(7) Movies Better Than The Books They Were Based On
My husband and I started watching the Starz television series Outlander last night and it got me thinking about book adaptations. I have not read the Outlander books yet but the series had us hooked from episode one. And though I usually err on the side of “the book is always better”, for this list I thought I would go in a different direction and suggest that some movies actually out performed their source material in terms of entertainment. Some of the picks I have on this list may be controversial for some super fans but I think my choices are still justified simply by the quality of the films.
Misery by Stephen King
Misery (1990) – Director: Rob Reiner
When I first read this book, it scared the daylights out of me. I would argue in Annie Wilkes, King created one of the most deranged women to ever grace the page of a book. And then Kathy Bates Oscar winning performance took Annie to the next level – her psychotic, twisted, crazy-sauce performance took the film from a good horror movie to a classic in the genre.
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Jurassic Park (1993) – Director: Steven Spielberg
Crichton did an excellent job of introducing the scientific concepts and moral consequences of bringing dinosaurs back to life but his novel lacked some of the action and intensity Stephen Spielberg captured in the film. The fear created by the appearance of the life size t-rex on screen continues to bring heart-pounding terror 25-years later.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001,2002,2003) – Director: Peter Jackson
This is perhaps the most controversial choice on my list because Tolkien fans are often some of the most dedicated but I would argue what Peter Jackson’s adaptation did was make the books accessible to a larger audience. I will admit, I only made it through some of the first book but I saw all three films and loved them so I may be a bit biased. My husband, on the other hand, read the series from end to end, and still would argue he prefers the movie to the books.
The Notebook – Nicholas Sparks
The Notebook (2004) – Director: Nick Cassavetes
Most of Sparks’ novels follow a pretty predictable formula in telling their story and The Notebook is no exception. What made the film better than the book was the incredible on-screen chemistry between Ryan Gossling (Noah) and Rachel McAdams (Ali) and their ability to take Sparks story to a higher level and create a love story that remains a classic.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs – Judi and Ron Barrett
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) – Directors: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
I remembered this book fondly from my own childhood and when I discovered there was a film version, I was very happy to be able to share it with my boys. After a re-read of the book and viewing of the movie, I found the film far out performed its source material for my family. Where the original book was cute and creative, the movie was on a whole other plane of fun. It is important to mention the book and the film share very little in common beyond the title and the weather creating food so it might not be fair to compare the two but I will anyway.
Brokeback Mountain – Annie Proulx
Brokeback Mountain (2005) – Director: Ang Lee
The author is reported as having high praise for Ang Lee’s film adaptation of her classic story and having read and loved the book I would agree – the film captures the incredible emotions of the characters thanks to outstanding performances by Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, the stark beauty of Brokeback Mountain, and the incredible love story they brought to life. Hands down, one of my all-time favorite films.
The Silver Linings Playbook – Mathew Quick
Silver Linings Playbook (2012) – Director: David O. Russell
And another entry where the book was great but the movie was better. Quick brings a quirky, emotional, dark-ish character driven story and then the movie version takes all of those elements and places them in the hands of two superb actors and the result is magic. Pat and Tiffany come alive on screen in ways they don’t in the book thanks to the incredible chemistry between Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper who shine when together on screen and in their scenes with others.
Most days, I am as much a fanatic cinephile as I am a dedicated bibliophile so when those two worlds can come together – namely in the perfect film adaption of a favorite book – I am the happiest of campers. This list covers only a few of the films that could have made this list but they are some of the best.
What film did you think was better than the book?
What do you think of my list?