Better than the book!
December 27, 2010 2:09 PM   Subscribe

What great movies (or TV shows) did you find to be infinitely better than the book on which they were based?

As a companion to this post, what movies or TV shows did you love, only to be terribly disappointed when you sought out the books on which they were based and found that you didn't enjoy them nearly as much?

My canonical example, of course, is the original novel of Gone With the Wind, which is crammed full of even more horrible racism than the movie (as Cool Papa Bell reminded me, book!Ashley Wilkes proudly joins the Ku Klux Klan), as well as long and boring descriptions of furniture.

I also found the book Peter Pan to be incredibly disturbing when I read it after seeing the animated movie. So much weird psychodrama subtext!
posted by Sidhedevil to Media & Arts (93 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Another of mine: the novel of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is so much less adorable than the movie version. If you seek out the book, you will be disappointed.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:11 PM on December 27, 2010

I know some people will kill me, but although I've read them all, I think short-lived The Dresden Files TV show was better than the books.
posted by smirkette at 2:12 PM on December 27, 2010

Die Hard.
posted by bq at 2:12 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Clockwork Orange.
posted by rabidsegue at 2:15 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hmm, this isn't exactly what you are talking about, but I maintain that the Twilight series is much better as films (which are tolerable) than as books (which were horribly written). I think the film makers cleaned up a bunch of problems from the books.

(I admit it: I read them all! And hated myself every minute of it.)
posted by bluedaisy at 2:16 PM on December 27, 2010

The Vampire Diaries. The books make my eyes want to vomit. The dialog is HORRIBLE and I've never heard people (much less hormonal teenagers) speak like that. I'm the kind of person that will always try to finish the book no matter what, this is the most trouble I've ever had doing it. That said, I love the show.

Could not disagree with smirkette more though but we are all entitled to our own opinions.
posted by magnetsphere at 2:16 PM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think Fight Club made a much better movie than a book, although I think the book is fine, for what it is.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:17 PM on December 27, 2010 [8 favorites]

Actually, one more thought: my film is that people like the film better when they've seen the film first. For example, I suspect rabidseque saw Clockwork Orange before he read it, because I think the book was excellent and the movie only okay.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:17 PM on December 27, 2010

True Blood vs The Southern Vampire Mysteries! The books are pretty silly, although not nearly as bad as Twilight.
posted by elizardbits at 2:18 PM on December 27, 2010 [8 favorites]

Nosferatu, the Bela Lugosi Dracula and Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula are all much more entertaining than the novel. However, I have a personal distaste for both epistolary novels and Victorian-era fiction.

I like Total Recall a lot better than "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale," the Philip K. Dick short story it is based on.

Wanted is (loosely) based on a comic and while they're both shitty, I find the movie much more palatable.

(I haven't seen Remains of the Day, but considering it stars Sir Anthony Hopkins, I can't see any way it could drag on worse than the book.)
posted by griphus at 2:18 PM on December 27, 2010

I like True Blood more than the books on which it was based, for sure. I think the books are good, but the special cocktail of Charlaine Harris's characters and Alan Ball's quirky elaborations of them is fantastic.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:18 PM on December 27, 2010

my film is that people like the film...

(I meant my theory, not my film. Oy.)
posted by bluedaisy at 2:19 PM on December 27, 2010

Clear and present danger and I think there was another one, both with Harrison Ford and much better than the novels by Tom Clancy.
posted by rjs at 2:20 PM on December 27, 2010

Dexter, if you go much past the first book, Darkly Dreaming Dexter. Disappointment and a heavy amount of "what ... the ... hell?"
posted by adipocere at 2:22 PM on December 27, 2010 [7 favorites]

The Godfather. Crappy pulp novel, excellent film.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:23 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by Sara C. at 2:23 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Being There, mainly for Peter Sellers's performance, the insane ending and unbelievably awesome funkified version of Also Sprach Zarathustra.
posted by cog_nate at 2:26 PM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

American Psycho is a much better movie than book, in my opinion.
posted by decathecting at 2:27 PM on December 27, 2010 [7 favorites]

Farewell My Concubine, but it might just have been because of a terrible translation.
posted by ultrapotato at 2:28 PM on December 27, 2010

The Shining
posted by Dumsnill at 2:33 PM on December 27, 2010 [4 favorites]

I liked Blade Runner much more than Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.

