10 Book to Movie Adaptations I Actually LOVED

Posted May 14, 2019 by Amber in Memes / 22 Comments

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Most of us bookish sorts talk about film adaptations with contempt.  We see the stories we know and love adapted into monstrosities that make our hearts ache and misrepresent everything we love to the non-reading public.  Believe me, I can relate.  I watched this happen with particular favorites, like Ready Player One and The Dark Tower.

All that said, I’ve also come across several book-related films that I have particularly enjoyed.  Some of these weren’t even particularly faithful adaptations… but they managed to retain (for me) the spirit of the book and brought to life characters I adored.  In the bookish community, it can be a bit explosive to say you loved a film adaptation, but I’m putting on my brave face today!

For the purposes of this list, I’m only including movies.  I’m sure those going with Best Of will be seeing a lot of Game of Thrones this week, and Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is excellent…but I’m here to talk about the movies.  From all sorts of genres and from any time in the last 30 years. 🙂

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Anne of Green Gables

1985

While I suppose technically this was a television mini series, it came to me in the form of a single, sit down film and so I’m counting it.  I absolutely love Megan Follows in this role and have watched these over and over and over again.  I am so utterly loyal to this adaptation that I stubbornly refuse to touch the Netflix reboot, even though people say it’s good.  There’s so much sweetness and magic in this that is perfectly captured from the books.  And I love the books with all my heart, so please know when I say this is flawless… I mean it with every iota of my soul.

Also the Lady of Shalott scene is my favorite in the entire series… film or books. <3

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

2005

Controversial opinion!  I loved this film.  I thought Martin Freeman and Mos Def were excellent casting, and while I wasn’t crazy about Zooey Deschanel… I’m also not crazy about Trillion.  I saw The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy a couple of years before I read the trilogy… and standing back… I still really enjoy both of them.

One of my favorite things about this particular story is that it has come in so many adaptations, and they’re all different, and Douglas Addams was involved in all of them.  So, like the Harry Potter extended universe… they’re all canon.  Whether we like it or not.

The asides from the Guide are my favorite though.  So funny.

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The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

2001

Okay.  So I get that not everyone loved these, but unless you’re a Tolkien superfan, I think we need to step back and admit that these movies kept everything vital to pushing the story forward and captured the feel of the books perfectly.  Even though I encourage people to read the original trilogy, the movies are really all you need.

I think all the actors are brilliant and the sweeping cinematic angles are impressive and these films are just really quite brilliant.  Lack of Tom Bombadil aside.

And I’ve got to tell you… epic fantasy is really difficult to bring to film.  There’s a lot of complicated worldbuilding and a lot of journeying that doesn’t always translate well.  With that in mind, the success of the trilogy is twice as impressive.

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The Harry Potter Series

2001

Now, if you sit down with me and watch this series, I will spend the entire time judging them and pointing out all the things that are not in the movies and how the first couple films really lean towards a Harry/Hermione ship and how I dislike it… but inside, I love them.  There hasn’t been anything in film quite as exhilarating as hearing “Hedwig’s Theme” and watching the WB logo appear since Deathly Hallows came out.  And I’m including the Marvel films in that statement.

The way the Harry Potter films brought together so many notable, incredible actors and the stories behind the films are also so impressive to me.  Are they loyal to the books?  No.  Are they wholly enjoyable?  Yes.  I think that if you sit down to watch a movie and your soul sets on fire in the first few moments, it’s a notable film indeed.

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Angels and Demons

2009

So many people gobble up the Robert Langdon books, but I don’t see much conversation about them here in the blogosphere.  While Inferno is my favorite story, the Angels and Demons adaptation is my favorite.  That is due in no small part to Ewan McGregor, whose accent is everything.  But also?  You really can’t go wrong with a Tom Hanks movie.

The story of this one is fascinating as well, having the most gorgeous experience of working through so many old, stunning churches, and dealing with the Illuminati.

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Girl, Interrupted

1999

You want to talk about movies that have nothing to do with the book that inspired them, except for the character names and a thin theme?  Girl, Interrupted is one of them.  I still think this film is incredible.  The performances of both Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie are brilliant.

It’s also one of those films that sticks its middle finger up at the world’s presumptions.  It may not follow the story of Girl, Interrupted at ALL (the book is a series of Susanna Kaysen’s essays) but the feeling of the movie is very similar to the book… and the story of the movie is classic as well.

