Movies: The Best Of “The Book is Better Than The Movie”

“The Book is Better Than The Movie” is a phrase that has been uttered by many. Either genuine or to get a reaction out of someone, this statement normally rings true. For the most part, the written story can delve deeper than a movie can. A novel can incorporate a larger scope than the movie can which allows the reader to become a part of the novel as a whole.

A novel can introduce characters and sub-plots that help to develop the overall story. With the time constraints of a movie, these ambitions are not usually possible. With these and many other considerations, it is easy to see why the argument that the source material is better than the motion picture is an accurate statement.

While the majority of the time this is how the medium works there have been instances that buck the trend. There have been some cases where the movie has surpassed, and even improved upon the source material is was based one. Below we will take a look at 10 of these instances.

“The Book is Better Than The Movie” – The Hunt For Red October

The Hunt for Red October (film) - Wikipedia

Tom Clancy is responsible for some of the most popular military fiction novels in the world. His knowledge of the United States and its armed forces is unmatched and has helped to bring a level of realism to his work. Unfortunately, some of his novels show his knowledge off to the point of tedium. His works can get bogged down with military jargon and this can make it hard to follow the story.

It is for these reasons why his works have translated better onto the silver screen and we can see this with one of his better works, The Hunt For Red October. Following a rogue Russian sub captain, The Hunt For Red October is a fantastic movie that encapsulates the military knowledge of Clancy but improves on the story. The movie was able to add a quicker pace to the story that helped to heighten the tension throughout.

There is also the fact of the fantastic performances by the cast. Connery, Baldwin, and others brought the characters to life and added depth to them that wasn’t in the novel.

Stand By Me (1986) movie at MovieScore™

“The Book is Better Than The Movie” – The Body (Stand By Me)

King’s novella about 4 young teens searching for a dead body was written with the usual Stephen King brilliance. It was a captivating story and one that went outside the norm of Kings’ usual horror-centric stories. The story is a fantastic one but what Rob Reiner was able to do with his movie adaptation turned the story into an all-time cinema classic.

Developing the novella into a full-length feature was a daring exercise but one that paid off. Reiner was able to expand on the themes of the novella. He used the charm of the actors involved to paint a wonderful picture of friendship and loyalty that weren’t fleshed out as well in the King story.

No Country for Old Men (2007) - IMDb

“The Book is Better Than The Movie” – No Country For Old Men

Centred on a drug deal gone wrong the Cormac McCarthy novel is one that is considered a modern classic but it is also an incredibly hard read. With his punctuation-free style, McCarthy’s story is a difficult read and one that fails to keep the readers’ attention for long.

Thankfully, the Cohen brothers fixed this problem with their Oscar-winning epic. The brothers were able to mirror the same feeling of the McCarthy story but without the confusing writing. Their ability to pull the correct themes from the story without sacrificing tone was fantastic. It helped to make the movie a much more enjoyable watch than the read of the novel.

Of course, we can’t mention the Cohen Brothers’ interpretation of the novel without bringing up the iconic performance of Javier Bardem. As Anton Chigurh, Bardem was haunting and it was something that we didn’t see with the novel. Only with the movie were we subject to that all-time great performance.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) - IMDb

“The Book is Better Than The Movie” – The Silence of the Lambs

The novel that made Hannibal Lecter world-famous is by no means a terrible story. Thomas Harris crafted a fantastic story that kept us on the edge of our seats. It was a story that put Harris on the map and continued the terrifying legacy of Hannibal Lecter.

Coming to us in 1991, the silver screen adaptation was a masterpiece in horror that improved the novel in every way. Every scene was filled with spine-tingling tension and it became uncomfortable to watch the struggle between Lecter and F.B.I Agent Clarice Starling. There was no doubt that we were watching a special film when this movie came out and it has since become one of the most recognizable in the world.

It should also be noted that The Silence of the Lambs is the last movie to sweep the big four awards at the Oscars. Having nabbed Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Actress is a huge reason why this movie surpasses its source material.

“The Book is Better Than The Movie” – The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Let’s not get off on the wrong foot here. The Lord of the Rings novel was Tolkiens masterpiece. The scope of the story cannot be understated and it showed the talent and imagination that Tolkien possessed. That being said there are some parts of the story that were trimmed from the movies that helped to make them better.

