15 novels eclipsed by their movie adaptations

Odd List Ryan Lambie 23 Aug 2012 - 07:33

From comedies to sci-fi pieces to thrillers, here are 15 novels that live in the shadow of their far more famous movie adaptations…

For some writers, the words “Now A Major Motion Picture” can spell the beginning of a lucrative back-and-forth relationship between the realm of movies and literature. If a film’s popular enough, a sharp increase in book sales should logically follow, and for those authors in the right place at the right time, an adaptation can provide the perfect boost to their lonely profession

At the same time, the sale of a novel to movie producers can be somewhat bittersweet. Once in the hands of filmmakers and screenwriters, the ownership’s essentially gone – unless, of course, the author happens to be adapting the book themselves – and the quality of the finished product is left in the lap of the cinema gods.

This article is devoted to an unusual breed of film adaptation: the sort that completely eclipses the source novel. The reasons for this can vary – a title change can often sever the valuable link between book and film. The director in charge of adapting it may be so renowned and successful that their involvement with the material becomes more commonly spoken of than the original novel. Or maybe the passing of time has simply left the book dwindling in fame, while its adaptation continues to endure.

We’re not saying that any of the books on this list are inferior to the movies that inspired them; in some instances, the opposite is true, and it’s sad to learn that some of them are no longer in print and difficult to find. This is by no means an exhaustive list – it's more of a cross-section – so feel free to add your own suggestions if you have them.

Join us, then, as we take a look at 15 novels less well known than their movie adaptations, and why some of them deserve a bit more love…

Scarface (1932/1981)

Based on: Scarface by Armitage Trail

Directed by Howard Hawks and produced by Howard Hughes, Scarface was infamous for its violence (censors strongly disapproved of the film and its title), and is one of the most enduring and well regarded of all gangster movies. Brian De Palma’s trashy remake of the same name is similarly celebrated, both for its operatic violence and drama, and Al Pacino’s show-stopping performance as Cuban drug dealer Tony Montana.

That Scarface was originally inspired by a novel is seldom discussed; written by Maurice Coons under the pseudonym Armitage Trail, the book was inspired by both Al Capone's career and general Sicilian gang activity in late 20s Chicago; it’s said that Coons spent two years roaming the streets of the city with a friend, compiling his research. Coons’ experiences no doubt contributed to the book’s detail, which inspired the characters of the movies if not their events. 

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956/1978/1993/2007)

Based on: The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney

Don Siegel’s 1950s sci-fi is a true classic of cinema, and the 1978 remake starring Donald Sutherland is almost its equal. Abel Ferrara’s 1993 remake was an interesting, typically odd take on the material, while 2007’s The Invasion, starring Nicole Kidman, is a disaster best avoided altogether.

That Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is an adaptation probably isn’t widely known outside sci-fi circles, but Jack Finney’s source novel is nevertheless still in print. Like the movie, the book details an invasion of plant-like beings that gradually replicate and take over the population of a small American town. Unlike the movie, however, the book has a relatively upbeat ending, where the pod people leave Earth after five years, their invasion attempt a failure. 

The movie's more downbeat conclusion seemed to chime more readily with its paranoiac themes, and it was this element that repeatedly made its way into the subsequent remakes; only The Invasion dared to revert back to a happy conclusion at least vaguely like the book’s (the threat in the 2007 is akin to a disease), and it was a dismal box office flop. 

Vertigo (1958)

Based on: D'Entre Les Morts by Boileau-Narcejac

Recently voted the best film of all time by Sight & Sound, Alfred Hitchcock’s stylish direction and authorial stamp on Vertigo is such that its origins in French literature are rarely mentioned. D’Entre Les Morts (or The Living And The Dead) was extremely similar to Hitchcock’s movie, with a cop retiring after his fear of heights results in the death of a colleague.

The book is more of a character piece than a mystery, and if anything, its conclusion is more tragic. Vertigo, thanks to the panache and sheer fame of Hitchcock, is the better-known work of art, but it’s not hard to see what captured his imagination in this enigmatic, dreamlike novel. 

