The book isn’t better than the movie

The book isn't better than the movie | Modern Mrs Darcy

I’m a devoted booklover. After seeing a movie based on a book, I almost always say, “the book was better.”

But that doesn’t necessarily mean the book is better than the movie. Not always.

With very few exceptions,Β media is best enjoyed in the format in which it was originally conceived.

The book is better than the movie because the movie was derived from the book. The book, as the original form, is better. It’s more complete, more whole, more nuanced, more enjoyable.

If you’ve ever read a book derived from a movie, you get this. Even if the movie was wonderful, the book feels flat and empty in comparison. This isn’t done frequently for adults (thank goodness) but it happens with children’s books all the time. Try picking up any Charlie and Lola book, or the book version of the Charlie Brown Christmas special. They’re summaries, shells of the original. They’re the Cliffs Notes, and no one reads those just for fun.

Great movies are just that: great movies. Turned into books, they lose their greatness. (For a richer appreciation of what makes a great movie great, I highly recommend McKee’s Story, which immensely deepened my appreciation of the craft.)

Occasionally, a movie will be better than its book. Very occasionally. Only two spring immediately to mind:

room with a view

A Room with a View (1985)

E.M. Forster’s classic becomes an absolutely gorgeous film, complete with soaring arias and Italian vistas. I’ve loved this film since I was young.

(Heads up: there’s some serious nudity, but as my high school teacher would say, it’s nudity with a European sensibility–completely natural, not at all sexual.)

julie julia

Julie & Julia

Nora Ephron turned a ho-hum book into a delightful movie. The film version hums because Meryl Streep brings Julia to life, Amy Adams portrays a much sweeter spirit than the author’s, and the mediocre parts are gone.

photo credit

What movies can you think of that are better than the books? (Or, which films did you enjoy more than their literary counterparts?)


Leave A Comment
  1. Carrie says:

    I liked Howard’s End as a movie better than the book (do I hear an echo in here?!). Perhaps because Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson are such an amazing actors.

    • AlyssaZ says:

      And I loved the ending in the movie better! So touching. The Notebook book’s ending leaves it open for The Wedding which is better than the Notebook…book

    • Tiffany says:

      The Notebook is one where I really thought the book was much better. I do agree with the comment below that I liked The Wedding as much, if not more than The Notebook.

    • Patti says:

      Yes! The Painted Veil. I saw the movie first, then read the book. The movie seemed much more redemptive somehow. Maybe it is the stunning cinematography. Also Edward Norton. There is a scene in which he develops this system for clean water in order to stop an epidemic that might be the most romantic thing I have ever watched in a movie. I realize I am odd.

    • Jennie says:

      I haven’t read the book, but I remember loving the movie even though it is not my normal style at all. Of course, Edward Norton helped; he’s amazing! And the cinematography and music were truly fantastic!

  2. Confession… although I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Jane Austen (obviously – blog name!), I have always thought that if Jane were alive today, she would have been a screenwriter.

    Even though I enjoy her books, some of them can get tedious in the dialogues and details (it kind of depends on the mood I’m in when reading them), yet they make fantastic films! I admit that I enjoyed Emma Thompson’s screen adaptation of “Sense and Sensibility” far more than I enjoyed the original book. It came to life.

    “Pride & Prejudice” (hello, the new version with Kira Knightley doesn’t even count, so it should be obvious I’m talking about Colin & Elizabeth), “Emma” (have you seen the one with Jonny Lee Miller?), “Persuasion,” “Mansfield Park” – each one brings depth to the dialogues, giving humor to them and allowing the viewer to see them in context of the characters. If anything, I think the movies helped me fall in love with Austen back in my high school & college years. πŸ™‚

    • Jeannie says:

      I agree with your point about Jane Austen: often at key moments Austen leaves the dialogue unspecific, so it’s a perfect chance for a screenwriter to make up some good dramatic speeches. My favourite Austen adaptations are the BBC versions of Sense & Sensibility (the actresses who play Elinor and Marianne are perfectly cast, and Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey fame also has a key role) and Emma (Kate Beckinsale and Mark Strong are great together as Emma and Mr. K.).

    • Anne says:

      Carrie, I’ve never seen a version of Persuasion that I’ve loved (and I’ve seen the big two). Which one’s your favorite?

      I LOVE the Emma with Jonny Lee Miller and Romola Garai. If I’ve ever seen Mansfield Park, I don’t remember. Which one do you like?

