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More movie talk: films that were better than their books

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by Artemis@BC, Feb 3, 2011.

  1. Artemis@BC

    Artemis@BC Well-Known Member

    I'm firmly of the belief that it's almost impossible for film to be as good as a really great piece of literature -- part of what makes it great lit is the fact that the novel (or short story) is its ideal genre. However some of my favourite movies have been made from mediocre books -- books that have a great story, but aren't terribly well written. For others it's because the film does a better job of letting you see & hear things (like action scenes or music). For still others, it's just really good acting that bring the stories & characters alive better than the prose could.

    Some that I can think of off the top of my head:

    ~ The Milagro Beanfield War -- one of my fave movies ever, but a pretty meh book
    ~ Ordinary People -- ditto
    ~ The da Vinci Code -- not the best movie ever but still miles better than the book
    ~ The Name of the Rose -- better than the book just because the translation was so turgid. (that and Sean Connery :swoon:)
    ~ The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo etc. -- these ones are close, but I think the extraneous details & "research" -- plus all the Swedish political references -- in the book give the film a slight edge here. (Haven't seen Hornet's Nest yet.)
    ~ The Committments -- nothing wrong with the book, but it's about music for hank's sake, so obviously a film is a better genre
    ~ The Constant Gardener -- good book, but excellent movie
    ~ Primary Colors -- ditto
    ~ The Emperor's Club
    ~ Fried Green Tomatoes
    ~ Paper Moon

    There are few of movies that I think tied their books for excellence, or at least came very close. One that leaps to mind is To Kill a Mockingbird -- thanks in part to the superb acting. And The Shawshank Redemption. The movies made from Nick Hornby's books have been about equal their novels too, like High Fidelity and About a Boy.

    Of course I'm sure there are other movies I've loved based on books I never read ...
  2. skatingfan5

    skatingfan5 Past Prancer's Corridor

    Since I haven't read much fiction published post 190th c., I can't comment at all on movies based upon them. However, I do have one movie to add to this thread, even if I haven't read the book: The Bridges of Madison County. I thought the movie was not bad (and Meryl Streep was excellent). The book, on the other hand, was given to me by a friend who said "you have to read this -- you'll love it!" I couldn't get past page 5 -- Robert Waller's writing was :yikes: :scream:
  3. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

    Under the Tuscan Sun. The book was insufferable self-congratulatory crap. The movie and Diane Lane were lovely.
  4. algonquin

    algonquin Well-Known Member

    Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was my least favourite book of the series, but it wasn't a bad movie.
  5. Nomad

    Nomad Celebrity cheese-monger

    To Have and Have Not. Loved the movie, disliked the book.
  6. Wyliefan

    Wyliefan Well-Known Member

    Now, Voyager.
  7. KikiSashaFan

    KikiSashaFan Well-Known Member

    I was also going to say To Kill a Mockingbird. I don't know if it was better, but it did the book justice.
  8. znachki

    znachki Active Member

    The movie Jaws - miles better than the book. In the book the Richard Dreyfus character was a blond stud who had an affair with the sherriff's wife. Talk about suspense killing subplot!

    ITA about To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Shawshank Redemption. Also, from the same Stephen King book of novellas - Stand By Me aka The Body.

    I also thought that the AS Byatt novella Morpho Eugenia was very wel adapted into Angels and InsectsI think that over all, the novella is the perfect length for movie adaptation.
  9. orbitz7391

    orbitz7391 Well-Known Member

    Stephen King's Carrie.
  10. smurfy

    smurfy Well-Known Member

    I loved Byatt's book 'Possession'. Movie was ok, but will have to look up this novella. Loved Angels & Insects.
  11. falling_dance

    falling_dance Coaching Patrick

    The Shining (1980)
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  12. Buzz

    Buzz Well-Known Member

    The Kite Runner. Both the book and novel were great but I liked the movie a bit more. :)
  13. algonquin

    algonquin Well-Known Member

    The movie was not better than the book, but did it great justice.
  14. vesperholly

    vesperholly Well-Known Member

    The Cider House Rules. The book is depressing and meandering.
  15. attyfan

    attyfan Well-Known Member

    I preferred the film (1940 version) of "The Maltese Falcon" to the book, but the book was good ... and the film did it justice.
  16. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

    The Man in the Iron Mask with di Caprio, Irons, and Depardieu. The book by Alexandre Dumas was awful. The part about the princes was over in the first few chapters. The rest was about political parties. No action or drama. I guess the musketeers were too old. Hard to believe he wrote it.
  17. mmscfdcsu

    mmscfdcsu Skating Pairs with Drew

    I preferred the movie The Joy Luck Club to the book.
  18. MR-FAN

    MR-FAN Kostner Softie

    Really? I love the movie, bu the book is one of my all-time favs. brilliant work
  19. Cyn

    Cyn Well-Known Member

    :eek: I have to completely disagree with you on this one. I absolutely adore Fannie Flagg's book and have read it so many times, my copy is coming apart :lol:. T

    The movie as a stand-alone, especially for someone who never read it, was definitely enjoyable. They did a great job in creating the look, atmosphere, and feel of a country railway town in the Deep South during in Post-WWI and the Depression. That includes the set design, the costuming/hair/makeup, and the development and portrayal of many of the characters (major and minor). The vocal coach also did a good job with getting the Southern accent of Southern Alabama correct (for the most part).

