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Book vs Movie: Which is Better?

There has been an ongoing debate in the writing community about whether or not a film adaptation of a novel is on par with the book itself. Most people hurriedly say, “The book was wayyyy better than the movie!” often regardless of which book/movie is being discussed. You’ll even find home décor and clothing declaring the same opinion: the book is always better. Is it, though?

At the risk of ruffling a few feathers, there have been many times I’ve thought a movie adaptation was better than the book, or at least did a good job of retelling the story in a visual manner. Maybe it’s because I enjoy seeing characters come to life, or perhaps I get drawn into the visual aspects of a movie in ways that I didn’t quite envision in my mind while reading. For instance, I thought the Harry Potter movies did a great job bringing the novels to life. I loved the original 1995 Jumanji movie, but after seeing the film, reading Chris Van Allsburg’s book felt a little lackluster. (As an aside, I love his illustrations though). Likewise, I thought the Divergent movies were good too. However, I truly think the third movie was NOT better than the book. Without revealing any spoilers, I think the Allegiant movie strayed too far from the novel to take advantage of cool visual effects. Also, the ending of the book (though more heartbreaking for a fan) was more believable in terms of both characters and bringing the series to a conclusion.

The funny thing is, whenever I’ve seen discussions online about book vs movie, book lovers are so passionate about their favorite books that they often don’t seem to want to enjoy the movie. Sure, if the book came first then the author knew exactly how they wanted to portray their characters and how the plot should play out. However, screenwriting and novel-writing are two different things. In most cases, you need to take some different directions in order to create a movie that is believable, increases interest through visuals, but still keeps in line with the original plot. Just because the movie’s storyline might be a little different doesn’t mean it’s automatically worse.

Still, I find myself almost embarrassed to pipe up and say I love watching movie adaptations when so many devoted readers have their pitchforks raised. Perhaps the embarrassment comes from a fear of ridicule. I’m not sure. However, as a writer who would love to have her books made into movies, I could only hope the screenwriters would do my story justice. Rather than attempt to protect my “precious baby,” I’d have to set my pride aside for a while and let others voice their ideas for what they want to do for my book. Instead of thinking of movies as the same story, think of them as a visual retelling.

It’s okay to think of a book and a movie as different stories. Personally, I love to watch movies in general because they’re another medium to tell a story. Often when I watch a movie first, then read the book, I find I like the movie more! If I read the book first, then watch the movie, I find that I don’t get angry or annoyed if the movie was very different from the book. Well, except for the case of Allegiant.

When it comes down to it, whether you think a book or movie is better is just a matter of personal taste. I only ask bookworms to stop being so over-protective of books that they feel the need to bash movies with plenty of good aspects. Also, never disrespect someone who preferred a movie to its book. The world and the internet both have too much drama and negativity already, and this is just not a topic that needs to become a heated argument.

Are there any movies you preferred over the book? Which movies do you think were a good adaptation of their novel? Let me know in the comments below!

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Oct 29, 2018

I completely agree with you, Joe. I think it's best to think of them as separate entities, but many people get so caught up in THEIR version of the story in their minds that they get angry at the movie for not meeting expectations. I loved your analysis. I can tell you're a big movie and book fan. :)


Joe Benedict
Joe Benedict
Oct 29, 2018

The first movie I thought was better than the book was Jaws. Honestly, I would challenge anyone to think differently. Spielberg did such a masterful job with that story that the book has a hard time comparing. Peter Benchley should always get credit for the idea, but his version of the story is definitely inferior..

In general, though, I try to keep the two mediums separate. The Shining is both a terrifying movie and terrifying book, but Kubrick and King had vastly different visions of the story. The themes are so different, they're almost two different stories, despite the overlapping narrative of a family isolated in a hotel for the winter.

More recently, Alex Garland's vision of Jeff Vandermeer's Annihilation…

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