Jan 31 2012 8:07am

When the Movie is as Good as the Book: Discuss!

In addition to Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time 50th Anniversary, the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird is also celebrating its 50th, and there’s a brand-new anniversary Blu-Ray/DVD set that’s out today.

Which brings to mind that we never did talk about movie versions that were just as (or nearly as...) good as the books from which they sprang (we did a post on The Book, Not the Movie, where we discussed when the films went horribly wrong).

So—what film versions are as good as their books?

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Lege Artis
1. Lege Artis
It took me longer to remember which book adaptations I liked than other way around... I loved Elizabeth Gaskell's North & South mini series with wonderful Daniela Danby-Ashe and Richard Armitage. Than, there's Nick Hornby's About a Boy (that's nearly-as-good cathegory)- Hugh Grant is charming in this movie. With The Color Purple I'm not sure which I liked better, because I saw the movie first and loved it, but than I read the novel years later and I was blown away... It's a powerful story. One of my favorite movies is The Fight Club that I actually love more than book. Nice topic to think about, Megan! :)
Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
@Lege Artis: I would say the filmed version of North and South is better than the Gaskell version, not just because of Armitage; I like how the series cut away all the superfluous conversation, and made Thornton much stronger as a character.
I liked About a Boy, too--and liked The Color Purple, but the soundtrack came so close to ruining it for me. I loathed it. The book is so awesome (and I read that first) that I'm not sure it makes the cut for me, but I agree, it's close.
I'd say The Bridges of Madison County is a better film than a book, too, but that's another topic entirely, isn't it?
The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity, and Brokeback Mountain are all as good film versions as they are in print, at least in my opinion.
Mindy Belby
3. o2b5ft2
Fun topic! I haven't seen North & South in years & I swoon for Atticus. I would say The Princess Bride & Forrest Gump were better on film IMO. ;-).
Pamela Webb-Elliott
4. Spaz
I followed the Twitter link to run right over here and say TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD!!!! but you have it covered already :D
Lege Artis
5. chris booklover
The Godfather and Godfather II have always been my favorite examples of this phenomenon.
Christopher Morgan
6. cmorgan
To Kill a Mocking Bird is by far one of the best adaptations hands down. After reading it and then seeing Peck, I can't imagine anyone else as Atticus Finch. Everytime they talk about remaking that movie I feel sorry for whomever they dupe/bribe/convince to play Atticus.

Also loved the versions of Of Mice and Men and Grapes of Wrath. Though I have a bit of a soft spot for Steinbeck.
Ginny Doremus
7. FaeRhi
Definitely "Princess Bride". I don't know if tv shows count but I have to say that with BOTH book-to-tv series by L.J. Smith, I like the shows SO much better than the books. And while True Blood veers wildly off course, it's still pretty awesome.
On the flip side, "P.S. I Love You" is a fantastic book and a fantastic movie but they are so drastically different that I don't think they should be related to each other.
Tori Benson
My favs books to movies are To Kill A Mockingbird, The Princess Bride, any early Stephan King movie , Fried Green Tomatos, Midnight In The Garden Of Good and Evil, and The Sun Also Rises (though I maybe one of the few who does-LOL)
K.M. Jackson
9. kwanawrites
I'm going to jump in with Harry Potter though I only read the 1st book. Visually the movie made me so happy.
10. Rose In RoseBear
I can't imagine who would play Atticus! Johnny Depp? Brad Pitt? Russell Crow? Who has the gravitas? I can cast every other role in my head, save Atticus ...
Lege Artis
11. ChristyRae75
Despite some major changes from books to films, I think both Gone With the Wind and The Thorn Birds are great adaptations. I also find that How to Make an American Quilt and The Joy Luck Club are better movies than they are books.
Liam Neeson is the only actor I can think of who might work as Atticus.
12. Rose In RoseBear
@Christy --- Maybe, maybe ... He'd have to lose the long hair and the Jedi robes, though ... !

(Would you believe, there's a whole page dedicated to pictures of Liam in glasses?

Even so ... they'd probably do the remake in color, and that would just be wrong. I was watching a rerun of Quantum Leap recently, and Sam had leaped into a Southern lawyer. The courtroom was a twin of the one in Mockingbird, and I was amazed at how hard the Mockingbird courtroom seemed in comparison.

