Feb 20, 2009

Movies that are better than the books

"The book is always better than the movie."

I hear this quote all the friggin time. When I voice my opposition people look at me in shock as if I just ran into a mosque wearing a pork loin cloth. While it is true that a lot of the time films do not live up to the quality that is present in their source material (Beloved, Bonfire of the Vanities) there are many movies that exceed it. Below are just a few.

1. The Godfather - Puzo even admits his novel about a New York crime family is probably the most pulp he's ever written, but still it became his biggest success. Coppola took the runaway hit and created what is arguably known as one of the best pieces of American cinema ever.

2. Ben-Hur - The book is tedious and fails in many ways, but with the help of some gifted screen writers the story of a childhood friendship turned sour became one of the greatest blockbusters of all time.

3. The DaVinci Code - This is a case where both the novel and the film were horrible, but at least in the movie I didn't have to sit through Dan Brown's bastardization of the English language. While a huge success the book has set the bar extremely low.

4. The Ten Commandments - While most of the film is based on Josephus' writings, the Old Testament omits a large part of Moses' life in Egypt. It's because this that the screenwriters gave this epic rich characters which makes for great drama. Even though it can seem corny given nowadays standards Cecile B Demille's sweeping tale of the liberation of slaves from Pharaoh is one you can't take your eyes off of.

5. The Silence of the Lambs - The book was decent at best, but it's Hopkins amazing portrayal as Hannibal Lecter that makes this film that much more enjoyable.

6. The Hunt for Red October - Tom Clancy fans will disagree, but this movie was far better than the book could ever hope to be. I've never really enjoyed Clancy's writing anyways.

7. The Shinning - "Stephen King has a great imagination, but a sixth grade reading level." This quote from a guy I met at a party once would probably send Mattbear into a rage where he starts to stab everyone within arms reach with a glass shard, but I tend to agree. Granted I'm not too familiar with King's work having been largely unimpressed with most of what I read, but I so love this film much more than the book. I think a lot of Stephen King's writings has made far superior films such as 'Stand by Me', 'The Shawshank Redemption', and even the crapfest that is 'The Running Man'.

8. The Lord of the Rings trilogy - Granted I'm a fan of the books, but I can't sit through those stupid songs. Most readers I find agree. Plus the screenwriters wrote the females of the story far better than Tolkien ever could. With more flushed out characters, such as Faramir, the movie is a much more enjoyable experience than the books for me. Yes I'm one of the few that is happy Tom Bombadil was removed from the trilogy.

9. Shane - Yes the book was enjoyable, but never as tender nor as compelling as the film. Shane is a great western with themes that still hold timeless. With some amazing performances, most notably a young Jack Palance, this tale is one that still touches me.

10. Anything written by Ian Flemming - Flemming's pulp novelization of Bond is an easy read, but nowhere near as excited or interesting as displayed on screen by the likes of Sean Connery, who's the coolest guy ever. Even 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' is much more interesting and fun than the book.

"There are intriguing mysteries in Shane, puzzles and challenges, not least in the title character and the way he is played by Alan Ladd." - Roger Ebert


wigsf said...

Apparently the first Die Hard was based on a book. I've never read the book, but you tell me how any book can be as awesome as that movie.

Mattbear said...

I disagree with you here only on one count, and it's pretty predictable - The Shining.

The book was one of King's best, and the movie was crapfest.

A friend made a comment once about how Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons" was going to be made into a movie (coming soon!) and it should be good. I questioned this, and he said Angels & Demons was better than Davinci Code. I read Angels and Demons, just to see. I told him later that it was better than Davinci Code - but that was like saying horse shit smells better than cow shit. It's still shit.

JLee said...

Good point. I have said that about books being better than films, but these are some good examples of the opposite. Although I may beg to differ on Stephen King because there were some stinker movies made out of some of his books. He would go inside people's heads which is hard to portray in a film.

word verification: plain

Alec said...

This list is broken, and will remain broken until you add Fight Club. The original novel is great, but the film turned it into a classic. David Fincher took Palnahuik's good idea and gave it true vision. He decluttered the mess that Palnahuik created. The only part of the book which wasn't made better was the epilogue... and that's only because Fincher didn't film it. And frankly, I'm not sure how he could.

grace said...

The only book I've read out of that list is The Shining, and I'm telling you, it's incredible! Don't get me wrong, the movie is probably my fave horror movie of all time, but the book actually scares the crap out of you better than the movie.

Scott said...

Great list. Totally agree with you, I read the book The Hunt for Red October after seeing the movie and man it was crap.

Another movie that was better than the book is The Natural.

Big Ben said...

I have only read the DaVinci code on that list, and the book was better, sorry.

The only one I would put the movie just as good as the book or better was the Green Mile. I have read a lot of Stephen King books and the Green Mile was one of my favourites.

Worst movie adaptation: Talented Mr. Ripley - just horrible.