10 Movies That Were Better Than The Book

“Having your book turned into a movie is like seeing your oxen turned into bouillon cubes.” – John Le Carré

A lot of writers sell the rights to their books to producers who seem to have nothing but the best intentions for their works. Unfortunately, most often than not, the end result is nothing but disappointing.

Indeed, on rare occasions, the opposite is true: the adaptation improves greatly the source material. Here are 10 movies that are better than the book they were based upon.

1. Jaws

Jaws is a 1974 novel by American writer Peter Benchley. It tells the story of a great white shark that preys upon a small resort town and the voyage of three men trying to kill it.

A year later, Steven Spielberg adapted the book into what is now considered to be one of the greatest movies ever made, a proper blockbuster, and the highest grossing movie of all time until 1977, when Star Wars came along.

2. Jurassic Park

Steven Spielberg. Again. His 1993 adaption of Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel has developed into one of the most successful movie franchises in history. While the book is a bit on the boring side with a lot of emphasis being put on scientific theories, the movie’s action and special effects make for a much, much more exciting experience.

3.Psycho

Alfred Hitchcock’s genius turned Robert Bloch’s modest suspense novel into a masterpiece, while ensuring that the source material remains in print to this day.

Anthony Perkins is phenomenal as Norman Bates: damaged beyond repair in the most tragic of ways, his humanity but a faint echo, while Bloch’s novel paints the character as an unlikable, short, pudgy, balding, drunken creep. As for the film’s celebrated shower murder, Bloch dispatches the victim with one sentence.

4. The Princess Bride

This one is a bit tricky, considering that author (William Goldman) wrote the screenplay himself. Also, the book is quite good, the film version takes advantage of a visual medium to provide us with unforgettable action scenes, magnificent scenery, and imaginative situations.

Oh, well…

5. Planet of the Apes

Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel La Planète des Singes is a satirical social allegory about a journalist and a professor who stumble upon an intelligent ape culture while traveling to the star Betelgeuse. Though the idea is fascinating, there are some less enjoyable parts that slow down the narrative.

The film adaptation, however… it’s one of the most groundbreaking movies ever made, not only retaining Boulle’s unique concept but also adding momentum to the story. Bonus: the movie’s plot twist, conceived by co-writer Rod Serling, which doesn’t appear in the novel.

6. The Godfather

The Godfather is, without a doubt, one of the greatest movies of all time. The novel it was adapted from, written by Mario Puzo, is in no means bad, but the movie outshines it, thanks in large part to the brilliant performances of Marlon Brando and Al Pacino. The movie adaptation won too many awards to even count, including the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Picture.

7. Jumanji

The 1995 American fantasy adventure film directed by Joe Johnston and staring Robin Williams is an adaptation of the 1981 children’s book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg. Not a great deal of people know about the book though…

8. Forrest Gump

Based on the 1986 novel by Winston Groom, the movie was released in 1994, earned quite a lot of money at the box office, received a number of prestigious awards… even the soundtrack became a bestseller.

9. Die Hard

Even though it closely follows the plot of Roderick Thorp’s 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever, the movie adds a welcome dose of humor and personality to the standard cop-vs-terrorists story. The movie abandons the book’s distracting flashbacks, concentrating instead on upping the suspense at every turn. Most importantly, the novel’s main villain is a colorless stiff, while the movie’s sinister mastermind virtually steals the show.

10. The Notebook

Nicholas Sparks’ style may give some readers diabetes, but the adaptation of his first published novel, The Notebook, is the kind of old-fashioned, unabashedly romantic melodrama that can make even the most cynical viewer shed a tear or two. Despite some excessive sentimentalism, and several eye-rolling plot twists, the movie’s charismatic cast (and the chemistry between them) transforms the source material into something of a guilty pleasure.

Honorable Mention: Fight Club

Don’t get me wrong. I personally love the novel. I am a big fan of Chuck Palahniuk’s writing. But… he said it himself in a interview, “Now that I see the movie[…] I was sort of embarrassed of the book, because the movie had streamlined the plot and made it so much more effective and made connections that I had never thought to make.”

Also, Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter being as bad ass as is possible in the universe that we currently live in. So, yeah, Fight Club.

But also, if you haven’t, do read the book. It’s by no means bad. No, no, no.

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5 thoughts on “10 Movies That Were Better Than The Book

  1. Very nice! I remember 20/30+ years ago, my thing would be read the book then watch the film, not so much now, ahhh the simple pleasures! Thanks for taking me down memory lane 🙂

  2. Another Crichton novel, Congo, was one where I enjoyed the movie more. I think the adaptations of his books – the ones I’ve seen and read at least – treat female characters better than he does. For instance while The Andromeda Strain is a great read, the first film version changed one character to be female to round out the cast.
    This is a great article because there are a lot of movies that aren’t ‘as good’ as the books, mostly because they stray too far from the source material. However there are many films and tv shows based on books that make for compelling viewing and the changes are positive compared to the original texts. People are quick to say “the books are better” but it’s rarer for someone to admit that sometimes the adaptations are, for whatever reason(s) as good or even superior, so thanks for this one.

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