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Top Movies Based on Books for Tweens and Teens


Movies based on books can be a great tool to get kids of all ages excited about reading. Whether you read the book and then see the movie or vice versa, seeing a story come to life in a movie motivates kids to read. Here is a list of recent movies that are adaptations of renowned books. The books and movies are targeted toward kids ages 9-14 or so, but younger kids seem to be reading them as well. Also, kids of this age group may enjoy the movies/books on the list for kids ages 8-12 -- many of the movies overlap age groups.

1. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (2010)

Legend of the Guardians Blu-ray
Poto © Warner Bros.

Based on the popular book series, Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoolea brings Kathryn Lasky's epic story to the big screen with a fast-paced film in glorious CG animation. The movie varies some from the books, but stays true to the core story of Soren the owl. As a young owlet, Soren and his brother are snatched from their home by a group of owls who call themselves "The Pure Ones." These owls are intent on taking over the owl kingdoms, and they are training soldiers to help them do it. Soren makes a daring escape, and along with a few friends, he goes in search of the legendary Guardians of Ga'Hoole in hopes they will help save owlkind. (Rated PG, for some sequences of scary action)

2. Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Alice in Wonderland
Photo © Disney. All rights reserved.

Now 19 years old, Alice remembers the Wonderland she once visited when she fell down the rabbit hole, but to her, it is all just a dream. In the real world, Alice has grown up and is now trying to find her place in it amid societal rules and the expectations of her friends and family. Just as Alice is put on the spot with an unwanted marriage proposal, who does she see but a white rabbit in a waistcoat. Alice does not resist the urge to follow the funny bunny, and before she knows it, she is right back in Wonderland, but this time, things have changed. A Tim Burton movie, Alice in Wonderland provides a fantastic adventure that tells a new story yet retains the whimsical charm of the Lewis Carroll classic.

3. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief Blu-ray
Photo © 20th Century Fox

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, the first in the Percy Jackson series tells the story of a 12-year-old boy who finds out he is the son of Poseidon. The book is fun for kids not only because of the adventurous story, but also becuase kids get to read about Greek gods and famous mythical creatures. The movie Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief  doesn't follow the book exactly (and the Percy in the movie is a teenager), but the action-filled fantasy flick does stay true to the book's general storyline. The Percy Jackson book series is aimed at kids ages about 9-12, and the movie is generally targeted toward kids of this age group as well, although there is some added innuendo that is not in the book.

4. Inkheart

Photo © Warner Bros.

Inkheart, written by Cornelia Funke, is a book of 500+ pages! Recommended for kids ages 9-15, the tale is a richly detailed story within a story. The book offers a great challenge and an opportunity to introduce older kids to a series which might pique their interest and entice them to read the two sequels, Inkspell and Inkdeath (parents may want to pre-read the books, however, as there is some content that may be too much for some kids, even if they are within the recommended age ranges). The movie stars Brendan Fraser and is rated PG, for fantasy adventure action, some scary moments and brief language.

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5. City of Ember

City of Ember
Photo © Fox Walden

The City of Ember is based on the best selling novel by Jeanne Duprau. Written for a young audiences (about ages 10-14), the book tells the story of how twelve-year-old Doon Harrow and his friend Lina Mayfleet work to save Ember and find a city of light. The novel is actually part of a four book series called The Books of Ember, so kids who love the movie may want to check out the books and learn more about the story. The movie is rated PG, for mild peril and some thematic elements.

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6. The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)

Spiderwick Chronicles
Photo © Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.
The Grace family - Jared, his twin brother Simon, sister Mallory and their mom - have moved into Uncle Spiderwick's old house and are beginning a new chapter in their lives. Strange occurrences lead the children to discover Uncle Spiderwick's work and the magical, unseen creatures that surround the home. Based on the best-selling books by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi. Rated PG.

