Roald Dahl Day: 8 best book to film adaptations of stories by children’s author - from Matilda to The BFG

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Dahl’s books have been loved for generations - and many of them have have been transformed in to some of our favourite films

Books written by children’s author Roald Dahl have been loved by little ones and their parents for generations.

His books have kind-hearted children, families and well meaning animals at their heart - and everyone has their favourite tale.

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Dahl has actually been called one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century, so it’s no surprise that many of his iconic stories have been taken off the page and brought to life on the big screen.

To celebrate Roald Dahl Day, we’ve rounded up a list of some of the best book to film adaptations of his best loved stories.

Children’s novelist Roald Dahl pictured on 10 December 1971. Children’s novelist Roald Dahl pictured on 10 December 1971.
Children’s novelist Roald Dahl pictured on 10 December 1971.

What is Roald Dahl Day?

Roald Dahl is one of the best loved children’s authors of all time.

His stories have enchanted children from many generations past, and continue to enthral youngsters today.

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To commemorate him and his achievements, Roald Dahl Day happens every year on his birthday, and people are encouraged to read his books and celebrate the magic that he brought and continues to bring to children everywhere

Roald Dahl Day takes place on 13 September.

Dahl was born on 13 September 1916 and died at the age of 74 on 23 November 1990.

What are the best films inspired by Roald Dahl books?

Here are nine of the best films which have been adapted from Roald Dahl novels.


The BFG is based on Roald Dahl’s 1982 novel of the same name. The book is so popular, it has been made in to two films; the first was released 1989 and the second in 2016.

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The BFG tells the story of Sophie, a young girl who one night sees a cloaked giant, the BIg Friendly Giant. The giant notices her and carries her to his home in the realm of Giant Country. Once there, the pair attempt to stop the man-eating giants that are invading the human world.

Roald Dahl gave the film a standing ovation when he saw it at a screening.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

In 1971, the first film based on Dahl’s book called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which he wrote in 1964.

The film tells the story of young boy Charlie Bucket, who wins a rare Golden Ticket and  is given the chance to visit Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory with four other children from around the world.

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Dahl was allegedly not a fan of the film for several reasons, one of which was that the script was partially rewritten after Dahl failed to meet his deadline.

The new screenwriter, David Seltzer, changed some aspects of the story that made Dahl displeased, including placing more of a focus on Willy Wonka rather than on Charlie - hence the adapted film title.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

The story of Charlie Bucket was so well loved that it was given a second film adaptation in 2005.

The rights for a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake had been in the works since the early 1990s, and this one retained the title of Dahl’s book and focused more on Charlie Bucket, just as Dahl intended.

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The Witches

The 1990 film of Roald Dahl’s 1983 book of the same name takes place in an alternate reality where the world is plagued by infanticidal witches who masquerade as ordinary women.

A boy and his grandmother set out to destroy them after the boy is turned into a mouse by the witches, who plan to turn all the children in to mice.

This is the third Roald Dahl film to receive a second film adaptation, with the second one being released in 2020.

James and the Giant Peach

This 1996 film is based on Dahl’s book of the same name, and tells the story of a little boy called James who finds himself living with his two ignorant and cruel aunts, Spiker and Sponge, after his parents’ are killed.

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One day, he’s given magic green ‘crocodile tongues’, which makes a peach in his backyard grow to epic proportions.

When he crawls inside, he befriends a group of insects and they roll away on an adventure across the country and the ocean.

Dahl refused many offers to have James and the Giant Peach made into a film, but after his death his wife gave the go-ahead for a live-action adaptation, which ended up being partially live-action and partially stop-motion animation.


The 1996 film is about a young genius named Matilda, who uses her psychic powers to deal with both her parents, who do not value her or her education, and also Agatha Trunchbull, the headmistress of her school who also does not like children.

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The story of the extraordinary girl with a  sharp mind and a vivid imagination has been adapted in to a second film, which is due for release in 2022 in the UK.

Dahl’s book of the same name was published in 1988, and was one of the last books released before his death.

Fantastic Mr Fox

In 2009, a film adaptation of Dahl’s 1970 book Fantastic Mr Fox was released. As the name suggests, this tale focuses on animals.

The film is about a fox who steals food each night from three mean and wealthy farmers. They are fed up with Mr. Fox’s theft and try to kill him, so they dig their way into the foxes’ home, but the animals are able to outwit the farmers and live underground.

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