Every time a book is adapted into a movie, I hear people complaining that the book was way better than the movie, that the director changed the story too much, or that they left out important details. Sometimes this is true: there have been many disastrous attempts at translating beloved novels into films that have left audiences cynical. But for every bad adaptation, there are also several good ones. Many moviegoers don’t even realize that some of their favorite flicks were based on novels. Book adaptations get an unfair rap, often because the movie, while an excellent film in its own right, does not match up to the picture audiences have in their heads of characters or places. Sometimes the scriptwriters or the director take liberties in adaptation, and quite often it turns out well. Faults in the novel can be corrected, making for tighter plots and cutting unnecessary details. But fans of the book can take offense, and it seems most people now believe that the book is always better than the movie. Below are examples of movies that are most definitely better than the books.
The Prestige (2006)
The book has the common problem of splitting the story between the magicians and their modern day descendants, which we care about….why? It’s obviously a good book, but the movie is counted by many as Christopher Nolan’s best, and Nolan has made a LOT of good movies.
Blade Runner (1982)
The film takes a good book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and turns it into a brilliant and visually spectacular science fiction classic. The cult following is well-deserved, as the tone of the film and impressive special effects (made in 1982, remember?) make it a masterpiece.
The Godfather (1972)
Didn’t know that what is considered one of the best movies of all time was based on a book? Me either. I can’t say I’ve read the source material, but given the fact that I had no idea it even existed, I’m going to go ahead and assume that the classic film it inspired is better.
Forrest Gump (1994)
In addition to his many adventures featured in the film, the book tells of how Forrest became an astronaut, goes on a mission with a male ape named Sue, and upon crash landing, is held prisoner by a gang of cannibals for four years (reminds me of Cloud Atlas). Tom Hanks’ performance really sells the heartwarming film, and the lack of space monkeys and cannibals helps make it a little more relatable.
The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy (2001 – 2003)
Sorry not sorry Tolkienites. The books, while classics and very good, can be a teensy bit rambling at times. The movies, still very long, cut out peripheral characters and focus more on developing the main ones. The plot is tighter and neater (with the exception of the famous ending that never ends) and the CGI and scenery is just fantastic to behold. I cannot say the same good things about the ridiculously bloated Hobbit films, which turn a short, succinct book into three more-than-full-length motion pictures.
Children Of Men (2006)
While remaining fairly faithful to the book, the movie changed the tone and scale. Both are good, but the movie feels more important, epic, and has great action scenes.
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Red Alert by Peter George is a thriller, but the director of the adaptation, Stanley Kubrick, found the whole “mutually assured destruction” situation so darkly humorous and pathetic that he couldn’t make it into a serious film. The result was a black comedy, and it managed to be both endlessly amusing and make a pointed commentary on the bizarre situation that was the Cold War.
While the book was rushed and unremarkable, Hitchcock’s masterpiece is considered one of the greatest movies ever made. Hitchcock completely transformed the character of Norman Bates, turning him from a beady-eyed, chubby little fellow into a disarmingly charming young man, and improved on the tone of the book, slowing the too-fast pace and infusing it with an aura of suspense and terror.
Jurassic Park (1993)
I don’t care what anyone says: giant animatronic/CGI dinosaurs always trump imagination dinosaurs. A book, no matter how good, does not contain giant animatronic/CGI dinosaurs. After first seeing the film at age seven (thanks, Dad!), those giant animatronic/CGI dinosaurs haunted my nightmares for the next five years. That means they were awesome.
Fight Club (1999)
The film is a modern classic, and can boast a serious cult following. The book, while good, was a little clunky and unrefined. The movie is both brutal and artistic, and features a continually shirtless Brad Pitt. The book can’t compete.
If you disagree with my choices, feel free to (politely) vent in the comments.