10 Netflix Book Adaptations That Failed Miserably

Everyone has read a book at least once in their life, whether it’s for school or personal enjoyment. Books are an essential form of media because they allow readers to connect with the story emotionally.

This is not to say that movies are inferior forms of media, but there is something special about reading words written by someone else and having them play out in your head like they are real. This is especially true for popular novels that get adapted into movies or TV shows and remain relevant. The problem is that some adaptations do not live up to the original work. This Netflix Australia movie list contains some of the book adaptations that failed miserably.

Death Note (2017)

This Japanese manga has built up a large fanbase over the years with its dark, thrilling story about a student who finds a notebook that can kill anyone whose name is written in it. That alone would make for a fantastic premise, but the Netflix adaptation combined this idea with tired conventions of American teen dramas (the most popular is “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”), leaving viewers with a subpar take on the original work.

Brain on Fire (2016)

Based on the memoir of Susannah Cahalan, this movie follows a young New York Post reporter as she experiences a scarce form of insanity that results in her undergoing tests and treatments that seem to make things worse. This story has all the makings of a compelling psychological horror movie, but the problem lies with its star: Dakota Fanning (who has never been known for her acting chops).

Her unremarkable performance was not enough to make this movie memorable, and it will likely fade into obscurity with the rest of Netflix’s lackluster originals.

Behind Her Eyes (2021)

One of the most popular books in recent years, “Behind Her Eyes”, is a psychological thriller about a woman entering a relationship with a man after meeting his wife. This book built up a lot of hype before its release in 2017, and people were eager to see how it would be adapted for Netflix’s audience. 

Unfortunately, this found-footage horror movie is not only terrible, but it has no relation to the book whatsoever.

Girlboss (2017)

A show about a woman starting her own business is not inherently wrong, but the problem with “Girlboss” lies with how it portrays its protagonist. One of the most notable qualities of Sophia Amoruso’s autobiography is that she displays flaws and emotions that are out of the ordinary for female protagonists in TV shows. 

Netflix decided to swap this nuance out for “mean girl” tropes and boring drama, leaving audiences with a show that is all style and no substance.

Iron Fist (2017-18)

Even though Marvel’s live-action adaptations have done incredibly well so far, people should still take notice when they miss the mark. Daredevil and The Punisher are both excellent Netflix original series, but “Iron Fist” is an abomination that should never have been created in the first place. 

It turns a vital character into a cliched martial arts fighter while simultaneously whitewashing Asian influences, making it one of the worst adaptations in recent memory.

Hillbilly Elegy (2020)

J.D. Vance’s memoir is about his life as a hillbilly in America, and it talks about how he worked his way up from poverty to become a Yale Law School graduate and a Marine who served in Iraq. The problem with this movie adaptation lies with what it chooses to focus on: the romantic aspect of the story. 

There is nothing inherently wrong with creating a romantic subplot, but this movie focuses on it to the point that Vance’s narrative becomes secondary.

The Kissing Booth (2018)

This movie was based on Beth Reekles’s young adult novel, which follows a girl who has to deal with her best friend dating her older brother. However, the Netflix adaptation shifted this dynamic around. 

It focused on two girls instead of one and made the protagonist’s older brother a love interest for both of them. This plot change fails to add anything meaningful to the story and purposefully misrepresents the book for its gain.

Rebecca (2020)

This psychological thriller is based on Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel of the same name, which follows a young woman who falls in love with her late husband’s estate. This premise sounds promising for a horror movie, but it only results in an incoherent mess that leaves viewers wondering what they just watched.

The Woman in the Window (2021)

The Woman in the Window is Rear Window with a female protagonist, but some key differences make it vastly inferior. It takes place in modern-day New York City instead of 1940s America, which removes the sense of mystery and dread that made Rear Window so famous. 

Additionally, it focuses on social issues like mental illness and child abuse, which are much less interesting than the voyeurism that Rear Window displays.

Ratched (2020)

This show avoids the central conflict of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by simply omitting it. While that does result in a more interesting narrative, it also feels like the creators are trying to hide something. Viewers can tell that Nurse Ratched is not what she seems at first glance, and they will be left unsatisfied by the lack of payoff in the end.


Now and then, a book adaptation will hit the big screen and fail miserably, but these 10 Netflix originals are prime examples of that. Instead of staying true to their source materials, they all do their own thing, which results in stories that don’t hold up on their own merits.

Whether it is an alien movie set in New York City, a romantic love triangle where the protagonist is in the middle, or the absence of one of cinema’s most pivotal antagonists, these Netflix shows are worse off for not living up to their original stories.

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