Movies superior to the books they are based on

The Godfather IV thread got me thinking about this.

Usually, it seems like a film – even a good film – based on a preexisting work of fiction is inferior to the work upon which it is based. For example, the Harry Potter films – I liked the second film quite a bit, but it nonetheless doesn’t have the same spark as the book.

The big exception to this, at least for me, is The Godfather: Puzo’s novel is quintessential beach-reading crap. But the films (I and II) are arguably among the best ever made.

What other films fit into this category? Obviously, post-release novelizations don’t count – the film must be based on a preexisting literary work. That’s the only rule. What do you think, Dopers?

*Blade Runner
Princess Bride
The Wizard of Oz
Before anyone jumps on me, I’m not saying the original books weren’t good, just that I liked the movies better. I tried to think of a movie made in the last five years but couldn’t.

Stephen King thinks the movie version of Carrie is better than his book and I tend to agree.

I think The Princess Bride is a better movie, but then I’d seen the movie approximately 237 times before I’d read the book. It clarified a few things (like that Buttercup is supposed to be rather dense) but mostly it seemed to have a forced cutsieness coupled with long-windedness, whereas the movie is breezy and fun.

A Simple Plan is at least equal to the book it was based on. Both are hideously suspenseful and so effective that I felt guilty along with the characters, just watching and reading!

The Silence of the Lambs is a good book, but the movie is the scariest I’ve ever seen. I think it’s a bit better than the book.

I hate to say it, but “Forrest Gump” was better then the book it was based on, which was easy since the book was complete garbage.

I agree with Forrest Gump


The book was nothing short of horrible.

Cider House Rules

The movie cut a good amount of the gore; I couldn’t get past the first 100 pages of the book without getting queasy. Come to think of it, I never finished that book…


I actually liked The Heiress better than the Henry James novel, Washington Square, on which it was based.

Oh. and the Clara Bow movie It was much better than the Elinor Glyn novel!

The Hunger. Not a particularly good movie, but a VAST improvement upon the book while remaining very faithful to it. Every dumb thing in the movie comes directly from the book, and the book is full of dumb things the scriptwriters managed to write out or work around.

Stand By Me

Originally a short story from Stephen King that wasn’t much to write home about. I was surprised when they announced a movie based on it.

Fellowship of the Ring. Really. Peter Jackson conventionalized the book, shortening the parts that keep many people from getting into it, adding more character development, and obviously adding proportionally more action.

Fight Club. The stuff Fincher left out deserved to be cut and the additions were pretty good.

And A Christmas Story was a lot better than In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.

True- but I rather liked the ending of the Jean Shepard story. In case you didn’t know, in the story, the kid DOES ultimately shoot his eye out.

Having just read Fellowship of the Ring, I have to heartily agree. The movie did a much better job of telling the story. I expect to find the same is true of the second book once I read it.

I second Blade Runner.

Though it was only loosely based on a few chapters of Dick’s Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, it seemed to capture the feel of squalor on Earth and the determined desperation (huh?) of the Replicants much better than the book did. I liked the book. Loved the movie.

Psycho was a minor horror novel until Hitchcock filmed it and improved it immensely.

D’Entre les Morts was written specifically in order to have Alfred Hitchcock make a move of it. The book was only so-so and Hitchcock used it to create Vertigo, which diverged quite a bit from the novel and is considered a truly great film.

Hitchcock’s Rear Window is also a big improvement on the original story.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers was a third-rate SF novel, even in its time. The original movie is a classic.

Greed seems to have been much better in scope than MacTeague, though the novel is a pretty good one, and, of course, no one alive has ever seen Greed in the way it was intended.

Then, there was 2001: A Space Oddysey.

An odd case here. The film said it was based on the book by Clarke. The book acknowledges Kubrik and the movie. IIRC, they were released at the same time (or near), and Kubrik and Clarke collaborated on the story. Interesting differences in the two, though…

The movie, though some think it boring and slow now, was a masterpiece of the time. The book was an outstanding work of art.

Equals? Sure.

What Ellen said. I hate being pre-empted.

Re: LOTR, I think it depends on why you’re reading. For pure story purposes, I think it’s right that the film is better than the book – if nothing else, the films are well-paced while the books are very uneven.

On the other hand, if you’re in it for the detailed creation of an alternate world, the books necessarily runs rings around the film.

A similar issue arises with regard to Tom Clancy novels: if you just want story, they can be kind of clunky. But if you want a detailed description of every last nut and bolt on a submarine, the novels are the way to go.

I thought Jurassic Park was slightly better than the book, although the book was decent.

I’m not sure it’s fair to include Blade Runner in this debate. The movie is so far removed from the book all they really have in common is the basic premise, along with the vision of a society in decay.

And I can think of a MILLION movies that were worse than
the books that inspired them. Dune, Battlefield Earth, the list is endless.