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

  1. I generally prefer books and came here expecting to feel an inner need to question your points. But actually, out of those I’ve both read and watched, I think I have to agree that the films were better.

  2. Here’s one to add to your list. Ben-Hur. The book is almost unreadable. I heard that Lew Wallace wrote it while ‘hiding’ from William Bonnie (AKA-Billy the Kid) who had threatened to kill him (don’t know if it true or not). If it wasn’t for one seriously good movie (the Charlton Heston one, not the new), we might have been better off if the Kid had.

  3. I don’t agree with all your choices, but they were all good movies. I would put Interview with a Vampire at the very top of the list of movies better than the books. Thanks for a fun post.

  4. Not to sure about Jurassic Park, because the book was a lot more believable than the movie. I can, however, add the Da Vinci Code to the list. I found it impossible to read but I loved the movie.

  5. I definitely agree with you about Forrest Gump. I actually found the book somewhat offensive. I would add Doctor Zhivago to your list. The novel turned into a tedious polemic at the end.

  6. Midnight Cowboy was an offbeat, underground novel written by James Leo Herlihy, published in 1965, and made for an interesting read, but the movie version had a much bigger scope and was far more popular. Another notable difference between the two versions is that two thirds of the novel takes place in Texas, whereas the movie was based on the last third of the novel, which takes place in New York, and it expanded the relationship between Joe Buck and Ratso Rizzo.
    Overall the movie is better, but the novel has some intriguing characters and situations that don’t appear in the movie.

  7. Great post, strong list. I was thinking before I read it Jaws and The Godfather had to be in it. The Die Hard one sounds a hugely different book. I’ve never read the book The Bridge on the River Kwai is based on, bit the writer said he wishes he’s come up with the idea used in the movie.

  8. This is the second time today I’ve seen “The Notebook” mentioned. (I read earlier it’s going to Broadway! Music and all.) I may need to see this movie now.
    Book or movie? Seriously. Which one should I tackle?

  9. Interesting list. I think I’d have to agree with others on Jurassic Park. The science including the long narrative about Chaos Theory is what made the book fascinating. The movie just took what was in the book and brought it to life, using special effects that just a few years earlier what would have been impossible to put to film. Some of the character changes also didn’t play as well in the film.

  10. I personally really enjoyed the book The Planet of the Apes – I really liked the twist in the ending (I think I saw it coming, but it was still fun nonetheless).

    I haven’t read the other books, but Psycho and The Princess Bride are on my to-read list.

    Interesting post!

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