Are Books Better Than The Movie? Why or Why not? Give examples.

I think books are always better than the movies, unless it’s a great movie made from a cruddy book. What do you think?

There’s a reason for this, I think.

It’s because you read a book and create the movie of the book in your head. You create the image, the characters, the sounds, the camera moves… everything… and it’s burned into your brain in some amazing way… and there’s no way any movie can ever be as good as your imagination.

I did like THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO as much as the book, but that’s incredibly rare.

Books have more detail than movies, are richer, and have more stuff going on. How can a movie… which someone else made, with a paltry amount of money (compared to the limitless budget of your vivid imagination), starring actors who are not as perfectly cast as the characters you created in your massive brain… be as good as what you thought up while reading?


What movies were BETTER than the books? I’d love to hear what you think.



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21 responses to “Are Books Better Than The Movie? Why or Why not? Give examples.

  1. marti

    Honestly, the only book that was a good as the movie I have seen was The Shawshank Redemption. Maybe it was because it was taken from a short story. But I love both.

    If I hear that a movie is based on a book, I see the movie first and then read the book. It’s like supplemental material for me. Ever since I read Michael Creighton’s The Lost World and LOVED the motorcycle chase seen, then went to see the movie… the movie that ommited the best chase scene in the entire book, I have been jaded. Don’t Say A Word by Andrew Klavan was botched. So many more. So yeah, I read the movies after the movies. It’s almost like the special features section of a DVD. 🙂

  2. Rebekka Brown

    I immediately thought of MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, a book with rich visual imagery of a world I could not imagine. The movie brought this world to life.

  3. I agree one hundred percent, but I think there is a little more to it, as well.

    I’ll just talk about the most money-making franchise of my childhood, Harry Potter.

    Everybody knows that Rowling’s HP series is designed from an incredible mystery-novel concept. I love that Harry is new to this “wizarding world,” as we, the readers, are as well. The books flood your mind with WAY more information than you could possibly keep straight, even if you read slowly and deliberately tried to remember it all. That’s the key to any great mystery novel. Then, where the books are best, at the end of each installment, the mystery is revealed. And you, the reader, are almost ALWAYS surprised. You realize, in that moment, that you knew ALL ALONG who the bad guy was and why he was doing it, because you saw it unfold as it happened, but it didn’t click until ZOOM!!! and you’ve got it. Wonderful.

    But the movies didn’t do that at all. I don’t think the producers in charge of this franchise over at Warner Brothers even read these books, half the time, and at least they never understood how or why mystery novels work. The final two HP movies were mediocre, I’d say, at best. But the biggest nightmare of the all was the sixth one, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Nobody in the theater even *cared* who the Half-Blood Prince was, let alone empathize with him or feel that he was our friend and that, when the true Prince was revealed (sectumsepra!), he had betrayed us by that final act of defiance! We HP fans were incredibly upset, to say the least.

    This is a long, drawn out way to say that, when books are translated to movies, the number one reason they suck is, plainly, that sometimes the Production Company doesn’t even understand WHY the book was successful to begin with, thus dooming the film before it even begins.

    I can only pray that Atlas Shrugged, parts 1 and 2, do not go this way. Will I see it? Probably. Will I hate it? Probably.

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      I only saw the first HP movie. Wait. Saw one other one, that my old roommate edited. Can’t remember which one it was. And you’re right… if they don’t take time to make it work the same way the book worked, they’ve got nothing.

      One of the best ever is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. You read the book. You see the movie, you think you’ve just read the book again. Only Foote left a lot out of the movie, but it caught the essence of how the book FELT, so you get the full experience.

      HP was tough because they had a legion of fans who would freak out if something got cut, so, I am guessing, they had to cram a lot in to make the movie “like the book.” I don’t know how they succeeded, but they sure made a ton of dough.

      • yourscreenplaysucks

        Anybody read “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep”??? How did it stack up to BLADE RUNNER?

    • Windy

      Hmm… I consider myself an HP fan, but I suppose I approached both my reading of them and my enjoyment of the movies differently. I’m not much of a mystery novel fan, and I never saw them as mystery novels taking place in a magical setting. (Clearly, you’re on to something, though, since Rowling has revealed her next book is going to be a crime novel.) I did enjoy piecing together the little details that wound up to the final reveal, but I also really enjoyed immersing myself in the world and getting to know the characters.

      As you noted, the books really do flood you with information, which is perhaps somewhat unavoidable when it comes to this sort of world-building. I think, though, that this actually gives the movies an edge for some of us. I’ve a solid imagination, but it tends to focus on whatever the writer’s primarily drawing attention to. My mind ends up sifting through all the information and may not conjure all the little details. For folks whose imaginations work like mine, it’s kind of nice to see all the little details pulled together, and to be able to use your actual senses (sight and sound, anyway) to experience them.