And I disagree with her, because I enjoyed the book quite a bit, but my wife would say that Starship Troopers made a better movie. 1.) she really hated the book, and 2.) Neil Patrick Harris rocking that uniform is hilarious.
posted by quin at 2:33 PM on December 27, 2010

There Will Be Blood is a lot better than Oil! by Upton Sinclair.
posted by Chenko at 2:35 PM on December 27, 2010

I loathe John Irving's books, but the movies made from them are great! I think this is because what comes across as BEATING THE MORONIC READER OVER THE HEAD WITH OBVIOUS SYMBOLISM in 500 pages of print comes across pretty well in a very compressed 90 minutes on-screen.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:37 PM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've always found comparing Starship Troopers the book to the film to be rather difficult. One is military SF and the other one is satire with an military SF veneer. Although I guess American Psycho the film is a satire of the type of satirical novel American Psycho is.
posted by griphus at 2:39 PM on December 27, 2010

2001: A Space Odyssey.
posted by decoherence at 2:43 PM on December 27, 2010

Being There.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 2:45 PM on December 27, 2010

I also thought that The Ghost and Mrs. Muir was a better movie than book. And I agree with John Irving books - they're better movies. I think that Jane Eyre (the one with Orson Wells) was an interesting movie, but I hardly made it through the book.
posted by patheral at 2:45 PM on December 27, 2010

Field of Dreams. The book has a totally absurd subplot about a traveling circus and (maybe? It's been a long time....) some twins. They somehow excised all the chaff to make a focused and classic film.
posted by anastasiav at 2:49 PM on December 27, 2010

Once Upon a Time in America.
posted by Chenko at 2:50 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I love Anne Tyler, but I think The Accidental Tourist works better as a movie.
posted by xingcat at 2:51 PM on December 27, 2010

Be Cool, though this is a fairly low quality bar to be setting.

IT was way better as a movie, because in the movie kids having sex wasn't the key to saving the day.

Starship troopers is debatable, because the book and movie approach the military from totally opposing idealogical viewpoints, so you may like one a lot less than other depending on what your opinions are. The characters in the book are undeniably deeper though.
posted by drethelin at 2:52 PM on December 27, 2010

High Fidelity
posted by Dumsnill at 2:52 PM on December 27, 2010

Jurassic Park
posted by Chenko at 2:57 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Forrest Gump was a TERRIBLE book. Possibly one of the worst I've read, and I've read everything Anne Rice has written.
posted by sacrifix at 2:57 PM on December 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

This may get me in trouble with high school English teachers everywhere, but...

Last of the Mohicans.
posted by Flunkie at 3:01 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Definitely True Blood and Dexter, as others have said. The shows do brand new, awesome things. The books...don't.

Also, just the trailer for Cowboys and Aliens is better than the graphic novel on which it's based, in my opinion. I'll go out in a limb and say the film will be better.
posted by monkeymadness at 3:03 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Came here to say Forrest Gump. That book sucks. It's almost too bad the author got so much money off the film rights, because the film is an entirely different thing from the weird and awful book.
posted by elpea at 3:09 PM on December 27, 2010

Nthing Dexter. I hated the books so I was initially reluctant to watch the series. But after watching a few clips, I was hooked.
posted by Anima Mundi at 3:11 PM on December 27, 2010

I think Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code worked much better on film, but then the bar was already set pretty low.
posted by fuse theorem at 3:12 PM on December 27, 2010

The English Patient. My all time favorite movie, and a completely unreadable, opaque, boring, and off putting book. I think Minghella got an Oscar for the adaptation... I'm not sure... but he should have gotten the Nobel prize. What a transformation.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:13 PM on December 27, 2010

I read parts of The Princess Bride when someone else brought it on a family vacation. The movie is very faithful to the book (in the parts I read) -- so it was like the movie had most of the good parts, plus spectacular scenery.

Actually Jose Saramago's Blindness, so far (halfway through), is the same way. It's not that the book is bad; it's very good; but the movie was so faithful to the book and then also added scenery.

