With IT killing it at the movies and terrorising children everywhere, its got many returning to pick up the original book by Stephen King. This got me thinking about that old, albeit annoying saying, “Well, the book was better than the movie”. It could go either way with IT, but instead I want to look at the opposite side of the proverbial coin and talk about the times when the movie was better.
Stand by Me (1986)
Let’s start off with another Stephen King adaptation. Stand By Me is based off the short story The Body and features four young boys in a summer adventure to find a rumoured dead body. River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell and Wil Wheaton embody the spirit of youth, innocence and the loss thereof. This film took an already great short story and made it even better, with sharp dialogue, great narration from Richard Dreyfuss and of course the great Stand by Me song.
The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003)
Don’t me wrong, the work of J.R.R. Tolkien is a masterpiece in every sense of the word, but what Peter Jackson was able to do with a text that contained over 400,000 words, and trim it down into three fantastic films where each is better than the last, is nothing short of genius. Endlessly rewatchable, a fantastic cast and transforming New Zealand into Middle Earth – the Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of the best trilogies of all time. Now if only Jackson could’ve condensed that massive The Hobbit book down into a single film…wait, what do you mean it was only one book?
Jaws is one of my favourite movies of all time. The novel is not. Born out of author Peter Benchley’s fascination of sharks, the book is a fun read but filled to the brim with unnecessary subplots that take away focus from what should be a simple monster story. Ellen Brody has an affair with Matt Hooper, the Mayor is involved with the mob (hence why he wants to keep the beaches open) and a whole lot of other stuff. It’s pretty short and will only take an hour or two to read, but Steven Spielberg’s film certainly took an okay book and made it into a fantastic film.
This might be my favourite movie of all time. After seeing it I rushed out to read the novel and promptly stared in awe and confusion at the pages as I tried to comprehend what I was trying to read. Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting is written in Scottish dialect – it’s basically written phonetically for how they speak eg. Haud oan a second = hold on a second. It’s a challenging read but pretty worth it in the end. Rather than just focus on the five we meet in the movie, Trainspotting is a collection of chapters and stories following a host of different junkies in Scotland. Danny Boyle chose to focus on just a few of them in the film and crafted such a unique feel to it that it surpasses its source material without ever losing the charm of what made it unique in the first place.
Thank You For Smoking (2005)
Christopher Buckley created a great satirical novel with Thank You For Smoking, a story about a lobbyist for the tobacco industry who becomes the target of a kidnapping. The film adaptation is possibly one of the most underrated movies of the 2000s. Aaron Eckhart leads an ensemble cast that includes J.K. Simmons, Rob Lowe, Katie Holmes, Robert DuVall and a slew of others. Thank You For Smoking is full of dark humour and witty dialogue. It could serve as a predecessor in terms of style for movies like The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short. Eckhart gives my favourite performance of his (an equally underrated actor). The movie smartly shifts focus from the kidnapping plot – which becomes a minor subplot – and focuses instead on themes of careers, morals and how they can effect family and friendships.
Fight Club (1999)
The novel Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk is one of my most read books. So edgy, I know. The film by David Fincher is equally one of my most watched movies. Edward Norton and Brad Pitt carry this film almost effortlessly, everything they do complimented by the immaculate direction from Fincher who stayed true to the style of the source material. The book and film are almost as good as each other, but the movie edges it out by the smallest margin. It’s thanks to the different ending of the film that pushes it over the edge. Instead of the Narrator in a mental hospital surrounded by Project Mayhem members who continue Tyler Durden’s work, the film has a much more subtle end. Watching the destruction of buildings while the Pixies play was a perfect end to a fantastic movie.
Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
I am 100% serious with this one. Hear me out. According to Audible it takes 19 hours 52 minutes to listen to the audio book of Fifty Shades of Grey. It might take even longer to physically read. The movie is a little over 2 hours. It’s the lesser of two evils.
That’s it for this list, folks. What are some of your choices for movies that improved on the books? Agree with our list? Disagree? Let us know in the comments and on our Facebook page. Don’t forget to go and check out our YouTube channel for more great movie videos.