The books in the series are recommended for the 9-12 year-old range, but it is a fun series for parents to read to kids ages 6-8 as well. The books (Compare Prices) do contain some scary parts, so you may want to read one of them first to get an idea of the wording and imagery.

7. Lemony Snicket's: A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

Lemony Snicket's : A Series of Unfortunate Events
Photo © Paramount Home Entertainment
Based on the first three books in the adventurous Lemony Snicket’s book series, Lemony Snicket's: A Series of Unfortunate Events tells the story of the misadventures of the three Baudelaire orphans – 14 year-old Violet (The Inventor), her younger brother Klaus (The Reader), and baby sister, Sunny (The Biter). After the mysterious deaths of their parents in a fire, the three kids are sent to live with their "closest relative," the scary Count Olaf. The story, narrated by Snicket, retells the adventures of the kids in trying to escape the crazy Count and find their places in the world. Rated PG. Ages 8+.

8. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (2005)

Photo © Disney Enterprises, Inc.
During WWII four child refugees – Lucy, Susan, Edmond, and Peter Pevensie - tearfully leave their mother to go and live in the massive old manor of an elderly professor. While playing a game of hide-and-seek, Lucy hides in an old wardrobe and stumbles through the fur coats into a snowy enchanted kingdom where they eventually rule as kings and queens. Rated PG. Ages 7+. (There are several battle scenes in the movie that may be concerning for parents of young children)

Based on the timeless Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is only the first installment. The second movie in the series,Prince Caspian, is also available on DVD (rated PG, for epic battle action and violence).

9. Bridge to Terabithia (2007)

Bridge to Terabithia
Photo © Disney. All rights reserved.
Based on the Newbery Award-winning novel by Katherine Paterson (Compare prices), Bridge to Terabithia is a coming-of-age story about a boy named Jess and his friend Leslie. Together they imagine the magical world of Terabithia, far from the troubles of their every day lives. There, Jess and Leslie are the rulers of the kingdom. The story's main focus is the school and family situations of Jess, Leslie, and other characters. Woven throughout the movie are weighty themes surrounding topics such as childhood trials, family stress, life, and death; therefore, parents may want to preview the movie before allowing young children to watch. The story is sad, but has a lot of meat for critical thinking and discussions. (Rated PG. Ages 9+)

10. Harry Potter

Harry Potter DVDs
Photo © Warner Bros.
No discussion of kids' movies based on books would be complete without the Harry Potter series. One of the most popular book series of our time, the first five books in the Harry Potter series have already been made into movies, and the last two are certain to follow. Unfortunately, as the books get darker, so do the movies, and the two most recent titles have ended up with a PG-13 rating. Older kids will love to read and watch as they follow the boy wizard through the trials and travails. The first book and movie in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, is a bit more fun and less scary than later installments.
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11. War Horse (2011)

War Horse
Photo © DreamWorks
Based on the poignant children's novel by Michael Morpurgy, War Horse follows the story of a remarkable horse and his experience with people and soldiers from countries on both sides of a massive and senseless battle. The story reveals the humanity, and lack thereof, that exists among people no matter which side they fight on. This thought-provoking tale is both educational and inspiring. The movie contains heavy war violence through-out, so if your tween or teen is sensitive to this type of content, it could be disturbing or frightening. (Rated PG-13, recommended for 13+)

12. The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass
Photo © New Line Cinema

The Golden Compass is a fantasy adventure movie about young Lyra, who finds herself in the position of having to save her world.  The movie is based on the novels by Philip Pullman, and The Golden Compass sparked considerable controversy among religious groups and others. Some groups claim that the trilogy has the distinct agenda of promotingan an atheist cause. Mr. Pullman, however, has said that in his books, God and the church represent any totalitarian organization and not God specifically. (See his remarks from the Today Show posted on the  official movie website.) For those who care to, the books and movie offer an opportunity to discuss and analyze the story and the strengths or flaws in the underlying meaning. (Rated PG-13)

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