As a writer of books, I often feel guilty when I like a film adaptation better than the book that inspired it. I feel sort of like a traitor to my craft, as it were. But ultimately, I like a good story—and sometimes, the movie tells a better story than the book. In this post, I explained in detail why I think that the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz told a better story than Baum’s original classic book.
Here is a list of some other movies that I think are better than their original book inspirations. In most of these cases, I feel that the movie version told a more cohesive story—whether it be fewer extraneous sub-plots, better pacing, fewer minor characters, or just plain easier to follow. In some cases, the movie ending was more positive or satisfying than the book ending, which is something I’m partial to.
- The Wizard of Oz – see this post for details.
- Hugo (book title: The Invention of Hugo Cabret) – a happier ending in the movie, I thought, and the supporting characters had bigger roles in the film, as well.
- The Princess Bride – the movie held together as a story better, in my opinion, and was much funnier.
- Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang – the film bears almost no resemblance to the original story with the tiny exception of the flying car itself. Also, bonus points for the Dick Van Dyke in the movie.
- Prince Caspian (2008 Disney version) – I love all of the Narnia books, and this film took all the best elements of this story, expanded on them, took out the heavy backstory, and added the glorious visuals.
- Mary Poppins – who doesn’t love Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke? But the leading stars aside, Disney took a book that was nothing more than disconnected vignettes about bratty children and a disagreeable nanny and turned it into a story with a connected plot and rich characters.
- Alice in Wonderland (2010 Disney version) – another example of a book that was little more than a magical travelogue or vaguely connected vignettes that was turned into a story with an actual plot, complete with antagonists, character goals, and a climax.
- The Thin Man – the 1934 film was very similar plot-wise to Dashiell Hammet’s book, but in my mind was much funnier. Also, it ended on a more positive note than the book.
- The Hobbit – I love Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and Tolkien’s books with equal fervor, but I actually prefer Jackson’s lengthy film retelling of The Hobbit better than the book. I felt that I understood all of the characters, including Bilbo, better after viewing the films.
There are many more movie adaptations of books, of course. In a lot of cases I’ve read the book but not seen the movie, or vice versa. And in many cases where I’ve seen/read both, I like the book better (which makes me feel a bit redeemed after writing this post). But sometimes, the movie really is just better.
What are some movies that you think were better than their books?