To begin with, the three books contain an inordinate amount of singing. It seems that at every turn someone is breaking into song and it takes away from the overall story. Peter Jackson, smartly, keeps this out of his story.

There is also the issue of the books being rather boring. The action sequences are limited in their scope and there is more focus on the travels of the party as opposed to their bumps along the way. Focussing on the battles and action of the stories was a better move by Jackson and one that helped to separate the movies from the novels.

Children of Men (2006) - IMDb

“The Book is Better Than The Movie” – Children of Men

P.D James’ post-apocalyptic novel was an intriguing premise but one that was wasted in the novel. With women unable to bear children the world is on the verge of disaster as we witness the collapse of society. When a pregnant woman has discovered the chain of events kicks off a race to get her to safety before she falls into the wrong hands.

With such an interesting story James decided to focus on the social order and class system within Britain as events unfolded. It was an interesting choice but one that took away from the story. In the movie, Alfonso Cuaron explored the implications of this new pregnancy on the world. His depiction was thought-provoking and one that should have had more time dedicated to the source material.

Shawshank Redemption Classic Movie Poster Various Sizes (Super A1 Size 24 x  36 ins) : Home & Kitchen

“The Book is Better Than The Movie” – Shawshank Redemption

King’s works appear on this list again, but that doesn’t mean his Shawshank was a terrible story. King’s vergence away from horror was a great piece of writing. His themes of friendship and heartache were perfect and helped make this story close to perfect.

While close to perfect it was not, and this is where the movie adaptation shows up. The movie used King’s themes and expanded on them perfectly. Its visual style helped to bring these ideas to life and made the movie an incredible watch.

There are also performances by an amazing ensemble cast. The cast brought the characters to life and this was not something the novel could have done. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman were brilliant and their friendship was the backbone of the film. It was because of these two men that the move has become considered one of the best in the history of cinema.

Forest Gump Tom Hanks Movie Poster 1 Glossy Paper (A4 - 210mm x 297mm -  Small) : Home & Kitchen

“The Book is Better Than The Movie” – Forrest Gump

Winston Grooms 1986 novel about a simple-minded man who becomes entangled in various events throughout history is a charming one. For story-telling, however, the book throws too much at the reader, making it an exhausting read. Robert Zemeckis used the premise of the novel and streamlined the story to create one of the all-time great movies. He picked the parts of Groom’s novel that worked and turned them into a beautiful story. The superiority of the movie is also seen with the beautiful cinematography and perfect performances by Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise, Sally Field, and Robin Wright.

The production of the movie surpassed the novel in nearly every way. It is the reason why Forrest Gump is one of the best movies ever made.

Fight Club Poster A4 Film Movie Print Brad Pitt Edward Norton : Home & Kitchen

“The Book is Better Than The Movie” – Fight Club

Chuck Palahniuk’s 1996 novel about a depressed man who starts a club where men beat each other was an interesting one. It was not one that many thoughts needed a Hollywood adaptation but David Fincher took the novel and brought us a tremendously entertaining film.

With Brad Pitt and Ed Norton Fincher was able to bring life to the novel’s characters. We connect with the characters more than we did with the novel and that helped to put the movie over the top. Fincher was also able to Hollywood the novel.

He tweaked the ending to give it a more “happy” feel and the addition of the movie’s romantic angle was something that added another level of depth to the film. It was the right move by Fincher and made Fight Club an incredibly popular movie.

Jaws Movie Poster A3/A2 Print | Etsy UK

“The Book is Better Than The Movie” – Jaws

The movie that inspired this list is the preeminent one when discussing a movie surpassing its source material.

Peter Benchley’s novel about a shark terrorizing a quaint New England town is an odd story that does not focus on the horror and tension that the movie highlights so well. Benchley included a very strange adultery angle and had his focus on the mob control of Amity. It was an odd choice and one that took away from the overarching story. When Spielberg took the story and ran with it he created a much better story. Leaving out the pointless side stories, Spielberg created an amazing tale.

His ability to use a simple premise and create a terrifying story was awesome. He realized that a simple script can be turned into a classic film and he streamlined his production to achieve this.

There is also the fact that the tremendous score by John Williams is absent from the story. That music is just as much a part of the movie as the shark is. The score became the shark and made Jaws the first true summer blockbuster.

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