Psycho (1960)

Based on: Psycho by Robert Bloch

Although some will no doubt already know that Hitchcock’s Psycho was adapted from Robert Bloch’s 1959 novel, we’d wager that far more people have seen the movie than read the book.

Again, Hitchcock’s fame as an auteur might suggest that much of what’s great about Psycho sprung from his brow, but the movie’s remarkably close to the book, with a secluded motel, a woman on the run with stolen cash, and a proprietor with serious mother issues. The major difference is that the book's Norman Bates is a more obvious degenerate than the one in the film; the Bates embodied by Anthony Perkins is a handsome, apparently wholesome boy next door.

Hitchcock played up the book’s mystery angle, and having the first half of the film follow Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) was also his idea, developed with screenwriter Joseph Stefano. Paramount thoroughly disliked Bloch’s novel, thinking it too violent to film, hence Hitchcock’s ‘quick-and-dirty’ approach to the shoot at Universal, with a lower than usual budget and a crew borrowed from his Alfred Hitchcock Presents television series.

Cape Fear (1962/1991)

Based on: The Executioners by John D MacDonald

Cape Fear was a classic 60s thriller, with a great battle of wits between Robert Mitchum’s barrel-chested ex-convict and the lawyer who convicted him, played by Gregory Peck. Director J Lee Thompson freely borrowed the tension-building techniques of Hitchcock (whom he’d worked with in the past), which were further highlighted by Bernard Herrmann’s imposing score. 

Martin Scorsese’s 1991 remake reprised the music and clouded the moral waters, with Nick Nolte playing a far less heroic lawyer stalked by the man he stitched up years earlier, fearsomely embodied by a tattooed Robert De Niro.

Novelist John D MacDonald was an extremely popular thriller writer in the 1950s, and it was Gregory Peck’s idea to adapt The Executioners – he even chose its new title, Cape Fear. James R Webb’s script sticks closely to the original text, though it simplifies its characters’ backstories (they were in the army together in the book), and adds in the houseboat climax, which Scorsese liked so much he kept it for his remake.

Unlike the films, the fame of MacDonald’s novel has waned somewhat in recent years; a pity, since The Executioners remains a harsh, interesting book, and while the 60s Cape Fear’s a great one, it stopped short of including the uncompromising conclusion of the novel that inspired it.

Dr Strangelove (1964)

Based on: Red Alert by Peter George

The fear and loathing of the Cold War era was gloriously satirised in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove, a film that’s both riotously funny and chilling. The brilliance of Dr Strangelove is brought into sharp relief when compared to Sidney Lumet’s Fail-Safe, a rival nuclear crisis flick released the same year. Fail-Safe is a desperately serious film, delivered sternly by its all-star cast, and is less memorable as a result. The raving anger of Dr Strangelove cuts right to the dumb futility of conflict, just as Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 novel had the year before. 

In fact, although Dr Strangelove takes its premise from the novel Red Alert, in which a maniacal US general triggers Armageddon, its humour is much more akin to Catch-22. Kubrick’s fusion of speculation and satire, along with his own exacting style of filmmaking, resulted in an unforgettable piece of cinema. The source novel was an interesting product of the Cold War era; the adaptation transcends it.

Mary Poppins (1964)

Based on: the Mary Poppins series by PL Travers

So successful was Disney’s Mary Poppins, and so catchy its music, that it’s easy to forget that it was based on not one but an entire series of children’s books. Writer PL Travers had the first, simply called Mary Poppins, published in 1934, and it was popular enough to prompt seven more, which appeared roughly once a decade. The last was published in 1988, the year the author died.

Travers initially resisted Disney’s attempts to acquire the rights to Poppins during the 1930s, but it took until the 1960s before the author cautiously signed them away. A sunny mix of music, animation and Edwardian fantasy, the Mary Poppins movie was an enormous success, earning 13 Oscar nominations and a healthy box office return.

