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7 best Neil Gaiman adaptations, ranked

The titular Endless surrounded by his supporting cast in The Sandman.
Netflix

Neil Gaiman is among pop culture’s most famous and revered writers. In fact, he’s one of the few whose mere name can provoke some sort of reaction in the average person, even those who aren’t avid readers. Gaiman is behind some of the most recognizable titles in the modern age — seminal comic books like The Sandman and novels like Coraline all come from his brilliant mind.

Logically, many of Gaiman’s works have been adapted for the big and small screens. From great shows on Amazon Prime to underrated fantasy films, the best shows and movies based on Gaiman’s literary work are popular with fans and critics alike. They effortlessly capture the magical complexity of Gaiman’s oeuvre, ranking among their respective genre’s best efforts.

7. MirrorMask (2005)

A giant floating mask approaching two small figures in the film MirrorMask.
Samuel Goldwyn Films

Based on Gaiman’s short story and adapted for the screen by Gaiman himself, MirrorMask is among the 21st century’s most underrated movies. This dark fantasy epic centers on Helen, a young girl fed up with her life living in a circus with her family. In an outburst, she wishes her mother were dead, and when her wish seemingly comes true, Helen must enter a bizarre world to undo the damage she caused.

Like many of Gaiman’s best stories, MirrorMask isn’t afraid to explore extremely dark themes. The film makes involuntary matricide seem compelling thanks to a series of truly spectacular and surreal visuals that perfectly complement the story’s morbid themes. Unfortunately, the screenplay is somewhat weak, and the story loses much of its momentum halfway through. Even so, MirrorMask remains a visually dazzling journey that is 100% Gaiman.

MirrorMask is available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video and other digital vendors.

6. Lucifer (2016-2021)

Lucifer Morningstar standing by his bar in a suit, looking at someone in a scene from Lucifer on Netflix.
John P. Fleenor / Netflix

Some shows rise on the strength of a very good performance that’s sturdy enough to compensate for other flaws; Lucifer is such a show. Tom Ellis stars as the titular character, who abandons his post as the Lord of Hell to run a nightclub in Los Angeles before becoming a civilian consultant for the local police.

Very loosely based on the Gaiman-created DC character Lucifer Morningstar, this supernatural procedural that aired on Fox and Netflix is fun, lively, and self-deprecating. Ellis shines in the lead role, keeping things witty and light and bringing some much-needed dignity to the affair. Lucifer is not necessarily among Netflix’s best shows, and it’s certainly not a great adaptation of the source material. However, it excels as another take on the character, bringing new life to one of DC Comics’ most underappreciated figures.

Lucifer is available to stream on Netflix.

5. American Gods (2017-2021)

Ian McShane and Ricky Whittle as Mr. Wednesday and Shadow Moon looking in the same direction in the show American Gods.
Starz

The always reliable Bryan Fuller developed American Gods for Starz based on Gaiman’s eponymous 2001 novel. Set in a world where a battle is waged between the Old and New Gods, the show centers on Shadow Moon, a recently released convict who agrees to work as the bodyguard for the enigmatic Mr. Wednesday.

American Gods features one of Gaiman’s most ambitious and original plots. Exploring themes of media indoctrination, the threat of technology, and fate in the modern world, the show is among the most inspired and fascinating takes on globalization. The show further rose on the strength of a stellar cast, notably a scene-stealing Gillian Anderson as the Goddess Media, and a distinctive, in-your-face visual style that was as uncompromising as it was stunning. Sadly, Fuller’s exit at the end of season 1 left a hole that the two subsequent seasons weren’t able to fill.

American Gods is available to stream on Amazon.

4. The Sandman (2022-Present)

The Sandman sitting in a chair in all black looking serious from The Sandman on Netflix.
Netflix

The Sandman is Gaiman’s most iconic work by far, and Netflix’s adaptation is a valiant effort to translate it to the small screen. Tom Sturridge stars as Morpheus, the personification of dreams and one of the seven Endless. Released after 106 years of captivity due to an occult ritual, he sets out across worlds and timelines to bring order to his realm, the Dreaming.