      We need to have a long conversation one day about Jane Austen, Screenwriter. πŸ™‚

      • Well, confession (it’s the day of those, so it seems), the only version of Persuasion that I’ve seen was the 1995 version (totally missed the one that came out in 2007, I’ll blame it on being overseas). I like that one well enough, but I think it comes down to it being one of my least favorite Austen stories. Hard to adapt, I think.

        I adored the 1999 version of Mansfield Park with – again – Jonny Lee Miller and Frances O’Connor. The hubs and I were engaged when that came out and we went to see it 3 times (and I wasn’t dragging him – he liked it).

      • By the way, Anne, have you caught “Elementary” with Jonny Lee Miller on CBS? I just found out about it today (remember, we have cable and don’t watch TV, unless it’s online and on-demand) and am watching my first episode now. Seems like a knock off of the BBC “Sherlock.”

    • Eos Mom says:

      I was going to say that one of my favorite “movie is better than the book” examples is Mansfield Park (the one with Jonny Lee Miller). I saw it before I read it and I love the movie (it’s one of my all time faves) and the book fell flat by comparison. But you reminded me that I also prefer “Emma” in movie form, the book gets dull in places for my taste.

      Other ones, like S&S and P&P and Persuasion, I love both book and movie (depending on the version).

    • Angela says:

      I so completely love BBC’s version of Emma with Jonny Lee Miller and Ramola Garai. It is my favorite Austen movie adaptation that I have seen. (and I watch all of them I can) I don’t think any of the others have been able to do justice to Mr. Knightly’s speech when he confesses his love for Emma. But I do adore Jonny Lee Miller and truly love the Mansfield Park version with him too.

    • Abby says:

      Ok, I thought I was the minority but I totally agree. I love Jane Austen DEARLY and I’ve read all her books, but particularly pride & prejudice, I prefer the movie! Even though her writing is lovely. I like to sit down and enjoy the movie in a sitting.

    • Caroline M. says:

      Yes! The Godfather is such a classic and the acting is so good, but I was disappointed with the book. Yes, it’s exciting, but the characters come to life in the movie. You may want to read The Sicilian by Mario Puzo though – as a book, it’s much better than The Godfather.

  3. Jeannie says:

    – In “The Bridges of Madison County,” Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood turned a cringeworthy book into real heartfelt drama.
    – “About a Boy” is one of my favourite movies and, I thought, had a much more enjoyable ending than the book on which it’s based.

      • Ceri says:

        My husband doesn’t read books, but one book he read was About a Boy and he loved it, we both did. So we were excited when a film was made of it. Until we saw the film. I thought the film was quite good, although it’s very different. My husband sat there complaining about all the bits that were changed for no good reason, the type of things that annoy readers when they watch adaptations. On they way out of the cinema he announced to me that he will never read another book again! So that was the film that ruined my chance to make him a reader πŸ™‚
        I’d recommend reading the book. Like the other adaptations made of Nick Hornby’s books, both adaptation and book are worth the time.

  4. Kristen says:

    I completely agree that the movie of Julie and Julia is much better than the book! I slowly worked my way through the book, but have repeatedly watched the movie. What love is evident! Still, like you, I can’t think of other movies that I prefer over the book.

  5. Jennifer says:

    I’ve always thought the Breakfast at Tiffany’s movie was better than the book. The book was grittier, but I loved the lighter quality of the movie. Of course, that was all Audrey Hepburn!

    • Anne says:

      I’ve never read the book, but have you seen the Seinfeld episode where George’s book club meets to discuss Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and his outspoken opinions are based on the movie instead? Hysterical.

  6. Anna says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with you about Julie & Julia. That book was interesting but so annoying. The movie, however, is a delight. I’m on the fence about Room With a View. I love the movie and I like the book a lot. I guess I agree with you. Not sure. The book/movie combo that immediately came to mind was The Painted Veil. I loved that movie so I read the book. Ugh! I did not like it at all!

  7. Hope Connell says:

    It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I think that the movie version of Fight Club is much better than the book. In general, though, I think it’s important to approach movies and books as separate works of art. If you “forget” that a movie is based on a book, then you can just enjoy it as a movie on its own merits.