I'll disagree on John Irving's Cider House Rules -- better as a book. (Maybe it depends on which you saw / read first?)
posted by salvia at 3:15 PM on December 27, 2010

The film version of Starship Troopers takes many of the battle scenes from "Armor" by John Steakley, who in turn owed a huge debt to Robert Heinlein for kicking it off. I think the comparisons of book and film come up so many times in this thread because both were pretty good in their own rights, but they're definitely two different beasts.
posted by Itinakak at 3:19 PM on December 27, 2010

Gotta disagree re Peter Pan. The book is better than any movie version. Agree re English Patient: unreadable, but highly watchable. Vertigo, but then you're unlikely to come across D'Entre Les Morts, the 1950s French crime novel.
posted by londongeezer at 3:19 PM on December 27, 2010

Any book by Clancy, Grisham, Patterson, Ludlum, or a host of others I could name is virtually unreadable for the dead prose, characterless characters and general dullness. My jumbled opinion, of course. Yet I've found movies based on them to be quite watchable, I think because they're plotty, quick-moving page-turners whose stories transfer neatly to the screen, and the characters are filled in by capable actors, the flat description filled in by actual moving pictures.
I can't explain why movies based on thrillers by writers I DO like, such as James Lee Burke and Michael Connelly, seem somewhat less interesting to me. Maybe because I had formed a clearer picture from the book, and the film was maybe not inferior, just different.
And I agree, Blade Runner was terrific, much superior to the Dick story.
These are interesting conversations.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 3:22 PM on December 27, 2010

I liked Master and Commander. The books are very good, but the movie is much more approachable.
posted by that girl at 3:22 PM on December 27, 2010

Children of Men! I didn't love the movie, but gosh the book was terrible.
posted by firei at 3:23 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

And I'll add Dexter--unreadable books, great, stylish TV. They seized the hook and ran with it.
For me, Dan Brown's a special case: Unreadable and unwatchable.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 3:25 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY. My GOD the books are hard to revisit. I read them all prior to the movies being made and thought I loved them, but Christ they are long winded on a second go through (didn't even finish). Makes you fantasize about the short 10 hour films
posted by Patbon at 3:34 PM on December 27, 2010 [6 favorites]

Jaws. Good lord the book is awful, mostly about inexplicable and boring affairs, but the movie is sensational.
posted by Ms. Toad at 3:36 PM on December 27, 2010

Jaws! Book is not so memorable, movie is pitch-perfect and, um, still kinda scares me.
posted by bookgirl18 at 3:42 PM on December 27, 2010

Also I found the Generation Kill miniseries to be much more engaging than the book, but I fully admit that I am unable to be objective about any production featuring a shirtless Alexander Skarsgard.

I liked Master and Commander. The books are very good, but the movie is much more approachable.

BLASPHEMY! I almost feel moved to demand satisfaction via pistols at dawn.

As much as I loved the movie (and I did), it is nothing compared to the fantastic awesomeness of the books. Also, they lost major points for casting a hobbit as Barrett Bonden, who is canonically the ship's bare-knuckle boxing champion. Billy Boyd doesn't look like he could engage in manly fisticuffs with a small head of damp lettuce.

posted by elizardbits at 3:43 PM on December 27, 2010 [7 favorites]

My first comment on Metafilter and I'm going to get killed, I'm sure. I liked the Harry Potter movies much better than the books. I saw the first 3 or 4 movies without having read the books, read all but the last book then saw the next couple movies. I refuse to read the last book until I see the last movie next year so the movies aren't ruined for me by the book. The books are written for adolescents and I am not one. The magic scenes in the books are fun; there is very little depth to any of the characters; you never really know what anyone's motivation is - you just see the surface. This is a great recipe for a movie script! I really like the movies but the books, meh.
posted by bijou243 at 3:46 PM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

The Color Purple
posted by amyms at 3:47 PM on December 27, 2010

Let the Right One In
The Godfather
The Bridges of Madison County
Fight Club
The Green Mile
Naked Lunch
posted by hot soup girl at 3:51 PM on December 27, 2010

The Bourne Identity.

People will argue that neither are enjoyable, but I liked The Bridges of Madison County just fine. I found the book to be fling-across-the-room bad.

I disagree utterly about Peter Pan, The English Patient and especially about Master & Commander being better as movies.

Peter Pan book/movie is apples/oranges. The dark humor in the book, including the creepy undertones are what made that book one of my favorites when I was a kid. The animated version was just marshmellow nothingness.

The English Patient focussed on, imo, the weakest, most narcissistic character in the story. The book wasn't nearly as sympathetic to him and also broke up his story with more about the Sikh and the nurse, who were actually interesting and sympathetic.

Master and Commander did probably as good as you could do with 90 minutes, but it completely missed the flow, feeling, and relationship things that made the book series so captivating.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:52 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hitchcock turned a bunch of pulp novels or short stories into classic movies. Psycho, Vertigo and Rear Window, for example.That was his main modus operandi, turn bad books into great films, so his prolific filmography has plenty of those.
posted by TheGoodBlood at 4:08 PM on December 27, 2010

I will agree with High Fidelity. The book isn't bad but the movie condenses a lot of the points it's trying to make. I didn't want to scream "OK, I get it!" at the movie.

