Open Forum Friday: Is the Book Always Better Than the Movie?


With so many movies being based on popular book series as of late, we’ve been seeing a lot of the same kinds of discussions popping up time and time again. Did they get the characters right? Did it capture the spirit of the novel? Did they change the dialogue? How could they cut out my favourite scene?? Adapting a book for the big screen almost always requires a compromise, which could explain why people are often disappointed with the result. Still, even with something as universally praised as The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, fans seem to do the most nitpicking. You hear people say it all the time, but is it always just a given that the book is better than the movie?

One of the biggest problems with adapting a book is that you have to live up to people’s imaginations; readers fill in the blanks in their mind and interpretations can vary wildly. Books also have no restriction as to how long they can be, whereas movies are usually limited to three hours max. On the flip side, maybe it is just a case of the first experience with a story usually being the preferred medium. How many people would say the novelization of a movie is better? Still, I do think there are some movies that improve on a mediocre book. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Jurassic Park, and Children of Men all come to mind. What do you think? Is the written word always superior to a visual medium like film? Is it always better to read the book before seeing the movie? What movies are better than their source material? Give us your thoughts here on Open Forum Friday.

  • Andrew Hunt

    You are right about mediocre books. There is that saying along the lines of ‘great books make terrible movies, terrible (maybe just mediocre/flawed books) can make great movies’.
    The problem with great books is that, well, you just can’t capture that in a movie and there is the pressure to be faithful for the fans or for the respect you have for the source material itself.
    If you don’t have that then you can probably just mine what is good from a book and focus on making the movie you want.
    As people have said in twitter Godfather is a good example. A book that was mocked by Scorsese and his friends, but improved with insight provided into that community by Scorsese and Coppola’s talent.

  • patrik

    No. As you say, Jurassic Park. Haven’t read the book but I can’t imagine “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” being as good as Blade Runner. But I guess in most cases the books are better. The Harry Potter books are fantastic, much much better than the movies. I know that at least.

    Interview With A Vampire is another one where I like the movie more than the book. LOTR is a close call for me. Another case where I haven’t read the books is the Bourne books. They might be good but it’d be tough to match the movies for me.

  • pineapplepuss

    If you count short stories as being books, then “The Mist” movie is better

    And “A Christmas Story” movie is absolutely better than the book

  • Joachim Lothe-Rikenberg

    Most of the time the images I create in my own head tends to be better than what they show me on screen. Flaws also leap out easier when I see books adapted to the big screen.

  • Well, you have so much more time with the characters in a book. And you can be told exactly what they’re thinking or what kind of person they are. And when you’re imagining it for yourself, there’s a good chance you’re going to like your mental images better than what is designed to appeal to a demographic.

  • It depends on how willing the director is to make the story their own. A lot of times the film just try to please the fans of the book and end up cramming to much into the movie.
    But if the director has the balls to take the movie in a direction more akin to their own style things can get interesting.

    I would say that Fight Club is a better movie and the same for Let the Right One In.

  • I have read Do Androids… and I would have to agree with you. The book was just weird a lot of the time. But I have friends the love the book that absolutely hate the movie for changing to much (one thing he hates is how they changed the name androids to replicants, so I’m not taking his opinion to seriously ;))

  • Michael M

    JAWS, Jurassic Park, The Godfather, The Exorcist and now Catching Fire – all faithful adaptation but I liked the movies so much more.

  • Spooksta

    Id love to see Thirteen Days to Midnight made into a film, great book.
    Would be a low budget. Jay could do it

  • Spooksta

    but in answer to the question. the book is always better…..

  • Deven Science

    The book was very weird, and didn’t seem to make much sense. I’d say that is one where the movie is better.

  • the horse is yet to come

    yes, of course. you are doing the interpretation, it’s a richer experience altogether.

    :) was that a test & did i pass

  • Matt the Kiwi

    LOTR is one that stands out in my head (but I was never a huge fan of the books…I enjoyed them but one read was enough for me but the movies get multiple watchings). I’d also add Dances with Wolves, Stand by me and The Shawshank redemption (Stephen Kings books sit around 50/50 for the most part…haven’t read the Shining but would assume most people prefer the film).

  • Xidor

    The Princess Bride.

  • Xidor

    The Princess Bride.

  • devolutionary

    I really enjoyed the book and initially felt underwhelmed with Kubrick’s film. However on rewatches, it’s pretty clear that Kubrick purposely wanted to mess around with the source material and create his own vision. Of course that Room 237 film kind of pushes his interpretations into conspiracy theory territory but I choose to imagine the film as a surreal parallel to the book. King wasn’t exactly batting 1.000 when it came to his film adaptations anyways.

  • piggystardust


    Nah, I shouldn’t say that I haven’t even read it