“The book was waaay better,” he said, pushing his glasses up his nose with his index finger.
We have all been that person. Many, many times. So it may be our unpopular opinion to share with you these handful of times that the contributors of BiblioSmiles truly preferred the film iteration of some seriously classic novels. Credit goes to Editor Danielle Villano, Ed Collins, Andrew Marinaccio, Samantha Yellin, and Kim Whitehead. Bonus points for guessing who wrote what.
Pride and Prejudice (2005) vs. Pride and Prejudice (1813)
This declaration will probably get a lot of hate because “Jane Austen is literary canon,” but if given the choice between reading the book again or watching the movie, gravitating towards the 2005 adaptation by Joe Wright is much more appealing. This atmospheric movie starring Keira Knightley as the headstrong Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfadyen as the vain Mr. Darcy has all of the emotionally-charged scenes and beautiful English countryside of Austen’s 1813 novel, but it only takes two hours and fifteen minutes to get through.
The Wizard of Oz (1939) vs. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
Did you know this was a book? If you’re reading this blog, you might, but it’s not totally common knowledge. Major differences between the two include the Ruby Slippers originally being silver shoes, the movie turning the story into a dream, and just far fewer complicated characters and plot lines than in the long and sometimes confusing novel. Originally titled The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, author L. Frank Baum was literally bullied into writing 13 sequels by his adoring, if demanding, young fans. Trust me, it shows. The movies made this adventure into a consumable fantasy and also made the right decision to stop at one.
Fight Club (1999) vs. Fight Club (1996)
Oh man. I mean, the obvious mention here is that even Fight Club’s author, Chuck Palahniuk, has famously tipped his hat to David Fincher’s film being better. Admittedly, I watched the movie well before I read the book. I don’t think I read the book until freshman year of college, and by then I’d already fallen in love with the film and added Edward Norton to my list of “people I will leave my future husband for.” But the book suffers from a lack of visual clues that the movie lays out brilliantly, and the dark grittiness of the film just isn’t there in the book, or at least isn’t there as strongly. I love the movie, but I really just sorta liked the book.
Gone with the Wind (1939) vs. Gone with the Wind (1936)
The movie version of Gone with the Wind is just as sweeping and epic as Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. However, the chemistry between the saucy Scarlett O’Hara (played by Vivien Leigh) and the debonair Rhett Butler (played by Clark Gable) does its best work on the screen. They smolder as Atlanta burns behind them.
Never Let Me Go (2010) vs. Never Let Me Go (2005)
The film adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s beloved novel drew many criticisms for the changes it made. The film version was less concerned with the central mystery of the novel and instead was a character study with subtle science fiction elements, becoming more drama than science fiction.
The Shining (1980) vs. The Shining (1977)
While Stephen King was disappointed in Kubrick’s adaptation of his novel, stating that Kubrick overlooked the novel’s major themes, Stanley Kubrick’s movie version of The Shining is now seen as one of the best horror movies of all time. While it was hard to make a decision between the book and the movie, the effectiveness of the method acting by the actors involved (against their will? Maybe…) makes for a spooky watch that will stay with you forever.
A Clockwork Orange (1971) vs. A Clockwork Orange (1962)
A perfect storm of Stanley Kubrick’s direction, Malcolm McDowell’s performance, and impeccable art design soared this film ahead of the Anthony Burgess novel. The film also gets props for eschewing the novels relatively happy epilogue.
Jaws (1975) vs. Jaws (1974)
This Spielberg classic, based on the Peter Benchley novel, has inspired a fear of the ocean in many a movie-goer. While the novel was given mixed reviews based on its lacking characterization, the movie remains memorable for its iconic lines, suspenseful theme music, and, of course – its frightening shark.
Lord of the Rings (2001) vs. Lord of the Rings (1954)
And now for the world’s most unpopular opinion: I like the movies better. It’s close, but it’s there. Before you ask, these books were the first “grown-up” books I ever read. And I have read them since then; repeatedly, actually. But nothing beats sitting down and watching the Beacons of Gondor get lit on a huge screen. I do love the books. I find the form, style and poeticism fascinating. Tolkien was an amazing writer, and I appreciate everything he and his peers have done for a genre that is a huge part of my life. But if you hold a gun to my head and make me choose between reading another song and watching Legolas showboat at Helm’s Deep…that face is going to win, every time. In all seriousness, I like the books. But the spectacle of the movies is just too much for me to pass up.
The Notebook (2004) vs. The Notebook (1966)
As far as Nicholas Sparks adaptations go, it doesn’t get much better than the movie that won Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams the MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss. Sparks’ debut novel, written in 1996, was reviewed positively but called “an epic of treacle” by Kirkus. While Sparks churns out novels (and, in turn, the movies keep coming), it’s this sugary-sweet, romantic movie that withstands the test of time.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) vs. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / Män som hatar kvinnor or, Men Who Hate Women (2005)
David Fincher’s 2011 film starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig breathes highly-stylized life into the late Stieg Larsson’s Swedish crime novel. Rooney Mara’s portrayal of the hardened Lisbeth Salander received critical acclaim.
Blade Runner (1982) vs. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)
This one I feel bad about, because in all fairness, Blade Runner is almost (almost) unrecognizable from the book it came from. And here’s where I get a little uncertain: I really, really liked Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? But I just have to like the film more. It’s in no small part to the casting, Harrison Ford makes an amazing Deckard, Rutger Hauer has an amazing screen presence. But the decision to move the film away from discussing Mercerism and more into “he’s gotta retire these androids” really helped with following along. I was never really in love with the ending of the book, but the ambiguity (depending on who you talk to) of the film’s ending hits all the right chords for me.
Apocalypse Now (1979) vs. Heart of Darkness (1899)
While not a straight-forward adaptation, Apocalypse Now is heavily inspired by Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Conrad’s novella, a frame story set in Central Africa, tells a powerful story but distances the reader. Francis Ford Coppola’s film updates the story by bringing the action into the Vietnam War, and there’s nothing more powerful than Marlon Brando’s whispered “The horror, the horror.” In 2000, the film was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010) vs. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007)
Deathly Hallows was a meditative and dreadful beginning, as well as a lesson for young readers on how a series can change to reveal new insights on familiar characters. On film, the wilderness feels more aimless with murky wide-angle shots of Swinley Forest and gray Welsh beaches to match the trios’ growing pains. It was also a chance for the three leads to express their characters in a reflective, less magical way, finishing what Alfonso Cuaron’s adaptation of The Prisoner of Azkaban started. Part 1 turned the series into a proper British drama without diluting the source material’s whimsy. Plus it features a dance montage set to “O Children,” securing the mood with a little help from the true Dark Lord.
[Readers: Do you agree with us? Did we make you angry? Can the movie EVER be better than the book, or do we have it all wrong? What other books/movies should make the list? Let us know in the comments below… or, better yet, write us a post! Read about submitting to BiblioSmiles here.]