The Last Unicorn feels like another draft of the novel -- which I think it kind of was, since Peter S. Beagle also wrote the script. I still love the novel, but the movie feels tighter and more on point.

The movie of Wonder Boys does different things than the novel -- the novel has more "stuff" in it and tends to ramble. I enjoyed the "stuff" and the rambling, but I think the movie is more successful in a lot of ways.

I enjoyed reading all three of these books and I recognize that movies do different things than novels. But with the exception of The Last Unicorn, I don't really want to read High Fidelity or Wonder Boys again. I do, however, enjoy seeing the movies again and again.
posted by darksong at 4:10 PM on December 27, 2010

Wild at Heart is not a great film exactly (by either mainstream or art-house standards), but the book is a forgettable pulp novel.
posted by K.P. at 4:12 PM on December 27, 2010

Brokeback Mountain. The book is so badly written I can't understand why it received so much praise. The movie is far better.
posted by Lobster Garden at 4:15 PM on December 27, 2010

Little Children. Very good movie, mediocre book.
posted by scody at 4:22 PM on December 27, 2010

(I thank my fellow MeFites sincerely for reinforcing my decision not to read the Dexter series. Everything I've read about it is just ... what?)

These are more "bringing something new and awesome to an already good book," but:

- Babe. Dick King-Smith's novel is adorable and all but I doubt I'd get as much out of it now as I did in 3rd grade. The movie is magical and I have no doubt that I'd still love it if I were to watch it again.

- The Spectacular Spider-Man, the short-lived and much lamented cartoon from a couple years back. I love the Spidey comics with all my heart, but as with any serial narrative that goes on for decades it's had its ... ups and downs (down right now). Meanwhile, the cartoon was free to cherry-pick 48 years of comics for the best bits (or as many best bits as could fit/would translate in 26 episodes) and blend them all together. Also, as yet the only Spidey adaptation with a Mary Jane Watson that lives up to the original.
posted by bettafish at 4:37 PM on December 27, 2010

To Have and Have Not, The Big Bounce, The Exorcist, The Warriors immediately come to mind.

Agreeing with bijou243 about Harry Potter. Maybe it was because I was already an adult when the first book came out in the US, but I found the them to be terribly written and very much an adult's idea of a "good children's book." The movies have been fun and enjoyable, though. Of course, if I had been 10 years old when the first HP book came, I'd probably feel differently.

The Bourne Identity & Blade Runner/DADoES? are apples/oranges situations as far as I'm concerned. The first Bourne novel was GREAT, but very much a product of its time, geo-politically, so the movie updated that to reflect a more modern, post-Cold War world view (and did it very well, I might add). As for the other Bourne movies? Infinitely better than the books they were based on, and that's not saying much as I felt the movie sequels suffered from the cinematic equivalent of The Law Of Diminshing Returns.

Blade Runner is a fantastic adapation of several plot elements of Dick's novel but it is very much its own creature, as the novel itself contains a whole host of other issues, charcaters and elements that wind up making the movie plot elements (almost) tangential to the theme of the novel.
posted by KingEdRa at 4:41 PM on December 27, 2010

Brokeback Mountain. The book is so badly written I can't understand why it received so much praise. The movie is far better.

It's not a book, it's a short story.

I just learned by looking on Amazon that it was sold as a standalone "book" and I think that's unfortunate. Someone's efforts to make a few more bucks off the story (probably after the release of the film) may have unintentionally led the unaware to expect more than what they got. That said, I couldn't disagree more about it being "badly written". It's one of the few pieces of literature--of what I've read--which was able to make an almost perfect translation to film.
posted by fuse theorem at 4:44 PM on December 27, 2010

I cannot disagree more about Dracula. I love that book, and think the old Bela Lugosi movie is terrible in comparison. Frankenstein, on the other hand, is a great example of a terrific movie that comes from a practically unreadable book.
posted by Dolley at 4:48 PM on December 27, 2010

Winter's Bone is an ok book, but is probably the best movie of 2010. The movie took everything good from the book, dropped the extras, and then gave it a visual language stronger than the original writing. It's not a bad book, at all, but the movie is simply a lot better.
posted by Forktine at 5:30 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The book is great, of course, but has no soundtrack or Boris Karloff. (I refer of course to the animated TV series, not the recent travesty)
posted by dr. boludo at 5:33 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Player.
posted by jenwells at 6:03 PM on December 27, 2010

I recently watched Emma Thompson's version of Sense and Sensibility and I was struck by how much it was an improvement over the book. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy Jane Austen, and Elinor Dashwood is probably one of my favorite of her heroines. But the book itself is quite dry and short on levity (compared to, say, Pride and Prejudice), while the movie has plenty of lightheartedness and humor.