Although the name Mary Poppins is commonly associated with Disney’s film these days, Travers’ books are still widely available, and quite different from the adaptation; they’re set in 30s rather than Edwardian London, for one thing, and Poppins is a rather less straightforwardly pleasant character than the one played by Julie Andrews in the movie. 

Bullitt (1968)

Based on: Mute Witness by Robert L Pike

Peter Yates’ seminal 60s thriller is memorable for Steve McQueen’s ice-cool performance as Lieutenant Frank Bullitt, Lalo Schifrin’s excellent soundtrack, and its remarkable San Francisco car chase, which is still regarded as one of the best pursuit sequences in movie history.

The book from which it’s adapted, Robert L Pike’s Mute Witness, is very similar in terms of its premise. A mob witness is murdered while under police protection, and the story’s cop protagonist attempts to track down the killer. The book and the film are quite different in tone, however; Mute Witness is a murder mystery, whereas Bullitt is a faster-paced thriller with action sequences. The book’s set in New York and not San Francisco, and the protagonist is named Lieutenant Clancy – less overtly macho-sounding than Frank Bullitt.

Mute Witness is a more modest piece of work than Yates’ loud, swaggering film, but it still has a cool, steely edge to its prose. Unfortunately, the novel doesn’t appear to be in print, though you may be able to find second-hand copies of Bloomsbury’s 1997 issue of the book, published under the title of the movie and decorated with Steve McQueen’s staring face. 

Jaws (1975)

Based on: Jaws by Peter Benchley 

Published in 1973, Jaws was something of a blockbuster in its own right, and its success as both a best-selling novel and a hit movie appeared to have been worked out well in advance. Benchley loosely based his story of a real-life shark hunt that took place in 1916, following the deaths of four people on the shores of New Jersey. 

Having turned in his draft to Doubleday in the early 70s, Universal producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown read it and were impressed; convinced it could be a great movie, they published the film rights for Jaws before its publication. It’s said the producers each purchased a hundred copies of the novel in an attempt to push it onto the best-seller charts – their hope was to give the book away to influential friends in order to get a bit of early buzz going.

As the book’s popularity soared, selling 5.5 million copies in America alone, the producers set to work on the adaptation. Steven Spielberg was brought in on the strength of his killer truck movie Duel, and he hit on the idea of greatly simplifying the book’s subplots and character interactions (including a spot of infidelity between Hooper and Brody's wife, Ellen, which was left out of the screenplay).

The result was a leaner, more efficient version of the novel – perfect for a summer crowd Hollywood had never tapped into before. A sublime collision of Benchley’s high concept, the cast's acting charisma, taut direction and John Williams’ murmuring theme, Jaws was a gigantic hit, and still regarded as one of the greatest American films ever made.

First Blood (1982)

Based on: First Blood by David Morrell

As Sylvester Stallone’s subsequent Rambo sequels descended into ever more outlandish displays of bloodshed, it’s strange to think that the first movie, 1982’s First Blood, was not an action movie but a sombre thriller. It introduced John Rambo, an emotionally fragile Vietnam war veteran drifting through America, and detailed his run-in with a sadistic small-town sheriff (played by Brian Dennehy).

The movie hews closely to David Morrell’s 1972 novel of the same name, which was mostly an adventure story, but also touched on the indifferent and sometimes cruel treatment of returning soldiers from Vietnam. The movie’s major departure came at the end, where Rambo is apprehended rather than killed; this, of course, allowed Stallone to return for those sequels, in which he headed off to various locations around the world in search of new armies to conquer.

9 1/2 Weeks (1986)

Based on: 9 1/2 Weeks by Elizabeth McNeill

Memorable to audiences of a certain age as the movie that paired a young Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke (who were both hot Hollywood property at the time) in a series of erotic encounters, 9 1/2 Weeks could be described as the 50 Shades of the 80s – though without the endless descriptions of sexual contracts or laptop specifications. 

It was only during the course of researching this article that your humble writer discovered that 9 1/2 Weeks was, in fact, adapted from a book – Nine And A Half Weeks: A Memoir Of A Love Affair. This was based on writer Elizabeth McNeill’s real-life sexual antics during her tenure as a corporate executive.

