Saturday, May 13, 2017

Megan’s Pick: 8 Times the Movie Was Better Than the Book [Contributor: Megan Mann]

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We’ve all been there. We’ve walked out of a movie theater and heard someone groan as they throw away their popcorn bucket: “Ugh, that was so not as good as the book!”

In a world full of book adaptations on both the big and small screen, this is pretty common. People take to their social media accounts and complain that the best parts were left out or their favorite scenes were cut, that the plot was changed or something was added to make it more cinematically appealing to audiences.

But what about the books turned Hollywood that don’t leave a bad taste in someone’s mouth? What about the books that end up having a better movie adaptation? What of those that make you think, "Huh, that was actually better than the book"?

(Trust me, it’s a thing, pals!)

Yes, though rare, there are instances where the movies tend to actually be better than their original source material. I know what you’re thinking, and it actually is possible. So let’s take a look at a few of those instances and discuss them.

Slumdog Millionaire

Originally titled Q & A by Vikas Swarup, 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire tells the story of Jamal as he participates in India’s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? While that aspect of the book is still in play, the character — originally named Ram — never had a lifelong romance with Latika nor did he have a brother named Salim. He still knew the answers to the questions from his life experiences, but it was disjointed and lacked the flow of the film’s narrative.

What the book lacked in fluidity and heart, the movie more than made up for. Instead of fleeting glimpses into his life, we get full memories and are given a much more encouraging story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, but I felt the movie gave the story the extra oomph it needed to really hit home. (And that’s not a direct statement about Dev Patel and my deep love for him either!)

The Notebook

Yes, everyone has seen this movie. I can’t even count the number of people who talk about this movie regularly and it’s been over ten years since it came out! It’s a love story to hit the deepest corners of your heart and soul, and takes stabs at your emotions the whole time.

But not so much in the book. Sure, we can give it a little bit of wiggle room since this was Sparks’ first novel and was nowhere near the emotional juggernaut he’s at now. But the book is lacking. Instead of giving us this beautiful backstory of Noah and Allie’s love and how it came to be, there are maybe three paragraphs that give us an insight into it and that’s it. It takes away from all of that build-up — all of that attachment just isn't there.

The movie makes us believe in their love and that it can withstand anything, even the degenerative disease that afflicts Allie. While the book has heart, the movie really brings it all together and makes you feel so deeply that you still can’t make it through the whole thing without crying.

Every single time.

Mary Poppins

Talk about a true classic in both the literary and cinematic world! Yes, Mary Poppins is one of the most popular musicals of all time (and was also a well-beloved book series prior to Disney finally getting P.L. Travers to sign on the dotted line). And rightfully so! It’s a whimsical story about a nanny who sweeps in on the wind and tends to the children until she’s no longer needed — all while taking them on magical adventures that they can’t quite explain.

I read the first two books last year, the first with the little girl I nanny and the second alone. And what was so great about the movie was just sort of lost in the books. You can blame Disney magic if you want, but Mary Poppins just wasn’t as accessible in the books. She was strict and vain and wasn’t exactly the nicest person. The story somewhat dragged on and you weren’t really all that upset to see her go.

Sure, the movie has musical breaks and the character of Bert isn’t just a few page blip, but a full-fledged person. But it makes Mary Poppins softer, more enjoyable and more of a nanny we all wish we had. Seriously, save the trouble of reading the book and just enjoy Chim-Chim-Cheree instead.


Never have I come across a more realistic and perfect love story than that of Julie Baker and Bryce Loski. The story of two eighth-graders coming to terms with what love really means, how being opposites is a good thing, and how a person can be more (or less) than the sum of their parts is truly beautiful.

I’ve also never seen a more flawless adaptation. There are full pages of dialogue taken from the book and remain intact in the film. It’s absolutely stunning because Wendelin Van Draanen has some of the most realistic quotes about love possible.

