I am not such a literary snob that I can’t admit that, on occasion, a movie adaptation turns out better than the book. It happens more frequently than you might think and not just with awful books. For example, one would hope that the 50 Shades of Grey movie will be better than the book, because anything has to be better than that…
Of course, this does not explain the continued success of the Twilight, Robert Langdon, or Sookie Stackhouse series (poor novels, poor adaptations). For the record, I am more critical of the later Sookie novels and everything after True Blood season one.
As usual, in no particular order except number one really is number one.
10. The Trouble With Harry by Jack Trevor Story. I was hesitant to include this one because both the book and the movie are fantastic. Perhaps the movie only edges out the book by the tiniest of margins?
9. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. I like the book, but love the movie. I’m renovating a house where one of the toilets closely resembled the worst toilet in Scotland – it was as traumatizing as you might expect…
8. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I don’t like this book, the characters are second only to Wuthering Heights on my most hated list, but the movie’s not half bad.
7. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. Every time someone tells me they read and thoroughly enjoyed The Last of the Mohicans my first thought is ‘liar’, followed closely by ‘pretentious’. It’s like when someone tells you they read David Foster Wallace for pleasure and clarity- they’re not to be trusted.
6. (Rita Hayworth and) The Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King. Quite possibly the most overplayed movie in America. If you manage to avoid the continuous repetition of this film, it’s actually quite good.
5. Jaws by Peter Benchley. The movie thankfully distills the novel in the best possible way – no mafia, no infidelity, more shark.
4. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. I consider High Fidelity, as a novel, to be cute. The movie, however, defined my teenage years in a way I can’t even describe. Roger Ebert says it well:
All I want to say is that “High Fidelity” has no deep significance, does not grow exercised over stupid plot points, savors the rhythms of these lives, sees how pop music is a soundtrack for everyone’s autobiography, introduces us to Rob and makes us hope that he finds happiness, and causes us to leave the theater quite unreasonably happy.
3. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming. The novel is fine, but the movie is great. However, I did see Casino Royale recently ranked among the worst James Bond movies, so clearly there are those who would disagree. Thankfully, it did not rank higher than Die Another Day or The World is Not Enough. It should go without saying that those are the two worst Bond movies.
2. The Body by Stephen King (adapted into Stand by Me). In one of the best adapted short story collections of all time, Different Seasons by Stephen King produced Stand by Me, The Shawshank Redemption, and Apt Pupil. My favorite: Stand by Me. It is a quintessential, nostalgic coming of age story set in the ’80’s. Plus Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell…
1. No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy. Cormac McCarthy is truly one of the great modern American novelists. A reader wouldn’t know that from the lackluster No Country for Old Men. This means McCarthy got very lucky when the Coen brothers adapted the novel into a truly great movie. Next up, the still mysterious Blood Meridian.
Thoughts? Did I miss anything obvious?