“Their sexual excitement depended on a pattern of domination and humiliation, and as their relationship progressed they played out ever more dangerous and elaborate variations on that pattern of sadomasochism,” the book’s blurb reads. “By the end, Elizabeth had relinquished all control over her body – and her mind.”

The movie adaptation was well-publicised at the time for its explicit scenes, and rode the crest of an 80s wave of erotic movies and thrillers with sex scenes in them. Neither the film or the book are talked about very much these days, though the movie may be rather more enduring thanks to its actors and its talented director, Adrian Lyne. But with 50 Shades riding high and an adaptation on the way, maybe its novel, which deals with markedly similar themes, will be rediscovered by a new generation of readers. 

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Based on: The Short-Timers by Gustav Hasford

Like Dr Strangelove, Stanley Kubrick’s firm artistic control may have led some to assume that Full Metal Jacket was an original screenplay rather than an adaptation. In fact, Kubrick’s movie is quite faithful to The Short-Timer, the 1979 autobiographical novel by Gustav Hasford, a former marine. 

If you’ve ever wondered why Full Metal Jacket is divided so sharply into two halves, it’s because the book does roughly the same thing. The Short-Timer’s split into three segments; the first detailing the training of a group of marines in a boot camp, and the second and third following the recruits on duty in Vietnam. The movie sticks closely to the text for its first half, and takes various events from the book’s second and third sections for its second. 

Full Metal Jacket is widely regarded as one of the greatest war films ever made, with a startling performance from R Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. Tragically, the book on which it’s based appears to be out of print, but its text is preserved on the author’s official website

Its prose is terse and bitter and muscular, and it’s easy to see why Kubrick once described it as a masterpiece. Quoth the drill sergeant:

“If you ladies leave my island, if you survive recruit training, you will be a weapon, you will be a minister of death, praying for war. And proud. Until that day you are pukes, you are scumbags, you are the lowest form of life on Earth. You are not even human.  You people are nothing but a lot of little pieces of amphibian shit.” 

The Princess Bride (1987)

Based on: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Rob Reiner’s comedy adventure wasn’t a huge hit on release, but it’s gradually grown in popularity since, and is now commonly regarded as something of a cult classic. Its cast is both eclectic and brilliant, featuring Cary Elwes as the ultimate pure-hearted hero, Chris Sarandon as an evil Prince Humperdink, and Christopher Guest as a count with six fingers.

Like some of the other movies on this list, The Princess Bride is so cinematic that its origins as a novel are easily forgotten. But a novel it was, written by William Goldman and published in 1973. A sprawling, extremely novel comedy fantasy, The Princess Bride is at once a story about a man’s search for his lost love, and an account of a writer struggling and at times failing to write and edit the fantasy itself. It’s not unlike Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation, in which a screenwriter repeatedly attempts to adapt a non-fiction book for the screen, and almost drives himself mad in the process.

Although less well known than the movie, which Goldman himself adapted, The Princess Bride novel is still easily available, and a great read. The movie was, inevitably, greatly simplified; the film’s about the joy of storytelling, while the book’s about the Sisyphean pain of writing and rewriting, of endlessly polishing and honing. Both are extremely funny, and complement one another perfectly. 

Die Hard (1988)

Based on: Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp

The idea behind this 80s action classic sounds so cinematic, and so high-concept, that its origins as a pulp thriller are easily overlooked. But long before Bruce Willis donned a vest and shot bad guys in the Nakatomi Plaza, Die Hard began life as a sequel to author Roderick Thorp’s 1966 novel, The Detective.

Thorp got the idea for Nothing Lasts Forever after watching the Irwin Allen disaster movie The Towering Inferno, and decided to write a thriller set in an office block. The book’s protagonist was a retired cop, making him rather older than Bruce Willis’ character John McClane in the 1988 movie.