The addition of color on the screen hides a lot ...
Becky Hantsbarger
13. BeckyIA
@Torifl, absolutely Fried Green Tomates. I would have to say the TV movie versions of "The Stand" and "The Shining" by Stephen King are two of my favorite book-to-movie views. But "To Kill A Mockingbird" is absolutely at the top of the pack.
rachel sternberg
14. rae70
i'm with kwana! harry potter! i just cant stand reading all the british silly names, its easier to hear them... and visually its stunning!
Carmen Pinzon
15. bungluna
I have a personal favorite that is frivolous and silly, but here goes. I love the movie version of "Evil Under the Sun" so much more than the original Chrisite novel. There are also several Mystery remakes of her work that are better than the books. And Timothy Hutton and Archie Goodwin was very good.
Bella Franco
16. BeguileThySorrow
Ditto! I really loved the HP series more as films; the music alone made it feel more magical. And I hated reading the Vampire Diaries books cuz they were so boring but they are great as tv shows. I did love LJ Smith's Night World series though but hate that we may never see a book 10:-/
Also agree that Gone with the Wind was also beautifully done cinematically:) I'm looking forward to seeing The Hunger Games and Perks of Being a Wallflower this year since they're two of my all time faves:D
Elizabeth Kielma
17. missy030710
That's such an interesting topic...I've always preferred the books to the movies or TV series. True Blood, for example, loved the books, don't like the TV show. But...I do have tickes to One For the Money and can't wait to see it (yes, to compare to the book which I loved - all 18 in the series that I've read so far lol). I guess I'll just have to wait and see.
Lege Artis
18. shyhyatt
The Lord of the Rings Movies turned out really well. Peter Jackson did a superb job. My dauhter actually now prefers the movies to the books. I still love both.
Lege Artis
19. Lafka
Hum. Reading this article and some comments, I come to think that there's probably a difference between a good movie _ even if inspired from a book _ and a good adaptation.
For example, I really liked movies such as Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or in an entire different way Requiem for a dream, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (the swedish version, I haven't seen and don't intend to the american new one), Stardust, Fight Club, The Great Gatsby or even Lolita and 1984. But they were not very good adaptations per se : too many differences with the original books, sometimes only in the tone (for example Redford's Gatsby is definitely not amoral enough compared to the on-page original one), sometimes only in what may appear as details (some scenes disappearing or being re-written for screen purposes in TLOTR or Harry Potter _ which was very OK but different nonetheless). In 1984's case, the movie was extremely different from the book (some forgottent moments, some scenes created out-of-the-blue), though both were good.

Some movies though are both great movies and great adaptations, because they don't take liberties from the original material and yet do something that works on a screen. For example, Trainspotting was very true to the book, and was also a very good movie. The Maltese Falcon, Killing a Mockingbird, more recently L.A. Confidential...

There are so many good movies based on books, whether they are good adaptations or not, I would fail to quote them all here : The Grapes of Wrath, most adaptations from Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters, Slumdog Millionnaire, Barry Lindon, Mystic River, Misery, Vertigo, The Silence of the Lambs, The Green Mile, The Godfather, Virgin Suicides, Narnia, The Name of the Rose, Interview with a vampire, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Daddy Long-Legs... And I don't even mention french movies based on french books, therewould be too many!

Pfew, I'm really keen on movies adapting books, it's always the occasion to see a story you liked with a new eye!
Charli Mac
20. CharliMac
To Kill A Mockingbird is an amzing movie but it falls short to being true to the novel. There is NO Aunt Alexandra in the movie at all. In the novel, she played Scout's nemisis to a certain extent. She was a key character to the book. Also, Mrs. Dubose's role in the movie was significantly downplayed. She had such a huge impact on Jem in the novel. The movie stands as a testament to indifference and should be seen by all generations. But there were so many more aspects to the novel that sadly didn't make it on screen.

I've seen both versions of the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I love them both. Mara Rooney deserves her Oscar nomination. Amazing!

The Notebook ends differently in the movie, a more sappy ending, imo. And I love Sparks. The novel ends on a high note. A real down to earth HEA that any romance reader would LOVE!
Melanie Thomas
21. missmelthomas
It's not often I find a movie or TV show that is as good as or superior to the book; most don't even come close. Since there are several I felt lived up to the book I'm just gonna touch on a few that I felt were better than the books they were based on.

I was a huge Bret Easton Ellis fan in my teenage years and I have to say that to this day Less Than Zero is one of my favorite movies. It's different than the book but fantastic and had a great cast.

Though a different type of book, I loved James O'Barr's The Crow graphic novel. That being said, I loved the movie even more. It is by far my all-time favorite movie. A lot of that was the incredibly sexy Brandon Lee playing Eric Draven. Plus the score and soundtracks were exceptional. I probably went to see that movie in the theaters 10 times and it was my first midnight showing.

I like True Blood but really prefer the books the series is based on (well up until the last couple which sucked). That being said, I have to agree with those who said LJ Smith's Vampire Diaries series is better as a TV show. It's just much better written and it's a show I look forward to watching each week. I won't read any of the newer books in the series because the show is far superior. That is honestly something I never thought I'd say.
Joanna Novins
22. JoannaNovins
Sophie's Choice. Great movie, but if ever there was a book that cried out for an editor...
Lege Artis
23. Jeff Reid
We have 15 posted casts for To Kill A Mockingbird, with some very interesting combinations. We are the web's premier "fantasy casting" site. If you want to see how other people 'cast' your favorite fiction, or just post your own cast, use our site "for the movie in your mind".
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