    For instance, I love the movie The Count of Monte Cristo, but it’s pretty different from the book. The changes make sense within the plot of the movie, though, so when I let go of “that’s now it happened!” I enjoy the different story that is being told, and it’s a really good movie on its own.

    • Oh, I forgot about “The Count of Monte Cristo,” but I completely agree! I actually watched the movie first and then read the book and wondered what in the world happened! πŸ˜‰ Both are enjoyable, but different for sure!

    • Anne says:

      I’ve never read or seen Fight Club (but I’ve thought about it, because I love Helena Bonham Carter) but it’s one of my brother’s favorites. I’m going to quiz him on which he prefers.

      And this is really well put: “I think it’s important to approach movies and books as separate works of art. If you β€œforget” that a movie is based on a book, then you can just enjoy it as a movie on its own merits.” So true!

  8. Grace says:

    I also agree that the book is better than the movie 99% of the time. The one book that comes to mind that I did not enjoy as much as the movie is The Time Traveler’s Wife.

    • Anne says:

      Oh, really? I read the book and since I thought it was *only* okay, I never saw the movie. Maybe it’s worth watching, then? I do like Rachel McAdams…

  9. Lindsey says:

    This isn’t quite the same thing, but I think To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the rare instances of the movie being just as good as the book (but I can’t in good conscience say better). I can’t read the book without hearing Gregory Peck as Atticus and the film moves me just as much as the book.

      • Lindsey says:

        Exactly! If you have Netflix, you should really check out the documentary Hey Boo: Harper Lee & To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s wonderful!

      • Caitlin says:

        I totally agree about TKAMB! The book and the movie are practically equals, and I can’t think of any other book/movie pair that I can say that about. Loved the Hey Boo documentary as well. There was also a fantastic book that came about about 3 years ago, Atticus, Scout, and Boo, I think it was called. Some overlapping content to the documentary, but great stuff about the book and the movie!

  10. Shannon says:

    I Am Legend. I really like the movie, so thought the book would be pretty good. The book was awful and pretty much nothing like the movie. Very disappointing.

  11. Karlyne says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head, Anne, with your observation that generally if the movie is better than the book, it might have been written after the movie or perhaps with the movie in mind. I’m thinking of one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride. The book cracked me up, but the movie was genius.

    • Anne says:

      Now that you mention it, I did too. (I think it helped that The Help was a debut novel with an excellent storyline, but the literary styling was only okay. So the movie really brought it to life without feeling like much was sacrificed, in my opinion. Plus the casting was fabulous!)

  12. Rebecca says:

    As a rule I agree with you that the book is generally better than the movie. My exception is The Princess Bride. I enjoyed the movie much more than the book.

    • Tim says:

      The Princess Bride is one of those where the book and the movie are both so good I couldn’t choose between them. In fact, I’d say I don’t need to since they convey completely different main theses. The point of the movie is that True Love Wins, while the point of the book is that Life’s Not Fair. It’s amazing how the same story can convey both points so well. (Here’s my post marking the 25th anniversary of the movie.)


      • Karlyne says:

        I sometimes think that the hallmark of an excellent movie is the number of quotes we use from it in daily life. And if that’s true, The Princess Bride stands alone!

      • Katie says:

        That’s true, that the themes are completely different. Perhaps the book merits a re-read, since I think I read it in high school and expecting it to be more like the movie.

          • wesleyjeanne says:

            I must say I read The Princess Bride well before the movie and LOVED the book. One of the few books where I laughed out loud.

            Of course it goes without saying that I loved the movie too.

            One case where they are equally good. Same as To Kill a Mockingbird (as mentioned above) adored both book and movie equally and separately.

      • elizabeth says:

        EXACTLY. I’m surprised, though, how many people think the movie was better. I absolutely loved the book, even as a high schooler. Maybe because I loved Inigo and Fezzik and you learn so much more about them in the book? Either way, I would say it is at least equal to the movie, and definitely worth a read.

  13. Katie says:

    Yes to Julie & Julia. So true.

    This is slightly different, but the movie Slumdog Millionaire and the book off which it is based, Q&A, are both equally good though completely different. I loved both and thought each was wonderful in its own right. It’s a case where the director/screenwriter/various movie people changed the book, sometimes drastically, to remain true to the medium. Slumdog Millionaire is a much better movie than it would be as a straight filming of Q&A, and Q&A is a much better book than the script of Slumdog Millionaire would be. If that makes sense.

