Is the movie EVER better than the book?
Updated: Sep 20, 2021
Movie and TV adaptations of books have a bad reputation. You'd expect that library staff would be staunchly against any filmic representation of a book. It's not the case! There are some book-based films and TV shows that have won over EGPL's staff. Our staff agree that you should read and watch both so you can compare!
NOTE: In light of potential controversy around their opinions, staff will remain nameless in this post.
1. Lord of the Rings Trilogy (written by J.R.R. Tolkien; directed by Peter Jackson)
Tolkien's books are expansive, detailed and written in dense prose. Fans of the books enjoy the immersive universe of characters and settings. Depending on the edition, readers commit to around 1,200 pages to complete the trilogy. Many adults don't have the time to finish a 400-page novel.
Jackson's films offer the majesty of the Lord of the Rings universe, and hone in on loveable characters the audience follows through the whole film series. The grand fantasy created by Tolkien translates beautifully for a modern audience to enjoy visually instead of through prose-packed pages.
2. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (written by Hunter S. Thompson; directed by Terry Gilliam)
Thompson's book was long considered to be impossible to adapt to film. Its stream-of-consciousness narrative and psychedelic subject matter push the limits of the medium of film. Gilliam's masterful adaption keeps Thompson's writing front and centre through well-situated narration. The cinematography is almost its own setting, employing colour, light and shot depth to create a hellish wonderland.
3. Big Little Lies (written by Liane Moriarty; series created by David E. Kelley)
The TV series moves the setting from Australia to California, and makes some minor tweaks to the characters and plot. The novel has a more linear plot than the series, which makes good use of time shifts to up the mystery quotient. The more glamorous setting of the series is not only breathtaking; it intensifies the sense of drama. Excellent casting and acting adds depth to the characters.
4. James and the Giant Peach (written by Roald Dahl; directed by Harry Selick)
Tim Burton is renowned for his ability to depict oddity, darkness and humour. He brings his strengths to this film as its producer. The book's darkly weird plot is only improved upon with stop motion animation and storytelling that doesn't flinch at portraying the book's scarier parts. The creativity inherent in the movie's animation picks up where Dahl's imagination leaves off and magnifies James, the Peach, and the rest of the insectile characters.
5. Jaws (written by Peter Benchley; directed by Steven Spielberg)
The novel Jaws came out in 1974, a year before the film release. The differences between the movie and book are legendary: subplots and characters are very different. The giant ending change led to an argument between Benchley and Spielberg that resulted in Benchley's ejection from the film set. Fans of the book love its gritty resemblance to hardboiled detective stories and its Moby Dick parallels. The film version streamlines the plot details, builds strong characters, and is a hallmark of modern special effects - and a nostalgic staple for summer viewing.
We'd love to hear what movie adaptations you like! Share your thoughts in the comments below.