I really liked the screenplay written by Emma Thompson. It cut out all of the cruft in the storyline, made Margaret more of a useful character, and rewrites Edward as a more likable love interest. Plus, I like that Elinor and Marianne are older. It adds some "OMG! We're gonna be spinsters for-EVAH" tension.
posted by Alison at 6:35 PM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

About a Boy had its problems, but was ultimately a really great movie, while the book was only so/so (and nthing High Fidelity, too).

Julie & Julia was a horrible book -- books based on blogs are often so awful -- but the movie was watchable (Meryl Streep was wonderfully charming).

FWIW, I read all three of the books before I saw the abovementioned movies, and like the movies better anyway.

Also, The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory -- all great, well-written books, but the movie adaptations are so fantastic, they really eclipse the books.
posted by shamash at 6:37 PM on December 27, 2010

(Did you guys read the same Shining and English Patient I did? SPOILER - EP is let down by a rant by the sikh character when he learns of the atom bomb which is completely unbelievable and shouts "message for you, sir!" but is otherwise a beautifully written story. The Shining movie and The Shining book are two different stories, both with their strengths.)

The Shawshank Redemption vs. Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. The novella is good but the movie is sublime. I don't know about terribly disappointed, but if you came from the movie to the book you'd definitely not be enthralled.
posted by maxwelton at 6:55 PM on December 27, 2010

The Count of Monte Cristo.
posted by Nolechick11 at 7:05 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Batman. Thin Red Line. Band of Brothers.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:11 PM on December 27, 2010

Into the Wild
posted by clearly at 7:17 PM on December 27, 2010

To Die For. Joyce Maynard wrote the novel. Buck Henry wrote the screenplay.
posted by bakerina at 7:19 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wuthering Heights (the Laurence Olivier/Merle Oberon version) is the prime example of the film version being better than the book on which it's based. It skips the whole second half of the novel (the second generation bit) and ends with Heathcliff and Cathy in one of moviedom's all-time greatest tearjerker moments.
posted by holterbarbour at 8:07 PM on December 27, 2010

I read parts of The Princess Bride when someone else brought it on a family vacation. The movie is very faithful to the book (in the parts I read) -- so it was like the movie had most of the good parts, plus spectacular scenery.

I'd actually go one step further and say the movie removed some extraneous stuff that would've been bad had they tried to do it on film. I love the book, but the movie's definitely better.
posted by inigo2 at 8:10 PM on December 27, 2010

I'm a big Dashiell Hammett and film noir fan. I love both the book and the (Bogart) Maltese Falcon, so I thought that I would love the book of The Thin Man as much as I love the movie. Not so! I think the movie is much better (because of the on-screen chemistry between William Powell and Myrna Loy, of course)! I think (often) you're bound to prefer the book if you read it first and then saw the movie. Filmmakers often cannot satisfy all the preconceptions that made the story special to the readers. It's easier to please (or displease) a reader after they've seen the movie because they have been 'guided' through the story. Less of their interpretation and imagination comes into play as certain aspects of the books may have been predigested for them in the film(s).
posted by Mael Oui at 8:43 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

The anime TV series Revolutionary Girl Utena is way better than the manga it's based on.
posted by tomboko at 8:45 PM on December 27, 2010

The Door in the Floor, based on John Irving's A Widow for One Year was much better than the novel, perhaps because the film chose to focus only on the first section of the book, which happened to be the only portion worth reading.

The movie version of The Prince of Tides gave the story the much needed editing someone apparently forgot to do with the book, removing a lot of the excess nonsense and pointless rambling.
posted by The Gooch at 9:07 PM on December 27, 2010

The tv show The Odd Couple was I thought better than the movie. Jack Klugman was a great Oscar but Tony Randall is/was/will always be Felix Unger.
posted by PaulBGoode at 9:27 PM on December 27, 2010

I agree with Lord of the Rings! I tried really hard to read my way through the first book, and I'm a reader, let me tell you, but I just could not get through it.

