14 Screen Adaptations That Outshined the Books
“The book is better!” is the most popular comment people make in response to screen adaptations. It is believed that movies can never achieve the same degree of thoroughness as a book and adequately portray the world created by the author. However, when a talented movie director takes on an adaptation project, the story gets a new twist and sometimes becomes even more interesting than the book.
Bright Side put together a list of screen adaptations that managed to deliver the story in an even brighter way and surpass their originals.
1. Ready Player One, (2018)
Based on: Ready Player One, a novel by Ernest Cline.
Ernest Cline wrote his book for those who “understand” and can easily get his references to old games and ’80s pop-culture. Steven Spielberg made this story about full immersion into a computer game, searching for treasures and standing against the system more understandable and logical for a wider audience. He also paid tribute to other popular movies like Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Iron Giant, Back to the Future, The Shining, A Nightmare on Elm Street and some others. Special effects in the movie were amazing and the allusions were right on target.
- IMDb rating: 7.6
2. The Light Between Oceans, (2016)
Based on: The Light Between Oceans, a novel by M.L. Stedman.
M.L. Stedman’s novel is a prime example of a drama. In it, you’ll find love, family history and a hard choice the characters have to make. However, many readers say that the story is too melodramatic, sentimental and even artificial. Movie director, Derek Cianfrance managed to get rid of the storyline’s downsides and perfectly translate the nature of the main characters (Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander). The author of the book watched the movie premiere and said that she cried the whole night afterward — she was very impressed by the screen adaptation of her book.
- IMDb rating: 7.2
3. American Gods, (2017—present)
Based on: American Gods, a novel by Neil Gaiman.
The novel by Neil Gaiman about the co-existence of old and new gods in modern America and their fight for survival is wonderful and multi-faceted but its complexity and obscurity can scare away an inexperienced reader. The screen adaptation is more friendly, and its hints on the true essence of the characters are more clear and its references to mythology are more obvious. In one of his interviews, Neil Gaiman said that when he writes a sequel to this story, he’ll think of Mr. Wednesday as Ian McShane, and Laura Moon will look like Emily Browning.
- IMDb rating: 8.1
4. Belle & Sebastian, (2013)
Based on: Belle and Sébastien, a novel by Cécile Aubry.
This wonderful, positive novel by Cécile Aubry is about the adventures of a 6-year-old boy named Sébastien and his dog, Belle, a Great Pyrenees. Though the book sounded a bit artificial, it became a great premise for a movie with the same name. Picturesque landscapes, a pleasant soundtrack, and a kind, warm story (though the events take place during World War II) results in a wonderful family movie — the kind we just don’t see in “blockbuster times” anymore.
- IMDb rating: 6.9
5. Burning, (2018)
Based on: Barn Burning, a short story by Haruki Murakami.
The movie is based on a short lyrical story having no action at all. Korean movie director, Chang-dong Lee managed to develop this story into a deep psychological mystery with elements of drama and even suspense about the relationships of 3 young people. With a lot of psychological, social and even political undertones, this movie is like a puzzle (that’s why some critics have compared it with David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive) and was very well received at the 71st Cannes Film Festival.
- IMDb rating: 7.7
6. It, (2017)
Based on: It, a novel by Stephen King.
The screen adaptation in 2017 added tension and atmosphere to Stephen King’s iconic novel. Andy Muschietti managed to make a thorough classic horror movie about ancient evil in a small town without rivers of blood but instead, with an interesting, captivating and consistent storyline still respectful to the original. It’s worth noting the wonderful performance given by Bill Skarsgård whose Pennywise happened to be so convincing that he scared his young colleagues when they saw him for the first time.
- IMDb rating: 7.4
7. Mindhunter, (2017—present)
Based on: Mindhunter, a book by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker.
The TV series is based on the memoirs of an ex-FBI agent who worked to develop an innovative investigative field incorporating psychology, anthropology, and sociology as a method to reveal the motive of a maniac. This is interesting, very specific material that not everyone can digest. But David Fincher managed to turn the inconsistent narrative into a sharp, fast-moving thriller with a true-to-life atmosphere and characters, and lots of mysteries and twists.
