21 Movies & Shows That Are Better Than The Books They're Based On, Because It Does Happen Sometimes
"The book is always better." It's a common phrase among book lovers: It's almost impossible to believe that an on-screen adaptation of a novel could actually be superior to the original source material. But every once in a while, it does happen: There are a fair number of movies and TV shows are better than the books they're based on. Yes, really.
It's also worth pointing out that, particularly in recent years, there are a number of movies and shows that are at least as good as their source material, if not better. Netflix's You, for instance, perfectly captures the tone and creepiness of Caroline Kepnes' novel. And Gone Girl and Sharp Objects are just as heart-racing on screen as Gillian Flynn's books.
But both of those projects stayed relatively faithful to the books that inspired them. Many of the shows and movies below, meanwhile, added improved storylines to the books that inspired them, or eliminated irrelevant side details entirely. It just goes to show that even when an author creates an original universe and characters, that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement, at least sometimes. (And if you still think the books are better, well, they're always there to go back to and reread.)
Some spoilers ahead for the books and movies mentioned.
1. 'A Simple Favor'
If you were taken aback by the incest storyline in the movie, just know that it was a lot worse in the book. And the downplaying of that disturbing detail was just one of many changes in the film adaptation of Darcey Bell's novel.
A Simple Favor is a rare case where the Hollywood ending is more satisfying than the book's true ending. In the book, Emily does get away with framing Stephanie, who's a lot more clueless than she is in the movie. A lot of Emily's backstory is changed for the movie, too, but the way everything plays out on screen makes sense and comes together well.
2. 'The Hunger Games'
Yes, the movie franchise wouldn't exist if Suzanne Collins hadn't created this dystopian world in the first place. But being able to see the action play out on screen is just more exciting than reading it, in this case.
Plus, at least for me, I found it hard to sympathize with Katniss in the first two books. Thanks to Jennifer Lawrence's incredible portrayal of the character, though, it's easy to understand the complexity of her emotional response to her situation right away.
3. 'Pretty Little Liars'
Pretty Little Liars, the TV show, had its missteps, like the way it handled the reveal that CeCe was a transgender woman. And the book series deserves praise for sending Ezra to jail, rather than presenting a teacher-student relationship as romantic, as the show did.
Overall, though, the Pretty Little Liars TV series stayed more consistent and fresh than the books did. Many of the later books felt like they were going in circles, like the storyline involving Ali's lookalike Tabitha. But over the course of seven seasons, Pretty Little Liars remained largely captivating, thanks in no small part to its leads' dedication to their roles.
4. 'The Princess Diaries'
Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries book series is a classic for a reason. And, yes, Disney took a lot of creative liberties with its adaptation. Still, there's a reason why the movie version lives on in so many fans' hearts. Anne Hathaway plays Mia so well, and Julie Andrews brings a true warmth to her role as Queen Clarisse.
5. 'He's Just Not That Into You'
OK, this isn't a totally fair comparison, since the movie was inspired by a self-improvement book and not a novel. But it's pretty creative to build an entire plot around an advice book. And of all of the group-ensemble movies that followed Love Actually, this is one of the better ones.
6. 'The Carrie Diaries'
There wouldn't be Sex and the City, or The Carrie Diaries, without Candace Bushnell's inventive mind. And making a prequel to one of the most beloved TV shows of all time isn't easy — but The CW managed to pull it off. Fans may love to joke about Carrie Bradshaw's expensive apartment and shoe collection, but AnnaSophia Robb's teen Carrie was way more relatable. Plus, the '80s music and bright costumes just made watching this story on TV more fun than reading the novels that inspired it.
7. 'Legally Blonde'
A quick scroll through Goodreads reviews of Amanda Brown's Legally Blonde will show many fans who read the book after seeing the movie and were sadly disappointed. The movie wouldn't exist if Brown hadn't created Elle in the first place, but it also added a lot more to the story. The movie's screenwriters worked hard to make the movie empowering, including changing the ending to include Elle's graduation speech, and Elle's journey is a lot more inspiring on screen.