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Love, Simon

2018

I actually did a whole post comparing Love, Simon with Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda.  Contemporary films, for whatever reason, seem to be very forgettable.  People watch them once, they love them and they forget them.  I love the fact that Love, Simon was made, and that it discusses sexual identity.  It drives me CRAZY that this STILL isn’t a thing that we (as a society) can comfortably talk about.

Love, Simon let so many people see themselves on screen in a protagonist and I am here for this film FOREVER.  But I also thought it was just really enjoyable.  It was a sweet love story and even though it wasn’t perfect, I really liked it as a whole.

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Black Beauty

1994

This is an older one, but I grew up with Black Beauty and I love it.  It’s one of those stories that’s difficult to translate without being too cheesy. Black Beauty is charming and endearing.  No small feat for a movie narrated by a horse.

Also, with Disney making all these live action versions of their classic films… they still aren’t making them with real animals!  Black Beauty did just that, and to the best of my knowledge, no animals were harmed during this film.  In fact, that would be part of the point, because Black Beauty is not only about the life of a horse, but it has underlying themes about animal cruelty.  It’s a wonderful film even 25 years later, and good for the whole family.

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The Fault In Our Stars

2014

YA hasn’t always been very present in the movies.  In fact, it still struggles.  A YA contemporary is difficult to find, and it’s usually YA Something-Else.  YA Fantasy.  YA Dystopia.  The Fault in Our Stars was a perfect story to adapt – it’s a heartbreaking story with poignant moments and scenes that give it a good chance of being memorable.

It’s also really, really close to the book.

Shailene Woodley was a big name after the success of Divergent but it was Ansel Elgort that stole the show here.  This adaptation was everything I could have wanted from a book that made me cry while making me want to read it again immediately.  It’s still a good watch… bring tissues.

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Jurassic Park

1993

Jurassic Park is so renown as a film that I think a lot of people forget it’s a book as well. It’s had sequels and spinoffs/reboots and amusement park rides but… it’s a book guys!  It’s a pretty good book!

That said, I read anything by Michael Crichton because it’s usually quite fascinating.  The film adaptation of Jurassic Park retains the same spirit of the book, but scene-by-scene is very different.  Some scenes from the original book made it into The Lost World.  Still, on its own?  This movie is so much fun.  And, yeah, I’m talking about the original film.  The new ones are… fine?  But the original is a modern science-fiction classic.

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This week’s Top Ten Tuesday asked:

Page to Screen Freebie (Books that became movies/TV shows, movies that became books, great adaptations, bad ones, books you need to read before watching their movie/TV show, movies you loved based on books you hated or vice versa, books you want to read because you saw the movie or vice versa, etc.)

 

I think the relationship between books and movies is always interesting, and I’ve been meaning to write a post of adaptations I really liked for a while now.  I’m glad this popped up on TTT!

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Which film adaptations do you like?  There are a lot of imperfections in film adaptations, but I think there’s always one or two that we like anyway. Let me know your favorites in the comments!

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22 responses to “10 Book to Movie Adaptations I Actually LOVED

  1. I totally agree about Harry Potter. When watching the movies I always get a little annoyed, because they are not the same as the books. But I do like them! Some of the actors are so good, I cannot imagine the character without seeing them (like Allan Rickman).

    • Amber

      Dame Maggie Smith is my big one in Harry Potter – she is everything I wanted McGonagall to be. <3 <3 <3 It took me YEARS to be able to separate the books and the movies, but sometimes it's still a struggle, lol. I'm so glad you're able to enjoy both for the most part!

  2. I think you’re spot on when you talk about adaptations retaining the spirit of the book and bringing to life its characters because realistically copying everything from book to screen just can’t be done! And for all I used to nitpick about Harry Potter when the films were first released, they were a huge part of my childhood so in nostalgia alone they were successful!

    • Amber

      Right? I think it takes a while for us bookish sorts to really come to that conclusion – all the details are impossible, but as long as the spirit is retained (and the plot… so annoying when the plot is completely changed…) we;ll still get a fairly decent film. 🙂

  3. I completely forgot about The Hitchhiker’s Guide! Loved that movie. I watched the movie before I’d even heard of the book, and I think Martin Freeman and Mos Def for sure made it for me. They were great.

    I agree with you about Lord of the Rings, too. I mean, sure, no Tom Bombadil was sad, but when your source material is forever long, it’s really hard to condense that down and pick and choose, which is what you have to do for a movie. Plus have it all be visually pleasing and make sense on its own. I thought Peter Jackson did a FABULOUS job, and the films are gorgeous. If you want the full experience, yeah, I’d recommend watching the movies AND reading the books, but the fact that the movie is 100% of the book doesn’t detract from how great it is.