    • Anne says:

      Totally makes sense. (I loved Slumdog Millionaire, the movie!)

      Another movie like that is Mean Girls (loved it!), which is based on the nonfiction parenting book Queen Bees and Wannabees.

    • Sharon White says:

      I agree. Loved both the movie and the book. I read the book because I loved the movie and was surprised at the differences, but it was so rich and interesting for different reasons.

  14. Tim says:

    Better than the book: Wicked. I know it’s only on stage and not yet a movie, but it is so much better than the book. In fact, I think I only got to page 15 or so and put the book down, never to pick it up again. The musical, though, we saw twice and practically wore out the soundtrack CD.

    • Katie says:

      YES. I finished the book and even read the second one, but returned the third one to the library unread. Definitely a book I never should have finished reading in the first place, but I’m still working on that skill….

      • Karlyne says:

        I read Wicked, too. It was a gift so I kept slogging on through it (if I’d had a stapler handy, I would have stapled the porn pages together so no one would accidentally read them. But I did skip them. Not only offensive, but borrrring.) But the music and the performances (I’ve only been privileged to see excerpts on tv) are wonderful!

      • Kristin says:

        I had never read the book until I read it out loud to my kids this summer! I adored the book so we rewatched the movie and I was so disappointed. After reading the book, it seemed so dull and contrived. However, I’ve never read the rest of the series and if it’s odd, I think I’ll pass.

          • Katie says:

            They are odd, I suppose, but no more so than any other fantasy novel or fairy tale. And they’re so clever! Baum loved playing with language and it’s a lot of fun. The abundance of strong female characters and utter lack of romantic plotlines are also a plus in children’s books, I think.

            That said, I do still love the Judy Garland movie. It’s definitely a classic and epitomizes the film industry of the time. And the music!

            Oh, the movie Return to Oz? Creepy as heck.

            Also the Oz movie that came out this year is terrible.

            The end. πŸ™‚

      • 'Becca says:

        I love both The Wizard of Oz musical (film or stage) and Return to Oz (which is actually its own story, based on characters and plot elements from at least two books; yes, it’s creepy, but in a good way) but I think the books are great, too, in their own way. My grandma was a big fan and had first editions of many of them (they were new in her childhood) that she read to me, and I’m reading them to my son now. The only one I’ve read that I thought was kind of lame was The Road to Oz–disappointing because the first edition was so pretty, with different colored pages as they traveled through the various countries within Oz.

        • Katie says:

          I like the movie Return to Oz, even though it mashes up a couple books for the Oz parts. It’s the beginning bit with the mental hospital that’s so creepy. But if the commenters think the books are odd, I don’t think they’d like the movie either!

          The books are wonderful. How lovely that you have your grandmother’s first editions! My parents hunted them all down at used bookstores for me and they’re mostly trade paperback versions, but I love that they put all that effort into finding them for me. πŸ™‚

          • 'Becca says:

            Oops! I did make it sound like I have the first editions, but I don’t–my uncle inherited them–and it’s just as well because I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking them on trips and out on the porch and so forth, like we do with the newer editions we have and the ones we’ve checked out from the library.

        • Katie says:

          I was kind of impressed that you were brave enough to read the first editions to your kids–mine has already shown a penchant for tearing pages out of library books. πŸ˜‰

    • Sara K. says:

      I forgot about this one. I read Wicked years ago but wasn’t impressed. I think I even gave up near the end. Good concept though. I haven’t seen the stage production yet, but I hear it is better!

    • Abby says:

      Totally agree. I think the play kept all the good about the book with none of the long politically charged parts. And the music was wonderful.

  15. Laura says:

    The Lord of the Rings trilogy! I was a huge fan of The Hobbit as a child, having enjoyed my mom reading it aloud to me (after I begged and begged and begged!) when I was about 5 years old. When I was older, I attempted, several times, to read Lord of the Rings and could not seem to ever get into it at all! So boring! But the movies completely drew me in.

    • 'Becca says:

      Exactly. LotR has a lot of slow, boring sections that could have been summed up as, “They walked for several days,” and the films cover these with a series of shots of them walking.