Otherwise, the movie’s a fairly faithful adaptation; there’s a group of terrorists led by a German named Gruber (first name Anton in the book – Hans in the film), and he has a hot-headed right-hand man called Karl. There’s a coke-snorting exec named Ellis, and a cop on the outside named Al, who becomes on of the hero’s few allies. 

Nothing Lasts Forever is still available in a Kindle edition, but it’s fair to say that far more people are aware of the movie than the book. Curiously, Die Hard 2 was also adapted from a novel – an entirely unrelated thriller called 58 Minutes, by Walter Wager. You can read more about the Die Hard franchise’s strange history here.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)

Based on: Bodies Are Where You Find Them by Brett Halliday

A cunning and extremely witty comedy thriller, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang may be one of cinema’s biggest under-achievers of recent years. Barely released in theatres, this directorial debut from screenwriter Shane Black deserved more attention than it first received. Its plot, which involves Robert Downey Jr’s a wannabe actor sucked into Hollywood’s seedy underbelly, is almost too complicated to describe, but it’s clearly based on a legion pulp thrillers and private eye novels.

In fact, Black appears to have such fun playing with hardboiled conventions that we mistakenly assumed that Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang was simply an homage to the genre – rather like the Coen’s The Big Lebowski reads as a chaotic retelling of The Big Sleep (the two would make a great double bill). 

Actually, Kiss Kiss is based on a 1941 book called Bodies Are Where You Find Them. Its writer, Brett Halliday, isn’t as familiar as Chandler or Dashiell Hammett, perhaps, but he was incredibly prolific, and wrote something like 68 novels over a career spanning 50 years. Black took bits of the book’s spine – there are women in peril, disappearing dead bodies, and obscure identities – but he departs radically elsewhere, heading off on self-aware, bizarre tangents that are uniquely his.

Bodies Are Where You Find Them, like so many pulp thrillers, is relatively obscure these days, but Shane Black’s love for them is infectious; after watching Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, you’ll be scouring second-hand bookshops for a copy of the book and others like it.

In this respect, the movie doesn’t so much obscure the source novel, as bathe the entire genre in an enticing light.

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Good article. Ive read the Jaws (could have done without the adultory scene which felt like it came out of the blue although I had seen the movie first) and a Princess Bride books but really had no idea some of these started out life as novels.

good article, just needs proof reading :P

Interesting that, familiarity aside, the film titles are nearly always more memorable than the novel names. Dr Strangelove or Red Alert? Cape Fear or The Executioners? I wonder if it's the benefit of a (big) marketing team versus the right of an author.

Nice choices but... no Fight Club? I think even the author said the film improved it!

This is proof that Hollywood should be searching out more novels to adapt rather than remaking old films. I mean there is a mountain of literature out there that remains unadapted for the screen that they could make great movies out of...and I don't mean comic books!

But the book isn't eclipsed by the film. People still read Palahniuk. I think the point of this article is films so famous most people don't even know there's a novel.

The Shawshank Redemption story is great in print, but brilliant on film. An Apt Pupil in the same collection is quite the reverse though - amazing story but rubbish film starring David Schwimmer and Brad Renfro. Remake please.

Great article! I did a The Last Boy Scout/
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang double bill on Sunday night. Firstly in honour of Tony Scott, secondly in honour of Shane Black the writer of both of these excellent "adult" films. God I loathe the 12 certification!

Would add 'The Prestige' - the book's not bad but the film is much better

no The Shining? .......and I have to disagree, I thought the book of Prestige, edges out the film.

Cool Hand Luke by Donn Pearce comes to mind. The author co-wrote the screenplay, tho.

The Natural!

You could probably include a lot of Disney's animated features in this, at least Snow White, Cinderella, Little Mermaid, Alice in Wonderland, Tangled, Jungle Book etc. all published books (or at least part of a published collection by the Brothers Grimm).

Obviously elements of Grimm's stories have been famously toned down for a family audience, but many people talk about elements of Alice in Wonderland based on the Disney film not the book, for example Tweedledum and Tweedledee are only in 'Through the looking Glass' as are the talking flowers etc.

