Books to Film: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

This week I saw the previews for an upcoming movie that I am so excited about seeing…take a look at it:

I absolutely LOVED this book! But, with making the transition from print to screen, there’s always the risk of it being a disaster. If I go to see a movie after I’ve read the book, I always try to keep in mind that we are dealing with two completely different media–there is no way a movie can include everything in a book.

I’m currently watching Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, based on another book I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s been a while since I’ve read the book – and I’ve only watched two episode so far of the television series, but so far it seems to be pretty solid. Fingers crossed!

I do think that books do better with television and/or mini-series because there is more time to develop the various story arcs. If you have to limit a book to 2 or 3 hours, important things are bound to be left out.

ShortList has put together a list of what it considers the 40 Best Film Adaptations. There are some books and movies I’ve not yet read/seen but I definitely have added them to my list.

But… there’s another side to the picture. Here’s a list of some of the worst book to movie adaptations.

What about you? What are some of your favorite and/or least favorite book to movie adaptations?

Don’t forget to check out a post on this topic at our Young Adult site!


  1. OH, this is an easy one.
    The Day After Tomorrow – I read the book and for almost all of it, the movie was true – so when I DID see the movie, it was the book come to life. I loved it!!!

    As for Krull – it almost seemed as though the book was written after the movie – how, I have no idea – but it was more like a ‘merchandising promo’ then a true book. Still I enjoyed both versions but for effective transition it’s The Day After Tomorrow.

  2. I think they did a good job with Lord of the Rings, but not-so-good with The Hobbit (boy did they take liberties with that story!). The Jason Bourne movies (except the first one) are really nothing like the books. I’ve liked most of the adaptations of Tom Clancy books (“Hunt for Red October”, “Patriot Games”). Wow… so many to choose from!

  3. I agree that the Lord of the Rings trilogy was handled beautifully on the big screen. I would have loved to see Tom Bombadil included in it, but I understand why he had to be cut out.

    Although I do like to pretend that the Hobbit movies are a completely different story than the books. Like you said, Marianne, they really changed a lot of important stuff in it!

    I was disappointed with the movie version of Alice Sebold’s “The Lovely Bones.” The CGI in it was distracting. I also didn’t like how much attention was paid to the main character’s grisly death and the investigation that took place after it. The book spent way more time showing how she adjusted to heaven and what happened after she was murdered, so it was unnerving to see the characters fixate on that one awful day instead.

    One of the other great adaptations I’ve seen was for Stephen King’s “The Shining.” They captured the loneliness, isolation, and horror of living in the Overlook Hotel perfectly. The movie scares me just as much as the book did.

    • Actually, speaking of Stephen King, aside from casting Molly Ringwald as the lead, I think they did a good job of filming “The Stand” in the mini-series from the ’80s. It was about 800 pgs long, so condensing it wasn’t easy, but they really kept the heart of the story IMHO.

  4. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is definitely one of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen. The Hobbit movies were certainly very different from the book, but I did enjoy watching them.

    I agree that mini series/tv adaptations often work better for books because they can take more time to develop the story. I’ve seen some great adaptations of books in mini series form. North and South starring Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe is definitely one of my favorites.

    I do enjoy Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. While the movie did make some big cuts/changes from the book, I think that the heart and feel of the story remained the same. Of course the mini series version with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle is wonderful and more faithful to the book, but think the movie looked more realistic. The movie captured the beauty, but also the dirt and grime.

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