Movies better than their books
Once a book makes the transition from page to screen, you know lots of people are going to claim that the book was better than the film. But sometimes, just sometimes, the movie adaptation actually surpasses the book.
From the casting choices, plot changes, additional or stripped back dialogue, there are many ways that the medium of film can improve a story. Here are a few films that bucked the trend and beat the book.
Les Misérables (2012)
Directed by: Tom Hooper
Based on the book: Les Misérables (1862) by Victor Hugo
Les Misérables is one of the longest books ever written, coming in at a staggering 1,500 pages in the unabridged English editions, so you can be forgiven for giving that one a miss. Some may argue that the film adaptation is also one of the longest films ever made, but the 158 minutes running time goes a long way to capture the story of Jean Valjean, Prisoner 24601, and the political turmoil in Paris. Basically, TL;DR and you get to watch Hugh Jackman instead.
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Directed by: David Frankel
Based on the book: The Devil Wears Prada (2003) by Lauren Weisberger
It seems as if Meryl Streep was born to play the role of icy editor-in-chief Miranda Priestly, and the meanness of the character was reportedly toned down before Streep thankfully stepped in to the role. The famous ‘Cerulean Speech’, where Miranda lectures Andy on her disregard for fashion, doesn’t appear in the book and is probably the greatest scene in the film, making it one (high-heeled) step above the book.
Fight Club (1999)
Directed by: David Fincher
Based on the book: Fight Club (1996) by Chuck Palahniuk
Spoiler alert, but the ending to David Fincher’s adaptation of Fight Club is completely different to the one in the book. In the novel, the Narrator ends up placed in a mental institution, while in the film we’re treated to a tidier and better resolution, and a great closing shot of the Narrator and Marla Singer holding hands as they watch the skyscrapers come tumbling down. Who could forget the great closing track too, as the somewhat ironically titled Pixies track ‘Where Is My Mind’ plays us out.
American Pyscho (2000)
Directed by: Mary Harron
Based on the book: American Pyscho (1991) by Bret Easton Ellis
Bret Easton Ellis’s novel spends a lot of time describing the boring lives of boring people in minute detail to emphasise their vapid consumerist lifestyles, but as a result you might find yourself skipping ahead a few pages or two. The film, meanwhile, manages to maintain the same social commentary and keep your attention fixed. The business card scene is a perfect example of this, as we watch Patrick Bateman’s fragile ego take a hit by his rival’s superior business card design.
Thankfully, the film tones down a lot of the violence in the book too, otherwise it would never have gotten past the Board of Film, but a lot of the murders that take place in the book are referenced throughout the film to keep Ellis fans happy.
Directed by: Joe Wright
Based on the book: Atonement (2001) by Ian McEwan
While the film adaptation of Atonement doesn’t divert too wildly from the book, the film does strip away a lot of the character’s internal monologues, which helps to increase the urgency and tension of the sprawling story. The surprise twist is also more shocking in the movie, as we’re treated to a fully-formed fantasy future where Cecilia and Robbie are finally reunited, whereas the book merely alludes to it. The sting in the tail is all the more powerful in the film because of it.
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