Sturridge is a great Morpheus, and he’s accompanied by an equally impressive cast, including Boyd Holbrook, David Thewlis, and Gwendoline Christie. Impressive visuals and loyalty to the source material further make The Sandman a worthy adaptation of Gaiman’s near-sacred text, even if it can’t quite reach the same depth or impact. Still, The Sandman stands on its own feet as one of Netflix’s most ambitious and opulent original productions, with a sufficiently poignant narrative to boot.

The Sandman is available to stream on Netflix.

3. Stardust (2007)

Yvaine and Tristan looking scared while holding hands in "Stardust."
Paramount Pictures / Paramount Pictures

It’s not an overstatement to say Stardust is the single most underrated fantasy film of the 21st century. A classic take on the beloved genre, the film stars a young Charlie Cox as Tristan Thorne, who journeys into the magical land of Stormhold to capture a fallen star to bring back to his true love. However, the star takes the form of a beautiful young girl upon its arrival on Earth, meaning Tristan must protect her from multiple parties interested in acquiring her.

Stardust is a near-perfect fantasy movie, boasting great production values, a compelling story, and a charming leading turn from Cox. However, it’s the supporting players that steal the show, particularly a wicked Michelle Pfeiffer as the villainous witch Lamia and Robert De Niro in an against-type role as a flamboyant pirate captain. Although it changes quite a few things from Gaiman’s novel, Stardust remains an endearing and endlessly rewatchable fantasy adventure that might very well be this generation’s The Princess Bride.

Stardust is available to stream on Paramount+.

2. Good Omens (2019-Present)

Michael Sheen sitting with a cup of tea and David Tennant sitting on the back of the chair behind him in a scene from Good Omens.
Mark Mainz / Amazon Prime Video

Michael Sheen and Doctor Who star David Tennant form one of modern television’s best partnerships in the Amazon Prime original Good Omens. Based on Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s 1990 novel, the show centers on the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley, Earth’s representatives for heaven and hell who have formed a friendship over the eons. When they realize that Armageddon is imminent, they team up to save the life they have created for themselves on Earth.

Like the best Gaiman works, Good Omens features a heavy dose of theological and Christian themes and motifs seamlessly blended into a fascinating narrative. However, if the show soars on the screen, it’s largely due to the electrifying chemistry between Sheen and Tennant. Together, this remarkable and quirky duo enhances the plot’s irreverence, making a meal out of every scene. The duo perfectly balances and brings out the best in each other, turning an already intriguing story into an exercise in hilarity unlike anything else on television.

Good Omens is available to stream on Amazon.

1. Coraline (2009)

Coraline crawls through a dark tunnel.
Laika

Laika might lack the same name recognition as other animation studios, but it has produced its fair share of modern classics. None, however, is better than 2009’s Coraline, which was adapted from Gaiman’s eponymous 2002 novella. The stop-motion film stars Dakota Fanning (Ripley) as the voice of the title character and follows her as she enters a seemingly idyllic world behind a mysterious door in her new home. However, she soon realizes that danger lurks behind every corner.

Overflowing with creativity and making incredible use of its stop-motion visuals, Coraline is a strikingly beautiful and emotionally impactful movie. The film’s themes of self-discovery, courage, imagination, and identity are perfectly displayed in every frame, and brought to convincing life by a committed voice cast that also includes a terrific Teri Hatcher. Coraline is vivid, dynamic, insightful, and thought-provoking, effortlessly capturing the spirit of Gaiman’s source material.

Coraline is available to rent or purchase on Amazon and other digital vendors.

Editors' Recommendations

David Caballero
David is a Mexican freelance writer with a deep appreciation for words. After three years in the cold world of Marketing…
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