Lets be honest with ourselves for a second. It is extremely rare when a film adaptation retains the spirit of a beloved book original. In almost every instance, the novel that is being adapted is far superior then its on-screen replicate. But like most things in life…there are exceptions. OUTLIERS, as Malcolm Gladwell might put it. And although it didn’t take me 10,000 hours to come up with this list, you COULD NOT convince me that these 10 anomalies were better in print.
The Book: written by Stephen King (1987)
The Movie: directed by Rob Reiner (1989)
Like most Stephen King books, Misery was a crowd-pleasing bestseller. It also, like many Stephen King books, was optioned for film very quickly.
What makes the film better? In the story of an author (James Caan) imprisoned by a crazed fan (Kathy Bates), Bates’ hair-raising performance as Annie Wilkes is so incredibly disturbing, it actually earned her an Oscar for ‘Best Actress.’ The movie follows the novel pretty closely, but the decision to cut out much of the book’s gore made it less senseless horror, and more psychological thriller.
Fun Fact: This was the first Stephen King adaptation to earn an Academy Award.
The Book: written by Peter Becnhley (1974)
The movie: directed by Steven Speilberg (1975)
Inspired by a few real-life experiences with sharks, Peter Benchley set out to pen a book about a great white shark terrorizing a small town. What he wound up writing was Jaws, and this became another novel that’s movie rights were optioned almost immediately.
What makes the film better? The movie focused less on the passionate subplots that Benchley carefully explored, and more on the great big fish, specifically the Orca’s memorable final shark hunt. The film holds back on violence, but this helps formulate a story with striking verisimilitude (Please let me know if any of you are ever able to play that word in Scrabble). The non-shark characters being fleshed out also make them much more likable and easier to root for.
Fun Fact: The film adaptation became the highest grossing movie of all time, bringing in $194 million during its initial release.
#8 The Shining
The Book: written by Stephen King (1977)
The Movie: directed by Stanley Kubrick (1980)
It’s pretty well known that Stephen King was fucking LIVID with Kubrick’s approach putting The Shining on screen. King has stated he vehemently disliked Shelly Duvall’s fragile “scream and run” character and hated how the film diminishes most of the supernatural elements within the novel.
What makes the film better? While Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) may not be possessed in the movie, he’s leaps and bounds more terrifying than he was in the book. Yes, many of the book’s themes were dropped, but it’s Kubrick’s pragmatic approach that tantalizes the audience with frightening uneasiness throughout.
Fun fact: It is said, Jack Nicholson very badly wanted Jessica Lange to play Wendy’s role in the film.
#7 The Silence of the Lambs
The Book: written by Thomas Harris (1988)
The Movie: directed by Jonathan Demme (1991)
Thomas Harris’s literary form of 1991’s winner for ‘Best Picture’ was certainly well received when it debuted. It went on to win various awards, including some for ‘Best Novel’, but even so…it pales in comparison to its film counterpart.
What makes the film better? Two names. Four words. Anthony Hopkins. Jodie Foster. Hopkins delivers arguably the most terrifying performance we’ve come to know as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and plays up the sexual tension with Clarice Starling (Foster) in the most disturbing and unsettling manner. No wonder why it’s considered the only “horror” film to ever take the Academy Awards’ top prize. Their chemistry on screen alone elevates the respective characters we come to recognize from the book.
Fun Fact: It’s one of 3 movies in history to sweep the leading acting awards along with taking home the Oscar for Best Picture. The other two being, It Happened One Night (1934) & One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975).
#6 The Graduate
The Book: written by Charles Webb (1963)
The Movie: directed by Mike Nichols (1967)
Webb’s classic novella was completed shortly after his graduation from Williams College. In his 280-page book, Webb excels at communicating the lead character (Benjamin Braddock’s) feelings of empirical emptiness by showing just how hollow communication between human beings can be. The book is filled with one-sentence, choppy paragraphs that consist of appealing small talk which makes this a fun and interesting read.
What makes the film better? It doesn’t deviate all too much from the book it’s based on, but it’s another example of how casting brings a screen version to new heights. The execution between Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) and his seducer, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) is so magical, hell , it’s inspired me to take shots with hot moms my whole life! HOWYOUUDOOIINN. And let’s not forget about the classic Simon & Garfunkel track. Ah, what a soothing tune. Here’s to you Mr.s Robinson *cheers*.
Fun Fact: In real life, there was only a six-year age difference between Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson. Bancroft was 35 when the film was shot and Hoffman was 29.
#5 Forrest Gump
The Book: written by Winston Groom (1985)
The Movie: directed by Robert Zemeckis (1994)
Easily one of the most iconic movies in the last 25 years, Forrest Gump is truly a gem. While just about everyone has quoted Forrest a time or two, way fewer people have actually read the book that the film is adapted from.
What makes the film better? As much story-line as there is in the movie, the film actually cuts a bunch of material from Groom’s novel, which if I’m going to be completely honest…is just straight up batshit crazy. In his book, Forrest becomes an astronaut, goes to space, meets a chimp named Sue, and crash-lands in some fuckin’ jungle where he’s almost eaten by cannibals. Luckily for us, we didn’t have to endure these preposterous events on the big screen.
