No, but I read the book

Green-Eyed Lady's comment that she'd rather read the book than see the movie (which is how I mostly feel, too) prompts me to ask:

What are some of your favorite or least favorite movie adaptations of books?

Two recent movies that I thought captured the spirit, if not the letter, of the book they were based on are Master & Commander (no surprise there) and The Shipping News. And an older movie that just popped into my head that's every bit as good as the book it's based on is To Kill a Mockingbird. Oh yeah, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder.

One of the worst: Little Women.


  • When I was fourteen, I read Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. I was reading it on my own, which was a little tough, but I was struck by the imagery in the book, and clung to it to carry me through the story.

    Then, on my fourteenth birthday, I saw Roman Polanski's Tess in the theatre right after it had been released. I was amazed and delighted to see that the imagery in the movie matched the imagery in my mind so well--it validated my ability to read even a very difficult work on my own. I was so pleased. It is a wonderful adaptation of Hardy's work.

    posted by Blogger Amy on 12:33 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    posted by Blogger Amy on 12:34 PM  

  • Two of my least favorite movie adaptations:

    1. The Wonder Boys -- a fabulous novel, and the movie a complete snore.

    2. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil -- how could such a fascinating, compelling tale be rendered almost completely lifeless on screen? Even John Cusack couldn't save that dried flower arrangement of a movie.

    posted by Blogger Suzanne on 7:48 PM  

  • Which version of Little Women did you not like? The most recent is undoubtedly the worst. I rather liked the one with Katherine Hepburn.

    _All_ adaptations of A Little Princess are awful. As is the Laurence Olivier version of Pride & Prejudice, though LO is always wonderful.

    I thought Hitchcock's film translation of Rebecca was wonderful.

    posted by Blogger liz on 7:53 PM  

  • I enjoyed Anne of Green Gables in movie form (the first two, not the third.)

    posted by Blogger mrsd on 7:59 PM  

  • Funny about the movie Tess. When I saw it in the theater I'd read half the book. Only time that's ever happened to me. It is neat when the movie "matches."

    Liz, I was thinking of the most recent Little Women movie. The one with -- I can hardly bring myself to say it -- Eric Stolz???? Rebecca is a good one. In fact, I think the movie was actually better than the book. I read it years ago, but I do remember that the first three-quarters of the book was slo-o-o-o-w. The last quarter went at breakneck speed, of course. The movie was suspenseful and thrilling from the first minute.

    I haven't seen any of the other movies mentioned. Oh! A Little Princess. Yeah, both versions were awful.

    posted by Blogger Julie on 8:38 PM  

  • I have to go back to hating The Outsiders movie (hahahaha!). Even with all the dreamboys, it was a complete letdown.

    I did really like Rebecca, both book and movie, and I have to say, Gone with the Wind was well done. That is one hard book to get through.

    The Raymond Chandler book to movie thing was great with Bogart and completely wrong with Elliot Gould. ELLIOT GOULD! What were they thinking?

    I know there are more, but of course I just can't think of any.

    posted by Blogger SuzanH on 10:11 AM  

  • One of the worst was the recent American version of A Little Princess. Wrong city, wrong time period and the father lived. The Shirley Temple version had the right time and city but once again the father lived. Best adaptation - Gone with the Wind, and the BBC version of A Little Princess, where the father stayed dead, just as he was supposed to.

    posted by Blogger GuusjeM on 8:32 PM  

  • One of my recreational activities with books is thinking about whom I'd cast in the various parts. I was delighted to see my choice, John Cusack, cast in the Movie Version of High Fidelity, which was not as good as the book, but not an abomination, either.

    "The Door In The Floor" was a good adaptation of the first part of John Irving's A Widow For a Year.

    Spouse weighs in that the Harry Potter Adaptations have been disappointing.

    I love the movie The Color Purple, but haven't read the book to compare it to.

    I will ponder and see what else comes along.

    posted by Blogger doulicia on 8:41 PM  

  • As often happens I can't think of any examples, but I know I've had the experience of sitting in a cinema going "Nooo! That's not how it goes, you idiots" I know I would hate any adaptations of K M Peyton's novels,but fortunately I've never seen any!

