Neil Gaiman is probably one of the most notable writers of the 1980-2000s. He’s written in almost every form there is: comic books, graphic novels, YA, adult fiction, nonfiction, and screenwriting. He carved a niche out for himself in gothic fantasy and horror works, and his bibliography has inspired countless young writers. So it’s no wonder that his works have been subject to a multitude of adaptations that range from pretty good to absolutely excellent.
But more importantly, Gaiman’s work manages to speak to a hidden part of our souls: the brooding angsty teen we were told to grow beyond. So rather than rank his adaptations by quality, this list is for that inner teenager who’s still eager to see the world in their head on the screen. We all deserve to wallow in darkness and despair, to reject the people who tell us what to do and the institutions we’re forced to work under. If Gaiman’s work has communicated anything, it’s that there’s a lot of beauty and hope in a dark world. And if growing up has taught us anything, it’s that sometimes it’s fun to return to the works that we needed to see in our youth.
Watch on HBO Max
Angst Rating: Enjoying a rainbow lollipop on a boardwalk.
Stardust is an absolute gem of a movie, a fantastical story that seeks to bring out the wonder of a child watching The Princess Bride for the first time. Which makes it absolutely wrong for the moody teenager we’re looking to appease. Charlie Cox and Claire Danes’ adventurous romance never even dips into darkness. Robert De Niro playing a gay priate who comes out to his accepting crew is incredibly funny and sweet. Gaiman’s original novel calls back to the pre-Tolkien English fantasy worlds that explored magic and history with open hearts and minds. Stardust is a great tale for the young and old, and that’s exactly what we’re looking to avoid.
Watch on Netflix
Angst Rating: A sunfaded My Chemical Romance t-shirt in the clearance bin.
The devil is sexy and owns a nightclub: perfect. Just enough to tantalize a growing interest in the satanic. He uses his spare time to solve crimes and fall in love: not moody enough. The police procedural gets in Lucifer’s way from fully wallowing in its darkness, but it does contain a healthy dose of angst—especially noticeable in Lucifer’s own conflicting feelings toward his role in damnation, his troubled relationship with his father, and figuring out his own fractured humanity. There are enough moments of solid brooding to satiate your inner teen. The idea that the devil can find love is the kind of sweetness angst can tolerate. But 24/7 sunshine in Los Angeles? You’re losing me there.
Watch on HBO Max
Angst Rating: Blink-182 lyrics carved into a bathroom stall.
On paper, How to Talk to Girls at Parties appeals well to your inner rebellious teen. The movie is literally about teenagers in the 1970s punk scene. They disrespect authority, make their own rules, and prove that parents are the absolute worst (although these are aliens whose parents eat their children). Unfortunately, How to Talk to Girls at Parties just can’t sustain the love-tinted angst at its heart. The movie also dips a little too much into the absolutely bizarre to really satisfy the angst in your soul. But if you’re just looking to indulge in a little disrespect for authority, How to Talk to Girls at Parties is a fine snack, just not a full meal.
Watch on Amazon Prime
Angst Rating: Ditching Sunday School to buy cigarettes you rarely smoke.
While Good Omens leans more into the fun and absurd than most Gaiman works (due largely to Terry Pratchett’s influence) this adaptation still manages to find a comfortable home in our bleeding hearts. Good Omens also holds the high honor of being the only show on this list to actually spark outrage by spawning a petition that accused the show of being blasphamous. But there’s nothing an angsty teen loves more than fighting against religious institutions, and Good Omens does so with a smile on its face. Add in some gay subtext, a empathetic depiction of the Antichrist, and finding the funny in Armageddon and you have a great show for the angsty teen inside. The only thing holding Good Omens back is that its pesky optimism can get in the way of a good sulk.
Watch on Starz
Angst Rating: A dusty library book on the occult you’ll never return.
American Gods is for when you really want to embrace the darkness. The adaptation of Gaiman’s novel is rich with gothic mythology and a shadowy color palette that shows the world as you see it: chaotic, strange, and devoid of light. The visual style of Season 1 will be immediately apparent to anyone who’s seen Hannibal (Bryan Fuller developed the first season of Gods), and it fits in with that similar type of philosophical brooding. American Gods is about the old vs. the new, the higher powers and gods that use mortals as pawns. It reflects our inner teen’s feelings that there are people controlling us, and that need to take back our own power. But it’s also great for dipping into pessimism and exploring the many legends and folk creatures the world has created. And if there’s one thing angsty teens love, it’s deep dives into dark mythologies.
Watch on Tubi
Angst Rating: A stick and poke tattoo that says “parents just don’t understand.”
Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and creepy stop motion animation go together like a skull and crossbones. Coraline’s ability to mix childhood fears with otherworldly horror make it absolutely perfect for a young teenager who’s starting to get interested in the macabre. Parents not understanding you is taken even further, with the choice between terrifying loneliness and a literal monster mother. The art style, the iconic button eyes, the endearing moxie of Coraline herself, it just all works! And even though the adaptation may have cut back on some of the scariness of the novel (Wybie is an invention in the film, which lessens the pure isolation Coraline experiences), Coraline is a film that brings all your inner angsty teen’s fears and imaginations to the surface.
Watch on Netflix
Angst Rating: Bury me in Hot Topic and line my coffin with The Sandman merch.
It’s been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait. The Sandman is everything your inner angsty teen has been waiting for. Whether you read the graphic novel as a teenager or you’re jumping straight into the show, The Sandman makes all our dark dreams come true. Tom Sturridge as Morpheus is the emo boy we all dreamed of becoming or befriending. It’s magical, contemplative, and most importantly excessively moody. The Sandman creates a world we want to both watch and explore, dark but brimming with life. The entire cast is having an absolute ball and it really feels like a labor of love to bring such a rich and layered fantasy universe to our screens. So whether you want to wallow in darkness or embrace hope, The Sandman is there to fulfill all your angsty teenage dreams.
Leila Jordan is a writer and former jigsaw puzzle world record holder. To talk about all things movies, TV, and useless trivia you can find her @galaxyleila
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