13 '90s Movies That Were Way Better Than The Books They Were Based On

As a kid, it often felt like you were either one of two things: a lover of books or a lover of films. Some of us happened to be both, and, when that was the case, we'd often get caught stuck in the middle of heated debates over whether the movie version of a book was better than it's source material. Back in the '90s, there were a ton of movies that got made directly off the back of a successfully best-selling book (I blame you, Stephen King), and, as a result, this debate raged on every month. The truth is, there are still plenty of books that are much better than the films that got made out of them, but there are also plenty of '90s movies that were way better than the books they were based on.

Sometimes the directors of these films managed to capture particular nuances within a book and visually boost these ideas or themes on screen. Other times, the performance of a film's cast just far outdoes the way you could see and hear the characters in your head as you were reading the book. And then you simply have books that can feel too big for your brain; emotionally, creatively, philosophically or intellectually, these books can have such great scale and ambition that your mind can sometimes fail to properly bring them to life. As such, when we finally get to see the film that took on such a book and translates those elements to screen, it can truly be breathtaking.

Here are 13 '90s films that managed to do all of these things perfectly, making them way better than the books they're based on.

1. Mrs Doubtfire

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Based On The Book: Mrs Doubtfire by Anne Fine

Growing up, Anne Fine was one of my favorite authors of children's books, and, though Mrs Doubtfire made for an incredibly emotional and touching read, the movie managed to up the nuances of humor to be found in the book and blend them perfectly with that big old heart at the core of it. Plus: Robin Williams at his best.

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2. Apollo 13

Based On The Book: Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger

Even if you were a massive space geek in the '90s like I was, Lost Moon was still a bit of a heavy read to get through despite the fascinating subject matter. Apollo 13, on the other hand, managed to still maintain its science credentials while being entertaining.

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3. Forrest Gump

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Based On The Book: Forrest Gump by Winston Groom

The movie version of Forrest Gump managed to truly bring the scale of the book to life in a way that your imagination can sometimes fail to achieve. The only downside to the movie version? Jenny dies, whereas she simply marries another man in the book, and goes on to live the rest of her life.

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4. Goodfellas

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Based On The Book: Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family by Nicholas Pileggi

Though the book may have the advantage of realism on its side, the movie gave us an absolutely terrifying portrayal of the mafia, mostly thanks to the unhinged performance of Joe Pesci.

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5. Babe

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Based On The Book: The Sheep Pig by Dick King-Smith

Actually, the book and the movie are almost on par. Both wonderfully charming and full of warmth, Babe managed to translate your imagination to the screen, but The Sheep Pig managed to bring your imagination (and your heart) to life. Still, I think Babe is better.

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6. Jurassic Park

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Based On The Book: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

The book of Jurassic Park is pretty amazing and goes into far more detail regarding science and the politics behind playing with genetics, but it wasn't exactly child-friendly. The movie managed to still incorporate a great deal of what was great about the book and make it family-friendly, which has to be admired. Plus, all '90s kids wanted to believe that those dinosaurs were real when they first saw Jurassic Park.

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7. Fight Club

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Based On The Book: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Palahniuk once said that David Fincher's cinematic interpretation of his book was "so much more effective" than how he'd written it, to the point where he actually felt "embarrassed of the book." And it's easy to understand how he came to that conclusion. As a film, Fight Club is pretty incredible and has remained an iconic movie of the late '90s.

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8. Silence Of The Lambs

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Based On The Book: The Silence Of The Lambs by Thomas Harris

I'm not going to lie, the book is pretty damn outstanding (and a supreme page turner). But the movie trumps it with how director Jonathon Demme captures the unspoken in the movie, building tension and suggesting inner conflicts with unsettling camera angles and physical gestures.

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9. Misery

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Based On The Book: Misery by Stephen King

Because, simply, there are no combination of words in the English language that are anywhere near as scary as Kathy Bates' flawless performance in this film.

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10. The Shawshank Redemption

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Based On The Book: Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King

The real genius of The Shawshank Redemption isn't that it in anyway improves upon the book, but just that it managed to extend it. King's original story was only a novella.

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11. 10 Things I Hate About You

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Based On The Book: The Taming Of The Shrew by William Shakespeare

Okay, so it was only very loosely based on Shakespeare's original play. But unless Heath Ledger could be here to read The Taming Of The Shrew to me, then the play just can't compare to this late '90s classic teen film.

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12. Trainspotting

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Based On The Book: Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

Welsh's classic acerbic treatment on youth culture and life in Glasgow, Scotland, was a groundbreaking piece of poetic prose when it came out, written phonetically and full of energy. Danny Boyle's movie, however, captured that energy perfectly and added innovative touches (like the terrifying dead baby which crawls along the ceiling) that helped to define an entire generation.

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13. Starship Troopers

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Based On The Book: Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein

Paul Verhoeven's movie version of the classic sci-fi tome is rightly considered something of a satirical, darkly comedic masterpiece these days. While the book has often been accused of being a glorification of war, the movie instead provided a melodramatic portrayal to produce a scathing anti-war satire.

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Debate over and done, people. There's no denying that these films not only did justice to the source material, but even slightly improved upon it.

Images: 20thCenturyFox