Far more people are familiar with the happy ending of the Disney 'Little Mermaid' rather than the turning into seafoam ending penned by Hans Christian Anderson.

I much prefer The Forbidden, the Liverpool set short story from one of Clive Barker's Books of Blood anthologies (it escapes me which volume off the top of my head - I think it might be VI) on which the film Candyman is based - it's much more atmospheric than the film.

Another addition: "Who framed Roger Rabbit" is based on Gary K. Wolf's novel "Who Censored Roger Rabbit?". I couldn't yet find an affordable copy.

I would add Trainspotting to the list. The book by Irvine Welsh is ok but it's very inconsistent. John Hodge took out all the best bits from and wrote a far superior screenplay - giving the characters more depth and a better understanding of their motivation.

For me, I would say Jurassic Park. I know Crichton already had five novels put to film but it really wasn't until Spielberg brought his genetically modified dinos to life on the big screen that Michael Crichton became a house hold name. As DerTim noted with Cool Hand Luke, the author also co-wrote the screenplay but I don't think that disqualifies him. In later years it was the things I sensed lacking in the film that prompted me to purchase and read the novel, The Lost World and most of his other works of fiction.

i watched damnation alley then read the book which i found nowhere near as good .

The most obvious movie which overshadowed it's source material is "M*A*S*H". Not only was it a novel, there were a SERIES of those stories.

You cannot honestly say Disney improved on Rudyard Kipling? Seriously? Have you read any of the Jungle Book stories? It's not a single novel but series of short stories. Kipling is one the masters of modern literature. His dialogue, character development, plot structure and story elements make it a masterpiece. The Disney film was childish fluff. The stories weren't even originally written for children. They are morality plays. If anything Disney has sugar coated more fine literature and butchered the original stories to their own ends. By the way, don't take me to not be a Disney fan. I love Disneyworld and my daughter is named after Princess Jasmine. I raised her on Disney. I'm not saying it isn't entertaining I'm saying that in no way does the quality of the storytelling in those films eclipse the books. Please have a rational constructive argument before you make these types of statements.

Good article. I've only read Jaws and First Blood from this list, keen to find the Princess Bride book though.
The one book that became a film I've always wanted to read is Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg which was filmed as the excellent Angel Heart, but I've just not gotten around to it yet.

No Bourne, movie was much better

What about The Passion of the Christ? I only recently discovered it was based on some old work of fiction. It's mad the things you learn.

Once again, Den of Geek delivers. I appreciate how stories like this feel less like bare-bones lists than actual articles. Now we just need one on movies that were eclipsed by their novelizations. There has to be at least two, right?

While I enjoyed The Passion, I would sat that the book is better than the film.

Adding to that, 'Bladerunner' has a bit more of a ring to it than the sadly much less well known or snappily titled 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep' upon which it was based, and which equally could have made this list

No Clockwork Orange or Blade Runner. Both are cult classics yet their books are practically unheard of. I mean if you tell someone you read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? they'll stare at you blankly until you clarify that it as the Blade Runner book.

Dick's novel is a rambling story shot through with flashes of genius. DADOES is a hard read, much as most of Dick's books are. The films made from his books distil these genius ideas into a comprehensible form.

Arguably the novellas from Stephen King's 'Different Season', which became "Stand by me", "The Shawshank Redemption" and "Apt Pupil" are surpassed by their movie versions (certainly in the case of the first two).

Even Paycheck?

I'd have to say that Blade runner should be on this list too.

If you read the article heading you would see the line 'From comedies to sci-fi pieces to thrillers, here are 15 novels that live in the shadow of their far more famous movie adaptations…'

The point I was making that in most of these cases the Disney version is far more 'famous' and speak to a wider audience than the books. Simply put, ask most people what they think of when you say 'the jungle book' they will probably come up with imagery/songs etc. from the Disney version.

If you had actually read my comment rather than launching at me when you read 'the jungle book' you would have seen that I have qualified my argument with details from 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'The Little Mermaid'.