      The Hobbit is a wonderful book, though! As a child I loved the animated movie, then the record based on the animated movie. I didn’t read the book until I was an adult. My son enjoyed having it read to him for the first time at age 4. I’m glad we didn’t take him to see the new film, though, because it was much too scary and violent for him at 7 years old. I didn’t like the way it dragged in scenes from other books and gave us a full look at awful things that are background details in the book. My biggest disappointment was that the dwarves were too rough and scary for me to enjoy traveling with them; I felt betrayed, compared to the experience I’d expected.

    • Katie says:

      I agree that the movies are more action-packed, but the language of the books! Tolkien was truly a master of the English language and I’m in awe every time I read something he’s written, even just an essay. Every sentence is perfectly crafted. And there’s so much more to his world than the movies can convey. I do love the movies, though. Much better adaptations than the Harry Potter ones.

      I agree with ‘Becca, though, The Hobbit movie was not nearly as good. Too much stuff added. The Hobbit, unlike the main trilogy, is a children’s book, but they turned it into an adult movie.

  16. Linda says:

    You aren’t the first person to say that the movie was better than the book in regard to Julie and Julia. After hearing more than one person say this, I feel justified in leaving the book on the library shelf! Thank you for your public service πŸ™‚ Happy today!

  17. Katie says:

    The Hunger Games books are FAAAR better than the movie, at least the first one. Verdict still out on movies yet to be released! πŸ™‚

    • Jennifer H says:

      Actually, I only made it through the first page of The Hunger Games when I decided the dystopian novel wasn’t for me. However, I rented the movie because of Jennifer Lawrence, and loved it. This has made me want to give the book another try. Funny how opinions differ.

      • Anne says:

        Interesting. I read the book first and then saw the movie. I thought the book was better–the movie was seriously lacking depth in comparison. But I thought the experience of sitting in the theater, watching The Hunger Games–just like a citizen of the Capital, was creepy/cool and an experience you just didn’t get as a reader.

  18. I couldn’t think of an example of a book which was made into a movie — where the movie improved on the book — until I scrolled down to Julie and Julia. Liked the book. LOVED the movie. Meryl Streep is one of my favorite actresses of all time . . .

    . . . which brings me to “Out of Africa.” I’ve never read the book by Isak Dinesen, but I’ve long adored the film. The sweeping music by John Barry — the airplane ride — so many great scenes! I could go on and on.

  19. Susan says:

    “Seabiscuit” is one book that comes to mind where I felt the movie was better than the book. And I read the book before seeing the movie.

  20. Jennie says:

    Stardust the movie is far and away better than the book. It’s so polar to me that the movie is my #1 absolute favorite and the book is probably my least favorite book I have ever read. They are that different. I know a lot of people love Neil Gaiman, but I’ve had a hard time coming around to him since that book. (The Doctor Who episode helped.) πŸ™‚

  21. Barbie says:

    “Jurassic Park” – just can’t replace the feelings I had when I first saw that movie in the theater. It was a brilliant concept, and so brilliantly carried out on film. I really felt like I was seeing live dinosaurs for the first time.
    I agree about “Julie & Julia” – I didn’t read the book, but I read a few posts from the original blog, and, let’s put it this way, I was not a fan, and it made me decide not to read neither the book nor anymore of the blog. Blech.
    I agree about “The Notebook,” and “The Princess Bride.”

  22. Jennifer H says:

    I read Jurassic Park because I heard they were making a movie about it. I loved the book, AND I loved the movie…in my mind, they were separate entities. “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” was a horrible book to read, but a pretty decent movie. Two of my favorite modern books – “The Help” and “Secret Life of Bees” made a good movie interpretation.

  23. Brianna says:

    Silver Linings Playbook in my opinion. I didn’t love the book πŸ™‚ but I loved the movie, mostly because I think Jennifer Lawrence made the film!

  24. Tammy says:

    I prefer the movie version of Practical Magick to the book as well as The Hunger Games. I’ll be interested when the next movie comes out in the trilogy to see if it also is better than the book.

  25. Two that I always cite: A Walk to Remember, and the Devil Wears Prada. In both cases, I thought the developments (relationship and work transformation) were more realistically described and paced in the movie than the book.

    However, I realized that in both cases I watched the movie before reading the book, which normally isn’t the case, so this may bias my opinion!