    Jurassic Park, the movie, will always be iconic for me, because not only did I want to be a paleontologist at the time I watched it (when I was all of, like, five), but the idea of dinosaurs coming back to life sounded exciting. And then I watched the movie and had nightmares for, like, five years, following the first two films. xD But I still wanted to be a paleontologist. If only to stop idiots from deciding to try to recreate dinosaurs LOL.

    Sammie @ The Writerly Way recently posted: Upcoming Book-To-Movie Adaptations I’m Dying To See
    • Amber

      H2G2 just popped into my head as I was writing this – I hadn’t seen it in years, either! I actually popped it on as soon as I finished typing up the post, lol. Still good!

      Jurassic Park is such a good movie, and it’s so cool that it has all those special connotations for you! It certainly makes it more special. Bummer about the nightmares though… albeit for a kid that T-Rex was pretty scary. I’m *still* amazed by how good the dinosaurs look in that film, considering where CGI was at when it was released.

    • Amber

      Aw. <3 I'm really glad you enjoy both! With classics that get made several times, I think there is always the challenge of finding a favorite. I totally love that you're the rare sort who enjoys more than one! <3

  4. These are such fascinatingly diverse choices! I absolutely loved the Hitchiker’s Guide, the actors were perfect in their roles. Alan Rickman is now the only way I hear Marvin speak in my head, lol.

    • Amber

      Oh my gosh yes – I hadn’t even thought about it, but you’re completely right – Alan Rickman is Marvin 100%. Such a perfect voice for him.

    • Amber

      It’s really surprising how GOOD Jurassic Park is to the original story considering the other adaptations of Crichton’s work. Have you seen either Congo or Timeline? … … I liked Timeline because that is my era, plus Paul Walker… but MAN are they both cheesy.

      • No I haven’t! But I didn’t really like the book Timeline hahaha :”) However I’ve always wanted to watch Sphere, because I loved the book.

        • Amber

          Sphere is one I haven’t read and haven’t seen… but based on the track record of Crichton’s books-to-film… I wouldn’t hold me breath! XD I’ve really got to read that one, though. It’s definitely one of his more popular ones.

    • Amber

      *facepalm*

      Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I missed A Princess Bride. You’re right! That’s a REALLY GOOD adaptation, and it’s very true to the book.

  5. Fantastic post and we agree on so much! I also don’t quite love Zoey Deschanel as Trillian but not a dealbreaker as the rest of the film is so brilliant- and I love that it’s kid friendly too- get them while they’re young!

    • Amber

      So true! Douglas Addams, Terry Pratchett, and other sci-fi/fantasy humor authors are such a niche taste… it’s great that H2G2 is family friendly so we can spark interest early. 😉

    • Amber

      Ready Player One is complicated because they took the original themes – dystopia, immersion gaming, etc., corporate corruption, but blew up the importance of the love story and modernized all the references. They also changed the tasks themselves to make it more accessible to a modern audience. I get why they did it, and I don’t think the film would have been as successful if they hadn’t. The book was very much about 1980s pop culture, and since I was born in ’89, it was all very nostalgic. Depending on when you were born and what pop culture eras you may enjoy, the book may not be great for you. I recommended it to my younger brother after he saw the movie, and he was not into it at ALL. I think you really need to enjoy ’80s pop culture to love the book. 🙂

  6. I feel like YA has had such good luck with adaptations lately! I thought Love, Simon, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (I don’t love the book, but I still thought it was a solid adaptation), and The Hate U Give were all great adaptations! (I had a few issues with Love, Simon, as was to be expected with an adaptation of my literal favourite book, but overall it just captured the heart of the book so so well.)

    And I’ve only read half of the first LotR book, soI can’t really judge from that perspective, but I absolutely ADORED the movies.

    And yessss about Harry Potter! Like I will complain to no end about all the little things, and I also DO think they genuinely could’ve been a lot better, but at the same time… it still had some of the same magic, and the casting was PERFECT.

    • Amber

      Ahhh, see, I haven’t seen either of the movies for TATBILB or THUG yet. THUG is high on my list though – I don’t see a lot of movies unless I see them in theatres…or on an airplane lol. I’m so so glad to hear both were good! I’ve heard a good bit about TATBILB, but I felt like THUG went under the radar and I’ve heard NOTHING. I’m glad you liked it!