I never discussed the quality of the books vs. the films, only public perception and how many people's knowledge of the story comes from movie adaptation as it is far more famous than the original book - as is stated in the opening lines in the article.

Educational!

I was going to go with Jurassic Park too.

Falling Angel is a great postmodern novel -- definitely better than "Angel Heart," although I have a fondness for both versions. If you like the movie, you'll love the book.

Fight Club?

Amen to that, brother.

I think you're right about that, in terms of the good adaptations of his work. It's sacrilegious to say it to Ahnult-haters, but Total Recall is far more satisfying than the story that inspired it.

The Passion of Christ was apparently based on some book called the Bibble.

But the fame Crichton got from Jurassic Park was a career resurgence. He was well known as the writer of the Andromeda Strain for a couple of decades before that. And as the director of Westworld and Coma...

Ooh, nice idea...

But no one's forgotten that they were based on Stephen King stories...

American Psycho - the movie comes close but the book is so completely immersive that the movie is almost unnecesarry

One of the most faithful adaptions of a book to a movie has to be "where Eagles dare" by Alistair McLean. Along with the The Guns of Navarrone, one of his finest books. It is one of the few movies that use most of the actual dialogue from the book. Very little is cut out and very little is added. Great book, great movie.

fact: based on the truth of our lord jesus. my savior and yours.

But everyone remembers Stephen KIng's novel when they think of the film; there aren't many Stephen King adaptations where the films have eclipsed the books.

The Bibble? Is that like a small bib?

Your savior isn't big on grammar, huh?

I came here specifically to put forward Jaws - glad it's not necessary!
The book is a dud IMO - the only good part is the shark itself. The
adaptation gets rid of a lot of dross. Specifically, the substitution
of RichardDreyfuss!Hooper for the repellent original is a minor miracle
of rescue.

Have to disagree about The Princess Bride, though. The movie's great and all
... but the book is an unsurpassable work of awesomeness.

Nice choices (except for Jaws but only because I love both the book and movie). There are several others I can think of off the top of my head: The Devil's Advocate, Planet of The Apes, Forrest Gump and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? among others.

A good example would've been ''The Phantom of the Opera'' by Gaston Leroux, but it's more shadowed by the ALW stage musical than any film version.

The Ten Commandments.

It wasn't a massive hit, but I would like to extol the virtues of 'Guy X' based on the John Griesemer novel 'No One Thinks of Greenland'. Fab stuff. It's such a shame that Jason Biggs didn't get offered more interesting roles like this.

The Prestige. The author Christopher Priest is on record as saying that Christopher Nolan's film adaptation is much better, and more inventive, than his book, and I think he went as far as indicating that he wished he'd written the book the way the film was made.

Same with The Body and Stand by Me

Here's a good one: The Ninth Gate (Polanski, Depp, Langella), a brilliant film and a lousy novel. Watch the film, then read 'The Club Dumas' by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, and prepare to be shocked by how meandering and flappy the source novel is.

The book version of The Princess Bride isn't about writing the story but rather that the writer trying to find the story he loved as a kid only to find the original wasn't how he remembered it. His dad "edited" it as he read it. It resonates with anyone who finds a copy of, say, Bambi or Pinocchio, reads it, and realizes the author went in a whole different direction than the popular version. The movie is more like the popular version.

The Hannibal Lector series. The books were always meant to be turned into films and are simply scripts. So they are identical in every minute detail. The actor's portrayal of Hannibal far exceeds any imagination, making it clearly better than the originals.

Far too subjective to be meaningful, I’m afraid - it would have been better for the author to make it “movies which *I* didn’t know were based on books”… I also can’t imagine what research went into discerning what books people know about and what books they don’t - age, location, gender, nationality will make this virtually impossible, I would have thought - and I suspect the answer is “none”…
Also missed a trick in not mentioning that in “Die Hard” Bruce Willis is basically reprising a character played by Frank Sinatra in “The Detective” (which was also adapted to the screen) - John McClane is basically Joe Leland renamed…

This proofs that most of the best book adaptations are the ones that deviates from the books.

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