Which Films Are Better Than Their Books?

As an avid reader, it is a rare thing for me that a film is better than the book upon which it is based. The reason for me is that we all like to imagine the world a certain way, and if the Director’s vision differs we tend to feel disappointed. Here then, humbly, is my list of films that I believe are better than the book:

Harry Potter and the Order of The Phoenix

The final four novels in the Harry Potter series were considerably longer than the three that preceded them. The Order of the Phoenix is the fifth in the series and when I think back to my first read through it is the one I remember least; it didn’t stick in my memory. Something about it seemed incoherent and lacking in substance. In comparison, the film was much better and (again) dispensed with a lot of waffle.

Lord of The Rings


I know I’ve criticised the book before, mostly for being over-written and I think the essence of Peter Jackson’s film really dispenses with the waffle and leaves the core story in place. Even the four-hour special edition versions keep the core story, removing those things that really do not advance the plot. I know people love Tom Bombadil, but it really detracts from the story as far as I am concerned.

The Shining

Granted, the Jack Nicholson film wasn’t much like the book on which it was based, that honour goes to a 1990s mini-series that wasn’t particularly good but was still enjoyed by the purists. As a fan of Stephen King, I feel that The Shining isn’t amongst his most memorable books. It’s possible it has only managed to maintain its sales in recent years because of the film. It’s a basic tale about a remote haunted hotel. The film is a classic, harrowing and gets under the skin.


Peter Benchley’s tale, though a number one best seller, had a poor sub-plot and didn’t particularly handle the events surrounding the shark attacks very well. How the shark was finally killed is bizarre and I remember having to read it through a few times to figure out what actually happened. Add into the mix that Brody wasn’t a particularly nice person who spends the book obsessed that his wife is having an affair with Matt Hooper (the Marine Biologist), and it comes across as rather pulpy for a bestseller on which one of the most famous horror films of all time was based.

Bladerunner (Book Title: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)


It isn’t very often I would pass up hard science fiction but in this case I certainly prefer the film. The book is bizarre in places and a little too quirky that I found it difficult to take its message about what constitutes life and the human condition seriously. The film, though lacking a lot of the subtext, contains one of the definitive moments in movie history with Roy saves Deckard’s life and gives him that speech.

The Godfather

Mario Puzo’s novel comes across as rather pulpy compared to the dense and intelligent almost Shakespearean tragedy that Coppola created on celluloid. This was the most disappointing book. There was little that stood out about it. You get the sense of family but it feels rather like a fairly ordinary crime thriller rather than the Oscar-winning, career-making mainstay of a movie lover’s collection.

Shawshank Redemption

One of my favourite films of all time, the short novel on which the film was based lacks the harrowing veneer of Frank Darabont’s celluloid adaptation. Though the basic plot is the same, the killer for me is the constant change of Prison Warden which, when it all comes undone at the end, lacks the impact that of the sense of justice that we feel in the film when Norton’s corruption is discovered. Andy Dufresne’s “relationships” such as they were with the guards is also rather fluid and lacks the impact.


3 thoughts on “Which Films Are Better Than Their Books?

  1. lifelessons

    I don’t think The World According to Garp was as good as the book, but it was pretty darn close. It was a difficult book to adapt to film because there were so many subplots, but they did a great job of selecting the right ones and the casting was brilliant. I am not a sci fi fan so haven’t seen many of yours, but I applaud your labors in culling out the herd…Judy

      1. lifelessons

        One of Robin Williams’ first dramatic roles. He was amazaing. John Lithgow’s first major role as well.

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