Park City on January 25, 2020.)


The Reason I Jump (adapted from The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida)

An immersive cinematic experience of nonspeaking autistic people across the world, the documentary The Reason I Jump is based on a memoir written by Naoki Higashida when he was just 13. The film follows a young Japanese boy on a journey through an epic landscape. Impactful moments in the lives of the characters are woven together with passages from Higashida’s writing, creating a sensually rich tapestry. As a maelstrom of thoughts, feelings, impulses and memories affects his every action, he gradually discovers what his autism means to him, how his perception of the world differs from others’, and why he acts the way he does – the reason he jumps.

(Premiered at Sundance on January 25, 2020, not yet picked up for distribution.)

*Disclosure: The links above are affiliate links. These picks are editorially selected, but if you purchase, She Reads may get something in return. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. 

Rektok Ross

Hi. I’m Liani. YA author and bookish lifestyle blogger. You may know me from my blog www.RektokRoss.com where I share book recommendations and tips for living a book-infused life, often featuring my Netflix watch list, my fashion, my dogs, and my latest travel destinations. Find me on Instagram and Twitter at @RektokRoss!

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