When Hollywood mines young adult (YA) literature, we get cool movies about teens and their adventures. But what if the YA novel they tapped borders more on the fantasy level of fiction? Mystery and intrigue are also added to the formula if the story revolves around a dystopian setting, world, or characters that aren’t from the usual norms. Such is the case for movies like Divergent.
Adapted from the YA novel series by Veronica Roth, the 2014 film version is faithful in its dystopian rendition of the story’s world. When we say dystopian, that means that the world appears bleak and dark, yet on the surface, it might appear as orderly and peaceful. This is the case for Divergent’s heroine, Tris Prior.
People are segregated according to certain traits known as factions. Each faction has a specific role or function in this “perfect world” society. Those who don’t follow or get rejected in any of the major factions are deemed as outsiders or worse, divergent. These are the people who can’t be controlled – and our heroine is one of them.
There are other thought-provoking, philosophical yet entertaining YA novels that got turned into movies like Divergent. Go check them out!
Lois Lowry’s 1993 YA novel became a 2014 movie. It’s about a seemingly perfect and blemish-free society that controls what people could remember in the past. It’s also about how the powers that be control certain aspects of being human, like emotions, color vision, and memories.
The film captures very well the dystopian concept written in the book. In this seemingly clean, orderly, and effortless society, no one remembers memories of “old days.” Those memories include their history as a people, their emotions, and how to deal with such emotions that turn into memories.
This is where the story becomes one of those movies like Divergent. Our teen hero discovers that their society is hiding something from everyone – the memories of their past. He is the “Receiver” of the memories being trained by the “Giver.”
Can he handle the magnanimous task of being the lone person holding their memories? Watch and see for yourself!
2. The Maze Runner
The first book of YA author James Dashner’s series became the basis of the 2014 film called The Maze Runner. It’s about a group of older teens trapped inside a maze-like structure called the Glaze. The catch is, they don’t know who controls it. Worse, if you try to step outside, there are creatures waiting to kill you.
The 2009 novel that inspired this film carries a good story worthy of watching on the bigger screen. At first, our hero Thomas is as clueless as we are, as he tries to remember why he’s in the maze – and who put him there. In a way, that huge characteristic alone qualifies this as one of those movies like Divergent.
In that maze, a semblance of society was formed by the older teens. But this kind of society is not without its ups and downs. Of course, different personalities also call for clashes and conflicts. Can Thomas finally discover and remember why he was “injected” into this so-called society? Watch and find out!
3. The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins already has a huge following for her YA novels entitled The Hunger Games. That’s because the stories in this fiction trilogy are well-written, highly intriguing, and carried by formidable characters. The film version showed all of that, as well.
The 2012 film is the first installment of the series, based on the 2008 book. It stars Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, the older teen who became a volunteer of the annual deadly game of survival in their society called Panem. She lives in a dystopian world divided by districts that are mired in various states of poverty.
The rich and elite that control their society hold an annual televised game, where the lone winner gets to have food supplies and other necessities for their district. In this kill-or-be-killed societal structure, this film becomes a good parallel as one of those movies like Divergent. Go see how it turns out!
Stephenie Meyer’s 2005 novel Twilight single-handedly regenerated renewed interest for the vampire genre. This time, it involves high schoolers falling for each other: a vampire and an ordinary teen. Do the names Bella and Edward ring a bell? Ting ting ting!
The 2008 film version dramatized the story of reclusive teen Bella, who noticed another reclusive teen boy named Edward. Unexplained feelings attract the two towards each other. And when it is revealed that Edward is not exactly of this world, that’s when the story takes off.
This is one of those movies like Divergent because, as we delve deeper into Edward’s world, we discover that there’s certainly more than meets the eye with this one. And sunlight ain’t helping in shedding some “light” on this “dark matter.’ Go watch to find out how they fall in love!
5. Ender’s Game
Orson Scott Card wrote the 1985 novel Ender’s Game, which was made into a movie in 2013. This futuristic film is one of those sci-fi movies like Divergent because it puts teens in the limelight of discovering about the reality of their controlled lives.
This adventure-filled film is about Ender, a young but talented teen training in a military academy in the hopes of being a future fighter. The world here is at odds with alien enemies. The military trains even younger kids to become fighters of tomorrow – or in Ender’s case, today!
If you’re into battle games, sci-fi lore, and futuristic teen lives, then go watch this film. It’s like a huge video game gone live. Highly entertaining!
6. I Am Number Four
Another sci-fi story that counts as those movies like Divergent is I am Number Four. This novel is penned by Pittacus Lore, a pseudonym used by different authors writing the Lorien Legacies series of YA novels.
The 2011 film sets up the first story in the series. A planet named Lorien was invaded by enemies, so nine teens were deployed outside to escape. The teens carry the legacy of their planet, so they are all precious and numbered. Each teen also has one guardian protector.
However, one by one, the teens are being hunted and killed, in order of their numbering. John Smith, who is disguised as a human on earth, is the designated fourth teen. He and his guardian get word that the first three teens were already killed.
This is where their story parallels movies like Divergent. The teen hero now has to maneuver major things in order to survive. The enemy is after his tail now, so things get exciting from here on in. Go see if he succeeds!
7. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
Cassandra Clare is the author of the successful paranormal-themed teen-focused fantasy romance YA novels called The Mortal Instruments. The first book in the series, subtitled City of Bones, was published in 2007. Its movie version came out in 2013.
This film clearly belongs in this list of movies like Divergent because, like Tris, its heroine is a seemingly ordinary teen who turns out to be more than that. When Clary Fray finds out that she is like her mother, who’s a half-angel fighter of demons, normal things became paranormally elevated.
When Clary discovers what her role is in this rehashed version of her reality, threats and battles could lead to biblical proportions! Go watch to see how this chapter unfolds.
8. Vampire Academy
If you’re still into bloodsucking teen stories, then this film ought to be right for you. Richelle Mead authored the 2007 YA novel entitled Vampire Academy, and the film version came out in 2014.
This is one of those movies like Divergent because there are factions in here alright, plus a lot of in-fighting within. But the factions exist as hierarchies of character types in a school set-up. Plus the lead character is also a strong female character, Rose.
As the title states, the story is set inside a place of learning. Only this school is different because it’s a school for vampires. It’s interesting to see the adventures that Rose undergoes outside of school in this first novel of the series. Go watch the film version to get a feel of their funny fantasy world!
9. The Host
Twilight author Stephenie Meyer has another YA book in our list of movies like Divergent: The Host. This one, though, is closer to it than the vampire plot. It also has a strong female lead character. Plus it’s also a sci-fi fantasy to boot.
The story is about how humans are no longer freely roaming the world as they are. A specific kind of alien species literally invade human bodies, acting as hosts to these creatures. The challenge is, the personality of the invaded human now recedes and gets lost. But our main character doesn’t totally surrender to being such a vessel.
Discover how the lead here becomes a “bad host,” so to speak – in order to preserve humanity.
10. The City of Ember
Jeanne DuPrau authored the post-apocalyptic YA novel entitle City of Ember, released in 2003. It was adapted into a film in 2008, featuring a strong female lead discovering ugly hidden truths about their dystopian society. This is why it belongs here in our list of movies like Divergent.
The film is about the residents of an underground city that was prepared a long time ago due to a worldwide catastrophe. The keepers of the society, however, tried to preserve something in a box that will be used by the next generation of survivors. But this duty fell through the cracks over time.
Of course, it’s the teen heroine who discovers such secrets of societies past. Together with some trusted friends, they eventually discover truths that could impact their current – and future – worlds. Watch it to find out how!