Just about every movie buff has heard this phrase uttered (if they didn’t say it themselves) by someone, “The movie was good...but the book was better.” Since books have significantly more time to cover character development and a deeper story, there are many people who think this is always the case. Because of that, I’ve come up with a list of the 6 movies that were actually better than the books...Just so you have something to come back with in these kinds of discussions.
Books have always been a hot property for filmmakers; dating all the way back to Gone With The Wind. And with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire hitting theaters next week, Ender's Game a couple weeks ago, and several more on the horizon, book adaptations are hotter than ever! While many times it's true that a book can be better than the movie, every now and then the opposite it true. Such is the case with these films!
[Note: these choices are limited to the books I have actually read]
A Clockwork Orange
Stanley Kubrick’s masterful film is an obvious choice for me. It managed to create some of the most iconic moments in film history, and despite the intense amount of controversy when it came out, is now a staple for cinephiles and filmmakers alike.
The movie managed to highlight all of the great themes of the book, yet excluded all of the confusion. Don’t get me wrong, Anthony Burgess’ novel about teen violence, was well written and a thought-provoking read....if you could get through it. The dialogue is highly inventive and one of the greater aspects of his writing style, but it’s a pain to get through (especially at the beginning).
But even when you get past the verbiage, the themes get mucked up in some of the eccentricities of the surroundings and characters. While it’s worth reading, the movie shaped the story in a far more relatable fashion for a larger audience base.
Jaws has often been credited with being the originator of the ‘Summer Blockbuster’ and with good reason. People flocked to see this movie back when it was released, and it quite literally had people too afraid to go into the water after seeing it.
The book was similarly thrilling (seriously, I read it all in one night, starting at 9pm, because I frankly couldn't put it down), but it did feature quite a bit of unnecessary exposition. Not that it was bad, but a few of the extraneous plot lines, felt like they were thrown in there to add length to the novel without having a real impact on the outcome of the main story.
The movie did away with these excessive sub-plots and focused on the most exciting aspect of the book: a freaking massive man-eating shark. Brilliance and fun ensues from there, and we’re left with a classic that cannot be missed.
I was really on the fence about bringing this film up. Everyone knows how classic this movie is now, and it’s humor and wit has proven to be timeless. Truly, anytime it’s on I’m compelled to watch it, and simply can’t stop until it's over.
Then I read the book a few years ago and I was amazed at how hilarious it was! I’ve never read a book that had me laughing so hard, and so invested in the characters. But looking at them both from a distance, the movie just works better. There are many superfluous moments in the book, and the witty romantic humor from the film, is often more sarcastic and cynical in the book.
While the book is amazing, and a must-read, the film took all of the best parts of it and managed to improve on them (as it should, since the screenplay was also written by the book’s author).
Forrest Gump was such an incredible film and managed to snag Tom Hanks another Oscar. It was a fun romp through history, in which we got to see some of the most important historical instances from the viewpoint of a well-meaning (but overall naive) man. It was funny, witty, dramatic, and hit all the right notes.
Almost none of that was present in the book. Well, to a degree it was. The book is pretty hilarious, but doesn’t feature all of the cohesion and depth the movie managed to bring to the story. It doesn’t make you feel as much for the character, so much as make you laugh at what happens to him.
It’s a funny read, with a sequel that’s even more outrageous, but the movie far-exceeded everything the book was trying for.
Michael Crichton is one of my all time favorite authors. I’ve gobbled up everything he’s ever written, and his stories are ones I continue to come back to time and time again. It’s no wonder then that nearly every book he’s ever written has been turned into a movie (the 4 non-fiction ones aside). More than that, just about all of his movie adaptations were some of the biggest blockbusters around (Jurassic Park anyone?).
So it hurts me (just a little) to list Congo on here. In truth, I think it’s easily the worst book Crichton ever wrote. It’s just boring. The most exciting moments are around the middle of the book, and basically, that’s what they seemed to base the movie on. The rest of the book just went too deep into the science part of it and left out all the fun.
While I wouldn’t say the movie has aged very well, it’s still a fun flick to watch when there’s nothing else going on. It’s got plenty of action, a fast-paced story, and monkey actors before motion capture became the norm. What’s not to love?
As much as I hate to bring this up...I have to. Don’t get me wrong here, I cannot stand these movies, and I’ve actually tried (I promise), but since this list is about films that are better than their books, I need to bring it up. As bad as the movies are (in my mind), the books are far worse. Seriously, I picked them up to see what all the craze was about, and these are some of the most poorly written things I’ve ever read...and I’ve had to read quite a bit of crap being an editor.
In the first book alone, there are entire chapters dedicated to following every little detail of Bella’s day, even down to the snacks she freaking ate! Nothing else happened in the chapter, nothing important to the plot came out of it, it was just there. It was boring, mind-numbing, and I don’t know how it ever got published. That being said, the movies are better by comparison, by actually providing a decent pacing, and some action as well.
I love Chuck Palahniuk books, and he's one of the few authors I pick up regardless of the kind of book it is. He's just a fun read. The book the catapulted him into major success, however, was Fight Club. While I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the many thoughts (some disturbing) it provoked, the movie managed to top it in almost every way.
The characters are largely the same, and so are the central themes, but the narration by Ed Norton combined with the lunacy of Brad Pitt's portrayal of Tyler is part of what makes the film stand above the book. Not to mention there are moments in the book where the esoteric thoughts of the main character are so jumbled it's tough to figure out what's even going on. While the movie verison of Fight Club could have some confusing moments, on the whole it told the story in a clearer way to allow for a bigger audience.
Life of Pi
While I have friends that argue with me on this one, I feel the Life of Pi movie adaptation by Ang Lee manages to surpass the book. the main reason is the stunning visuals of the film. It's a story that's all about faith and keeping it despite the necessity of survival. It's a tough story and one that gets you thinking. The book was a great read, but despite all of it's great symbolism, it fails to dazzle the reader.
This is where the movie succeeds. It's a gorgeous film, that sucks you into the story in a way the book never could, and does a great job of demonstrating the excellent themes prevalent throughout the story. It's a film that can hook a viewer who wouldn't normally be interested something like this, which the book is unable to do. The book has a great message and sadly, I know lots of people who would have never heard it because the book isn't something they'd read. The movie however, has a much broader appeal, while still getting the message across.
On the whole, I’m typically one of those people who believe the books are better than the films (most recently the case with Ender's Game), but there are instances where that isn’t the case. Overall, I like to try and do both; I mean, if it’s a good story, why not revisit it? As far as the upcoming movies, all fans can do is cross their fingers and hope they can live up to the grand legacy their book counter-parts established.
What about you guys? You've seen my list, and now it's time to share your thoughts on it. Am I totally off on these choices, or are there other films you think should be added as well? Let us know in the comments below!