bookvsmovieOur friends at Book Riot pose the question:

"For the most part, we know that the book is usually better than the movie. However, there are a few exceptions…"

I haven’t seen the vast majority of the movies on their list; I am more of a TV show person when I watch these days. But I have seen a handful of movies which I thought surpassed their course material.

Forrest Gump is one that comes to mind. The book was dreadful; the title character’s voice comes across more profoundly in live action than written down, and I can’t stand dialect that is written out as such. I also remember being profoundly struck by the plight of Gump’s lady friend—the trope of ‘Gump experiences all the major events of the twentieth century’ came profoundly full-circle when his love fell ill with the great medical tragedy of her time, the AIDS virus.

The Hours was another one; the book was long-winded and overly precious and just trying too hard. But the movie was absolutely beautiful, and perfectly cast. I know Nicole Kidman got deserved accolades for that firm, but Julianne Moore broke my heart as a woman struggling with her identity as a wife and mother. I feel like, writing it out, I can almost see the scenes again playing out in my mind. The book did not leave such a dent on me.

Those are the two that most come to mind when I ponder this question. What do you think? Have you seen a movie that surpassed the book from which it spawned?

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"I’m a journalist, a teacher and an e-book fiend. I work as a French teacher at a K-3 private school. I use drama, music, puppets, props and all manner of tech in my job, and I love it. I enjoy moving between all the classes and having a relationship with each child in the school. Kids are hilarious, and I enjoy watching them grow and learn. My current device of choice for reading is my Amazon Kindle Touch, but I have owned or used devices by Sony, Kobo, Aluratek and others. I also read on my tablet devices using the Kindle app, and I enjoy synching between them, so that I’m always up to date no matter where I am or what I have with me."


  1. I have’t been a big fan of the movies in a few decades and I rarely read the book and watch the movie. If the book was good, why bother with the movie–you’ve got the book in your head already; and if the book was bad, again, why bother with the movie. I suppose it’s possible to watch a movie so good you’d want to read the book afterwards, but since most movies are kind of droll, I think the chances are slim, at least for me.

    Anyway, adaptations are mostly like comparing apples to prunes.

  2. The Godfather is often cited as an improvement over a pretty good novel.

    Alfred Hitchcock frequently took little known or average novels and made them into unforgettable movies. Robert Bloch’s Psycho would be long forgotten if Hitchcock hadn’t worked his magic on it. Rear Window was a decent Cornell Woolrich novella that Hitchcock made into something spectacular. Many other examples.

  3. I definitely think a movie can be better than the original book, my favorite examples being Blade Runner and 2001. Stalker (the movie version of Roadside Picnic) also qualifies, though in its case the book isn’t bad — it’s just that the style and tone of the movie happens to fit the message much better. That can happen, because different media have different strengths.

    As for the list over at Book Riot, the only item I can talk about is The Shining, and in that case it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison. The movie is much tighter, yes, and contains some of the most frightening moments I’ve seen on the big screen, but the book takes its time to develop the story, and also has its exceptionally good moments.

    In fact, that’s the way it happens with most stories. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is notorious for the (intentional) differences between its many versions — radio play, novels, game, TV series and big screen movie. Dune, too, was a novel, movie, game and TV series, and each version has its very own strengths. The original Star Wars trilogy got a beautiful novelization ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster (and so did the Star Trek Animated Series, minus the “ghost” part).

    But going in reverse is perhaps off-topic. What do you think of Total Recall?

  4. Great topic. I have a few that fit this category-
    1) “Fail Safe”. Forgotten 9but good book, terrifically terrifying movie.
    2) “Field of Dreams” Book (different name) is OK, but the movie is an all time favorite.
    3) “Somewhere in time” (Book is “Bid time return (awfull title).

  5. “Julie & Julia” i absolutely loved the movie. i mean, how can you not like Meryl Streep doing Julia Child’s accent? the book on the other hand – ugh! i kept reading, thinking it was going to get better. for one, the writing was terrible; and two, it didn’t have nearly as much attention on Julia Child as the movie did. very disappointing.

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