  26. Allie says:

    I don’t think the movie tops the book, but it comes pretty darn close: Little Women with Winona Ryder is such a lovely film, and I watched it curled up with hot chocolate every winter with a blanket πŸ˜‰

  27. Eos Mom says:

    I generally find that I like the version I experience first. If I read it first, then the film doesn’t live up; if I see the movie first, I don’t like the book. Of course there are exceptions (see my Jane Austen comment above–I almost always saw the movie/miniseries first; books like Persuasion and S&S held up, Emma on paper seemed dull by comparison, and with Mansfield Park I much prefer the film}.

  28. I’m torn about Julia and Julia-I couldn’t finish the book with the same title I disliked it so much, but loved My Life in France, which I’ve always figured is why I liked the movie. I still wish they had cut Julia the blogger out of it entirely and just stuck with Meryl! Sometimes I find that the two versions make the other better. I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time after watching the Colin Firth miniseries and I think it really helped bring the story to life for me as I read Austen’s prose. The only Austen that didn’t help with was Mansfield Park…but there’s not much that’s going to make me like Fanny Price!

      • Tim says:

        I love Mansfield Park, although it’s not my favorite Austen. (That is a tie between Persuasion and Northanger Abbey.) Fanny is more sympathetic and understandable a character when we understand just how truly horrid some of the people around her were by the standards of Austen’s day. No one should have to go through what she went through, and her behavior throughout is of the greatest decorum. Readers of that time would have found her someone to be admired.

        • Karlyne says:

          I am so glad to hear you defend Fanny, Tim! I think she is almost uncomprehensible to many modern readers. It took me many readings to get to the bottom (I think!) of her personality and behavior. And, yes, I do truly esteem her now! On a side note, if any filmmaker has made a true version of Mansfield Park, I have yet to see it. What I have seen is a modern take on Fanny that has nothing to do with her. At all.

        • Karlyne says:

          I just looked up the 1983 version. I’m not sure how I missed it, but now I’ll have to try and find it! It sounds interesting – in a good way!

  29. Frances says:

    Several years ago I read the book that the movie Forrest Gump was based on. I didn’t like the book at all. In the book, Forrest is kind of a bland lump of a man. It was one of the rare times when I thought the movie was better than the book.

  30. Ashley says:

    I’m basically repeating what others have said, but you must read The Princess Bride. Those who said the movie is better are crazy. Both are phenomenal. And the movie doesn’t tell you about The Zoo of Death.

    Silver Linings Playbook was such a disappointment to me when I read it after seeing the film. I love the movie so much and the book fell hugely flat in comparison.

    I will mention one that I don’t think anyone else did: Hugo. Brilliant both ways.

    Inkspell: great book, terrible movie. The fact that the author cast Brendan Fraser as Mo kills me. Worst casting choice ever. The only redeeming role was Paul Bettany as Dustfinger. But they butchered the story attempting to condense it into one family-length film.

    And I completely disagree with a previous poster – I adored Stardust equally as a book and a movie.

    Shutter Island: both good

    I’m a huge bookworm and and film lover. I could converse on this subject for hours…

  31. Molly says:

    I love The Sound of Music, but was extremely disappointed when I read Maria von Trapp’s autobiography. She had an interesting life, but the movie (and play first) took many liberties to make it much more romantic and exciting than it actually was. And all of the children had different names, which really frustrated me.

  32. Sandy B. says:

    I loved the book “A Little Princess” by Frances Hodgson Burnett when I was growing up (and the gorgeous illustrations by Tasha Tudor), but I have to say, I think the mid-1990’s movie was better! Really fun, exciting, and a more satisfying ending. : ) But both were great. (The Shirley Temple movie, on the other hand, was NOT better!)

    • Karlyne says:

      Sandy B., you just brought back a funny memory; I did a book report on The Little Princess and ended it with something like “But do not confuse the Shirley Temple movie with this beautiful book!” And I love Shirley Temple- that kid was a genius! But the movie was not…

      I remember the ’90s movie as being lovely, too!

  33. Rhonda Sittig says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more about the Julie & Julia book and movie. I started the book and put it down part way through– just didn’t like the protagonist. But the movie–oh my! It made me go back to the book and read it through. You’re right that Meryl Streep is a delight and the visuals of the movie just couldn’t compare with my imagination from the book.
    Great post. thanks.

  34. Jo Lynn says:

    This might be an odd one but The Godfather. I watched the movie first then read the book which might be why. Both were really good, the book was quite a page turner, but the movie is just such a classic its kind of hard for the book to compete with it, even though the movie is from the book.