    So I can only think of non-disappointing examples Harry Potter has so far been good - sorry to Doulicia's spouse for the disagreement Brideshead Revisted rocked, but I read the book afterwards...

    I think I avoid seeing adaptations of books I really like, to avoid the disappointment.

    posted by Blogger Mummy/Crit on 6:41 AM  

  • One of the best adaptations I have seen was Jane Austen's Persuasion which I think was the best of the recent slew of Austen adptations. It was so true in tone and emotion to the book. Others that make my "good" list:
    The Unbearable Lightness of Being: like Doulicia, I cast the movie version in my head and even before I heard they were making a movie of the book I pictured Juliette Binoche in the role she played.
    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban: the first two were excruciating, but I thought this one captured the darkness of the book.
    I liked all the recent Lord of the Rings films too.
    For fun female fluff, I thought Bridgit Jones's Diary was very much in the spirit of the book, and I liked that Colin Firth was more than willing to make a joke of his previous BBC Mr Darcy role.
    I thought that Adaptation was one of the cleverest films about adapting a book for the screen, though I wouldn't call it an adaptation of The Orchid Thief, more a riff on the idea of adapting that book.

    posted by Blogger Kate on 10:49 AM  

  • Has anyone here read The Hours? I was pretty taken with the movie (and shocked that I actually liked Nicole Kidman in it) but haven't read the book.

    All time most horrible adaptation, David Lynch's Dune. Just horrible from begining to end, every bit of it.

    Nearly as horrible is The Cat in the Hat with Mike Myers. Painful.

    I loved Kenneth Branagh's Henry V.

    Lord of the Rings, beautifully done except for the casting, everyone except the hobbits were wrong. I almost wept when I heard that Liv Tyler had been cast as Arwen.

    posted by Blogger Linda on 5:42 PM  

  • Also, Contact, I loved the book and the movie. Most of why I loved the movie had to do with the special effects which really do not come through on the small screen. I was blown away in the theatre, though. And the love story between Jodi Foster and Matthew whatshisname, I wasn't buying it. But overall I was pretty satisfied with it.

    I, Robot was pretty good too, although I don't know if that qualifies as an adaptation. I felt like it caught the spirit of Asimov though, my only complaint is that the actor who played Dr. Calvin was just not believeable as a smart person.

    posted by Blogger Linda on 5:57 PM  

  • I thought of another -- The Last Temptation of Christ. Book -- hard to get through, but edifying all the same. Movie -- extremely simplistic adaptation, but the main problem for me was the casting. Now, if Scorsese had used the actors that Mel Gibson did, I'm sure it would have been a different matter.

    The soundtrack was amazing though, it was worth it to watch it just to find out about that. Peter Gabriel's Passion is probably my longest-running high-rotation CD.

    posted by Blogger Linda on 6:13 PM  

  • Oh, Dune was hideous. I have some problems with LOTR, particularly Two Towers. In the book the Ents decide to help for the good of Middle Earth, not just to save themselves. Ditto Faramir. The Faramir episode in the movie was so wrong. I didn't mind most of the casting, though. Except Bilbo, Frodo and Elrond.

    The mention of Nicole Kidman reminds me of another movie that was a pretty decent adaptation: The Human Stain.

    posted by Blogger Julie on 6:31 PM  

  • Julie, I miss seeing you in my neck of the woods even briefly: hint, hint. :) (Glad you rescued your blog.)

    I enjoyed the book Tess of the D'Ubervilles in h. school, but it's been so long part of that enjoyment may have been from the subsequent class discussions of it.

    I hardly have the chance to see movies unless someone makes a videotape for us, so I'm not a good one to make comparisons, other than "old based" (over 10 yrs ago) opinion I voiced before.

    I do remember seeing To Kill a Mockingbird, as a movie and thought it was excellent. That is a book I loved and did read b4 the movie. Someone Taped Lord of the Rings for my husband & me. We've yet to have time to see it. (WE both work more than one job.) However, our teen-age kids who had read the triology prior, both LOVED the movie.

    I enjoy the comments here of others and have made note. Thx, Julie.

    posted by Blogger Green-Eyed Lady(GEL) on 2:00 PM