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17 Films That Are Definitely Better Than The Original Book

What builds a fantastic film adaptation? If you ask us, it’s all about artistic freedom. Adaptations aren’t supposed to be exact replicas of their original story, and they’re often better off for it. Through reimagining of characters, storyline, environment, ideas, and patterns, a movie version should capture and celebrate the distinctive “essence” of the original work.

Although it is certainly possible to love both the book and the movie equally, for the sake of this article, we’ve chosen a few adaptations that I feel have a little advantage over the fantastic novels they’re based on.

#1 Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Based on: Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby Jr. (1978)
The all-star cast in Darren Aronofsky’s nightmare representation of drug addiction includes Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, and Marlon Wayans, but the attention is never on the performers. Instead, it’s the ferocity with which their characters’ excursions into addiction spirals are shown, with no happy endings and just grim train trips towards damnation. The innovative original novel, written by Hubert Selby Jr., was released in 1978, and while it is certainly a magnificent work of fiction, Aronofsky’s version elevates the original material to dizzying greater levels.

#2 A Simple Favor (2018)

Based on: A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell (2017)
Despite it being well-paced and planned, director Paul Feig’s version raises the stakes to new heights. Stephanie is also a lot more lovable and sympathetic in the flick, thanks to Kendrick’s endearing portrayal, but screen Emily is more frightening than her book version and seems just as elusive, intriguing, and deadly in the movie as everyone portrays her to be.

#3 Fight Club (1999)

Based on: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (1996)
Brad Pitt and Edward Norton are among the most energetic, exciting on-screen duos ever, and David Fincher’s brilliant filmmaking wonderfully captures the book’s frenzied, restless spirit. Ultimately, it’s a faithful translation of a novel with a sharp, attention-getting narrative voice, which is difficult to convey in cinema.

#4 Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

Based on: Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger by Lee Israel (2008)
Although the memoir is intriguing on itself, director Marielle Heller and screenwriters Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty breathe fresh life into this darkly funny narrative, which boasts some of McCarthy’s and co-star Richard E. Grant’s greatest on-screen performances.

#5 Blade Runner (1982)

Based on: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick (1968)
The novel was undoubtedly influential in the development of a new generation of science fiction stories, but the film adaptation, shot in the style of a classical neo-noir detective thriller, truly brings the original material to life. There are several modifications to the movie’s script, the most notable of which being the introduction of the phrases “blade runner” and “replicant,” and Deckard is now a gloomy bachelor who is a second-rate killer in the movie.

#6 Annihilation (2018)

Based on: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (2014)
Though VanderMeer’s novel is the first of an epic science fiction trilogy and earns all of the praises it’s received, there’s something about this depiction of mourning that works better in a visual format. The movie’s conclusion is both unsettling and inevitable. The film is, without a doubt, a deeply intimate experience to see.

#7 The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Based on: The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris (1988)
The film adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs is still spine-chilling. The acting is consistently excellent throughout the film, and while each performs admirably in their own right, the film has gone on to spark a whole new era of outstanding cannibal serial killer recreation, from the Hannibal television show to the CBS reboot Clarice, as well as all of the fantastic psychological thriller content that has followed.

#8 City of God (2002)

Based on: City of God by Paulo Lin (1997)
Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund’s film adaption focuses on the harsh surroundings of poverty-stricken favelas in the 1960s and 1980s. Although the narratives of ambitious drug traffickers are fascinating to see, they are nearly overshadowed by the compelling performances, sweeping photography, and stunning, blood-stained settings.

#9 Mean Girls (2004)

Based on: Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World by Rosalind Wiseman (2002)
The tone of the book is more solemn than that of the movie. It’s also far less fascinating and unforgettable than the snappy, hilarious, endlessly meme-able high school comedy-drama it created while being helpful and intelligent. Not to mention the racy Broadway theatrical spin-off, which, despite its campy tone, appeals to teenagers both then and now.

#10 The Shining (1980)

Based on: The Shining by Stephen King (1977)
Kubrick’s modified vision is ambiguous on several levels, very terrifying, and significantly darker than the original novel. In reality, I’ve watched The Shining several times, each time discovering new levels and ideas, and it took me a long time to finish King’s novel. Essentially, this film is a never-ending rabbit hole in addition to being terrifying.

#11 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Based on: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008)
Catching Fire the movie is no doubt based on a strong original story, but it adds new contextual layers to the narrative that elevate it from a run-of-the-mill YA adaptation to something far more special and fascinating. It is packed with subtle racial and class commentary, as well as clever reality TV mockery. The cruel, harsh dystopian world of the novels is so much scarier and captivating in a huge budget picture, especially during the Games itself, with their high-intensity graphic violence and dread.

#12 The Godfather (1972)

Based on: The Godfather by Mario Puzo (1969)
Francis Ford Coppola is credited with making The Godfather into one of the most remarkable cinematic achievements in contemporary history. Coppola streamlined the storyline, condensed the novel’s numerous subplots, and emphasized the mirrored connection between Don Vito Corleone and his successor Michael Corleone.

#13 Jurassic Park (1993)

Based on: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (1990)
The novel is thrilling and well-paced, but when I hear the word “movie magic,” We instantly think of the movie. While the picture is relatively light in contrast to the Spielberg and his team did an incredible job bringing the primitive predators to life.

#14 Jaws (1975)

Based on: Jaws by Peter Benchley (1974)
Unlike the book, Spielberg decides to omit meandering subplots like Chief Martin Brody’s wife having an affair with a marine researcher. Rather, the two-hour running time of the picture is used to drive up the stakes and tension, all set to John Williams’ Academy Award-winning music.

#15 The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Based on: Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (Different Seasons) by Stephen King (1982)
Because the movie’s narrative is lengthier than the novella’s, it builds on it significantly and adds some pretty killer payoff: a beautiful finale and a solid, completely fleshed-out relationship between Red and Andy with enough genuine heartfelt moments to make even the most hardened viewers cry.

#16 No Country for Old Men (2007)

Based on: No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy (2005)
Unlike in the novel, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell does not recount all of the incidents as he investigates a botched drug sale in rural Texas. His speeches are used in the film via voiceover in between sequences, however, it is a technique that is employed sparingly.

#17 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Based on: Actually, the namesake Arthur C. Clarke novel came after.
Even though both the movie and the book tackle the difficult topics of human evolution, the origins of consciousness, and the dangers of artificial intelligence, Kubrick’s movie remains the clear juggernaut, thanks to its awe-inspiring theme song, mind-blowing visual effects, and highly inventive non-linear story layout.

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