Are there any exceptions to the “book is better than the movie” rule?
There seems to be a consensus on this site that the book is always better than the movie. Can you think of any movies that were actually better than the book? Are there any exceptions to the rule?
One movie that I found better than its book source was You’ll Like My Mother, based on a Naomi Hintze novel.
The screenwriter tightened the story slightly to focus even more sharply on the author’s theme of mothers protecting their children.
Another was the TV adaptation of Mark’s Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson. Although most film adaptations of Twain’s works (especially Huckleberry Finn) fall sadly short, this one surpassed the original in one respect. In the book, the aristocratic Italian twins were, at least as far as the reader could see, genuinely what they professed to be.
In the movie, someone testifies at Tom/Chambers’ trial that they’re a pair of con men whom he first encountered “upriver at St. Petersburg.” I think Twain would have loved it!
A reader says: “You might get very different answers if you asked this question in the movies category. I think Jaws might qualify. The movie cut out the subplot of the affair between Sheriff Brody’s wife and the character played by Richard Dreyfuss, which made the story focus more intensely on the shark hunt. However, I really, really liked the book and it’s been over 30 years (yikes!), so it’s tough to say.”
Another one told me: “ Stanley Kubrick is good at that: The Shining (vs. King’s book), Dr. Strangelove (vs. Peter George’s ‘Red Alert’), and 2001: A Space Odyssey (vs. Arthur Clarke’s ‘The Sentinel’) are all better movies than books/stories. On the other hand, for my money Paths of Glory (Humphrey Cobb) and A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess), and Lolita (Nabokov) are equally good, if in some cases very different, books versus movies. (And Full Metal Jacket is a weaker treatment than Gustav Hasford’s ‘The Short-Timers,’ on which it’s based.)”
Named utahyoda says: “I haven’t found very many, but I think there are a few. Mrs. Doubtfire is much better than Alias Madame Doubtfire. The Princess Bride. The only book widely available is the “good parts version” which is annoying and simply an ego trip for the author. The movie is great. The Princess Diaries. The movie was sweet and a little sappy, but still fun. The books are about a really stupid girl and her friends and are even more unrealistic than the movie. Also, I hated the book Wicked, but the broadway musical is great.”
Another reader named Briteyes says: A few that come to mind immediately: Grisham’s ‘A Time to Kill’. Entertaining movie; *terrible* book. What bugged me about this one is that the dramatic courtroom scene at the end of the film happens “offstage” in the book. The main characters stand around and talk about it: “Oh, so the jury foreman gave this great speech.” “Yeah, heard the jurors loved it…” Never read another Grisham book after that. Larry Beinhart’s ‘American Hero’, which was adapted to the screen as ‘Wag the Dog’. (Probably not the best example, since they bear very little resemblance to one another.) Scripted by David Mamet, the film is a terrific piece of satire. The book is almost unreadable. Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’. The book reads like a first novel; DePalma did a great job of polishing the edges and making it a truly scary experience.
One exception, for SURE, is the Bourne trilogy. The movies are MUCH better than the books. They take the same main character, start off in a similar setup, and then go 90 degrees different from the books. And rightly so. (Mostly it’s because the books were written with the Soviets as the villains, which is obviously not applicable today.)
Other than that, the book is pretty much always better than the movie.