The Movie Did It Better

Unpopular opinion time! Well, maybe. In general, as bookish people, we look on film adaptations with a whole lot of excitement that often ends in disappointment when the movie gets crucial things wrong, miscasts an important character, or just has to leave a lot of great moments out of the film. These movies (or mini-series), though, for me as a viewer, improve on the novels they’re adapting. To be clear, I’m only including films where I have actually read the book. They will reflect my personal opinions, some of which I know almost no one will agree with but hey. Your speed may vary and that’s alright.

There’s also a whole host of movies that I think do their movies justice, but they’re sort of equal in my estimation, and I’ve left those off (ex. The Perks of Being a WallflowerThe Hunger GamesFight Club, Stardust, Anne of Green Gables).

And, you know what? Sometimes I like the movie tie-in cover better than any other cover. Yeah, I said it.


A Room with a View - E.M. Forster
A Room with a view poster

A Room with a View: It should be no surprise that I’m starting this list off with my favorite film. While I do really like the book, the movie gives me feels beyond belief. The cast is PERFECTION. I’m in love with every single bit of it.

Divergent poster

Divergent: You guys are probably aware that I was, um, not a fan of the Divergent book or series, but I quite enjoyed the movie. It definitely had nothing to do with Theo James’ sexy face. Nope. That totally wasn’t the only difference. Of course, I hear they ruined it with the Insurgent movie, but oh well.

The Two Towers - J.R.R. Tolkien
The Two Towers poster

The Two Towers: Listen, I love the LOTR books, and, yes, I’m sad about some of the changes, particularly the smearing of Faramir’s good name, BUT. Overall, I’d say the quality between the books and films is pretty even, but the movie version of The Two Towers kicks the book’s ass. The book decides to follow the two branches of the fellowship separately, so you spend half the book with an uninterrupted description of Frodo, Sam, and Gollum going through marsh after marsh. Bad plan, bro.

The Princess Bride - William Goldman
Princess Bride poster

The Princess Bride: The book is fun, for sure, but it’s not the same experience as the novel. As a child I totally didn’t understand the novel version at all. I do like it now, but nothing will ever compare with the movie, or with my first love Westley.

Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
Bridget Jones's Diary poster

Bridget Jones’s Diary: Two words: Colin Firth. The movie totally cheated/won by playing off my P&P feels. The book was really fun, but I cannot resist the sight of Colin Firth in a ridiculous Christmas sweater, and who can blame me?

Ella Enchanted - Gail Carson Levine
Ella Enchanted poster

Ella Enchanted: Here is where I lose people for sure. Listen, I know the movie is cheesy as hell and kind of terrible, but also I love it a lot. Like, yes, Hugh Dancy is a lot of that, but also I read the book (after the movie admittedly) and I thought it was boring and weird. So. Yeah. Sorry, guys.

Jurassic Park - Michael Crichton
Jurassic Park poster

Jurassic Park: I totally enjoyed the Jurassic Park book, but nothing can beat DINOSAURS ON THE BIG SCREEN. No one can argue with this lbr.

Mansfield Park - Jane Austen
Mansfield Park poster

Mansfield Park: Mansfield Park is an atrocious book. I struggled with it for weeks, but I did finish. I hate Fanny and her inability to DO anything. I ship the wrong thing. The movie, while sticking to the plot, completely alters the character of Fanny and makes Mansfield Park into a dark, luscious experience.

The Bad Beginning - Lemony Snicket
A Series of Unfortunate Events poster

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events: To be fair, I didn’t pick up The Bad Beginning until after I’d seen the movie, and I was a bit too old for the series at the time. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy them for as far as I got or that I don’t plan to get through them at some point; however, it wasn’t the full experience. The movie’s gorgeous and has the perfect atmosphere.

Everything Is Illuminated - Jonathan Safran Foer
Everything Is Illuminated poster

Everything Is Illuminated: The novel bored me, to be honest. I loved Extremely Loud and Incredibly CLose and assumed this one would be the same. Nope to the max. There were a lot of details that I didn’t really get; this is one that went over my head. The movie was pared down to the emotional core and, despite not being my typical thing, I really loved it and hit me in the feels.

Howl's Moving Castle poster

Howl’s Moving Castle: This is another case where I think I might have loved the book more than the movie if I hadn’t seen the movie first. The amount that I ship it in the film and that I love every single character couldn’t be matched by the book, though I DO want to try the novel again.

