Next summer, Disney’s adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic novel A Wrinkle in Time hits theaters. Directed by Ava Duvernay (Selma), the film stars Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling and Oprah Winfrey in a story about sci-fi adventure and Christian allegory.
The film is only the latest in a string of recent releases based on Christian best-sellers (90 Minutes in Heaven, Captive, Heaven Is For Real, Same Kind of Different as Me).
With Hollywood increasingly turning to the shelves of the Christian bookstore for new movie ideas (just like they’ve done for the Bible), we decided to look at seven books that should get their own movies, along with what directors should make it happen.
The Space Trilogy – C.S. Lewis
Director: The Wachowskis
C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia are his best-known works of fiction, but The Space Trilogy is arguably his most ambitious. The three novels involve space travel, supernatural entities, aliens, heavy religious metaphors and symbols, otherworldly settings and a shadowy group called “The National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments.” In other words, it’s perfect vehicle for the Wachowskis and their love of sic-fi weirdness. The trippy plot and crazy visuals would be just what the filmmakers need to reclaim the Matrix magic lost on bloated epics like Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending. Plus, with titles like “Out of the Silent Planet” and “That Hideous Strength” it’s already criminal that these books haven’t been made into movies.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
Director: Bennet Miller
Maya Angelou’s 1969 autobiography tells the emotional story of her difficult early life—in which she experienced both abuse and racism— showing how it helped her to later become one of her generation’s most important writers. While not a traditional “Christian” book in terms of genre, the autobiography offers an unfiltered look at the events that formed a poet known for her faith, as she wrestles with big questions. Though it was made into a TV movie back in the ’70s, in the modern era of so many great biopics, it’s just waiting for filmmaker like Bennet Miller (Foxcatcher, Capote, Moneyball) to bring it to the big screen.
The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Arguably Christianity’s most enduring work of fiction, parts of this story have been adapted countless times in pop culture, but a modern reimaging could introduce Christian’s harrowing journey to the “Celestial City” to whole new audiences. Fuqua might seem like an odd choice (especially when a Peter Jackson Pilgrim’s Progress doesn’t seem all that far-fetched), but with movies like Training Day, Southpaw, Shooter and Tears of the Sun, he’s shown that his specialty is telling the story of an unlikely hero overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds.
Bonhoeffer – Eric Metaxas
Director: Steven Spielberg
With the upcoming Bridge of Spies, and mega hits like Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan and Munich all to his name, Spielberg is no stranger to historical war epics. And though a low-budget 2000 film (which aired on PBS) brought Dietirch Bonhoeffer’s incredible story to the screen once before, Eric Metaxas’ best-selling 2011 biography Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy renewed interest in the life of the pastor turned would-be Hitler assassin. Tom Hanks, this is a role you were born to play.
This Present Darkness – Frank Peretti
Director: David Fincher
There have been rumors of a big-screen version of Frank Peretti’s best-seller for years, and with a plot that involves a slowly unraveling conspiracy, sensational crimes and, most notably, a secondary story involving warring spiritual forces, this book seems like it could translate well into a creepy thriller. With its twisting pace and winding narrative, the book isn’t exactly a literary achievement, but a filmmaker like David Fincher—who made the best-selling pot-boiler Girl with Dragon Tattoo franchise into a box-office hit—could probably turn the fiction thriller into a nuanced two-hour story.
Father Brown – G.K. Chesteron
Director: Wes Anderson
G.K. Chesterton’s classic detective series about a crime-solving priest has been adapted before (it’s currently a BBC series), but to this point, directors have mostly kept it close to the source material. But, just think of what Wes Anderson could do with a premise that seems already tailored for some stylized fun. Who wouldn’t want to see Bill Murray as the devout sleuth pedaling around the English countryside, investigating crimes involving a cast of townfolk, murderers and parishioners played by Anderson go-tos like Jeff Goldblum, Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson and Anjelica Houston?
The Cross and the Switchblade – David Wilkerson with John and Elizabeth Sherrill
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
The story of David Wilkerson’s years ministering to young people and gang members in the gritty streets of New York sold millions of copies, and even made into to the big screen in a 1970 movie starring Pat Boone. With its look at drug culture and violence—and compelling real-life characters—the story has the elements of modern urban drama. Kathryn Bigelow, who specializes in tense dramas (Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker), could provide a cool new take on the redemptive crime story.
Jesse Carey is a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT Podcast and member of RELEVANT's executive board. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.