Can a Movie Beat the Book?




It's an age-old debate: what's better, the book or the movie? It seems that the trend of recent years is to make movie renditions of books that fall flat in the eyes of their well-read audiences. Bringing a book to like in a movie can be as hard as turning an oil painting into a sculpture, a rap song into a country hit, or frankly spaghetti into a cannoli-- sometimes it just doesn't work. But why? Have any movies succeeded?

We can't really blame movies and their directors, producers, etc. on a bad translation for quite a few reasons. Here's my top three:

  1. They're limited to a 2-3 hour time block- No movie-goer wants to sit in the movie theater for more than about 3 hours TOPS. How long did it take you to read the book? Eight days, you say? Exactly. The can't keep everything.
  2. You had your own ideas- The great things about reading is that you're able to picture the story in your head without actually seeing it. Don't be upset when the filmmaker's picture is a little different--he can't read your mind. 
  3. You know EVERYTHNG- When you read a book, you see the whole situation 360 degrees around. You're in people's heads, you see what they don't, etc. Books with lots of inner dialogue can be the most challenging to replicate in movie form. Do you really want the movie actors talking to themselves through the whole film? It'd be kinda weird, even if it would help with character and plot development.

Move adaptations are call adaptations for a reason: filmmakers have to adapt the book's material into another form, and some things just get lost in translation.




It's easy to assume that because of these limitations, films are NEVER as good as or better than their books, however according to Buzzfeed (which is totally a reliable source), there are 39 movies in the past three decades that have completely blown their books out of the water. I wasn't even aware that some of these were movies, but if you read the last post, you may also recognize some of these as the highest scoring movies on Rotten Tomatoes. Here's the movies:

  1. Psycho (1960)
  2. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
  3. The Graduate (1967)
  4. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  5. The Godfather (1972)
  6. Jaws (1975)
  7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
  8. The Shining (1980)
  9. Blade Runner (1982)
  10. Stand By Me (1986)
  11. The Princess Bride (1987)
  12. Die Hard (1988)
  13. Misery (1990)
  14. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  15. The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
  16. Jurassic Park (1993)
  17. Forrest Gump (1994)
  18. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  19. Jumanji (1995)
  20. L.A. Confidential (1997)
  21. Starship Troopers (1997)
  22. Jackie Brown (1997)
  23. Fight Club (1999)
  24. A Requiem for a Dream (2000)
  25. The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003)
  26. Mystic River ( 2003)
  27. The Notebook (2004)
  28. Casino Royale (2006)
  29. The Prestige (2006)
  30. Children of Men (2006)
  31. The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
  32. No Country for Old Men (2007)
  33. Stardust (2007)
  34. There Will Be Blood (2008)
  35. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
  36. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009) *Shooting this one down, it was my favorite book as a kid. No chance. 
  37. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
  38. Drive (2011) *What?
  39. Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) *Also whaaaaat?

*As you can tell, I don't agree with all of these, and that's ok. That's the beauty of this debate. Read Buzzfeed's reasoning here.

So what do you think? Can the movie really be better than the book?

Written by Katherine White / March 24, 2017