The Princess Diaries - Meg Cabot
The Princess Diaries poster

The Princess Diaries: Only recently did I finally finish The Princess Diaries series, and it did come right in the end, but I remember being HUGELY disappointed by the book versions when I read them after I saw the movie. Grandmere in particular was shockingly different in a terrible way. While I can appreciate her now, I still like the film better, because it doesn’t take forever for Michael and Mia to work it out. *ignores movie two and Chris Pine*

Chocolat - Joanne Harris
Chocolat poster

Chocolat: Again, I did like the book, but I think the movie does everything better. Plus, THAT SOUNDTRACK. And the chocolate porn.

How to Train Your Dragon - Cressida Cowell
How to Train Your Dragon poster

How to Train Your Dragon: My review of the book covers all the ways in which the book disappointed me. The movie is adorable and has girls in it, so yeah.

American Psycho - Bret Easton Ellis
American Psycho poster

American Psycho: Though I don’t know that I could stomach watching the movie again, I found it a much more effective delivery system for the same story. The novel is intentionally repetitive to make a point about modern life, but it was SO boring to read through. The movie is certainly not boring.

Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility - poster

Sense and Sensibility: Major Austen fan that I am, it’s sort of shameful how many of her books are ending up on this list, but this movie was pretty much perfectly cast. This was one of her slower novels for me, and I just love this movie.

I Capture the Castle
I Capture the Castle poster

I Capture the Castle: Do I need more of a reason than young Henry Cavill? I feel like I don’t. Still, though I’ve read the book twice and really like it, I find the somewhat off the wall story more impactful and the characters more likable in the movie.

Miniseries/TV Shows

Bleak House - Charles Dickens
Bleak House poster

Bleak House: Believe it or not, the eight hour miniseries is the concise version. Dickens got paid more if he wrote more, so the novel is a slog.

North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell
North and South poster

North and South: Dear Kanye was this book long and full of Christianity. I did not like it at all. The movie series is, however, Richard Armitage perfection.

The 100 - Kass Morgan
The 100 poster

The 100: They’re COMPLETELY different, and I don’t think I’ve heard of a single person who liked the book better, if they liked the book at all. So yeah.

Web series

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries poster

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: There’s no question of my love for Pride and Prejudice. I’ve read it countless times, and it’s meant more to me than perhaps any other novel. However, LBD captured everything that I love about P&P and then improved upon the story. The reason I think LBD actually exceeds Austen is the enhancement to Lydia’s character. In LBD, I cry for Lydia every time, and I never have in the original story.

Do you agree with my picks? Want to add some?

20 responses to “The Movie Did It Better”

  1. Tez Miller says:

    I have no interest in The 100 TV series, but I really liked the books 🙂
    Tez Miller recently posted…15th September 2015 ReleasesMy Profile

  2. Alessandra says:

    Stephen King’s The Green Mile. The movie was awesome. The book was only meh for me – good idea, not so brilliant execution. I think the book suffers from being first published in serialized form; so many “recaps” at the beginning of each new part.

    I’ve never seen the I Capture The Castle movie, but now I think I should.

    • Christina Franke says:

      Interesting! I’ve never seen or read that one, though I’ve heard the movie was good. The recaps in the book do sound annoying. The ones with a good idea and meh execution make the best films!


  3. wildpear says:

    Yes, yes, YES on A Room With A View. I have to admit that I’m generally just not a fan of Forster’s actual writing (I enjoyed Maurice, but more for it being what it was, when it was, than for itself) but Bejeezus, I love that movie! Also seconding The Princess Bride. Sorry, Golding, I’m just not ironic enough for you. Or maybe there’s just nothing that can compete with the combined might of my nostalgia + the casting and performances in that movie. *love*

    But I do love both versions of North and South. A lot of discussion of religion, yeah, but I feel like Gaskell handles it in a really subtle and lovely way that’s more about people and their struggles with morality and how to do the right thing than it is proselytizing, which is the thing I don’t care for. However, I WILL admit that Thornton is hotter when he’s Richard Armitage 😉 That train scene is horrifyingly anachronistic and impossible and I. Do. Not. Care. *fans self*

    I need to see that version of Mansfield Park again. I don’t love the book, and did love the movie when it came out, but I wonder if it would stand up for me? Also, I clearly need to see Ella Enchanted and The Princess Diaries. And probably don’t need to read “How to Train Your Dragon”.

