The book is always better than the movie. Except when it isn’t.

In general, books are better than the films they inspire; however, some movies transcend their source material. For example:

These are the examples that occur to me immediately; I’m sure there are many others.

There’s also a significant body of excellent films made from excellent books. (These often become personal favorites of mine.)

I know that many people actually prefer the Lord of the Rings films to the books. While this boggles my mind, I accept that such a large body of opinion cannot be discounted.

I’ve intentionally not listed cases in which I consider both the film and the movie bad (e.g. Girl With a Pearl Earring; Chocolat; many MIchael Crichton stories, such as Congo; many Stephen King stories, such as Pet Sematary).

I’ve also not listed instances in which I suspect the film is better than the book, but haven’t been exposed to one of them (e.g. Sideways, The Silence of the Lambs).

The next time somebody complains that the book is always better than the movie, remind them that it’s not always the case.


On 14 June 2005 (10:05 AM),
Andy Baio said:

You think the Running Man movie is better than the book? Yikes.

On 14 June 2005 (10:14 AM),
J.D. said:

HA! 🙂

Have you read the book (well, story really)? It’s awful. (I’m not claiming the film is good, by the way, just that it’s better than the book.)

On 14 June 2005 (11:05 AM),
Rich R said:

I would disagree with you on LA Confidential (Of course, right?)

I think the movie holds its own. I am quite fond of the way it was approached and the acting was tops. With that said, I still think the book was better, simply for the greater expanse of the story and characters in the book.

I really loved Cider House Rules as a film, but I think the book is better for the same reason I mentioned above. You can’t put the character study that is the book into a 2.5 hour movie…

On 14 June 2005 (11:14 AM),
Joel said:

Hmm… I actually quite like The Princess Bride novel, but do I like it more than the movie? I… think so. So! I very mildly disagree with you! Which makes this a controversial post, my friend, brace yourself for a torrent of commentary.

On 14 June 2005 (11:16 AM),
J.D. said:

re: Cider House Rules

In my personal quest to quell my verbose ways, I forgot to mention why this subject even entered my mind.

The book group discussed John Irving’s The World According to Garp last weekend (he also wrote Cider House Rules). I thought the book was fantastic. It’s my favorite of the five Irving books I’ve read (yes, better than Owen Meany, all you Irving fans).

Bernie and Kristi loaned us the movie, which we watched last night. The movie wasn’t bad, but it sure wasn’t good, either. It was mainly just a mess. It made me wonder how a film could capture all that Garp contains. It can’t.

(I’m reading another book now — Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell — that seems unfilmable.)

During our book group discussion, Kristi mentioned that movies are never as good as the books, but I disagreed, though the only example I could think of at the time was The Princess Bride.

On 14 June 2005 (11:25 AM),
Cepo said:

there’s NO WAY total recall is better than the book. 🙂 i wouldn’t know because i haven’t read it but i like philip k. dick and TOTAL RECALL WAS A HORRIBLE MOVIE. i hope the book wasn’t that bad.

On 14 June 2005 (01:58 PM),
Aimee said:

Great thoughts, Jackal.

I feel as though I can be fan of both a film and a book, if I judge them as two separate entities. I find I almost always leave the theatre disappointed when I expect a film to be a “true” to the book that it’s based upon. Sometimes I think that it’s folly to even compare a book to a movie of the same plotline, title, characters, etc. To elaborate using your example Gone with the Wind: While the book offers a detailed, eloquent, story-specific [Scarlett’s] Civil War, the film bequeathed a technicolor, epic legacy to American cinematic history. To me, the two mediums are distinctly separated by their essence: books encourage use of the reader’s imagination; film dazzles us with special effects, innovative cinematography, and star power.

On 14 June 2005 (02:52 PM),
Denise said:

I am surprised to see A Clockwork Orange on your list. I personally think the film is much worse than the book. I think the film revolves are sex, which the book does not.

But then I am not a huge fan of Kubrick to begin with.

On 14 June 2005 (05:24 PM),
dowingba said:

I absolutely agree on Forrest Gump. Man was that book horrendous. Perhaps the worst book I’ve ever read. And I’ve read Star Wars fan fiction, for crying out loud.

On 14 June 2005 (10:56 PM),
Ron said:

I see you have mentioned my favorite movie – The Shawshank Redemption. Most people have never heard of it. I can watch it over and over and see something new each time.

On 15 June 2005 (06:50 AM),
Tammy said:

Ron thats soooo like my husband. He watches it every time it comes on TV. One day he made me sit down and watch it with him. I ended up liking it but, but I couldn’t watch it a dozen times over like he does!

On 15 June 2005 (07:36 AM),
Amanda said:

Ron, I’m with you. What a beautiful, touching movie. The acting, directing, soundtrack… everything about it is superb and inspiring. Truly a classic.

On 21 July 2005 (06:07 PM),
Martin said:

I agree on Total Recall, but probably not on Blade Runner (I saw it after reading the book and my immediate reaction was that the movie was laughably bad. I’ve since started to appreciate the cinematography and the music), and definitely not on the Minority Report movie, which only added huge plot holes, improbable action sequences and silly bits where Tom Cruise chases his eyes or listens to crazy doctors singing Swedish children’s songs.

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