Thursday, May 29, 2008

Books vs Movies

Lists will always be controversial, and a list of 25 movies that are better than the book is sure to have at least a few people disagreeing.

The movies?

The Godfather
Jurassic Park
The Return of the King
What Dreams May Come
The Namesake
The Shawshank Redemption
The Princess Bride
Blade Runner
Forrest Gump
The Shining
The Hunt For Red October
Jackie Brown
About A Boy
Brokeback Mountain
The Children of Men
Field of Dreams
The Silence of the Lambs
Gone With The Wind
Fight Club
A Clockwork Orange
No Country For Old Men
The Birds

Uh... nobody tell the author of Brokeback Mountain. Have a feeling that wouldn't go over well.

I'm one of those people that thinks books are generally better than the movies. Looking over this list, I have to admit that I've read and seen The Return of the King, but that's the only one. And I can see the arguments both ways.

Geesh, it could get uncomfortable sitting on this fence.

Opinions? Other examples? I'm racking my brains, trying to think if there are other examples where I genuinely believe the film is better than the book, but of course I'm drawing a blank at the moment.

I wonder if Reel Fanatic will chime in? That could be interesting.


Chris said...

I think there are a couple here that are just plain nuts. RETURN OF THE KING, for one. ABOUT A BOY, for another. Maybe SILENCE, too. But mostly, the list's not bad, although I'd add Robert Altman's THE PLAYER as well. It's probably my favorite movie of all time, and I'd never denigrate the book, but the story, apart from being some black crime comedy, is also a very meta swipe at Hollywood, and it just plain works better on celluloid.

Chris said...

"Black crime comedy" came off entirely wrong. Black comedy/crime, maybe? Better, I guess, in that it doesn't sound like I'm promoting some horrible exploitation film, but still not an elegant turn of the phrase.

colman said...

Brokeback Mountain.......caught it on tv the other week.lasted about 75 mins...zzzzzzzz....waste of a good hour, but a cure for insomnia for sure.

If it's better than the book, let's hope no-one ever buys me the book then

Sandra Ruttan said...

Chris, yeah, there are a few ways that you could take that line. But the movie that did jump out at me as likely wrong was Return of the King. I'm willing to say the movie of The Two Towers was better than the book, but mainly because when I read the books (and my last time reading them was years ago) TTT always felt like a bridge between the action of book 1 and book 3. The movie restructured events a bit and TTT rocked.

But The Return of the King was the movie of 10,000 endings.

Colman, LOL! Let's hope nobody gives you the book then. I haven't seen that movie, and have no real desire to see it. It was filmed near where I lived in Alberta, but it just didn't appeal to me.

Always good to know of a cure for insomnia, though. ;)

John McFetridge said...

Some books have almost self-contained sub-plots sliced out to make for a movie. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't. ABOUT A BOY is an example. It's a good movie and a good book. The book simply has another character far more developed and is more bitter than sweet.

JACKIE BROWN is just silly. Do people even know what book(s) it's "based" on?

Someone once said that mediocre books make better movies than good books do. Generally I agree with that.

The worst thing for me is a book that's trying to be a movie.

pattinase (abbott) said...

A pretty good list. I've seen almost all the movies-but not all the books. Brokeback Mountain was a more expansive telling of the tale. Much like what happens with plays, I think.
I'd add M*A*S*H and The Graduate.

Sandra Ruttan said...

John, I agree, I don't want to read books that are trying to be movies.

Patti, this is when I display my ignorance. I didn't even know M*A*S*H was a book first. :I

pattinase (abbott) said...

Richard Hooker who heartily approved of the movie but not the TV series, which he found anti-American and not just about zany doctors in Korea.
I have to admit the movie and the early years hold up better. Preachy isn't peachy year down the road.

Reel Fanatic said...

Since you asked, I certainly will put in my two cents ... I'd have to say my single favorite book/movie combo is Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" ... I read the book as a youngun before I saw the movie, and in this case I'd have to give the movie an only slight edge. .. Another great example is Roddy Doyle's Barrytown Trilogy, "The Commitments," "The Snapper" and "The Van" .. Though "The Commitments" made a perfectly pleasant flick, "The Snapper" was the only one that was better than the book, and is probably my all-time favorite comedy movie ... Definitely see it you haven't already!

John McFetridge said...

Yeah, I have to agree, "The Snapper" is a terrific movie. See it just to see Colm Meany doing something he loves.

Not just the TV show, but the M*A*S*H books went on too long, too. Does anyone have fond memories of M*A*S*H GOES TO MONTREAL??

It's actually tough to come up with movies people love that didn't start out as books or plays.

Sandra Ruttan said...

M*A*S*H - anti-American? Interesting. It's been a long time since I've seen it.

RF, now I'll have to see The Snapper. I loved The Commitments. Thanks for chiming in!

John, great movies that weren't books or plays first? That could be a whole new list!

norby said...

I would definitely question Shawshank Redemption. While the film is one of the better films to come out of Stephen King's writing, it will never be possible for a movie to be better than his original.

The short story/novella that King wrote is amazing, the fact that it is largely narrative by the character Red is why it lent itself to becoming such a great movie. But really, so much was left out, and that's not even taking into effect the feel of King's writing.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Interesting choice Norby. I definitely loved the movie, and have never read the short story. I guess I should!

Randy Johnson said...

I have to agree that, good as the movie was(one of the best King adaptations), I still prefer the story(Titled Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption). Of the rest, I haven't read all the books or seen all the movies to judge. But, I too, generally prefer the written word to the screen.
Oh, by the way, when I got home from the doctor, Cry For Help was waiting in my mailbox.

Austin Carr said...

I clicked on to say just what Norby said. King's story Shawshank Redemption is as good or better than the movie, although the movie is wonderful. Red is a great, living character.

And John Mac is also right about Jackie Brown. Are they f------ kidding? That movie was better than Elmore Leonard's book? Shame.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Randy and Austin, more votes for Shawshank. And Randy, lucky you. I haven't got my copy yet.

Austin, I wonder if it's like so many of the lists - so subjective and a matter of taste. Elmore Leonard has a very distinctive style, maybe whoever compiled this list just doesn't like that.

Of course, that's the problem with lists...

norby said...

Well, I have to confess a love for King's work. I took a year of Oral Interpretation classes in college and King's writing is just perfect for the assignments in that sort of class, especially narration.

Super especially if you get a perverse enjoyment out of grossing out or shocking some of your classmates...

Nikki said...

Brokeback Mountain was an excellent (!) short story first. And wasn't The Princess Bride a book after the movie?

But my favorite will always be The Ice Harvest. I love the movie and the book equal in parts. :)

Sandra Ruttan said...

Norby, I'm going to have to read some King. I think the movies (the obvious horror ones) were a deterrent for me.

Nikki, now I'm going to have to see The Ice Harvest. That's a new one for me.