Which Movies Were Better Than the Book?

Some authors kick and scream when a director bulks up a book’s plot for the silver screen. But sometimes it works out. (And, any other movies that you think were better than the book, sound off in the comments below.)

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Interview with the Vampire

Interview with the VampireWarner Bros/Everett Collection
Anne Rice adapted her 1976 book into a screenplay, sold the rights, and began her battle with Hollywood. She was furious to learn that Tom Cruise had won the role of Lestat for the 1994 film. Rice began openly bad-mouthing the movie before she’d even seen it. She refused to look at clips, even when one of the producers sent her 
a copy of the film on tape. When she finally got around to watching it, she exploded with joy, writing an 8,000-word open letter to her fans that described the film as “perfect,” “impeccable,” and “extraordinary.” She predicted that Cruise’s Lestat would “be remembered the way Olivier’s Hamlet is remembered.” Rice adored the adaptation so much that she personally paid to place a two-page ad singing the film’s praises in several magazines.

Fight Club

Fight Club20th Century Fox Film Corp/Everett Collection
The movie based on Chuck Palahniuk’s novel cleaves pretty closely to the source for most of its run time but goes off the rails toward the end. In the book, the protagonist’s demolition plan fails, and the narrator shoots himself, ending up in an asylum. But in the movie? We close on the sight of the now mentally sound Tyler Durden and his love interest, Marla, holding hands. It’s the kind of cliché, upbeat 
Hollywood tweak you’d expect a twisted novelist like Palahniuk to despise, but he loved it! He lauded the way the movie streamlined the book’s scattered plot into something coherent and that the film 
had captured the book’s true message: “The story is about a man reaching the point where he can commit to a woman.” Apparently, he was trying to write a sweet romantic comedy the whole time.

The Mist

The MistWeinstein Company/Everett Collection
Stephen King’s 1980 novella was one of his more upbeat tales: Monsters attack; a man and his son flee to save themselves. So leave it to Hollywood to destroy the one happy ending the guy gives us. How? In the 2007 film based on writer Frank Darabont’s screenplay, the father and son die. King said that he would have incorporated the movie’s changes into his plotline if only he had thought of them first. Early in the development process, studio execs initially rejected Darabont’s script, preferring the original story’s Pollyanna ending. But King disagreed with them, explaining that horror fans actually like to be frightened and deeply disturbed. He was right.

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18 thoughts on “Which Movies Were Better Than the Book?

  1. I have seldom liked a movie better than the book. I have seldom found a movie even half as good as the book. The African Queen is the exception. Bogie and Kate give this movie the sex-appeal the book sorely lacked, and the human interest it desperately needed.

  2. And while I never read the story “The Mist” and probably never will, I totally disagree with the ending being what people want to see. I won’t give it away, but I was shocked and laughing at the same time. The timing of how it happened is ridiculous. Ruined the movie.

  3. “The Shawshank Redemption” hands down. The book (or short story, more like) was nothing I would ever recommend. But who can deny the movie is great? I know someone will. :)

  4. It’s a toss up with me. I loved the book version of Gone With the Wind and To Kill A Mockingbird better than the movie for example. But then I loved Jaws, Interview With A Vampire, Godfather, and some of Stephen Kings novels much better on the big screen.

  5. In reply to Mary’s comment, I agree with The Lord of the Rings trilogy films being at least easier to understand and follow than Tolkien’s books. But, try listening to the audiobooks narrated by Rob Inglis–they are fantastic, and all are unabridged!

    When I studied literary critical theory, we watched the film “The Keep”, which was basically a horror flick based on a rather seedy horror novel. Interestingly, while the novel degenerated near the ending into lengthy descriptions of walking corpses climbing up towers after the protagonist, the film took advantage of the more intellectual idea of the “gaze”. It was a big hit among the literary criticism students because of this key feature in the plot, with the script in the film focusing the theory of the gaze in the main characters’ development.

  6. Some people will scream and argue but I preferred Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” movies to the books. I read Fellowship, then forced myself halfway through Two Towers before I was just too bored to continue.

  7. I agree about “Interview with a Vampire”. The book was relentlessly depressing, but the movie had sparkle and wit. But DAM, does Anne Rice have an ego on her or what? “Remembered like Olivier”?? Woman, PLEASE.

    As to the subject of books and movies, the best adaptations aren’t from books, but from short stories. That’s because with a book, you have to cut and cut and cut, whereas short stories allow you to expand into the film format. If you’re a good writer, you can really make something wonderful. (And since film is a visual medium, a short gives you room to create lots of text and subtext.) There’s a wonderful book called “Adaptations”, which is a collection of short stories, all of which have been adapted into films. It’s a really great book for learning about what kind of story makes a good film, and how it gets there.

  8. The only movie I have ever thought better than the book was Forrest Gump. Other than that, books always win.

  9. I feel just the opposite about most movies. The books are generally MUCH better! I enjoyed the visual effects of 2001, but the book was REALLY much better from a story standpoint, the movie was just bits & pieces…..

    1. Apples and oranges. The book was about the story, while the movie was about the experience. It was the silence BETWEEN the words. That’s why it never explained anything – because the explanation was irrelevant to what Kubrick was trying to achieve.

  10. I’ve never seen a movie which was better than the book. The nature of movies leaves out information I find essential so I always read the book first, unless it is
    written as a book after the movie is made. I also just _love to read and thinking back, I’ve made very few poor choices when visiting the library.
    One movie that still astounds me today is ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ which was made in 1968 without the CGI and other filming techniques available today.
    I make it a point to watch it once a year like’ The Sound of Music’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (another remarkable movie for its time).

  11. I must say that MOST of Stephen King’s books are considerably better than the movies “they” made them into… with a few exceptions. I liked BOTH the movies and the books “The Shining” and “The Stand,” … also, the books and movies, “Firestarter” and “Needful Things.”

  12. Jaws was better as a movie – tension broken up with humor. None in book!

    1. I agree… the movie, “Jaws” was a lot better than the book. For one thing, in the book, Ellen Brody had an affair with Matt Hooper. I didn’t much care for that. The ending was different also.. Matt Hooper died, and Ellen felt only a twinge of remorse upon hearing of his death.

  13. I haven’t read any of the 3 books listed here. I don’t believe I’ve ever watched a movie that was better than the book.

  14. The only movie that I’ve seen, that I feel was better than the book is “The Color Purple”, written by Alice Walker.

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