Fun Fact: With every transition of Forrest’s age, one thing remains the same. He always is wearing a blue plaid shirt.
#4 One flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
The Book: written by Ken Kesey (1962)
The Movie: directed by Milos Foreman (1975)
Set in an Oregon psychiatric facility, Ken Kesey’s book serves as a study of the institutional processes and the human mind. Although controversial, it has widely been regarded as one of the best English-language novels of the past 100 years.
What makes the film better? Another flick on the list where Jack Nicholson is in the lead, here, his character McMurphy is the embodiment of a cinematic anti-hero. In the winner of 1975’s ‘Best Picture’ the film shifts perspective from Chief (Will Sampson), to McMurphy, which ultimately creates the conflicts between him and Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) all the more interesting. “I must be crazy to be in a loony bin like this.” Yeah, no shit dude. Nicholson goes on to win his first Oscar for ‘Best Actor in a Leading Role’ as he marvels the audience with his ability to bring Kesey’s character to life better than anybody else ever could.
Fun Fact: A movie which was revered worldwide, Swedish viewers developed an especially soft spot for the film. Cuckoo’s Nest remained a regular option for Swedish moviegoers through 1987- 11 years after it’s initial release!
The Book: written by Robert Bloch (1959)
The Movie: directed by Alfred Hitchcock (1960)
Bloch’s little-known novel was said to be inspired by the murders of Edward Gein who lived just 30 miles away from the author in Plainfield, Wisconsin.
What makes the film better? Hitchcock, who many would say is the greatest director to ever live, stayed true to much of Bloch’s novel, but his decision to devote more time to Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) helped make her surprising murder pretty damn shocking. The admiration and fanfare for this Hitchcock masterpiece, helped produce various future projects such as: sequels, television series’, and comic books…all surrounding the complex character we’ve come to know as Norman Bates.
Fun Fact: Psycho is the first American film to show a toilet on screen. Yah, you read that right. A toilet was never shown in an American produced film until 1960.
#2 The Shawshank Redemption
The Book: written by Stephen King (1982)
The Movie: directed by Frank Darabont (1994)
The 3rd and final Stephen King work of literature on our list is a novella from his 1982 collection Different Seasons. Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption is the story of a banker, who is tried and convicted for the murders of his wife and her lover, despite his claims of innocence.
What makes the film better? Although a massive box-office disappointment, the film adaption starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman was not only critically acclaimed, but received numerous awards and nominations as well. Losing to another selection on this list, many would say this was the deserving winner for 1994’s ‘Best Picture’ (Or Pulp Fiction, but what do I know). The film also adds far more emotion and depth in comparison to King’s minor work. A movie many critics consider one of the best, you find yourself constantly rooting for Dufresne. Hoping he can either clear his name or somehow escape the unfair consequence he was rendered- deep down you come to terms with its virtual impossibility. “Get busy living or get busy dying.” Is a line that still resonates with me today.
Fun fact: The film was released in Taiwan with the title being 1995: Fantastic- which ok, sort of makes sense because there, it did come out a year later. LOL, just kidding actually that makes no fucking sense whatsoever.
#1 The Godfather
The Book: written by Mario Puzo (1969)
The Movie: directed by Francis Ford Coppola (1972)
Mario Puzo’s novel follows an Italian crime-family lead by none other than, Don Vito Corleone. Yes, the book sold extremely well, and is in fact a fantastic read. It’s the movie, however, that has struck a chord with audiences across the globe, and is always referred to when talking about the story of The Godfather.
What makes the film better? The Godfather is widely considered to be, without a doubt, one of the greatest films of all time. Although Puzo’s novel is certainly fun, the film script completely does away with the book’s few weak moments. In one of the most influential films ever made, it recently ranked second all-time only to Orson Wells’ Citizen Kane by the American Film Institute. Along with the films much grittier finale, where Kay realizes the extent of Michael’s ruthlessness, Francis Ford Coppola masterfully transcends this story into a breathtaking cinematic treasure. I may sound like a broken record, but this film is the epitome of a movie adaptation being better than the source material.
Fun Fact: When Coppola initially mentioned Brando as a possibility for Vito Corleone, it is said that executives at Paramount told Coppola the actor would “never appear in a Paramount picture.” The studio wanted Laurence Oliver as Vito, before eventually agreeing to pursue Brando under three conditions: 1) Brando had to do a screen test 2) if cast, Brando would have to do the movie for free; and 3) Brando would have to personally put up a bond to make up for potential losses caused by his infamously bad on-set behavior. By perhaps, the grace of God, Coppola somehow managed to lure Brando into what he called a “makeup test,” which in actuality was the screen test the studio demanded. When Coppola showed Paramount what they shot, they liked it so much they dropped the second and third stipulations and agreed to hire Brando immediately. Could one even fucking FATHOM Vito Corleone being played by anybody else? I know I certainly can’t.
Contributed By Brandon Colón