I have a feeling I’m going to get some serious disagreement on a few of these, and that’s fine with me. The reality is that sometimes movies are better than the books they are based on. The following seven are my choices:
The Silence of the Lambs (The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris)
I could never get into Harris’ writing. I tried and found myself completely uninterested. The movie, however, is amazing for reasons that have nothing to do with the book. Anthony Hopkins is so creepy in this it’s hard not to think of him as Hannibal whenever you see him elsewhere. The movie does so much for the horror/thriller than many other films have failed so miserably at for decades. The book, I’m afraid, never created the same feeling for me.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens)
I have nothing against Dickens, but if you’re going to try to recreate the old Brit’s fantastic Christmas story in a musical, puppet-laden, goody for the kids, then you have to use Muppets. This movie has always had a special place in my heart, and the book can never do that for me. Singing Muppets and a very scroogey Michael Caine make this one simply a classic. And yes, I know it’s ridiculous and corny. I don’t care.
The 13th Warrior (Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton)
There’s something about that book that is both fascinating and boring as hell. The audiobook didn’t help alleviate this either. But, Antonio Banderas and some adequate looking northmen make for an action-packed fantasy yarn. The book? It’s kind of like trying to read Lord of the Rings now that the movies have been made to glorious effect. Which brings us to…
The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien)
Look, Tolkien was a genius. I’m not denying that and nobody should. He did something that nobody has ever successfully replicated and he deserves all the credit for it. But the man could not write an engaging paragraph to save his life. His prose is so utterly stilted and almost purple that trying to read Tolkien is like trying to have a calm conversation with someone while being melted in a vat of molten metal: it’s just damned painful. The movies? Gorgeous and brilliant in ways that defy logic. The films should have failed. Peter Jackson and the rest of his crew were taking on something that almost everyone agreed could not be filmed. And they did it. Not only adequately, but bloody well. They created a trilogy of classic films that took all the ugly fat out of Tolkien’s novels and thickened up forgotten plots to create an astonishing visual masterpiece. The movies are just so good. Like really good cake.
The Minority Report (The Minority Report by Philip K. Dick)
I’m a huge PKD fan. I love his novels, but his shorts, often, lack something. I think much of PKD’s brilliance is found in his longer works, so when filmmakers took The Minority Report and expanded it into a feature film, I was pleasantly surprised. The original story isn’t bad, but the movie is a fine example of excellent science fiction and Spielberg-ian flare.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams)
I’m probably going to catch hell for this one, but the recent adaptation of Douglas’ series is, in my opinion, far better than the books. I like Douglas, and he is quite funny, but the man had no concept of comedic timing. His jokes tend to run into each other endlessly until you forget what the hell he was talking about at the start. The movie, however, took all of that, and cut away until the visuals matched the words and most of the good jokes were still present. It was not a perfect movie, and I certainly have reservations about some of the cast, but, come on, at least the damned movie didn’t get lost in endless jokes without anything happening for ten pages!
Jurassic Park (Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton)
Poor Michael Crichton. He’s not a bad writer, but sometimes the movie versions are simply better. In the case of Jurassic Park, the movie managed to trim the fat in much the same way as the adaptation of Douglas’ series did. The book isn’t bad at all, but the movie manages to keep a tighter pace and create a kind of terror that the books never could for me (the movie scared the hell out of me when I was a kid, by the way).
And there you have it! Send your hate mail to arconna[at]yahoo[dot]com. Or, just leave a very nasty comment on this page! Suggestions and opinions are welcome too. What movies did you see that were better than the book, and why?