Book movies

Almost always the book is better than the movie, even when the movie is pretty good.

Princess Bride.  Fantastic movie.  Even better book.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh.  Book = awesome.  Movie = suck.

The list here is pretty well endless…

Sometimes the movie is better than the book… this is especially true with messed up children’s classics.

Peter Pan.  Messed up book.  Seriously messed up.  And the opposite of feminist.  Blech.  Always with an underlying creepiness.  The movie isn’t much better in terms of feminism, but the creepiness is mostly gone.  Peter Pan isn’t so thoughtless… he doesn’t almost lose the children on the way to Neverland in the movie.  Tink doesn’t almost kill Wendy in the movie.

Pinocchio.  Similarly messed up and creepy.  The movie doesn’t bank you over the head quite so much.

Mary Poppins.  (I wouldn’t say the movie is better, but it is certainly different!)  No way could sweet Julie Andrews play the Mary Poppins from the book.  They’re very different stories… somehow the movie omits the lady whose fingers turn into candy when she breaks them off her hands.  Among many other things.

The 39 Steps.  (Not a children’s book!)  What can I say, I’m a sucker for romance.  And you know, the existence of female characters (of which the movie has several, swapping genders of book characters).  Also, the movie keeps what is charming about the British colonial period (Cricket…) and jettisons what is not (antisemitism, etc.)

Rebecca.  You may disagree, but the book is so dark and so depressing.  The movie is all that, but adds some hope!  Some reason to actually care about the main characters.  I like that.

Can you think of any books that were made into movies where the movie was better?  Or where the book was crazy better?  Or where you loved the movie and were then blown away by the book?

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20 Responses to “Book movies”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    I have this thing where I refuse to see the movie unless I read the book first. (although I did not do that with mary poppins and peter pan because I was a kid when I saw them).

    I think the reasons books are almost always more enjoyable is because you can’t replicate people’s imaginations as everyone interprets things a little differently and imagines the characters in a book a little different than the way they were cast.

    I think the directors did a decent job with Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter movies in regards to effects and omitting the inconsequential stuff to fit within a movie time frame. I remember being really annoyed at Harry’s moody temper in the 4th book, but it wasn’t quite as in your face in the movie.

    The thing that is most disturbing is when a “star” is cast in the movie that totally doesn’t fit the character in a book. For example, the main characters of Cold mountain. I think Jack White was the only one that really fit my image of the characters of the book. The main cast however was all wrong. I’ll admit that Renee played Ruby pretty convincingly and I eventually got past her looks and the performance, but nicole and jude…horrible (even though I’ve liked them in other stuff). Also, Tom Hanks in the Davinci Code? I realize he was a big part of the reason the book became a movie, but still he was all wrong to play Robert Langdon.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Usually I’d rather see the movie first because it is so often just a pale version of the book. I’d rather save the best for last. Also mentally I think of the book as, “what really happened.”

      • ABDMama Says:

        I have the same philosophy on watching the movie before the book. Otherwise I get disappointed by all that was left out. I totally agree on Rebecca and would add The Notebook as a movie where the book was an outline for the movie that filled in more of the history of the relationship and made it more fun.

      • Debbie M Says:

        Same here. Then I enjoy the movie, while I don’t know what I’m missing, and then I enjoy the book, too.

  2. Trish Says:

    Anna Quindlen’s book ‘One True Thing’ was made into an adequate movie, but I thought the book was brilliant. ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ was an insipid movie, but I loved the book. I absolutely adore the movie ‘Enchanted April’ but did not like the book. I love Jane Austen in book form, and will happily watch any movie adaptation. As far as children’s books, ‘My side of the Mountain’ was always my favorite, but I hated the Disney movie. Sam’s falcon died? Really? Who at Disney thought that would be a good plot line in a kid’s movie. I think I covered everything!

    • Cloud Says:

      I’m the same way about Jane Austen. It is always a pleasant surprise when the movie adaptation gets it really right, though!

    • Debbie M Says:

      I also like any version of Jane Austin books and any version of “The Christmas Carol.” The books are still best, though.

  3. Spanish Prof Says:

    Movie: Rush, by Lili Fini Zanuck. Small masterpiece about two small town cops going undercover trying to bust a drug ring, and one of them becoming addicted. Wonderful Jason Patric, and one of my favorite actresses of all times: Jennifer Jason Leigh. The book (I can’t remember for the life of me who wrote it) is one of those crappy ghost-written autobiographies (of JJL’s character).

  4. Jackie Says:

    I read the VC Andrews series for Flowers in the Attic as a teen and recently had a chance to watch the movie. The book was so much better. In my opinion the movie veered a lot from the book.

  5. Foscavista Says:

    Although I love the novel, Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” as a movie is edgier.

  6. Ally Says:

    I go back and forth debating whether I think Stardust is better as a movie or a book – in the end they’re both so fantastic I’m not willing to give either up in order to say the other is better…

    The Princess Bride is kind of an unusual situation in which the book came second, so… (But I’d still say the same thing about it – I go back and forth as to which is better)

    But those are few and far between – I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan, and will be at the midnight opening – but the books still will always win out…even in a case like that where mostly the movies are faithful to the book…

    Most of the time, even in faithful adaptations, the problem is lack of time – which is why I love BBC Miniseries like the 1995 Pride and Prejudice – there’s time to do it justice. (And why I think the musical Les Miserables at 3 hours comes closest to the novel, despite not being all that close – because at least they had more time than the movie versions to attempt it in)

    What really annoys me though is when the movie really bares no relation to the book or to its original version (the new version of Cheaper By the Dozen is a good example, as is all of the Hallmark versions of Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly series – the first stuck fairly close (but got some major details wrong) but by the last few they bare absolutely no resemblance to the books at all)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      The Princess Bride book came first– 1973, movie 1987 (unless you believe S. Morgenstern actually exists, in which case the book is much older). The book is definitely better! Especially in hardback with the differently colored fonts.

      • Ally Says:

        huh! should learn to look for myself and not trust what someone else told me… (of course I have never seen so many people ticked off online about the format of a book as with the Princess Bride – I enjoyed all the fake stuff myself!)

  7. frugalscholar Says:

    Scorsese’s Age of Innocence is very good. There are some others, but I can’t think right now.

  8. Debbie M Says:

    It’s extremely rare to like a movie better than the book.

    But I liked “The Firm” better as a movie. I thought it captured the book quite well, plus it had a better ending. The great thing is that whichever one you experience first, you don’t know how the other one will end.

    I remember I enjoyed reading “The Bourne Identity” after seeing the movie because there’s so much more there.

  9. Courtney Says:

    I love Steven King’s books, but more often than not, the movies stink. Two extremely notable exceptions to this rule are The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption – both of those movies managed to outdo the books. (The Shining is also an excellent movie, but I think the book still surpasses it).

  10. hush Says:

    I love the HBO series “True Blood,” but didn’t enjoy the book series by Charlaine Harris nearly as much. That seems to be the only example I can think of now where the the book is not as compelling as the movie/TV series.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Ha! Yes, the book series is kind of bleh. Just like her murder mysteries, only with vampires. My mom likes the mysteries and leaves them with me when she visits. They’re ok, but not great.


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