Some of The Best (and Worst) Book to Movie Adaptations In My Opinion

Ashika Srivastava, Staff Writer

Which is better: the book or the movie? If you’re anything like me, the answer to this question is almost always the book. And why wouldn’t it be? Books have a lot more room to work with when it comes to plot, character development, and detail. It is normal for me to read 600+ page books, yet I won’t be able to sit through a three to four hour long movie. Most movies aren’t even that long to begin with unless you’re counting outrageous Indian Bollywood dramas, which I bet most people besides me haven’t seen.

However, there have definitely been many cases where the movie was just as good as the book, or even better. Sometimes, extremely popular book-based movies can even bring light to books people have never heard of (definitely happened many times, in my case). So, as to continue my tradition of making lists when I don’t know what to write about, this is my personal list of some of the best and worst book to movie adaptations.

Side Note: I’ve decided to stop using the word “worst” because none of the movies are terrible. They just miss the mark at times and really don’t live up to the expectations of the book.

Not Good: The Giver

I remember reading this book back in middle school and not understanding it at all. The main plot and basic concept of the book was too abstract for my little middle school brain to comprehend. I had even performed a full stage play on The Giver in the sixth grade, just blindly reading my lines and smiling one or twice. Obviously, when I got to be a little older, I was able to understand just how creative and thought-provoking the entire story really was. It had been my very first introduction to what was going to be a long list of young adult dystopian novels.

About 20 years after the book was published, the movie adaptation was released and it garnered mostly mixed reviews. I think this significant time gap between the release of the book and the movie definitely played a role in the major differences between them. Because the movie was released in 2014, within the era of movies such as The Hunger Games and Divergent, The Giver gave off about the same type of dystopian novel vibes. The creators focused less on the main relationship between Jonas and The Giver and more on creating intricate action sequences and a full-blown romance, which took away from the entire meaning of the book itself. In short, the movie was more “Hollywood-like” and not an accurate representation of the important messages and relationships portrayed in the book. If you’re still keen on watching it, skip to Taylor Swift’s cameo so you can start off strong.

Not Good: The Great Gatsby

We recently watched this movie in my AP Lang class after reading the book and it was not terrible. It just wasn’t the best adaptation of the novel. To start off, I personally thought it was a bit odd that Nick Carraway, the narrator, was narrating the story to his psychiatrist. That would indicate that the entire series of events had affected his mental health greatly, which was not exactly what the book had suggested. To me, The Great Gatsby had been about Nick’s experiences with Gatsby and how he interacted with the world around him. It was supposed to be more of a nostalgic retelling than a mental health consultation.

The movie also overlooked other relevant and key aspects of the book. The relationship between Nick and his main love interest Jordan isn’t a relationship at all as they barely get any screen time together. This goes more for Jordan since we don’t get to see much of her character in the movie either. Gatsby’s father does not make his appearance at Gatsby’s funeral, Daisy has a slight personality change, and Gatsby is given a very extreme death that is not described much in the book. Again, it is not a bad movie, just not the greatest Gatsby it could be.

Good: The Perks of Being A Wallflower

 I will always be biased towards this movie just because of how realistic and heartwarming it was. Although it has a couple of differences from the book, they never take away from the original story itself. Most of the major climatic events are given their due respect, and the characters come across as relatable and flawed, just as they should be. Logan Lerman embraces the part of poor antisocial Charlie, Ezra Miller makes us laugh as Patrick, and Emma Watson takes a break from her potions and spells to give us a wonderful Sam.

The movie does the book justice, and never feels too over-the-top or over-emotional. Generally, creators think they have to emphasize emotions in order to convey the same feelings that are conveyed through words in a book. The Perks of Being A Wallflower has just the right amount of subtlety and audience connection so that there is no need for any excessively emotional scenes to make up for lost words. Just one of the many perks of this amazing adaptation.

Good: Diary Of A Wimpy Kid Series

There was no way I could make this list and not include the most iconic book series of my childhood. The Diary Of A Wimpy Kid movies complement the books perfectly and really do an amazing job of bringing that middle school awkwardness to life. One of the best parts of the movies, that makes them so much more life-like, is the casting. I was able to see the characters from the books within the actors that played them in the movies, and that was what really strengthened the connection I felt between the two.

That was also why the latest installment of the Diary Of A Wimpy Kid movie franchise, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, was a complete disaster. After living the books through the characters for three of the movies, I was surprised to see an all-new cast of look alike characters that made me feel like I was watching a YouTube parody. Nonetheless, if we put the 2017 sequel aside, I couldn’t have asked for a better adaptation for the book series, and I wouldn’t even if I had the choice.

Honorable Mentions

It seems like everyone these days is making a movie that is based on some novel published in the universe, so it was almost impossible for me to include all of the good (and not good) ones. However, I think they deserve at least a shout-out, if not articles of their own.

Good 2.0

  • The Hunger Games (The initial movies, before it got very messy)
  • The Divergent Series (Same as above)
  • The Fault In Our Stars
  • To Kill A Mockingbird
  • Little Women
  • The Harry Potter Series (Some movies are better than others)
  • The To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before Series (Same as above)
  • Room
  • IT

Not So Good 2.0

  • Paper Towns
  • The Cat in the Hat Live Action
  • The Sun Is Also A Star (Could have been better)
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • The Da Vinci Code
  • The Kissing Booth Series (I never knew this was a book series.)