    That being said, I felt it in no way lived up to the book. Even though the screenplay was worked on for a time by Fannie Flagg (as well as several others), in the final script they changed way too many events that were integral in it when the screenplay was written.

    I was especially disappointed with the way they rewrote the whole Idgie-Buddy-Ruth dynamic - in the movie Buddy and Ruth were an item, his death occurred in front of Ruth and Idgie, and Ruth's return to Whistle Stop was at the behest of Idgie's parents as a last-ditch effort to try and "tame" her wild ways that developed following Buddy's death. In the book, however, Ruth never knew Buddy and was spending the summer in WS for summer Bible camp (or some such thing) and was a guest at the Threadgoode home when Idgie first met her.

    What was really upsetting to me was how the movie all but eliminated the lesbian relationship that developed between Ruth and Idgie. The closest it came to any implication was the food fight in the kitchen of the café. The movie could have done so much more with this aspect of the book as the dynamic of their relationship was one of the most compelling and wonderful parts of the book, but for some stupid reason, they decided to ignore it; instead, they made Idgie and Ruth BFFs.

    Finally, the screenplay gremlins decided to completely chuck the books ending and rewriting it so that it had a happy, "Hollywood" ending :wall: :mad: . While the whole "Mrs. Otis died?!" scene was one of the funnier moments, for me it was a cheap knockoff of the climactic scene in Steel Magnolias right after Shelby's funeral. I'd have much rather the movie stay true to Mrs. Threadgoode dying while Evelyn was at the diet spa and have her return to Whistle Stop for a final "monologue" (for lack of a better word), thanking Ninny for giving her her life back and that her legacy of love, hope, and positive outlook on life would live on. Instead, we were "treated" to Evelyn and Mrs. Threadgoode riding off into the sunset in Evelyn's Mary Kay Cadillac :blah: .

    ITA about Jaws - the movie scared the bejeezus out of me, whereas the book had me nodding off from time to time. Removing the affair between Richard Dreyfuss' character and Sheriff Brody's wife was a smart move as it kept to focus and plot of the movie where it should have been - on the shark and the terror throughout Amityville.[/QUOTE]

    As much as I love the 1975 version with Sissy Spacek, John Travolta, and Piper Laurie, the book absolutely haunted me. This is another book I read many times over, and the image of the book in my mind was far scarier than the movie, even after I saw it.
  20. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

    This came to mind.

    In many of the examples given here I haven't seen the movie and/or haven't read the book, so I can't comment. Or I liked the book at least as well as the movie.

    The two examples I always give for this phenomenon are The Firm and Reuben, Reuben.
  21. znachki

    znachki Active Member

    I meant that the movie did the book justice - not that it was better.

    Even Harper Lee loved the movie.
  22. Vash01

    Vash01 Fan of Yuzuru, Medvedeva, T&M, Shibs, P&C

    The English Patient movie was miles better than the book; it's one of the worst books I ever read.
  23. triple_toe

    triple_toe Well-Known Member

    I preferred the film version of Murder on the Orient Express to the book version. The star-studded cast was fantastic and I thought the book dragged on too long.
  24. orientalplane

    orientalplane Mad for mangelwurzels

    Sense and Sensibility. I found the book bland but it's one of my favourite films of all time.
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  25. AYS

    AYS I'd rather have a pug for my president

    Although I loved the book too, The Godfather was one of the greatest films of all time.
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  26. Wyliefan

    Wyliefan Well-Known Member

    The book and film versions of The Remains of the Day were equally good, I think.
  27. Satellitegirl

    Satellitegirl New Member

    I was curious, so I IMDB'd and apparently there is a movie version of Life of Pi coming out in 2012. Will be interesting to see how it compares to the book.

    There aren't many movies that I think are better than books, just because I can create the world myself, with a book.
  28. Artemis@BC

    Artemis@BC Well-Known Member

    Interesting, that book was optioned almost immediately after publication, but I hadn't heard anything for so long I wondered if they'd ever get around to it. I really enjoyed the story & premise of the book ... but felt utterly and completely manipulated by the ending. I actually wanted to throw the book across the room. I think knowing that going into the film might actually improve my enjoyment of it.

    (BTW, have you read Martel's Beatrice & Virgil? Another one with a similar response for me. The guy can craft a good story ... but he sure doesn't seem to give a shit about his readers!)

    Other upcoming films that I hope will do justice to their books include One Day by David Nicholls and The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Both have some good talent attached, and One Day in particular I thought would make a good movie as I was reading it, but we shall see.
  29. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

    That will be very interesting to see how handle Life of Pi. We listened to it, and it is still quite possibly my favorite audiobook -- Jeff Woodman did an amazing job on the reading. I'm not sure that any movie could create a richer world than the one he helped build in my mind. There were a lot of days that we'd get home and sit in the car for ten or fifteen minutes because we didn't want to stop the reading yet.
  30. PrincessLeppard

    PrincessLeppard Holding Alex Johnson's Pineapple

    Children of Men. I love the book, and teach it in my Dystopian Lit class.

    But the movie is so amazing that I don't even get all :mitchell: over the myriad changes to the story.