    Lizzie Bennet Diaries!!!! Can I say I love it better than the book? No, I can’t do it. But I do adore everything about it, including/especially the handling of Lydia. That is one endlessly retellable story, that’s for sure!

    • Christina Franke says:

      You know, I did really enjoy the A Room with a View book, but I loathed Where Angels Fear to Tread with a fiery passion; it’s basically the depressing version of ARWAV. And I’ve tried Howard’s End like three times but always end up DNFing. I’m hopeful for Maurice.

      Nostalgia’s a big part of The Princess Bride. It’s one of those movies I love so much that I’ll legit be pissed if someone doesn’t love it, even though I know it’s not actually perfect objectively. BUT IT IS PERFECT IN MY HEART HOW DARE.

      I was so bored when I read North and South. I wish I could have loved it. Also, I will always forgive anachronistic kiss scenes when they’re hot as fuck like that one. At least she wasn’t running around the fields in her nightgown like Elizabeth Bennet in the 2005 version.

      Try the movie again! I’ve seen it many times and I still love it. Plus, low bar with Mansfield Park sucking so hard as a book.

      Ella Enchanted is cheesy to the max, and it might be a struggle as an adult idk. Most definitely watch The Princess Diaries, though also I think it benefits from being a teen.

      It really hurts me to say I love it more than the book, but it’s true. I don’t know how but it is.

      • wildpear says:

        It’s one of those movies I love so much that I’ll legit be pissed if someone doesn’t love it, even though I know it’s not actually perfect objectively. BUT IT IS PERFECT IN MY HEART HOW DARE.

        All the THIS in the world! I started 2015 off with three of my closest guy friends (including my husband) snuggled up on the couch rewatching the Princess Bride. They even let me talk along with, like, all of the great lines (so ALL of them) without getting annoyed. It’s gonna be hard to top that moment! (But okay, I had to cringe a bit about the whole ‘next time my hand flies on its own’ bit, NO THANK YOU WESTLEY PLEASE STOP AND BE AWESOME OKAY?)

        Also, I will always forgive anachronistic kiss scenes when they’re hot as fuck like that one.

        Um, yeah. This, too.

        Perhaps I should save Ella and Princess Diaries to enjoy with my daughter when she’s old enough. That seems like the . . . adult thing to do?

  4. Oh nooooo not Ella Enchanted!!!!!!! (Haha)

    I actually love this post! I enjoyed Divergent the book but thought the movie was extra awesome. Haven’t seen or read Room with a View, looks like I need to change that. And YES, I adore the LOTR movies while the books are not my favorite. And Two Towers happens to be my favorite of the movies.

    I got 30 pages into Bridget Jones and had to put it down. The embarrassment was too much for me although I admittedly like the movie. A lot of it is the casting 🙂 Bought Jurassic Park, haven’t read it yet, but yes NO ARGUMENT. I love Howl’s Moving Castle the movie! The animations is beautiful and I haven’t read the book so I can’t compare.

    I read The Princess Diaries so long ago that I can’t even remember how it compares :/ But I didn’t like the actor for Michael even though the movie itself was cute.

    I loooooove Chocolat! The music and JOHNNY DEPP and the chocolate and the cute French village. I’d like to try the book someday but the movie is so sumptuous, how can it compare.

    Ooh I haven’t seen I Capture The Castle but I loved the book and I love young Henry Cavill! S&S really is a perfectly cast movie, though not my favorite of the Austen movies or books.

    Hmmm I’ve been tempted to read North and South but I might push it down the list. The miniseries is perfection. Richard Armitage is alkdfjkdahgdj and the MUSIC. It burrows into my soul.

    I have to finish the Lizzie Bennet Diaries! Never did!

    Hmmmm two I might add: Timeline by Michael Crichton, although I can’t recall if I preferred the book or the movie (which was cheesy but fun). My other is Little Women- the book is wonderful and makes me feel better about the Amy business but I adore the movie so much. The cast is perfect and the music is beautiful and it’s part of my childhood.

    • Christina Franke says:

      ELLA ENCHANTED. Yeah, I said it.

      A ROOM WITH A VIEW. YES. DO IT. If my legacy is getting a bunch of people of my generation to watch A Room with a View, I’m happy with that.