But how, then, is the movie better than the book? Simple. While the book is written in modern time, the movie instead takes place in the late 1950s/early 1960s, in a much simpler time. It makes it easy for the innocence and the integrity of the story to shine through, whereas if it had been placed now, it wouldn’t maintain that. It’s simply one of the best love stories and its change of time makes it even more perfect than it already was.

Into the Wild

This film is based on the book by Jon Krakauer. It tells the story of Christopher McCandless as he gives up all of his worldly possessions, donates his savings, and seeks meaning in the Alaskan wilderness. He meets characters that shape who he becomes and reminds him of what it means to truly live — but ultimately, he meets his end.

What the movie does is strip away all of the tangents that the book goes on. You’re supposed to be focusing on the story of McCandless, but Krakauer gives you asides about similar stories and how they ended and so on, and it takes away from what the heart of the story is. While the history and the asides worked beautifully in shaping the tragedy in his book Into Thin Air (a book I simply cannot recommend enough), it takes away from Christopher’s journey more than it adds to it.

Sean Penn took it upon himself to tell Christopher’s story in a truly beautiful way — a visually stunning and wonderfully cast film that has an even more breathtaking soundtrack by Eddie Vedder. It takes away the asides and gives you the story of one man’s search for meaning. It’s astonishing.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

This was, of course, always going to be a better movie than it would be a book. Why, you ask? Simple: We actually see the chocolate factory, the chocolate river and the edible flowers, Violet turning violet, and Veruca being weighed as a bad egg.

The book is full of imagery, but the film gives us those visuals and has us dreaming of all of the everlasting gobstoppers we can handle. It’s as simple as that: this was meant to be a movie. It’s stood the test of time and there’s no one who wouldn’t want to step foot into Dahl’s version of a candy factory.


I cannot even begin to describe how many times I read Louis Sachar’s classic when I was younger. This might have been the only other book I read over and over again other than Ella Enchanted when I was in elementary school.

But the film still manages to make some improvements on its source material: instead of going back and forth about the bad luck of the Yelnats family, it instead focuses on Stanley heading to Camp Green Lake as his sentence for stealing a pair of sneakers and the fate he makes for himself while there. He meets Zero and discovers they’re somehow entwined and he finds himself breaking the curse and exploiting the camp for what it really is.

The film stays in motion instead of going back and forth detailing how these fates are all entwined and what Stanley needs to do to fix it. It gives us a flashback or two, sure, but it doesn’t rest the whole story on them. Plus, vintage Shia is sure to make anything better than its book.

The Longest Ride

Yes, Nicholas Sparks makes this list just one more time. While his books are generally better than their films (I will not ever be okay with the changes made to Dear John), this accompanies The Notebook as its movie being a far better version than the original.

The book tells the story of Luke and Sophia, two youngsters whose story at some point intertwines with Ira and Ruth’s story. However, it goes back and forth too often and lacks connection. In the film, Luke and Sophia are on their way home and discover a car driven off the road and find Ira and his box of letters. This starts a friendship they didn’t anticipate and they learn of the love story that spanned decades and bolstered a pretty extensive art collection.

It works better as a film because the Ira chapters are him stuck in the car wreck for days talking to the ghost of his wife instead of Sophia reading the letters to him and it fitting into the context of the story. It feels way too haphazard in the book and doesn’t really fit together. The two stories are married together much more harmoniously in the film and does a much better job of portraying the story. I would also strongly advise against listening to the audiobook, as I have done so for you and did not enjoy it in the slightest.

While I’m sure that there are other rare instances where the film is better than the book, these are just a few to remind you that it is possible. Sometimes, we feel so deeply for the books we love and cannot imagine a movie capturing their essence, but we have to admit that sometimes, movies can be better than their literary counterparts.

So, next time you head to the movie theater or turn on your TV, remember that you may be pleasantly surprised. Go in with an open mind, my friends!

1 comment:

  1. Atonement is a movie I loved and thought the book was just ok. Also the book and the movie of Silver Linings Playbook were both so different that I couldn't even compare them. I loved both, but I can't say one is better than the other.