  35. Robin in New Jersey says:

    I read “The Vow” and loved it and then watched the movie and could not believe how they botched the story. If you have seen “The Vow” be sure to read the book for the true story of God’s redeeming grace and true love.

  36. Jamie W says:

    Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, it might have something to do with what a huge Kevin Spacey fan I am though:)

  37. Karlyne says:

    I don’t know, Stephanie, I found the “Call the Midwife” books even more impacting than the shows, although I thought they were indeed very well done. I think the books did have more “teaching” moments in them and so perhaps less entertainment, but the glimpse they give us of the East End at that time is invaluable. And her last book, In the Midst of Life, is amazing and one of the best new books I’ve read in years! But it probably wouldn’t make good TV…

  38. Danielle says:

    I totally agree about “Julie and Julia.” I thought the book was a bit crass and had me cringing at times for no good reason while the movie was a delight.

  39. Vanessa says:

    Stuart Little and Mary Poppins are both better movies than books. And I certainly hope the Tale of Desperaux was a better movie because the book was completely awful, not a child’s story at all.

  40. Erica says:

    Princess Diaries was a horrible book, not appropriate for the audience it was written for. However the movie was great.

    Mary Poppins was a different movie than the book. Both are great but not really comparable.

    Wizard of Oz is my least favorite of the Oz books but made a good movie.

  41. I really liked reading Julie & Julia, but Julie was certainly not a very likeable person in the book. And I loved how they developed more of what was going on with Julia in France during Master the Art. I remember reading somewhere that reporters told Amy Adams Julie Powell’s next book was about her affair. (I think we’ve talked at some point about our dislike for Cleaving.) And Amy Adams said, “MY Julie would never have had an affair.” Which pretty much sums up the differences.

    Thanks for the newsletter link to this older post. πŸ™‚ It always thrills me when the movie IS actually good – Bridget Jones’s Diary is one of my favorite adaptations that actually worked.

    • Anne says:

      I feel like Bridget Jones is coming up ALL THE TIME lately, and it makes me want to re-watch the movies, re-read the books, and finally finish Helen Fielding’s latest Mad About the Boy. Maybe soon?

  42. Cindy Freeman says:

    I think the Gone With the Wind movie is better than the book. IMO, at least 1/4 of the book could be left out and nothing would be missed. The movie leaves it out!

  43. Sheila DelCharco says:

    The one that comes to mind is Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I used to love the movie. Read the book and hated the ending. I’m a sucker for a happy ending.

  44. Rebecc Putna says:

    Remains of the Day is one of my very favorite books and movies. It’s hard to decide which is better. Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson are amazing in the film but the book is achingly beautiful on its own.

  45. Sara K. says:

    What about The Jane Austen Book Club? I haven’t read the book because I have heard it isn’t very good, but I love the movie!

    For this next one, I can’t say that the movies are better than the books, but I like them just as much. The Chronicles of Narnia. I think the books are wonderful, but I just love what they did with the movies (especially The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe).

  46. Dawn Reiss says:

    I missed this post when it was originally published, and I have to add my examples: The Pelican Brief and The Firm. Both movies are action packed, suspenseful fun with pretty people in them, and I can watch them over and over. But a single reading of both Grisham books was enough. πŸ™‚

    • Anne says:

      I just finished a suspense novel a la John Grisham and I’ve had him on my mind all week! Specifically, I want to WATCH (not read) The Pelican Brief again. Nobody ever talks about that movie now so it’s fun to see you mention it here, now.

      • Jackie says:

        The Pelican Brief is one of my all-time favorite movies. I’ll watch it any time it’s on – even if it’s on one of those channels with horribly long commercials!

    • Alexa says:

      This is such good news! I just read The Firm and the movie just happened to be on HBO a week later. The movie was horrible compared to the book in my opinion. I had almost decided not to watch the other Grisham-based movies.

  47. Raela says:

    Just found this post from your 4 year birthday post. I have to add that The Count of Monte Cristo movie is lovelier than the book. It pulls out all the best themes in the story and really gets across that justice vs. mercy question in as compelling a way as Les Mis.

  48. Joyce says:

    I LOVED Julie and Julia! Loved Loved Loved it. I will not read the book now. Thank you for saving me. And I WILL watch A Room with a View. Thanks!!! love your blog btw.

  49. Jennifer says:

    Ghost World. One word: Seymour. Steve Buscemi’s Seymour wasn’t in the book so they got it right in the movie.

