UN-faithful movie adaptations of novels

Companion to faithful adaptations.

I just finished reading The Searchers by Alan LeMay. I love the movie, but I fast-forward several scenes every time I watch, and the ending requires some fanwanking to explain Ethan’s change of heart with regard to Debbie.

So I read the book, and sure enough, nothing that annoyed me was in the book. There were major story changes, probably made for a 1950’s audience, and to make John Wayne the focus. The book was entirely from Martin’s point of view, and included a lot of well-researched information on what Indians in that region were doing at that time.

The ending of the book is totally different. Ethan never tries to kill Debbie. Debbie isn’t Scar’s “squaw”; he’s a father figure to her. Ethan is shot and killed in the raid on Scar’s camp. Debbie runs away from the camp during the raid. Martin finds her. It’s open-ended as to what the two of them will do, whether they’ll return to their home places or start over somewhere else. They’re both at a loss.

I wouldn’t mind seeing a remake, if the Coen brothers would do it.

Bernard Malamud’s The Natural

Roy Hobbs takes money from The Judge to throw the playoff game. He gets the letter from Iris during the game telling him that she’s pregnant with his child and decides to play to win, only to strike out to end the game.

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman-

In some ways the movie is almost the reverse of the novel.

Both versions: Sally and Gillian Owens are taken to live with their witchcraft practicing aunts when their parents die. When they become young adults, Sally marries and has kids and Gillian leaves for greener pastures.

[spoiler]Film version: Sally and her husband buy a house and are deliriously happy along with their daughters until his death, when she and the girls move back in with the aunts, forbidding the children to be exposed to magick.

Novel version: Sally’s husband moves in with her and the aunts (who are a generation older in the book than in the movie, and far from being flamboyant middle aged women they’re very keep-to-themselves prim-and-proper old ladies [though it is an open secret that they have powers and they do charge for casting spells]). When her husband dies she actually leaves home, and far from saving her girls from magical exposure she begins to teach them herself [in events very different from the ones the book portrays].
Both have an excorcism, but the book is much darker while the movie goes for rom-com.[/spoiler]

John Irving’s Cider House Rules and James Michener’s Hawaii are two films that keep the name of the novel but concentrate on only a small part of the source material. The film of Cider House spans about 5 years while the novel spans well over 50, and Hawaii spans a generation and focuses on a missionary couple and an island’s ruling family while the novel spans, literally, millennia and has a zillion and four characters.

The Wind, a Lillian Gish movie from 1928, has a happy ending (which was tacked on).

The novel The Wind does not. Not in the least.

Same with Hitchcock’s Suspicion and the novel it’s based on, in both respects.

The Shining.

Do I really need to even bother explaining the differences?

The silly Matt Helm films have absolutely nothing to do with the novels.

As I’ve pointed out before in similar threads the movie version of My Sister’s Keeper changes the storyline Drastically. More importantly - Ron Howard in his horrible live action “Grinch” movie managed to miss the point of the book. A Dr Seuss book. (still angry).

Woody Allen’s Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask).

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter bore little resemblance to the book. It was a real shame, too, because I loved the book.

…to add actual content to the thread? Yes.

Especially since I don’t read King, and have been in the room with the TV for about thirty minutes of the film. :slight_smile:

Really, the other thread is more reasonable. Most films, it seems, make big changes to the novel, and they’re rarely because of filmability – they change things for better audience response, or because the star wants it that way, or the director does, or some other irrelevant reason.

1.) practically all of the James Bond movies. A few of them 9especially early on) tried to be relatively faithful – although usually with one big difference – including Goldfinder and From Russia with Love. Don’t bother me with the other examples – I know them too well. But they’re definitely the exception rather than the rule.

2.) Ice Station Zebra --there’s a sub, and an intelligence station in the arctic, and a saboteur aboard the sub. But everything else is different.

3.) The Osterman Wekend – vastly different.

4.) Frankenstein – don’t start. Even the two most faithful versions (Victor Frankenstein and Kenneth Branaugh’s) made big changes. Ditto for all versions of Dracula.

5.) The Puppet Masters

6.) Bonfire of the Vanities – they wrote an entire book about how this one went off the rails.

7.) The African Queen and The Pride and the Passion – When adapting a C.S. Forester book for the screen, give it a happy ending. At least in Sink the Bismark! they didn’t have to (from the British point of view) – the Bismark sank.


The book: excellent fun featuring gangsters, secret hideouts, etc.

The movie: Disneyfied (although not made by Disney) crap. They even pull the standard Disney trick of making the father of the family a widower, so a love interest can be introduced. Because, y’know, people who are married to each other couldn’t possibly be in love…


Weren’t there major changes in the 1977 TV mini series “Washington: Behind Closed Doors” that was based on the novel “The Company” by Nixon aide John Ehrlichman? I have not read or seen either, but I remember at the time the producers saying their version was what Ehrlichman couldn’t tell.

I don’t remember “Bridge on the River Kwai” or “Planet of the Apes” being especially faithful to Pierre Boulle’s novels.

There is a 1930 film of “Moby Dick” that has Ahab (John Barrymore) returning home to his girl (Joan Bennett).

Good point; but there are still those that stand out for their almost complete lack of resemblance to the novel (some of which you listed).

My favorite gripe in this regard is Disney’s The Jungle Book. The Jungle Books were among my favorite reads in childhood, and certainly a major theme was the dignity of animals. Disney completely trashed that, going for the standard goofy-animal yuks.

Have we mercifully forgotten the versions of Scarlet Letter and Hunchback of Notre Dame that gave the books happy endings?

As I’vre said regarding Hunchback – I don’t think there’s been a single film version that’s really faithful to Victor Hugo’s book (although someone has suggested the Anthony Quinn version. I haven’t seen it.) Even the lauded Charles Laughton version has Quasimodo survive at the end. The silent Lon Chaney version has Quasi die, but Esmeralda gets to live. I understand the dislike of Disney’s “happy” ending, but it’s not as if they’re the only ones who changed the book.

It wasn’t a novel but The Lawnmower Man is the poster child for this.

It’s been many years since I read the book or watched the movie, but I recall that The Running Man bore little resemblance to Stephen King’s novel.

I think the 1967 version of Casino Royale deserves a special mention!