Favorites Friday: Book to Movie Adaptations

The book is always better than the movie.  Except once in a while when it’s not–sometimes they’re equally good, and on very rare occasions, the movie is actually better.  I’ve found that I probably shouldn’t watch movie versions of books I love, and if I want to try something new that’s in both formats, I should watch the movie first.  In many of the cases where I like both, I saw the movie before I ever picked up the book.

That’s my overall philosophy on this subject.  But for today, here are a few where the movie producers really did get it right.

Horatio Hornblower miniseries

This list is in no particular order, except that Horatio Hornblower has to come first.  I watched the miniseries with Ioan Gruffudd, then went on to C. S. Forrester’s books–and found out that all my favorite parts of the miniseries aren’t in the books!  By parts, I mean plot points, characters, and sometimes even themes.  Oddly enough, the creators of the miniseries managed to follow the books fairly closely–they just added in a bit here and a tweak there that made it so much better.  And I find Ioan’s Horatio so much more likable than Forrester’s Hornblower.

Gone with the Wind

In a way, the opposite of what happened with Horatio Hornblower–the movie took out great swathes of the book, but managed to zero in on the most essential parts.  Although I’m probably biased about what’s essential, since I saw the movie first.  In this case, I wound up liking them both.

The Wizard of Oz

I was obsessed with this movie when I was a kid.  I can’t remember when I first read the book, but it’s very different from the movie in a lot of ways, and I found that disappointing.  It could be that the movie spoiled the book for me.  I don’t really like Baum’s Wizard of Oz–but I love his later books in the series.  I can’t explain that, except that the movie probably affected my expectations.

Bridge to Terabithia

A rare case where I read the book first and still loved the movie.  A beautifully-rendered version of the book.  The characters were perfect, the plot was well-captured…well-done.
I ought to get around to buying it so I can give you a picture!

Hmm, short list.  Any good movies I’m missing?

10 thoughts on “Favorites Friday: Book to Movie Adaptations

  1. ensign_beedrill

    I, too, liked The Wizard of Oz much more as a movie. The book just really didn’t make sense after watching the movie. Only way I can think of to describe it.

    Here’s my short-list:

    Movies that are better than the books:
    A Series of Unfortunate Events
    This could be perhaps because it is a children’s book and I just couldn’t get into the book. But I liked the movie a lot. So much so that it prompted me to go read the book.
    How to Train Your Dragon
    The book is drastically different from the movie, and I liked the movie much, much more.

    Movies that are just as good as the books:
    I really loved the movie (one of my favorites), and when I was putzing around in the library one day, I found a book by the same name. I had no idea the movie was based on a book, and since I loved the movie so much, I grabbed the book. It was great, too. The two are a bit different, and the book does go more into what illnesses everyone has and it’s able to explain more of the psychology… precisely because it is a book—and that was really interesting. But both versions are really good and both make the list of favorite books and favorite movies.

    1. I really enjoyed A Series of Unfortunate Events (although they picked up a lot after Book Five, which isn’t as long as it sounds because they’re quick reads). Haven’t read How to Train Your Dragon but I’ve heard it’s very different and it doesn’t sound as appealing. Not familiar with K-PAX. It’s always nice when they actually succeed in both mediums! Too bad it’s not more frequent…

      1. ensign_beedrill

        K-PAX is set in a mental hospital. One day, they get a patient who thinks he’s an alien. Well, of course he’s not… right? But he’s very convincing. Nothing is known about this guy… he just turned up. The psychiatrist has to race to figure out who this man is before he supposedly “leaves Earth,” which the psychiatrist takes as a euphemism.

        I think one of my favorite things about it is that for the longest time, I thought it was a true story. The book certainly does leave you feeling that way, since it’s “written by the psychiatrist.”

        It’s been a while since I read it, so I don’t remember it that well (and the movie is more prevalent in my mind since I watch it often); but I remember that I liked it. So it comes highly recommended by me. And since it’s apparently a series (I’ve never read the following books), it might help with your first-in-a-series challenge. 😉

  2. Dennis

    On the subject of movies that were better than books, let’s not forget Ben Hur, a great movie based on a tedious book. The author, General Lew Wallace, did enormous research in preparation for writing the novel, and, unfortunately, it shows. At times he seemed preoccupied with throwing in the results of his research whether it helped with the story or not. The movie focused on the parts that were moving, exciting, or both, and trimmed away unnecessary characters. It deserved every one of its 11 Oscars.

  3. Swamp Adder

    I liked the book Bridge to Terabithia, but I haven’t seen the movie. I guess I should watch it.

    I use the opposite method from you — I usually try to read the book first, I guess because I don’t want it spoiled. One of my favorite movie adaptations (that I did actually see before reading the book) is The Princess Bride. In that case the screenplay was written by the author of the book, so it’s not surprising that it was such a good adaptation!

    1. Well, for maximum enjoyment I probably SHOULD watch movie versions first, but I’m not very good about actually following that. Far more often I’m watching a movie version because I’ve read the book…and it usually doesn’t go well!

  4. Have you seen any of the old Tarzan movies starring Johnny Weismuller? I wonder what you think of those, since you are a big fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books. Or, how do the books compare to the Disney Tarzan movie?

    1. I think I’ve seen at least one Johnny Weismuller movie, though I don’t remember it very well. I have seen the Disney Tarzan, which was not very good, although better than what they did to Hercules. Movie adaptations of Tarzan tend to have the same problems–they almost all go for the “Me Tarzan, You Jane” interpretation of the character, when the original was actually highly intelligent, literate and, by the end of the first book, was fluent in English and French.

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