Film Adaptations Better than the Book

In almost every ‘which is better, book or movie?’ debate, the book wins. For a plethora of reasons, from intense detail to unique character-building, books are almost always dubbed better than their adaptations.

But what about the film adaptations that are better than their original book?
Offer several examples of adaptations better than their original. Discuss what they do so correctly that allows them to win this battle.

Do they take away the difficult language of a book to make an important story more accessible? Are the characters better rounded and more realistic? Does the film cut out unnecessary details that are included in the book? Is there a changed detail that improves a film — different setting, different main character, different conclusion, perhaps. Is it simply a case of visuals portraying the content better than words can (say, an intense action sequence for example).

There could be ANY number of reasons and ANY number of films to be discussed.
This topic does run the risk of coming across as too subjective though, so ensure that sound analysis is offered to justify your claims.

  • I like this topic, but I would hesitate to characterize any movie or book as "better" than the other adaptation, because that's strictly a matter of opinion. What I would do instead is, focus on how books and films are completely different mediums, as well as how and why certain books lend themselves better to film adaptations. I might start with longer-form books, such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The books are great, but as someone who read them, I'd say they're also a slog. The movies definitely communicate the books' messages more clearly, and leave more room for discussion/exploration. – Stephanie M. 3 years ago
  • I'm so glad you brought up this topic! I don't believe books are always automatically better than their film counterparts. Perhaps it is also a matter of upholding whatever came first. As you mention, there are many films which are based off of an initial written text. What about the case, though far less common, of films where a book was written in conjunction with or second to the film? For example, one of my favorite films is The Third Man. The screenplay was written by Graham Greene, who also developed a novella version. The book does a good job of illustrating certain details one might miss in the film, but the film is a masterpiece when it comes to "underplaying." It only says what it needs to, which makes it so memorable and striking. I also prefer the film adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany's to Truman Capote's novella, despite the fact that the film departs quite a bit from the source material. One of the reasons is I found Audrey Hepburn's version of Holly Golightly far more vulnerable and sympathetic a character. Truman Capote lingered on the superficiality of his characters, which left me feeling uninterested by comparison. – aprosaicpintofpisces 3 years ago
  • You managed to rehash a contentious issue among art lovers. As has been stated in prior posts, adaptations are analyzed ad infinitum. Yet in terms of this topic, I think you could argue slightly different, for a change of pace. All writing goes through drafting phases and all authors go through periods of productivity and delay or self-doubt. That said, how can we destroy a film adaptation that is merely going through a rough phase, on its merry way to the final version? Doesn't sound fair to the director. As far as adaptation goes, an author that is true to his craft and steadfast to the theme will inevitably produce the elusive masterpiece,followed by an equally acclaimed film adaptation, one may argue. Another incumbent will fumble the narrative by second-guessing the motive and the medium, failing to strike a vital chord with the audience in the process. Nevertheless, it's a valid concern. There is a documentary on The Virgin Suicides that makes the case for inclusion of the writer within the filming process. Of course, Sofia Coppola has the ultimate say over the characterization of the narrative. But the author of that novel, Jeffrey Eugenides, was a vital component behind the dialogue, the mood, and the setting. Also, it is not uncommon for the reverse to occur and achieve rather successfully. For instance, the Star Trek TV episode "All the Yesterdays" made a seamless foray into a series of acclaimed novel tie-ins by A.C. Crispin. The onscreen romance between Spock and Zarabeth translated into two compelling novels on time travel and a supposed offspring between the pair. A compelling factor in this debate is circumstances. The ancient Greeks wrote dramatic recollections of events that moved audiences of the time and to this day in practically every discipline that has emerged since then. But, in those times there were no motion pictures to reclaim those texts. Then, Shakespeare entered the picture with an equal fervor for shining light on the pressing matters of his day. Presently, we submit to the same appetite for literary escape with authors such as J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins, probably as eagerly as the Greeks and the British did in the early days of the art. In those times as is today, the stage was the medium for the written script. I venture to guess that audiences had their preferences for certain actors and theatres when reading the written play was not a viable option nor a preference. Perhaps, it may be that reading the plot in the comfort of a familiar setting with pleasant music or refreshment is the reason why some people opt for this method of entertainment. Indeed, the pace of a book or the flash of color and splash of sound in a film is what draws fans to each particular venue. So, an author's style or an actor's appeal may be the reasons why people turn to different sources of entertainment, including the online variety. I suppose radio producers had the same challenges in their respective field that could be incorporated into this topic. – L:Freire 3 years ago
  • I feel like this topic has been discussed over and over again over the past year. I believe there may be an article about this topic on the site over the past year. – Sean Gadus 3 years ago
  • I feel like we have almost moved past the "which is better?" question. Growing up it was always comparing the film to the source text, but as I become older I find myself comparing the media less often. I focus on if the adaptation did the source text justice, and if the changes that were made were justifiable. The film version of Gone Girl, for example, sticks to the novel pretty nicely, but with some detail changes that both enhance and take away from the book. While films like Annihilation and I'm Thinking of Ending Things are different visions from the source texts, and I respect them both for what they are. They almost become separate stories, but so long as the intent of the source text is respected, then I can happily enjoy the film versions. – Benedetto 3 years ago
  • I think this is an awesome topic. I recently took a literature and cinematic adaptations course and it was probably one of the best classes I've ever taken. The plethora of subject choices for this topic leaves the submission possibilities endless. Seeing some of the other comments in regards to the 'what's better' stance, I think having an opinion, as long as you provide your reasoning, makes for great reading/ writing. However, I do think an interesting twist to that line of thought would be s to examine whether or not the written work complements the cinematic version, are they sisters or do they seem to be unrelated whatsoever? Awesome topic! – megantheninja 3 years ago

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