      Also, while I’m usually -not- a fan of movies breaking away from the canon, there were some character interactions in the sixth book that frustrated me to the nth degree. I thought the sixth movie did a really good job of presenting the various relationships, friendships, and conflicts in a way that was still true to character and to the book while side-stepping some of the things that had my eyebrows flying up into my hairline when I originally read them. I also preferred the movie’s sense of humor.

  4. Scarily enough, the “Twilight” movie was better than the book.
    I started reading “Do Androids Dream…” but I’ve watched Blade Runner about six times since then, so I’d say the movie is better.
    Also, the new HBO series “Game of Thrones” is far more focused and engaging than the sprawling prose and endless characters-introduced-merely-so-they-can-die-in-this-scene of George RR Martin.

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      I HOPE the twilight movie was better than the book! Tell you another movie, better than the book. THE FIRM. Way way way better ending. The good guy actually defeats the bad guys. Had a weak ending in the book, but the Hollywood Dudes earned their paycheck on that one.

  5. Tony Hinds

    The ultimate example of this is JAWS. The movie KILLS the book. In the book, instead of getting eaten by the shark, Quint is dragged to his death like Captain Ahab?!?! Hooper has a secret affair with Cheif Brody’s wife… and then dies in the end?!?! And then there’s the disturbingly unpleasant section with the MOBSTERS (yes, mobsters in JAWS… this book was batshit crazy) which culminates with the Brody Family’s cat getting killed in a VERY UNPLESANT (and non-shark releated) way. I think we can all agree, the screenwriters decision to remove these elements for the film was a good one!

  6. The Godfather.

    Pulp fiction book, one of the greatest movies ever.

  7. Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane is a far superior book to the movie version, although it wasn’t a particularly poor adaptation. The problem for readers of that series (Kenzie & Gennaro) is that the weight of the relationship between the two detectives didn’t have quite the same emotional heft as in the book, considering all they’ve gone through in the three books preceding it, which obviously couldn’t be built in without lengthy exposition. Also, the plot was fairly simplified in comparison to the intricate plotting in Lehane’s page-turner.

    American Psycho is a good novel to film adaptation. The script is exceptional considering the material it was adapted from and Christian Bale embodied Patrick Bateman perfectly. Pitch perfect stuff really and any chapters left out were either too graphic for the mainstream or just unnecessary in terms of telling the story the way they wanted to.

    One of, if not, the worst adaptation I’ve seen is The Black Dahlia by Brian De Palma. The book by James Ellroy is a work of genius, heavily layered, full of character – a tangled spiderweb slowly unravelling in line with it’s central players. The movie is an unimaginable, hammy, confusing disaster. Anyone who has not seen the movie, avoid it and pick up the book instead.

  8. Sometimes adaptations are a chance to tidy up the original. For example, The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells is a fine book, but there is one unacceptable coincidence (unacceptable from a story-telling perspective) in it that a later adaptation fixed quite neatly.

    “Although the character of Dr. Kemp first appears at the halfway point, as in the book, the serial introduces the character at a much earlier point in a scene at the inn in which Griffin reads a paper on optical density written by Kemp and realizes he is the same man he once worked with. This was done to reduce the level of coincidence at the point in which Griffin takes refuge in Kemp’s house- in the novel he is unaware that the house belongs to Kemp and stumbles into the house purely by chance.”

    I’m sure if Wells had thought of this he would have used it himself. I haven’t seen the serial, so I can’t comment on how it matches up to the book otherwise.

    I second the nomination of Blade Runner. It’s a very interesting book, but it’s not a classic the way the film is.

    Great Expectations is both a great book and, in its Lean adaptation, a great movie. I also think The Big Sleep (Hawks version) is about as much of a classic as the book.

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      Very cool ideas. Have not seen that film. THE FIRM is an example, may have mentioned it before, of a film that’s better than the book. Certainly the ending is more satisfying.

  9. RUNAWAY JURY is one where I quite liked both. And I second SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION as one of the best adaptations of all time. Yes, the fact that it was a short story was a part of it, but lots of movies have been made from short stories and few of them are as great as Shawshank.

    Though I haven’t read THE BOURNE IDENTITY, I’ve heard that it’s nowhere near as good as the movie. LES MISERABLES is another one that falls into that category – supposedly, in the unabridged version Victor Hugo spends a considerable amount of energy (like, dozens of pages) describing the details of things that have no plot significance whatsoever.


  10. jess

    Has anyone here read ‘My sister’s Keeper’? it is probably one of the best books i have ever read. i was really excited to see the movie and when i did it sucked. i still cried but not as much as in the book.

    sometimes when you have such a good book, a movie can never live up to the high expectations.

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      I have not read “My Sister’s Keeper.” It sounds marvelous. The movie I want to see is THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN… that book made me cry harder than any book I’ve ever read. I’m dying to see how they approached the writing job. Fingers crossed!!

  11. Pingback: Which is better – the book or the movie? | cinebrary

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