What Movies Are Actually Better Than The Books On Which They Are Based?
Posted on 16th of August, 2018

Answers

It is very popular to hate on movies, but I have actually watched quite a few that to me worked better than the books purely because movies are a more visual medium. I know that there will be a lot of people who disagree with me, and that's fine, but here in no particular order are the movies that I think are better than the books.

1. Life of Pi: The 2012 novel by Yann Martel is a really good story, but the 2012 film adaptation by Ang Lee is absolutely incredible. Lee is well known for the incredible cinematography of his movies and his style is a perfect fit for Life of Pi. However, what really makes this movie great is the incredible amount of work that has gone into the visual effects. The visual effects companies that worked on the film realy accomplished the act of making it look like there was a living, breathing tiger stranded on the lifeboat with Pi. One could argue that the book had a deeper meaning that not everyone will realize when watching the movie, but I still think that the two complement each other nicely and the movie is a must-watch.

2. Cloud Atlas: I really had my doubts about the movie, but in the end I think that the Wachowskis did an incredible job with telling the same story as the novel by David Mitchell. Although I liked the book, I did find it to ramble too much at times, which caused my attention and interest to waver. I can't say the same about the movie as it held me attention all the way through. Once again it is the cinematography and visual effects that made this one stand out the most to me.

3. Die Hard: I suppose this one is cheating a bit as few people know that Die Hard is actually based on a book by Roderick Thorp called Nothing Lasts Forever. The book is actually a sequel to his novel The Detective, which itself was turned into a film with Frank Sinatra in the lead. When both Sinatra and Arnold Schwarzenegger declined the roles for Die Hard, it went to Bruce Willis and the rest is history. The book is nice and everything, but just cannot compare to the spectacle of Bruce Willis taking down the bad guys.
If there is one movie that completely embodies that movies can be so, so much better than their source material then it is The Godfather. Francis Ford Coppola took what was basically a pulp fiction novel and turned it into one of the highest-grossing films of its time. For anyone not familiar with the book by Mario Puzo, try reading it after watching the movie and you'll understand. It's still about the Corleone family and the main plot is there, but so are pages and pages of useless subplots and side stories that should have been edited out. By the end of the book I knew way more about the personal issues of many of the characters, like Lucy, than I ever needed or wanted to. It didn't prevent the book from becoming a best-seller, but I'm grateful that the movie dropped all of the unnecessary stuff.
Books and movies are two vastly different mediums and trying to compare the two would be like trying to compare apples and bowling balls. Both have their pros and cons and there is no reason why you can't enjoy both without having to pick which version is the best. A lot of times when people go on about how much better movies are compared to the book it is because of the age of the books. Give it a few years and those movies might look and sound just as dated as the book versions. On the other hand, all the people who champion books over films no matter what tend to have a snobbish attitude about reading. It's not always possible to read every single book out there, so I'm glad for films that make it easy to catch up on what I've been missing out. Like I had no interest in the Harry Potter books, but after watching the movies I read to books too.
I watch a lot of movies and a read even more books, so my opinion might be more unbiased than most, but will probably still upset a few people. Here goes:

-The Lord of The Rings: Make no mistake, I love the books by J. R. R. Tolkien, but the man had a habit of rambling on and on for pages about the most mundane things. Peter Jackson took these ramblings, trimmed off all the fat, and delivered a trilogy that has stood the test of time. The same can't be said about The Hobbit, but that's another matter. Thankfully none of the movies mimic the books by interrupting the action with pages of Elvish poetry!

-The Name of the Rose: Another author who went off on way too many tangents is Umberto Eco with his novel The Name of the Rose. Perhaps it is due to the translation work, Eco is Italian, but I experienced the novel as being way too wordy whereas the film manages to keep things concise and interesting.

-A Clockwork Orange: This is not a slight against Anthony Burgess as A Clockwork Orange is still a brilliant novel, but the film directed by Stanley Kubrick surpasses it in every way. Kubrick is a master in his craft and one of the very few directors who is able to consistently improve on the source material he uses for his films. He has not only proven this with A Clockwork Orange, but also 2001 A Space Odyssey and The Shining.

-Fight Club: Even the author of the book agrees with me on this one as Chuck Palahniuk has stated himself that the film version of Fight Club is an improvement compared to his novel. The book is still a great read, but the film is undoubtedly better.

-Blade Runner: Philip K. Dick has a well deserved reputation for his science fiction novels, but in my opinion, Blade Runner blows "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" out of the water. It could once again be a case of the whole futuristic spectacle looking more impressive on screen compared to on paper, but the movie went on to become a cult hit while the book is not quite as well known outside of science fiction circles. For a more recent example of this, check out how much better The Man in The High Castle is on Amazon compared to the book.

-Jurassic Park: Everyone knows that Jurassic Park is based on the books by Michael Crichton, but I wonder how many people have actually gone through both and noticed how much Steven Spielberg changed in order to turn it in to a great movie. Not only is the Jurassic Park novel very boring in places, but Crichton just rehashed the idea for his Westworld and replaced the androids that malfunction with dinosaurs that escape.
The Notebook is a better movie than book purely because it stars Ryan Gosling. Forrest Gump is a very funny movie compared to the book that I found to be somewhat dry. The Shawshank Redemption is a brilliant movie whereas the original story by Stephen King is good, but not as great. Finally, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a tense and gripping movie compared to the original book by Arthur C. Clarke, which was once again good but not great.
It is really, really uncommon for movies to improve on books, but also not unheard of. One movie that everyone can agree on in this category is Jaws. The reviews of the book were actually very mixed when Peter Benchley released Jaws in 1974, but the tide turned after it was turned into a blockbuster by Steven Spielberg. The film improved on the book in many ways and it resulted in a box office smash. The same can be said for the Robert Bloch novel, Psycho. The book was decent enough, but the Alfred Hitchchock film took next to a whole new level. Hitchcock made some important changes, such as making Norman Bates much more creepy, which definitely worked in the film's favor.

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