Eight films that were better than the book

Today sees JoJo Moyes’ Me Before You hit the big screen, so prepare yourself for floods of tears coming from every cinema in every town. By accounts of people who have been to preview screenings, this is one that’s going to stay very true to the book version. That’s a fact that will be pleasing to most book fans, who always despair that the film/TV version leaves out so much.

While we sit crying into our large Coke, it might be easy to forget that there are so many other great adaptations that have been just as good, if not maybe better, than their literary basis.

Yes, I did really say that. Sometimes, the movie completely does the book justice.

Image via Not on the High Street

The Book Thief by Markus Zusack

Before we start with the analysis, it’s important to note – The Book Thief is my favourite book, possibly of all. When I heard there was a film coming, I was very apprehensive. The book had been the first to move me to tears, and I knew it would take something special to recreate this on the screen.

It turned out I had absolutely nothing to fear. The film version is just as real and heart wrenching as the book. Anything with Geoffrey Rush and you’re doing well, but this stuck so well to the book’s plotline, and is a pretty terrifying telling of life in Nazi Germany.

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

The book itself is amazing. Colm Toibin has a way of writing that has yet to be matched. But with a setting like 1950s New York, you really need to see it on screen to take it in in all its wonder.

Luckily, that was done to perfection here. You can almost smell the pasta sauce from dinner at Tony’s house. You hear the trains and buses and cars that fill the streets of Brooklyn as Eilis heads to work. And you feel the tears rolling down on more than one occasion.

Mary Poppins by PL Travers

The Mary Poppins in the book is a very cold woman, who comes across as a hard and dominating governess. After some coaxing to the author (go see Saving Mr Banks to see what I mean) Disney got his hands on the rights and turned it into the Oscar winning delight we all love, complete with Julie Andrews as the warmest nanny ever depicted.

No wonder this film contained Disney himself’s favourite song. Can you feel the goosebumps yet?

Room by Emma Donoghue

Reading this book on a train into London is one of the most terrifying experiences of my life so far – after I’d finished the book, I was convinced the people around me were going to do what Old Nick did to Joy. No such event transpired.

Also on the list of terrifying experiences was watching the film alone in the dark right before I went to bed. If the book is unsettling, then the film is even more so. However you’ve pictured Room in your head, the reality of the setting is much, more more harrowing.

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

Disclaimer: didn’t actually finish the book. Barely even started it.

But the film is a well renowned heart string puller. Everything about Allie and Noah’s relationship screams textbook fairytale romance, and there isn’t a single person out there who can honestly claim not to get even a little weepy when the final scenes start playing.

I read the book years after I’d first seen the film, which is a very rare reversal for me. I think if I’d done it my usual way, I might not have been so let down by the literary offering.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

Another set in Germany in WW2. What can I do, I like historical books.

The final scene of the book, when Bruno disappears, is a frightening read. Even to the uninitiated, it’s clear what’s about to happen. You can see the distress the family are going through, but it’s when you see it acted out in front of you, and hear the anguish in Vera Farmiga’s voice, that you truly appreciate how powerful an ending John Boyne presented.

The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Once again, I read the book after having seen the film. This didn’t make as much of an impact as in other cases, but I was still more drawn to the film version than the book.

Yes, some of the storylines from the book may have been removed or downplayed for being controversial (Charlie’s racist grandfather, for example), but those that do feature are portrayed spectacularly.

It’s a hard film to watch, given the amount of plotlines that feature abuse in some way. But seeing it in front of you is far, far more gripping than sitting back and just reading about it.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl wasn’t happy with the film version and someone really needed to sit him down and check if he was ok.

The first time we see the Chocolate Room is also the first time the actors saw it. See the look of wonder on their faces? Remember that feeling of sheer awe you had yourself? It was real.

It may not have stuck rigidly to the idea Dahl had for the factory (the 2005 version shows that a little better), but as it’s up there with one of the beloved childhood classics for so many people, I think we can get over it.

What films did you think were better than their book counterpart? Is there one I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments.

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8 thoughts on “Eight films that were better than the book

  1. Under the Tuscan Sun is a far better movie than the book ever. I tried to read the book, but just couldn’t. Brooklyn and The Book Thief are both films that inspired me to read the books. I have yet to read them. My son read The Book Thief in school this year and enjoyed it!

    • I can’t say I’ve heard of Under the Tuscan Sun, now. You’ve definitely sent me on a book hunt! I read Brooklyn after the film, but The Book Thief before the film. The Book Thief is my favourite, I’m really glad he liked it!

      • The movie has Diane Lane in it. She’s pretty much my consistent woman crush. I watched the movie in a rather poignant time of my life when I was going through a divorce and that movie gave me hope that there is life and hope after a divorce. Now, if only I owned a villa in Tuscany 😉

  2. Couldn’t agree more with The Perks of Being a Wallflower!! The film is just so powerful! I’ve read The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas so many times now, and every time it has me crying, but for some reason the film really didn’t have the same effect.

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