      The embarrassment was tough in Bridget Jones. Usually it’s harder for me in a movie, but I think they lessened it ever-so-slightly, and they gave me Darcy.

      Awww, I love Michael.

      Chocolat! Harris’ books are on the slow side. It just can’t be as sumptuous as the film.


      Wild Pear up above lobbied for the North and South novel. Maybe you’ll like it more than I did?


      I remember liking both Timeline movie and book, but I think I liked the book a bit better.

      I…actually haven’t read Little Women. I started it a bunch of times as a young thing but never finished. I need to do that at some point.

  5. I didn’t like the book version from The princess bride, but I will always love the movie.
    Lord of the rings.. I just can’t read the books, they bore me, but the movies are fantastic. I try to rewatch them every year.
    I disliked the book from Ella Enchanted too. The movie is 10x better.
    Chocolate: everything you said and Johnny Depp.
    How to train your dragon: I adore the movies, so I’m going to stay away from the books.
    North and South: oohh I love that BBC show. Hello Richard <3
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  6. Hannah says:

    Cringing at the old-school cover for Ella Enchanted! Reminds me of the atrocious tamora pierce covers. My Ella Enchanted was all sparkly and shit, ha.

    I think denser novels can definitely be improved upon in their movie format – see Jane Austen, LoTR, etc.

    While I adored the Chocolat book, I must agree with you – that movie was a feast for the senses, starring Johnny Depp before he got all weird looking.
    Hannah recently posted…Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger (The Gold Seer Trilogy) – Rae CarsonMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      That was pretty terrible, but I was late posting and that was the top cover. I don’t remember which cover I read.

      Trolololol at your assessment of Johnny Depp.

  7. Brandy says:

    I did a post on this some time ago and The Princess Bride and How to Train Your Dragon were on my list too. While I want to gasp in horror at you putting Ella Enchanted and Howl’s Moving Castle on this list, I can see you being swayed by seeing the movies before the books. (I actually haven’t ever watched Howl’s Moving Castle because that book means a lot to me and I’m scared…) My list included Stardust which I’m sure would horrify some people, but it was probably because I saw the movie first.

    I agree with all of your choices completely. Even if in all cases I don’t like the movie better, I like it just as much.
    Brandy recently posted…Walk on Earth a StrangerMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Stardust was one I debated. I think I do like the movie more but the book might be better? I don’t know. I definitely am not appalled. Howl’s Moving Castle is an amazing movie. I found it more feelsy than the book, which is the big difference for me. Though, again, had I grown up with the book, maybe they’d be equal for me.

  8. The Princess Bride is way better as the movie!

    I also loved the book Jurassic Park, but you are totally right, nothing compares to dinosaurs on the big screen. Ever.

    Everything about The 100 TV show is better than the book. EVERYTHING.

    I would add, Stardust to this list. I found the book to be so confusing and couldn’t figure out what was happening half the time, but the movie was great!
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    • Christina Franke says:

      I liked the Stardust book a lot, but I know I enjoyed the movie more. It’s just been long enough and I liked them both enough that I wasn’t sure if it was a pretty much equal scenario or a movie is better one. It’s definitely one of those. 🙂

  9. Annie says:

    Divergent is such a better movie than book. I thought Insurgent, too, was much better. When I first read Divergent, though, I thought it would have been better as a script and going straight to being a movie rather than a book. I haven’t read The Princess Bride, but the movie is so awesome, I could believe it’s better than the book.

  10. Lyn Kaye says:

    Colin Firth….*sigh* can you believe I have never seen or read BJD? I suppose I’ll have to at least see the movie.

    As for Tolkien…..yeah. I like the books, but I LOVE the movies. So sue me.

    Howl’s Moving Castle – I am going to totally have to agree with you on this one. The book was quite cute, but the MOVIE. It is one of my favorite anime movies, ever.
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Book Review: InfernoMy Profile

  11. Completely agree about the Divergent movie being far better than the book. I haven’t read the 2nd or 3rd (yet? I don’t know. I haven’t decided if I’m going to go there.)
    I made it through The Fellowship but stopped midway through The Two Towers because OMG BORING. The movie was amazing though.
    Ohhhhhh Chocolat! Love that you mentioned this because this is one of my all-time favorite movies. The book really didn’t even touch it.
    This is such a fantastic list and I’m sad I haven’t read or watched more of these.
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