Of course most book-lovers know that the book is better than the movie.
To be fair, there is only so much you can put into a movie. Movie-makers can show an entire scene in one amazing visual, but they can’t beat the amount of character development a book can have when the author can reveal all of a character’s innermost thoughts. An author can also withhold information for a dramatic reveal later, when a movie can’t.
Occasionally, though, I must admit, the movie is better. (Yes, blasphemy, I know.) The list below has four categories, which are pretty self-explanatory. I haven’t included any book for which I’ve only seen the movie or only read the book. I also haven’t included any books that were made into musicals, since I love musicals regardless of how accurate an interpretation it might be of the book. All are listed in no particular order, except for the order in which they occurred to me.
I may have missed some, so please point them out in the comments.
The Book Was Better
- Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams – It was simply magical to hear “So, long, and thanks for all the fish” set to music. The movie is funny and charming, and captures the spirit of Adams’ novel well. The book is still better, but I’m glad that in the movie Arthur got a happy ending.
- Battlefield Earth, by L. Ron Hubbard – The 2000 movie with John Travolta was absolutely panned, and I’ve seen it on lists of all-time bad movies. I liked it, but that’s just me. The movie actually only covers about the first third of the book, which is quite a saga, and, I think, very interesting.
- Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury – The 1966 movie was bland and lackluster, not doing justice to this excellent novel.
- The Maze Runner, by James Dashner – I’d say this one’s close. In both the movie and the novel, no one ever gives a straight answer, and information is given with an eye dropper, which is infuriating, but some things in the novel make more sense than they do in the movie.
- The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau – The movie was a bit disappointing. It didn’t capture the menace of the setting and the build up of excitement in the book.
- Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card – The book is brilliant and amazing. No movie could hope to live up to it. But the movie was all right.
- The Giver, by Lois Lowry – Thanks to the movie, I discovered that The Giver is actually the first of a series, which of course I purchased and devoured immediately upon seeing the display in a bookstore. The movie is a solid adaptation, making changes for the sake of the movie but staying true to the spirit of the original (mostly).
- The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien – Peter Jackson did not need to stretch this out into three movies. That was an unapologetic money grab. (I still went to all three of them, of course.)
- Prince Caspian, by C.S. Lewis – I get that movie makers want to create tension between the characters, but they went too far and didn’t remain true to the characters in the book.
- Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis – This movie did not stay true to the spirit of the book. The scriptwriters obviously need to work on reading comprehension, because they changed the Island Where Dreams Come True into a sea serpent.
- The Hunger Games, trilogy, by Suzanne Collins – All three books are solidly better than the movies, though I enjoyed both. My main complaints are that the first movie spent too much time on world-building and not enough time on character-building, and the third book did not need to be two movies.
- Harry Potter, series, by J.K. Rowling – The Harry Potter series was a phenomenon. I, too, was caught up in it, and would obsessively read each new installment as soon as I could get my hands on it.
- Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer – Yes, I’ve actually read this book. And seen all the movies. Honestly, the book really is better than the movie. It’s not great literature, but I genuinely enjoyed it.
- The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells – The book was 100,000% better than that bizarre travesty of a movie directed by Simon Wells (2002), whose last name didn’t help him make a better adaptation.
- Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen – I’ve only seen the movie with Keira Knightley, and not the other film adaptations. I actually like that movie, but, of course, the book is still better. This movie is charming, but didn’t capture all the nuances of the characters and their development.
- The DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown – Awesome movie, even better book.
- The Color of Magic and Hogfather, by Terry Pratchett- To be fair, these are made-for-t.v. movies, so we can’t hold them to the same standards. These movies are cute but just okay as adaptations of the brilliant works of Terry Pratchett.
The Movie Was On-Par With the Book
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis – I’ve loved this series since I was a kid, but, I will admit, the movie did a good job.
- The Princess Bride, by S. Morgenstern – er – William Goldman – You have to have a certain kind of sense of humor to enjoy the book. If you really like Douglas Adams and Monty Python, give this novel a shot.
- Insurgent, by Veronica Roth – The book and the movie are of about the same quality.
The Movie Was Better (sorry)
- The Fellowship of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien – I’m going to get a lot of crap for this one. But, honestly, Tolkien just takes so long to get anywhere. It’s kind of tedious. And, I have a confession to make that will probably have you demanding my nerd card: I only got about half-way through The Two Towers and I haven’t read Return of the King at all. In my defense, I’ve read The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales.
- Stardust, by Neil Gaiman – This one of of Gaiman’s weaker novels. It’s whimsical and charming, but the movie makes it into a much more powerful story.
- Divergent, by Veronica Roth – This one was close. The movie just barely edges out the book. The movie follows the book pretty closely, and the changes the movie made were for the better.
- Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown – There’s a reason this book didn’t become well known until after Da Vinci Code. It’s because this one kind of sucks. It has these awful recurring dream segments that that have nothing to do with the rest of the story thankfully were not in the movie, and, overall, the writing isn’t as good. The movie was better. By quite a bit.
Both Were Terrible
- Twilight series (everything after the first one) by Stephanie Meyer – okay, so I’ve only read through New Moon, but after that one I gave up and I can’t imagine it gets better.
- Eragon and Eldest by Christopher Paolini – I gave up after the second one. It’s a poorly-written rehashing of Star Wars with Anne Mccaffrey’s dragon riders instead of Jedi.
So what do you think? What’s better – the book or the movie?