Every time Hollywood studios turn popular books into films, most fans of the books will always coin the term “The book is better”. I’m quite sure fans of The Hobbit and Jack Reacher books are already saying that. Most of the time they’re right, as an avid reader myself, I used that term many times after I saw a film based on a book that I read and liked. I believe some books just aren’t meant for the big screen, for example Cormac McCarthy’s The Road was an excellent novel but the film version was average at best. I think the story just fit better in the written form and just didn’t transfer well onto the big screen. Then there are Stephen King’s epic The Dark Tower books which Ron Howard is still trying to get off the ground. I’m a huge fan of the books but I just don’t know if it will translate well into films.
Once in a while though, Hollywood actually made films that ended up being better than its original source. Below are the films I thought were better than the book version.
5. The Hunt For Red October
This film was based on Tom Clancy’s popular book was one of the biggest hits of 1990. I have to confess that I saw the film version first before reading the novel, but usually I ended up loving the book more. But for this one I firmly believe the film version is superior. To me the book has too much going on with introduction to so many characters while the film only focuses on the hunt for the submarine, Red October. Also, with the excellent performances by Alec Baldwin, Sean Connery, Scott Glenn, Sam Neil and James Earl Jones and a tight direction by John McTiernan, it’s a great thriller.
Stephen King was one of my favorite writers growing up, I think I’ve read most of his novels, even the bad ones. So when it was announced that the film version of Misery was coming out, I decided to read the book before seeing the film. I thought it’s an excellent novel but I had second thought about seeing the film version. If you read the book then you know how gruesome it was. To my surprise when I finally saw the film, most of the gruesome stuff was never shown and I think that made the film much better than the book. Kathy Bates was perfectly cast as the crazy Annie and James Caan was excellent as the helpless Paul Sheldon. Rob Reiner decided to turn it into a psychological thriller instead of horror worked perfectly in my opinion. Yes he showed us the infamous leg smashing scene but in the book, Annie chopped off one of Paul’s legs with an axe, so yeah I did not want to see that on the screen.
3. Children of Men
Based on P.D. James’ 1992 novel The Children of Men, director Alfonso Cuarón did a wonderful job of capturing what James wrote on the pages and also injected his own interpretation to the story. The book start out kind of slow but once the plot kicked in, it’s very similar to the film version. Of course the film cut out a few things from the book, for example in the book, all young people was viewed as celebrities because of their youth and that old people were forced into committing suicide. I was hoping to see that get a mention in the film. But the main reason I thought the film version was better is because it didn’t have a clichéd Hollywood ending, while the book’s ending has this sort of high noon standoff shootout that I didn’t think fit the story whatsoever. I’m glad Cuaron changed it and made it into sort of open to interpretation as to what’s going to happen to that society.
2. No Country for Old Men
I’m a big fan of Cormac McCarthy and I’ve never thought that anyone could ever turn one of his books into a great film, let alone made it better than his written words. But that’s what happened here. The Coen Brothers’ film version is to me a near masterpiece, they were able to translate McCarthy’s beautiful written words into an almost flawless motion picture. The casting of Tommy Lee Jones as the old man who can’t seem to grasp the ever-changing violence in modern day society is pitch perfect. Then of course the performance by Javier Bardem as the unstoppable killer Anton Chigurh was pretty incredible. I can watch that scene where he picked on the clerk at a gas station over and over again. I went back and read the book again after seeing the film and I still believe the film’s better.
1. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? a.k.a Blade Runner
I’ve read a lot of Phillip K. Dick’s work and this book may have been his most straightforward story. In the film, Ridley Scott was able to expand some of the concepts in Dick’s book and made them even better in my opinion. I think one of the main reasons why I prefer the film version is because the book has too much religious theme for my liking. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing; just that I’m not a religious person. Also, in the book the Replicants or robots that Deckard was hunting for didn’t have a personality, while in the film they acted and talked like humans. But the main reason why I prefer the film is because I believe it has a deeper meaning than the book. What I got out of the film was that we as human takes life for granted while these Replicants would do anything, including murder, to live longer. The tears in rain speech Roy gave to Deckard near the end sums up nicely of why he saved Deckard’s life, a beautiful scene.
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So those are some films I thought were better than their original source, do you have other films you’d like to add to the list?