I'll bring up another Jane Austen adaptation and mention Persuasion. I read Persuasion and loved it, but Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root brought that movie to a whole other level. So much better than the book ever did.
posted by Polgara at 9:49 PM on December 27, 2010

Kiss The Girls. Movie awesome, book terrible. My god Patterson is a terrible writer. It single-handedly made me lose faith in the entire publishing industry because I do not understand how someone that bad at the craft of writing could get published.

I actually enjoyed the Sookie Stackhouse novels but I enjoy the series more. Ymmv of course.

I also agree with The Princess Bride. The movie was basically all the awesome parts. The book was 70% nonsense filler. It just read like the author liked the sound of his own "voice" if you will.
posted by katyggls at 11:44 PM on December 27, 2010

I love James Ellroy, but L.A. Confidential, the movie, removed the entire Walt Disney doppelganger + over-the-top serial killer nonsense. The story was much tighter and better focused as a result.
posted by elgilito at 3:20 AM on December 28, 2010

Dan Brown books, but that's because a half-way decent story is buried so far underneath jarbled nonsense dialogue.

Also not on point, but I love Wicked the musical while the actual book is only so-so.
posted by motsque at 6:54 AM on December 28, 2010

Battle Royale. I enjoy the movie in the same sense that I enjoy the ocassional mindless Saw-type movie. Not a regular occurance, but it does happen, and it's over in a few hours. The book, on the other hand, was rather meh I thought and goes on for days/weeks. I've never been able to describe qualities I like or dislike about books, I just know I struggled to finish the book, I think mainly because it propped up one of the kids as uber-hero and you just waited until you knew he was going to die.
posted by jmd82 at 6:55 AM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Probably blasphemy to say this, but I loved Orlando and couldn't stand the (Virginia Woolf) book.

I thought both versions of Fight Club were great, and the book had a far creepier ending.
posted by O9scar at 7:40 AM on December 28, 2010

Jeremy Leven's screenplay for Creator was a beautiful, poignant, funny story. His original novel, not so much.
posted by bryon at 8:11 AM on December 28, 2010

Gossip Girl. The show is occasionally great and the one book from the series I read was...still funny and in a lot of ways sharper, but a lot colder.
posted by SoftRain at 9:44 AM on December 28, 2010

I like the movie version of Thank You For Smoking much better than the book version. The endings are completely different, and I find that it's the movie ending that stays true to character. It's interesting that I think that, because I watched Ebert informally interviewing Jason Reitman, the director, and he said he wouldn't want to make a movie of Catcher in the Rye because he felt adaptations were only worthwhile when they had something substantial to add or improve upon.
posted by Devika at 10:02 AM on December 28, 2010

I heartily agree that About a Boy works better as a movie. The ending of the movie is poignant and pithy; the ending of the book is rambling and confusing.

I respectfully disagree that Jane Eyre is a boring book. I stayed up until 4 in the morning reading it, and I wasn't 12 years old, either. There are good movie adaptations, but Charlotte Bronte wrote in a hell of a compelling first person voice. Wuthering Heights, on the other hand, unreadable book and annoying movies.

posted by aspiring polymath at 10:57 AM on December 28, 2010

Steig Larsson's "The Girl Who..." series have been much better movies than books. (I realize I am in the minority, but I thought the books were interesting concepts badly executed, beyond any fault of the translator.)

I also preferred "Lord of the Rings" and "Harry Potter" as movies.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:44 PM on December 28, 2010

Oscar and Lucinda was a gorgeous, amazing film, but the book was tough to get through and didn't convey the beauty and emotion that I got from the movie version. I guess that's what good acting and direction are all about.
posted by Knowyournuts at 11:59 AM on January 6, 2011

I reread Sense and Sensibility with an eye to evaluating Alison's assertion above -- and I find I agree. The movie does a number of little things to warm up Edward and give him a backbone which are absent from the book. The very first thing Edward does in the movie, in fact, is, with mild sweetness, stand up to his sister's insensitive bullying of Margaret and Mrs. Dashwood Sr. He acquires character upfront, in multiple senses of the word, which is only clear in the book towards the end.

Generally, when I'm evaluating the translation of a book to screen, I'm considering what they've had to take out, and whether it's an improvement (bye bye, Bombadill!), but Sense and Sensibility surprised me because material was added which was a distinct improvement.
posted by endless_forms at 11:48 AM on February 24, 2011

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