We all know that the book is always better than the movie. At least that’s conventional wisdom. But as useful as conventional wisdom usually is, sometimes we do well to push it aside and do the exact opposite. This is painful for me to say; after all I’m all about books.
Here is a list of some of my favorite movies that were way better than the book:
Although John Grisham’s book is okay, it doesn’t even come close to the movie. Say what you will about Tom Cruise and his eccentricities, but he really nailed this part. Who better to play a young, egocentric, career obsessed go-getter?
However, the screenwriters, and the genius of director Sidney Pollack are really the one to thank here. They did an excellent job grabbing only those parts of the book that worked, and replacing those that didn’t with much better material.
If you have to choose between the two, pick the movie.
The Green Mile
Stephen King’s novels are notoriously hard to bring to the big screen. It has to do with the quality and style of his writing. It just doesn’t lend itself well to any other medium. King can cast a spell that can hold one’s interest for thousands of pages at a time. But on the screen his stories usually fall flat.
Not so with The Green Mile. Don’t get me wrong. I loved this book. I think is one of King’s best. But seeing this wonderful story translated to the big screen was a magical experience. This of course has a great deal to do with Michael Clarke Duncan and his remarkable portrayal of the gentle giant John Coffey. Duncan stole the show.
Frank Darabont didn’t do too badly either both adapting the screenplay and directing this wonderful film.
I loved Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. I remember staying up late into the night reading it. When it was finally over, I was sorry. I just wanted more. This was the book that prompted me to read everything else that Crichton had ever written.
But the movie was just spectacular. It was out of this world. Steven Spielberg knocked this one right out of the park. Those dinosaurs were real. Too real. Is almost as if he really did bring them back.
The Silence of the Lambs
I’m a big fan of Thomas Harris, even though, he writes so slow is infuriating. The Silence of the Lambs was a fantastic book, perhaps his best.
The movie, however, has no equal. It is one of the best films ever made, and in fact, reading the book takes away from it. Anthony Hopkins is just brilliant. He makes Dr. Lecter real, and way scarier than in the book.
And then there’s Jodie Foster as the lead. A perfect fit. I love this movie.
The Lord of the Rings
There are many Tolkien lovers out there that would disagree with me, but come on. There are parts of that trilogy are boring. Yes, I said it. Painfully boring. So boring, I’m not sure how I was able to force myself to read the whole thing.
But the movies were wonderful. I didn’t always agree with some of the casting choices, but the visuals were astonishing. I think Tolkien himself would approve.
The Joy Luck Club
Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club is her best novel. It is a wonderful story. However, the casting and direction of the movie were superb.
I would rather watch this movie any time than read the book. Sorry Amy.
The Hunt for Red October
Tom Clancy’s fans may disagree, but I found the book almost unreadable. Then again, with the exception of Without Remorse, I find all of his stuff unreadable.
But the movie was amazing. It is by far one of the best movies of all times. The cast is marvelous, with many Oscar deserving performances. However, Sean Connery stole the show.
The Color Purple
Alice Walker’s novel is fantastic. One of the best I’ve read. But sorry Alice, the movie was much better.
Why? Well simple. We get Steven Spielberg at his best, directing the likes of Whoopie Goldberg, Danny Glover and Oprah Winfrey. Great movie.
The Bourne Identity
The Robert Ludlum’s book is really not all that good. It’s overly long, and some parts, like when he kidnaps the girl, are just silly.
The movie on the other hand, is an action packed rollercoaster ride. And to think I almost skipped this one.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Arthur C. Clarke’s book is just first rate. I remember liking it so much, I read it twice back to back. The rest of the series is great reading as well.
But nothing comes close to Stanley Kubrick’s film depiction of this book. The creepy HAL still gives me nightmares.
There are many more examples out there. But as I mentioned before, these are just some of my favorites. Next time someone tells you the book is always better, be sure to set them straight.