Exceptions to the 3 Rules of Movies

The 3 Rules of Movies according to Reloy, anyway. (Patent Pending.

My friends and I have a long standing discussion that seems perfect for this forum. We have come up with some “rules” for movies. Namely:

  1. Except for novelizations of previously released movies, the book is better than the movie. (i.e. If the book came first, it will trump the movie).

  2. The original is better than the remake.

  3. The original is better than the sequel.

We are working on a 4th rule, currently tentative (pending more reflection):
4) When TV shows are made from movies (or vice-versa), whichever came first is better.

Other than proving how obsessive and boring my conversations can be, I wanted to throw this out in this forum to ask two questions:

A) Can you think of similar generally applicable rules? I am looking for suggestions that are more universal than “Movies starring/ directed by/ produced by X suck” or "Movies of this genre suck).

B) Can you think of any exceptions? Here are a few candidates to get you started:

Rule 1 exceptions) I hated the novels for Forrest Gump and The Princess Bride (I know the book and movie were very similar, but the author’s introduction in the book made me dislike the guy and tainted my read.

Rule 2 exceptions) I can’t think of any. A friend mentioned Planet of the Apes, but I haven’t seen it.

Rule 3 exceptions) Road Warrior and Terminator 2 are debatable. In my circle, Godfather 2 and Empire Strikes Back are generally considered better.

Tentative Rule 4 exceptions) Two easy ones, Buffy and MASH.

Any others? Discuss.

Toy Story 2 is sometimes seen as a better movie than Toy Story. Can you believe that movie almost went straight to video? Thank goodness it didn’t!

I love Nick Hornby, but I liked High Fidelity the movie better. Could be John Cusack.

This is a great OP!

I would have to agree your rules are usually correct.

Although books have an obvious advantage of being able to go into great detail, I often enjoy the atmosphere and visualization of the movie. It can be fun to see one’s favourite characters brought to life. Movies better than the book than I can think of would include Blade Runner and The Shawshank Redemption. I have high hopes for the first Harry Potter movie.

I immediately thought of Godfather 2 as being better than the first Godfather before I got to the end of your post. Other better sequals would be **Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Aliens, and Terminator 2


  1. Except for novelizations of previously released movies, the book is better than the movie. (i.e. If the book came first, it will trump the movie).


  1. The original is better than the remake.

Planet of the Apes.

  1. The original is better than the sequel.

Star Trek II.

  1. When TV shows are made from movies (or vice-versa), whichever came first is better.

The Fugitive.

Your rules are sound. Nonetheless…

Remakes that were better than the originals: THE MALTESE FALCON was filmed twice before John Huston made the classic version with Humphrey Bogart. THE WIZARD OF OZ, FRANKENSTEIN, ROBIN HOOD, and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME were all filmed at least once before the classic versions. (Oddly, the THREE MUSKETEERS has been filmed roughly a zillion times without producing an indisputable classic, though I have a fondness for the jokey 70s versions by Richard Lester.)

Cases where the movie is better than the book: REAR WINDOW, PSYCHO, VERTIGO–heck, most Alfred Hitchcock adaptations with the exceptions of REBECCA, THE 39 STEPS, and maybe THE BIRDS. Hitchcock had a conscious strategy of adapting mediocre books. His feeling was that you can’t improve on a masterpiece, so why make films based on masterpieces?

Sequels that were better than the originals: Most Bond fans would aver that either TO RUSSIA WITH LOVE or GOLDFINGER is better than DR. NO. SUPERMAN II was better than SUPERMAN.

(I would also vote for book being better than movie in the case of both BLADE RUNNER and HIGH FIDELITY. But then, no one asked.)

Exception to 4: I haven’t seen enough of the TV series to agree or disagree personally, but many would say Highlander.

My choice for exception to rule #3 (Original better than sequels):


I liked Cameron’s take a lot better than Ridley Scott’s original (Dan O 'Bannon’s et al’s script stole shamelessly from 1950s flicks, especially the underappreciated It! The Terror from Beyond Space).

Actually, if the movie is part of a series , most of the series is an exception to the rule – it usually takes a while to hit their stride. I think most of the James Bond movies are better than Dr. No, and I like other Star Trek movies more than Star Trek: The Motion Picture, even though Robert Wise directed it.

More sequels better than originals:
Armor of God II: Operation Condor
Bride of Frankenstein
Dawn of the Dead
Evil Dead II
A Shot in the Dark
The World of Apu

More remakes better than the originals:
His Girl Friday
Imitation of Life
Scarlet Street
A Star Is Born
They Drive By Night
The Thief of Bagdad

In my opinion, “The Godfather” fits two of the three categories originally posted.

Francis Ford Coppola’s film version of “The Godfather” was 50 times better than Mario Puzo’s putrid novel. And, though it’s a close call, I think “The Godfather Part 2” was better than “The Godfather.”

Well, MAS*H the show is considered by some to be better than the movie.

Willy Wonka is better than Charly and the Chocolate Factory.

There are many sequels better than the original, including Terminator 2, Empire Strikes Back, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade(if you want to see blockbusters).


  1. Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” was one of the most scary and thrilling films ever. Peter Benchley’s novel was garbage - especially the hundreds of pages devoted to Chief Brody’s affair with Matt Hooper (who’s a WASPy blond adonis in the book).

  2. Many will disagree here, but I enjoyed the film “Field of Dreams” far more than W.P. Kinsella’s nove, “Shoeless Joe.” Kinsella has a smug, preachy, mean streak that’s blessedly absent from the film. (I know, many people probably preferred the book precisely BECAUSE of Kinsella’s snotty, mean streak.)

Here’s a theory I first heard offered by John Simon: a great novel will always be diminished by a film adaptation, precisely because you can’t convey brilliant use of language on film. But a mediocre novel can make for a magnificent film, because a good director and a good cast can give it layers of meaning that didn’t exist in the original novel.

Thus, you’ll never make a good film adaptation of Joyce’s “Ulysses,” but a trashy paperback like MArio Puzo’s “The Godfather” can make for a brilliant film.

Ooops! I meant that Chief Brody’s WIFE had an affair with Hooper in the novel, “Jaws.”

Though, frankly, an affair between Brody and Hooper WOULD have made Benchley’s novel more interesting!

There are plenty of exceptions (though those are pretty good rules of thumb):

The Road Warrior was better than Mad Max.
The novelization of Fantastic Voyage (by Isaac Asimov) was better than the movie.
Batman the movie was better than Batman the TV show.

I personally prefer the TV versions of MAS*H, Alien Nation and Stargate to the movie originals.

Disagree that the film version of The Fugitive was better than the TV series. They’re apples and oranges, so is Blade Runner and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.

Sir Rhosis

All the modern Sherlock Holmes are better than the old Basil Rathbone ones with that silly Nigel Bruce in them.

  1. While I love Police Squad! a great deal, I think the Naked Gun movies were better.


(I know this isn’t what you are looking for) But as long as we can agree that X = Steven Segal there is no problem.

Hey, maybe you can’t appreciate an action lama, gun-toting environmentalist who kills indiscriminately while protecting nature, but you have to admit the jigging old man in Fire Down Below and, to a lesser extent, The Patriot were really friggin’ cool!

“Dr. Strangelove” was based on a novel called “Red Alert”, which was written as a straight dramatic thriller. It was much better converted into the blackly comic movie.