Movies Better Than Their Books

I know, I know.  OUTRAGEOUS!  Like you, I have sat in the theater countless times, watching the film version of a book I read and thought: “will the atrocities never cease?  I generally think that books are better than movies. The book was five zillion times better than this idiotic film adaptation!  If I didn’t know the title of this movie, I would make no connection between this garbage and the book it alleges to portray.  This is an OUTRAGE!”  Then I storm out, demand my money back, and shred my ticket stub in their illiterate, unbelieving faces (and yes, I know the pimply-faced sixteen year old behind the ticket booth didn’t actually have anything to do with the book-to-film butchering through which I have just partway suffered.  But it still makes me feel better).

That being said, I think it’s possible.  For example, when Gangs of New York, the film, came out, I had heard a lot of hype, and my curiosity was aroused.  I just so happened to come across the book before I had a chance to see the movie.  I was perplexed.  It reads like a mind-numbing history textbook, wordy and garbled, confusing, no flow.  No excitement.  I stopped reading.  Some time later, I had a chance to see the film, and it was worth the hype, despite the presence of Cameron Diaz.  And Daniel Day Lewis is downright captivating; one of the best performances I have ever seen.

Then there is The Godfather.  Here, I saw the movie long before I read the book.  And I was not disappointed.  With the movie, anyway.  I think these movies are fantastic, and Brando’s iconic portrayal is legendary.  Later, knowing how often books are better than their films, I picked up the book with great excitement.  “If the movie was that good,” I thought, “this book is going to be unbelievable.”  And it was unbelievable.  Unbelievably awful!!! It reads like the script from a soap opera, sissified, melodramatic, and gutless.  Hard to believe how those great films came out of that book.

Other books into movies, the movie is better if only because it is shorter (see Possession by A.S. Byatt) (can we say ZZZZZZZzzzzzzz???)

Some books to movies it’s a closer call.  The movies are really good, but the books are really good also, only in a different way.  Each good in their own right (e.g. Fight Club, American Psycho, A Clockwork Orange).

And I have heard people say this of The Silence of the Lambs.  I couldn’t comment on that one; I just read the book, but it’s been too long since I saw the movie.  But I did just see Red Dragon, and the book would have to be pretty darn good to beat that.  Not to say it would be impossible.  I have been wrong before.

How about you, Dunce One?  Seen any movies that fit the bill? Book suggestions? Movie suggestions? Do hard books necessarily result in hard movies?

6 thoughts on “Movies Better Than Their Books

  1. Not better, but just as good. Same but different.

    One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,
    about 50% of The Shining,

    Red Dragon was good, but only because Fiennes makes everything better. Watch In Bruges if you haven’t.

  2. We tried two minutes of one on audio once on a trip and said never again. Sorry sparky.

    I will be writing about my physical exploits well into my 90s. You’re on notice.

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