The Case of the Book is Better

We’ve all heard the phrase, “The book is better.” Whether you’ve said it yourself or heard it from a friend, it’s a popular commentary on book to movie adaptations.

In this episode, we discuss some of our favorite and least favorite book-inspired films and attempt to answer the question, “Is the book always better?”


Successful Adaptations Mentioned (in our humble opinion):

  • Holes
    • Book by Louis Sachar 1998
    • 2003 movie starring Shia LaBeouf, Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight
  • Pride and Prejudice 
    • Book by the amazing Jane Austen in 1813
    • BBC Series 1995 starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle
    • 2005 movie starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyn
      • Marci is our expert on this one, and she felt that the mini series was a better adaptation. This one works as well.
  • Jurassic Park
    • Book by Michael Crichton in 1990
    • 1993 movie starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum
  • Bridge to Terabithia
    • Book by Katherine Paterson in 1977
    • 2007 movie starring Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb
  • Tuck Everlasting
    • Book by Natalie Babbitt in 1975
    • 2002 movie starring Alexis Bledel and Jonathan Jackson
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
    • Book by Harper Lee in 1960
    • 1962 movie starring Gregory Peck, Mary Badham
  • Stand By Me
    • Novella by Stephen King called “The Body” from his 1982 collection “Different Seasons”
    • 1986 movie starring River Phoenix, Will Wheaton, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell with a brief and devastating appearance by John Cusack
  • The Hunger Games
    • Book by Suzanne Collins in 2008
    • 2012 movie starring Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson
  • Ready Player One 
    • Book by Ernest Cline in 2011
    • Screenplay co-written by author Ernest Cline
    • 2018 movie starring Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, and TJ Miller
    • We weren’t sure where to put this one. The movie follows the basic plot fairly well, but changes many aspects of the story to make the film more visually exciting. For example, we understand that watching a car race with a DeLorean is more exciting than watching someone play Pac-man for 30 hours.

book to movie

Unsuccessful Adaptations Mentioned (in our humble opinion):

*A film can be an unsuccessful adaptation, but still a successful film

  • Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince
    • Book by J.K. Rowling in 2005
    • 2009 movie starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint
  • Eragon
    • Book by Christopher Paolini in 2002 (He began writing it in his teens)
    • 2006 movie starring Ed Speleers, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Guillory, and John Malkovich
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
    • Book by Ransom Riggs in 2011
    • 2016 movie starring Asa Butterfield, Judi Dench, and Sam Jackson
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events (I love the movie but as an adaptation…ehhhh)
    • Book by Lemony Snicket AKA Daniel Handler in 1999
    • 2004 movie starring Jim Carrey, Liam Aiken, Emily Browning, and Jude Law
  • The Lost World: Jurassic Park
    • Book by Michael Crichton in 1995
    • 1997 movie starring Vince Vaughn, Julianne Moore, and Jeff Goldblum
  • Twilight Series (Monetary success but not a good adaptation)
    • Book by Stephenie Meyer in 2005
    • 2008 movie starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner
  • Blade Runner
    • Book by Philip K. Dick called “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep?” in 1968
    • 1982 movie starring Harrison Ford and Sean Young
    • Although the film is considered a Sci-Fi classic, it takes many liberties with the original work
  • The Hobbit
    • Book by Tolkien
    • 2012-2014 movies starring Martin Freeman and many others

Is the book always better?

  • Mary Poppins
    • Book by Pamela Lyndon Travers in 1934
    • 1964 movie starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke
    • PL Travers was not shy about how she hated the Disney version, but the film is a classic. In this case it may be possible that the book isn’t better, just different.
  • The Shining
    • Book by Stephen King in 1977
    • 1980 movie starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall
    • This is another case of an author not being happy with a film adaptation of their work. Stephen King has recognized that this film is important to the horror genre and that he appreciated the visuals, but felt that the main character lacked an arc. He also felt Jack Nicholson was wrong for the movie.
  • The Princess Bride
    • Book by William Goldman in 1973
    • 1987 movie starring Robin Wright and Cary Elwes
    • Can the movie ever be just as good if not better than the source material?
    • Is the movie better because you saw it before reading it?
      • This could be due to nostalgia
      • The moment you have seen a book adaptation, the film or show has already directed you to see characters or events in a certain way. So, when you read the book, you may see it differently than if you had read the book before seeing the film.
    • Why is it so common to believe that the book is better?
      • The mindset of the viewer
        • Imagination is limitless, unlike a movie budget or runtime
      • The difference between the book and movie medium
      • The quality of special effects
    • What about a movie adaptation makes it disappointing? Is it that it does not follow source material? Is it possible for a movie adaptation to live up to expectations?
      • We believe this is possible, but the viewer should keep an open mind and remember that the minds behind the film may have a different vision than they do
  • Food for thought
    • Can you think of a book that you believe would have been a good original screenplay instead of a novel-turned-movie?
    • Marci thinks Pride and Prejudice was a successful adaptation. Is this because a mini-series or a series in general is a better way of bringing a book to visual media?
      • The Hobbit was split into three movies
        • Based on the smallest book in the series, strangely took out parts of the book and yet added what some may say is very unnecessary scenes/plots (ex. Love between Tauriel and Kili)
          • This is an example of how runtime does not solve all the issues with a screen adaptation
        • A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017)
          • This Netflix series was another successful adaptation, possibly because of the time the show was able to dedicate to the complex characters and themes


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