12 Movies That are Infinitely Better Than Their Book
“Yeah, the movie was pretty good…but have you read the book?” Everybody knows that guy. He’s the one that you can’t talk about movies with because of comments like that. (We get it. You like to read and you’re smarter than all of us. Good job.) But who wants to read words when we can watch a film adaptation instead? More often than not, the book is better than the movie. But once in a great while, movies capture what text on a page cannot. They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, and that certainly applies to motion pictures. Here are 12 of the best examples.
Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox
‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’
Hunter S. Thompson is a fascinating person. His memoirs have become the stuff of legend. Yet, despite his talent as a writer, most people know Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas because of the movie. It’s a whacky road/acid trip of a movie that showed the world just how talented Johnny Depp really was. The visuals in the film translate much better than on the page and it’s one of the best drug movies the world has ever seen. Thompson had a sad ending, but he can rest comfortably knowing that he gave the world the makings of a classic movie, adapted from his classic book.
‘The Great Gatsby’
The Great Gatsby had it all: charismatic characters, love, betrayal, death, longing, and more. It was, arguably, the great American novel when it was released in 1925. Author F. Scott Fitzgerald wove a literary masterpiece that, until 2013, would simply not translate to film. That all changed when Leonardo DiCaprio wore the tux of Jay Gatsby and brought the elusive, enigmatic character to life on screen. The old-fashioned tale incorporated contemporary songs and timeless themes. The adaptation shouldn't have worked, but it blew audiences away.
Make no mistake; the story that Gillian Flynn told in her 2012 novel was amazing. It had more twists and turns than a handful of Lifetime movies. So, of course, it wouldn’t be too long before her book was turned into a movie and somehow that movie was even better than the book.
A lot of its success can be attributed to the stars of the film. Ben Affleck did a remarkable job of playing the role of every husband that’s ever potentially murdered his wife and Rosemary Pike blew audiences away with her performance as the scariest female ever put to film. Affleck and Pike perfectly embodied a love-hate relationship and Gone Girl has become one of the greatest thrillers of our time.
Did you know that Jackie Brown was a book first? If you didn’t, don’t feel too bad. It went by another title, called Rum Punch. The basic premise is the same, but Quentin Tarantino adapted it and turned it into an homage of ‘70s "blaxploitation" films and it starred the queen of those films herself, Pam Grier. She played the titular character and shared the screen with such luminaries as Samuel L. Jackson, Robert DeNiro, and Michael Keaton. Though it featured a veritable who’s who of Hollywood, this was absolutely Grier’s film. Jackie Brown is one of Tarantino’s more underrated flicks, but it takes an interesting book and turns it into an undeniably classic film.
Jaws was a good book, but if it’s a story about a killer shark attacking the residents of a beachfront town, do you want to read about it or do you want to see the shark actually eat the little boy and all those who dare to swim in Jaws’ waters? We thought so. There’s a reason why Shark Week is a television event and not a collection of short stories.
‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’
It was near impossible to replicate the childlike fun and innocence (but also super creepy undertones) of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But, when the movie was released (with a slight name change) in 1971, it did exactly that. Casting funnyman Gene Wilder as the titular Willy Wonka certainly helped. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was a colorful but satirical take on greed, gluttony, and gobstoppers.
‘The Wizard of Oz’
When L. Frank Baum sat down at his desk to write a little story called The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, he had no idea that it would become not only a legendary book, but an enduring movie as well. While the book was significantly darker than the film adaptation, there was still a sense of magic that could only exist in Oz. The film took a few liberties to make it more “kid friendly,” but it still had the Wicked Witch, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, Dorothy, Toto, and the Wonderful Wizard himself.
The movie also featured original songs that have become almost as popular as the film itself. The Wonderful Wizard of OZ spawned more than 14 sequels but, aside from a super weird acid trip of a movie called Return to Oz and some James Franco flick, nobody has really touched the original film.
‘Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist’
This film is one of the most underrated movies of the early ‘00s. It starred Michael Cera, hot off his Superbad fame, and Kat Dennings, years before she would be one of 2 Broke Girls. While the book was a funny little YA novel highlighting hipsters in New York, it was the movie version that really got people talking. Much of this was due to the chemistry between Cera and Dennings. Both were likable characters, as were their friends. Nick and Norah isn’t the greatest love story ever told, but it’s as good as it gets for teenagers who make playlists.
As a writer, Nicholas Sparks is pretty one-dimensional. His standard story is two people meet (one of whom is probably from “the wrong side of the tracks”), they fall in love, some sort of tragedy happens, and the end result is both sad and inspiring. The Notebook could’ve been a fairly missable film when it was released, but it became a fan favorite for girlfriends and housewives everywhere, thanks to the performances of Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. The Notebook is a love story, but it’s definitely one that translates much better on film than on paper.
Did you know Psycho was a book first? Alfred Hitchcock made Psycho his own when he filmed what many consider to be the granddaddy of slasher films. His film was so good that, for decades, people didn’t even realize there was a book first. By the time they did realize it, though, they already knew the ending, so reading it became sort of pointless.
‘To Kill a Mockingbird’
To Kill a Mockingbird told the story of Scout Finch, her brother Jem, and their father Atticus. Seriously. Dude’s name was Atticus Finch. Can you get much cooler than that? You can’t. While Scout and Jem are spying on their mysterious neighbor, Boo Radley, Atticus takes on the case of a black man accused of raping a white woman. When the book and movie came out, Atticus was everything that men wanted to be. Often times, the character that we imagine while reading is vastly superior to whoever Hollywood casts as the movie version. In this case, Gregory Peck exceeded even our wildest imaginations. His look, his body language, and his acting was all perfect. Gregory Peck, for our money, is Atticus Finch and To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the best adaptations ever. Case closed.
‘Gone with the Wind’
“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Luckily, readers of Gone with the Wind certainly did, which is why, 80 years later, it’s still regarded as a classic. Many people don’t even realize it was a book first! So perfect was the chemistry between Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara and Clark Gable as Rhett Butler.