8. 'The Devil Wears Prada'
Andy's relationship with her best friend is explored more in the book than it is in the movie, which is a plus. But Andy is way more sympathetic in The Devil Wears Prada's film adaptation, and the whole thing is just funnier, too. (The movie's screenplay is by Aline Brosh McKenna, co-creator of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and her style of biting humor comes into play plenty of times in the film.) Watching the movie, I found myself rooting for Andy, while in reading the book, I wasn't much invested in her career future.
9. 'Something Borrowed'
Something Borrowed, along with its sequel, Something Blue, are perfectly fun novels. But what isn't improved with adding John Krasinski into the mix? Plus, at least in the first book, Darcy was a bit one-sided. She's more sympathetic in the movie, even if she's fairly clueless.
There's a reason Jaws is one of the most classic movies of all time. As Variety explained, the movie is more focused on the shark itself, rather than on the human characters' relationships. And that's not a bad thing.
11. 'Confessions Of A Shopaholic'
Confessions of a Shopaholic is a perfectly fun, light read. But the movie is just more fun. Isla Fisher's Rebecca is so relatable, even if she's not exactly a role model. And she does seem to learn more from her mistakes than Becky does in the novel. Plus, Krysten Ritter and Hugh Dancy are in the movie, which are another two major pluses.
12. 'Mean Girls'
Like He's Just Not That Into You, this movie wasn't based on a novel. Instead, it's inspired by a self-help book called Queen bees and Wannabees: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence. Of course, there's nothing wrong with supporting your child — but it's safe to say Mean Girls added a lot of originality onto the book's starting point.
Julie Murphy's novel is a cute, fun read. But Danielle Macdonald and Jennifer Aniston truly bring the story to life on screen. One major difference between the book and its Netflix adaptation is that Bo is a way bigger character in the book than he is in the movie. That might cause some disagreement among fans. But it was nice to see Willowdean really come into her own in the movie, in a way that had nothing to do with a guy.
14. 'Fight Club'
The Fight Club movie emphasized the romance a lot more than Chuck Palahniuk's novel did. And while that may sound like a classic Hollywood twist for the worse, it turns out that Palahniuk really liked what David Fincher did with the movie.
"I wanted to see the romance emphasized more," Palahniuk told CNN in 1999, referring to the movie's ending. "The whole story is about a man reaching the point where he can commit to a woman, so the ending is appropriate."
15. 'Bridget Jones' Diary'
Helen Fielding's novel is funny and relatable. But how could the movie not be better with Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, not to mention Renée Zellweger's heartwarming performance? And it may be all because of Firth's charm, but the on-screen Mark Darcy is way more sympathetic and likable than the one in the book.
16. 'The Princess Bride'
"As you wish" is basically a catchphrase, thanks to this movie. Whether or not The Princess Bride is better than the book is up for debate, but there are plenty of film fans who will side with the on-screen adaptation. Seeing the story told as a fairytale from grandfather to grandson in the movie is just so cute, and that's not even mentioning all of the hilarious scenes.
17. 'The Silence Of The Lambs'
There's a reason Silence of the Lambs won Best Picture at the Oscars. Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal is even creepier than book readers might imagine him to be. And his dynamic with Clarice is so disturbing in the movie that it's impossible to stop watching.
18. 'The Notebook'
There's a reason this movie is infinitely more popular than any other films based on Nicholas Sparks novels. Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling give Allie and Noah more life and chemistry than they ever had in the book.
19. 'Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse'
Into the Spider-Verse paid homage to the comics that inspired it, while also taking advantage of the movie format. The multiple animation styles make for a more dynamic viewing experience than you'll have from reading the comic books. Plus, the voice cast is allover excellent, and the Spider-Verse characters who are featured in the movie each bring their own fun twist to the situation. And that's not even mentioning how great the soundtrack is, too. There are a lot of superhero movies out there, but this one really did it right.
20. 'Jurassic Park'
Jurassic Park often shows up on lists of movies that are better than books, and it's not hard to see why. The movie is incredibly fun and infinitely meme-able. So what if the science doesn't really make sense?
21. 'Forrest Gump'
Tom Hanks brings heart to Forrest Gump that just can't be replicated. He's just such a sweet and kindhearted character. And while his dreams and worldview might not be that exciting in the book, they're moving on screen, thanks to Hanks' performance.
Of course, whether a book or movie is better is entirely subjective. But these on-screen adaptations are definitely worth a watch.