- IMDb rating: 8.6
8. A Street Cat Named Bob, (2016)
Based on: A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life, a book by James Bowen.
This book is about a touching friendship between a street musician and a cat who literally saved James from drug addiction. It was translated into more than 30 languages and stayed at the top of the bestsellers list in The Sunday Times for more than 76 weeks. However, a lot of readers mentioned that despite the inspiring story, its language was rather simplistic. The excellent screen adaptation gave the book a new life. The cat in the movie is Bob’s cat himself, and his owner James Bowen appeared in one of the episodes and at the end of the series when he asks the main character for an autograph.
- IMDb rating: 7.4
9. Gone Girl, (2014)
Based on: Gone Girl, a novel by Gillian Flynn.
Gone Girl was the novel that opened the gates of Hollywood to its author, Gillian Flynn. David Fincher’s powerful screen adaptation is a psychological thriller with elements of drama that keep you tense from the beginning till the end. In this family drama, you’re forced to guess who the villain is and who the victim is while the story’s twists and turns make your head spin.
- IMDb rating: 8.1
10. My Life as a Zucchini, (2016)
Based on: Ma vie de Courgette, a book by Gilles Paris.
An unusual but memorable puppet animation transforms a story of an orphaned boy into a surreal drama with elements of dark humor. But still, the movie is simple, touching, and kind, though a bit sad. My Life as a Zucchini was nominated for an Oscar in 2017 for Best Animated Feature Film.
- IMDb rating: 7.8
11. Altered Carbon, (2018—present)
Based on: Altered Carbon, a novel by Richard Morgan.
Richard Morgan’s novel is about the investigation of a murder in a world where consciousness is digitized and stored. It was published in 2002, and there were a lot of fights, weapons and strong characters in it. The scriptwriters over at Netflix did their best to adapt the story to the screen. They widened the storylines of each character, added colorful new ones, and made the story more logical while terrific special effects completed the overall look of the show. What started as an average Si-Fi action transformed into a captivating cyberpunk-style series.
- IMDb rating: 8.2
12. Adrift, (2018)
Based on: Red Sky in Mourning: The True Story of a Woman’s Courage and Survival at Sea, a book by Susea McGearhart and Tami Ashcraft.
The book is a true, harrowing story of survival at sea when Tami Ashcraft, then 23, was left alone aboard a boat. The screen adaptation directed by Baltasar Kormákur was more colorful and emotional. Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin’s excellent acting makes you share in the feelings of the characters. According to Shailene, most of the crew became seasick during production because 90% of the movie was produced in open sea, 2 hours from shore. This film is a strong combination of disaster and melodrama.
- IMDb rating: 6.6
13. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, (2016)
Based on: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a book by J. K. Rowling.
This book is a guide for magical creatures and has no storyline. It was published for the sake of charity as an addition to the Harry Potter series. However, due to this book, a new story from the Harry Potter universe emerged. It describes the world of magicians that existed before Harry Potter was born. In the beginning, this movie was supposed to start a trilogy but eventually, the producers confirmed that there would be 5 movies developing the story, and Rowling would be responsible for all their scripts.
- IMDb rating: 7.4
14. Mr. Mercedes (2017—present)
Based on: Mr. Mercedes, a novel by Stephen King.
This was the King of Horror’s first stab at the mystery genre. The story is about a retired detective that stands against a young hacker-psychopath. The creators of the TV series treated the original carefully and kept its spirit and atmosphere while making the storyline more wholesome and interesting. The scarily convincing Harry Treadaway and Brendan Gleeson are excellent as usual in their portrayals of the characters — which is a reason in itself to watch the series.
- IMDb rating: 8.0
Do you know of any other movies that are better than the books they are based on? Tell us in the comments below.
Preview photo credit American Gods / FremantleMedia North America