Film adaptations of popular books are nothing new. Hollywood has been making them for decades, and there’s no indication that it’s something that filmmakers will ever stop doing. You’ve got a ready built fan base as soon as you make a movie adaptation. Unfortunately, adaptations often receive a lot of criticism for cutting content, or changing story. However, there are some adaptations that end up being better than the source material. Here’s a list of five movies that are better than the books that inspired them.
1974 saw the release of the novel Jaws, a book that tells the story of a great white shark that preys upon the inhabitants of a small resort town. Thanks to clever marketing the book saw a lot of attention, and ended up on the best seller list for 44 weeks, selling millions of copies. This success saw the film released just a year later.
The film is widely considered one of the best movies ever made, and the first summer blockbuster. A lot of this came from the rewrites and drafts to the script, that saw a lot of the sub-plots from the book removed, including an affair between Hooper and Ellen Brody, and a plot thread involving the mob. The film made the characters more likeable, and focused on the main plot of the shark. Thanks to this the film is way more streamlined than the book, and you become a lot more invested in the central characters.
The Lord of the Rings
Any film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings was going to be an uphill struggle. Not only was the book one of the most beloved literary works of all time, but its huge length meant that a lot of content would have to be removed. Despite having three movies in which to play out the story, racking up almost 12 hours across the extended editions, director Peter Jackson still had a tough challenge.
However, Jackson chose to focus his adaptation more on the main quest of the book, removing a lot of early story content such as the journey through the Shire that didn’t add to the main story of the One Ring. This focus extended across much of the rest of the story, and other sub-plots that didn’t move the story forward or develop characters were excised.
Added to this, the removal of a number of songs characters were supposed to sing, and amazing battles, meant that the films often felt much tighter and better paced than the original books.
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Another entry from Steven Spielberg – he’s pretty good at book adaptations – Jurassic Park became a record breaking film upon release, helped to move film making technology forward, and became one of the most beloved summer blockbusters of all time.
The film saw some big changes from the source material, however. Alan Grant was changed from an older man to a much younger one, played by Sam Neil; Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm survived instead of being killed; and John Hammond wasn’t eaten by dinosaurs, to name just a few of the changes. The plot was also streamlined a little, with a bigger focus on the characters having to survive the deadly creatures rather than focus being given over to their personal lives and backgrounds.
Whilst the original book is still an exciting adventure story with some great set pieces, the film has a much better pace and more likeable characters. Instead of waiting for certain characters to be killed off because they’re jerks you end up rooting for them. The success of the film would also go on to deliver a series of sequels, with Jurassic Park: The Lost World also being a Spielberg adaptation of Michael Crichton’s novel.
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The Silence of the Lambs
Based upon the second novel in the Hannibal Lecter series by Thomas Harris, Silence of the Lambs would become on of the best loved psychological thrillers ever made. Telling the story of a young FBI trainee who has to enlist the help of an imprisoned cannibal killer to stop a serial killer, the film received public and critical acclaim, and would win multiple awards.
Whilst the book that the movie is based upon is an incredibly well written and tight story, and the movie sticks to the narrative very closely, the film is better for two reasons: Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. Both actors brought a huge amount of presence to their roles that easily overshadowed their book counterparts. Anthony Hopkins was so beloved in the role of Lecter that he would go on to play the role two more times, even starring in the prequel more than a decade later.
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Since it was released in 1972 The Godfather has been widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. The film was based upon the Mario Puzo book of the same name, a book that spent 67 weeks on the New York Times best seller list, and sold more than nine million copies in its first two years.
The film adaptation was a monumental undertaking, with Puzo working alongside director Francis Ford Coppola to adapt the lengthy book. Due to the size of the novel there were a number of elements that had be be cut from the film, including extensive flashbacks to the past of the character of Don Corleone. Fortunately, these scenes would end up incorporated into the film’s sequel.
Even with a number of elements from the book being cut The Godfather still came in at close to three hours long, and told a sprawling tale taking place over years. Thankfully, due to a stellar cast and amazing directing the film was able to be exciting and engaging in ways that the book sometimes wasn’t. The Godfather would go on to revolutionise the gangster genre.
Do you agree with this list? What films do you think are better than their books? Make sure to let us know in the comments section below.