Page to Screen

Are you a fan of films that are based on novels? Particularly, books you've read? Does the mere thought of a much-loved book being turned into a movie fill you with dread? Excitement? Since it's Oscar season, I thought it would be a good to remember some books that have been made into films.

Stay tuned after the jump.....

For quite some time now, I've been trying to figure out how to go about writing about books that have been adapted into films. I mean, what angle would I use — books better than the film, films better than the book, films that had completely gotten it wrong? It's all very subjective, isn't it?

If you ask a hundred people to name a movie that was better/worse than the book, you might get as many different answers. Sometimes it depends on the writers, actors, directors or film editors. Sometimes it depends on other factors, such as the sequence in which you read the book and saw the film.
If you find out a book you love is being made into a movie, is your heart filled with trepidation? Probably. "They better not screw it up" or "They better not cut X out of the movie" are some common (and valid) thoughts. Likewise, if you find out a book being adapted for the big screen is one you didn't enjoy, you might think, "Well, they couldn't do much worse." *cough, Fifty Shades of Grey, cough*


In some ways, I envy non-book readers. They happily go to movies in complete ignorance of the story. Well, other than any investigation they might have done, i.e., watching previews, reading reviews online, looking up the Fresh Meter on Rotten Tomatoes. They are free to watch a film and judge it on its own merits. Ah, sweet bliss!
Sometimes films don't quite make sense if you haven't read the book. This might be because the filmmakers assume you have a general idea of what is going to happen, or because something crucial was edited out and left on the cutting room floor. If you then read the book, you might have a "Ah ha!" moment, when you realize what you missed in the movie.

Catching Fire is one of the hottest movies around. Adapted from the second book in Suzanne Collins's hugely popular YA Hunger Games series, it continues the story of its kickass heroine, Katniss Everdeen, played to perfection by Jennifer Lawrence. I would say this is an example of a film that lived up to the hype. It respected its audience and gave them what they wanted: the book on film, nothing else. Book: 1, Film: 1.

What Maisie Did by Henry James was recently adapted for the big screen. I admit I watched it only because of my deep, abiding crush on Alexander Skarsgard. It was a lovely and thought-provoking film, set in modern times, with unforgettable performances by ASkars, Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan and Onata Aprile. I loved it so much I downloaded the book and began reading it. However, I didn't finish it. I discovered I'm not a fan of James' writing style. Film: 1, Book: 0.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling had a lot of magic in it. I don't mean the witches and wizards and the spells they cast. I mean the spell Rowling cast over her readers, both young and old. The film didn't have that. I thought it patronized its audience. The charm of the first book in the series was missing. Luckily, the other books in the series were adapted much better for the films. Book:1, Film: 0.

Here are some excellent books/novellas that were made into very good films:

Brokeback Mountain, Annie Proulx
Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell
Gump & Co., Winston Groom (Forrest Gump)
Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, Stephen King
Schlindler's Ark, Thomas Keneally (Schlindler's List)
The Body, Stephen King (Stand By Me)
The Color Purple, Alice Walker
The Godfather, Mario Puzo
The Help, Kathryn Stockett
The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
The Reader, Bernhard Schlink
The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd
The Shining, Stephen King
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

Recently released, or soon to be released films that you might want to read before watching the movie include:

Dark Places, Gillian Flynn
Divergent, Veronica Roth
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
Serena, Ron Rash
The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
The Fault in our Stars, John Green
The Giver, Lois Lowry
The Maze Runner, James Dashner
The Monuments Men, Robert M. Edsel
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Cassandra Clare
The Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort
Vampire Academy, Richelle Mead
Winter's Tale, Mark Helprin

Most people would agree that the book is usually superior to the film. This is because movies are limited by the vision of the filmmakers. The reader's imagination can bring a novel to life in a unique, personal way. Screenwriters cannot include everything in the book because of budget, time constraints, physical limitations, format and structure. As well, they are faced with the challenge of pleasing author and fans alike.

One thing is certain: the more loved a book is, the higher the expections are.

Was your favorite book made into a movie? Did you like it? What novels would you like to see made into films? Sound off below!


  1. Donna, just read your wonderful post. You really nailed it, and ten points for the Harry Potter comment on the first book.

  2. Loved the post Donna!

    I really liked the Swedish film that was based on the book Men Who Hate Women by Stieg Larsson but I'm glad I read the book first.
    I'm loving the fact that Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is being filmed and that it looks like they're making a real effort on being true to the story. I can't wait to see it on screen!


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