I get it, book lovers. We all stick to the party line that "the book is better than the movie," point blank. But let's be honest here: adaptations vary. You've got your solid, not-quite-as-good-as-the-books movies like the Harry Potter series. You've got your beloved, fan favorite films that some people like more than the book, like The Princess Bride. And then you've those truly great books that somehow ended up as the worst cinematic travesties in living memory. Here are a few books that are a million times better than the movie.
Usually, when we're screaming about book to film adaptations, we're upset because our favorite scenes or characters were left out (I, for one, am still upset about Nearly Headless Nick's Deathday Party). Most adaptations have to cut a subplot or two, though, because novels just have a lot more room for detail. So I'm not saying that these book-based movies are bad because they didn't follow the author's original text to the letter. These movies go way beyond being "unfaithful" adaptations. They're just plain bad.
So, if you've ever seen a beloved book get absolutely wrecked on the big screen, here are a few books that are just so much better than their trash movies.
1'The Golden Compass' by Philip Pullman
Just... what happened here? The Golden Compass is a brilliantly crafted fantasy novel, full of adventure and intrigue and theological underpinnings. A bear punches another bear's jaw off. It's great. But the movie was just wall-to-wall exposition, bad CGI, and a valiant attempt to avoid offending anybody that wound up offending everybody, Catholic and Atheist alike.
2'Cloud Atlas' by David Mitchell
The book is an ambitious, profound meditation on humanity, spanning six time periods and six protagonists in six masterfully written short stories, each nested within the next. The movie... not so much. To be fair, the Wachowski Siblings made a visually gorgeous film. They just took a wrong turn by making it three hours long, incomprehensibly confusing, and having multiple actors in race-changing makeup. Really, people?
3'Ella Enchanted' by Gail Carson Levine
Every '90s kid and their '90s mom loves Ella Enchanted. It's the clever, feminist take on the Cinderella story that we all needed as kids. The book is witty and lovable. The movie wants very badly to be a life-action version of Shrek. It chucked out all the nuance of the book in favor of unfunny slapstick and unnecessary karaoke.
4'The Hobbit' by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings movies do a pretty solid job of adapting three long, complex novels into three long, complex movies. But then someone decided it would be a good idea to adapt The Hobbit into three long, complex, bloated movies... even though The Hobbit is a relatively short, charming children's book. One movie would have been plenty, thanks.
5'The Scarlet Letter' by Nathaniel Hawthorne
I'll admit that The Scarlet Letter isn't everyone's favorite book. But it's still far, far better than any of its film adaptations. The Demi Moore version in particular is a hot mess that revolves around baths and action scenes and very little transcendentalism.
6'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' by Alan Moore
The graphic novel brings together famous characters from English literature in a sort of a Victorian Justice League. There's Captain Nemo from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Mina Harker from Dracula, and so forth. It's dark, literary, and expertly plotted. The movie is just... cheesy. Really cheesy. And clunky. And trying way too hard to be Batman.
7'Dune' by Frank Herbert
Dune is arguably science fiction's answer to The Lord of the Rings. Or like, if Star Wars was a book about resource management. It's absolutely epic, rife with prophecy and giant desert worms, and a sci-fi classic. The movie is just WEIRD. Nothing makes sense. The effects are incomprehensible. But Sting is in it, so that's cool I guess?
8'The Giver' by Lois Lowry
Before the teen dystopia genre was much of a genre, The Giver was already one of the best loved YA novels of all time. But, despite its all-star cast, the movie was an all-around flop. The book explores themes of individuality in a world of forced conformity... and the movie just about conforms to every tired Hollywood trope imaginable.
9'The Bonfire Of The Vanities' by Tom Wolfe
The Bonfire Of The Vanities is a satirical novel that takes on racism, class inequality, politics, and greed in New York of the 1980s. It's been hailed as "the quintessential novel of the '80s" for its incisive social commentary. The movie tries to do all those things, but it fails. Miserably. The result is a confused, tedious comedy with nothing to say about anything to anybody.
10'Eragon' by Christopher Paolini
Oof. Eragon the book gets some flack for being a little derivative of Tolkien and Star Wars and the like, but most people agree that it's a grand, fun, fantastical adventure about a boy and his dragon. Sounds pretty solid for a film adaptation. But Eragon the movie is a stuffy disaster that looks like a video game cut scene. Of all the clunky CGI dragons, Saphira has got to be the clunkiest.
11'The Lorax' by Dr. Seuss
How does one choose between terrible Dr. Seuss adaptations? There have been many. But The Lorax has got to win for missing the point of the book so spectacularly. The book is a short, affecting children's story about environmentalism and greed. It urges children to agitate for social change. So far, so good. But the movie, in addition to being deeply irritating, changes the plot to be the story of a young boy planting a tree to impress a cute girl. Oy.