Friday, 9 January 2015

Films that were better than the book

Canvassing opinion this topic reveals that passions run deep on this one, perhaps even deeper than in the books we love/hate stakes.

Every film/book combo on this list I've seen argued in both directions with equally blank incomprehension at the idea that anyone could hold the opposite view.

I've made three contributions here. Partly because there aren't that many cases where I've both read the book and seen the film, and partly because generally I tend to think that the books are better!

I'm going to keep the focus on fantasy.

#1 How to train your dragon.

I read the book to my daughter and reviewed it on Goodreads. I enjoyed it, it was a good enough read. The film though, was (in my own humble opinion) much better.

The fundamental changes made for a better story. A bunch of boys training small dragons as part of the test to qualify to become full members of their clan - is changed to - a bunch of children training to battle large dragons to help preserve their clan. Our hero then becomes a ground breaker by befriending a (very well characterised) dragon and learning how to befriend/train others (all in secret), rather than a more modest innovator who in the book learns it's better to talk to your dragon and negotiate than just to shout at them as loudly as you can.

The addition of a love interest and both girls and boys into the fighting mix also helps make the film a better experience than the book (which to my mind lacked a little heart).

#2 The Never-Ending Story

Here I also read the book to my daughter and reviewed it on Goodreads. I watched the film probably 25 years earlier.

This one was a much closer call, with the film helped by the fact that I watched it so long ago. I wasn't a big fan of the film ... it was all right. I wasn't a big fan of the book, the first half (which the film was based on) was better than the film - but the second half (which I've seen one person praise to the sky) was for me as an adult reading it out loud, a dreary, repetitive, slog. I give it to the film in this case.

"That" song!

#3 The Shawshank Redemption

The last of mine, and not fantasy. This was a very good short story by Stephen King ... and a brilliant film directed by Frank Darabont - the highest ranked film of all time on!

Other film-better-than-book suggestions include:

The Princess Bride
American Psycho
Blade Runner vs Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
Die Hard vs Nothing Lasts Forever
The Green Mile
Fight Club

I can't comment because with the exception of The Green Mile I've seen the film but not read the book. For The Green Mile I've seen and liked both, with no clear favourite.

If anyone wants to put forward a brief case for or against in these cases then I'm happy to move it up into the blog.


  1. Total Recall! It's a much better story than "We can remember it for you Wholesale", which has no real action or plot. The movie, though, is aces.

    The original, of course. The sequel is bollocks

  2. I have always wanted to read the Princess Bride because the movie is in my top 5 favorites of all time. I usually side with books being better than the movie but the Princess Bride movie sets a high standard.

  3. I have to disagree with you about How to Train Your Dragon. Are you talking about the first book or the whole series? Because if it's just the first book, you have a point - it starts pretty slowly. But the series builds into a magnificent epic of one young man's struggle to stay true to himself and everything he believes in even when the odds are insurmountable and everyone he ever loved has turned their backs on him. He has to draw on strengths he never knew he had, fight for the lives of human and dragon alike while they show their gratitude by trying to kill him. It's a reluctant-hero/coming-of-age of some note, and I think it's one of the best children's series I have ever read - better than Harry Potter etc by a country mile.

    The movies, on the other hand, while entertaining enough and visually compelling, are just typical formulaic Hollywood predictability.

    1. I say 'the book', I link to my review of the book, I mean the book :)

    2. If the movie doesn't really follow "the book" so much as it does the setting/theme of the series (at least that's how I understood it, haven't read them, would have to ask my niece :P), is that even an adequate comparison?

      re:Neverending Story, possibly a bad translation? Haven't read the original in ages, but I generally like his stuff, especially loved The Night of Wishes (, although he really could've used a good editor, so many mistakes and typos.

  4. Two for the list of movies that improved on the original book:
    The Godfather (novel was ok, but had some dull subplots and lacked the emotional core the film achieved)
    Jaws (novel was ok, lacked the visceral impact of the movie, THAT MUSIC, and had a weird subplot where Hooper the marine biologist had an affair with the cop's wife).

  5. Fair enough. If you get the time though, I highly recommend carrying on thought the series. We mostly listen to the audio books on long journeys. David Tennant does a brilliant job of narrating.

  6. I second the Godfather.