  50. Sarah says:

    The Princess Bride. The adaptation was made with the author, so that might be why it is so excellent. I read the book after watching the movie, so that may also have biased me. But I didn’t think any of the stuff they left out added much to the story and would rather watch the movie.

  51. Lori N says:

    A Walk to Remember is poignant and beautiful, a movie I watch again and again. The book neither touched me as the movie did, nor left me wanting to experience it again.

  52. Lee says:

    Enchanted April
    One of my all time favorite movies, with the most beautiful scenery. You just couldn’t experience that in the book. Read book once and watch the movie over and over. Missed this first time around, but couldn’t resist commenting now.

  53. Kristian says:

    Wasn’t yet a blog reader when this was originally was published, but I think this really clarifies a lot. I will say, two movie examples that I liked just as much as the books are The Princess Diaries and Chocolat. I think they both work though because the films make major changes. They are sort of like remixes. Very obviously derived from the original but with enough of their own thing going on that they are a different story.

  54. Sarah Gallant says:

    I love BBC’s version of North and South so much more than the book! Maybe I’m just a sucker for Richard Armitage, but the music and cinematography is amazing and I think the ending is so much better than the book. I also think Stephen King’s novels adapt well to the big screen.

    • Ceri says:

      I hated the ending of the adaptation of North and South! I thought it was such a shame the filmmakers went with a public display of affection because it was so unrealistic and not classy at all, as well as being out of character. Mr Thornton was a man who prided himself on keeping himself together so for him to be scruffy on a train is not in keeping with his character. Also, Margaret regarded Henry as a friend so I think it unlikely that she would have humiliated him by dumping him at a train station. I was so disappointed when I saw it.

  55. Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic. I saw the movie first and fell in love. It remains a favorite. I read the book several years after seeing the movie. It just did not have the magic the movie possessed. In my mind, the more memorable of the two is the film.

  56. Amanda Gorman says:

    Fannie Flagg’s “Fried Green Tomatoes” – I liked the movie better than the book. This never happens with me.

  57. JR says:

    The Painted Veil, starring Naomi Watts, Lev Schreiber, and Edward Norton, is beautiful: lush scenery, gorgeous light, and a redemptive story. The book, by W. Somerset Maugham, is depressing and the ending–while possibly quite literary–is too much of a disappointment to inspire further reflection.

  58. Jennifer says:

    The Hours
    I saw the movie before I read the book, so that may be a reason why I enjoyed the movie so much more. Streep, Kidman and Moore are amazing, and the cinematography and musical score are so moving that I couldn’t evoke the same emotions reading the book as I did watching the movie.

  59. Kyla says:

    Not better, but just as good: I’m so glad I saw Silver Linings Playbook first, because it was SO good! I read the book second, and the book was SO good that I probably would have skipped the movie, thinking that it could never be as good as the book. But it was! How about a blog post where the movie really did live up to the greatness of the book?

  60. Samantha says:

    I just watched Silence of the Lambs last night and the movie was so well done. I had forgotten how good it was.. I actually think I might like that movie better than the book.

  61. Joan says:

    I have to say I love the movie Chocolat! I was so excited when I discovered there was a book it had been based on. I was disappointed. The book was flat and boring and I didn’t like or connect with the characters at all. Still love the movie!

  62. Emma Simmons says:

    Two of my favorite movies proving this point are ‘What Dreams May Come’ which is incredibly visual,absolutely mesmerizing in part, and ‘The Razor’s Edge’ with Bill Murray. Exceptions proving the rule.

  63. Lauren says:

    The Color Purple. Wonderful moving movie. So human. Book I found the themes to be very heavy handed academic feminism.

    The Godfather. Great movie, obviously. The book glorifies mobsters far more than the movie, justifying the violence. Also a very strange and unnecessary gynecological side story left out of the movie, thank God.

  64. Jenny says:

    The Dressmaker is one that I liked the movie more than the book. Don’t get me wrong: I really did like the book by Rosalie Ham, but the movie with Kate Winslet – something about all of the wonderful, colorful, larger-than-life dresses set against the drab, dry, brown landscape just brought the whole thing in to wonderful focus. It truly is a delight to watch.

  65. Karie says:

    Funny you mentioned Seinfeld. Was reading about your “half of the bread” story and immediately thought off the babka episode! You had a happier ending. ?

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