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June 07, 2012


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Colin Miller

The one that I've most often seen cited is "The Godfather," adapted from the book by Mario Puzo. Supposedly, the book is no great shakes, but I've never read it. "Casablanca" wasn't based on a novel but an unproduced play that was described as "sophisticated hokum."

A few other possibilities:

-Bringing Out the Dead

-Touch of Evil (from Badge of Evil)


-Starship Troopers

-Children of Men

-Dr. Strangelove (from Red Alert)

Of course, I'm not sure that I would call any of the above books "bad," just not nearly as good as their film versions.


How about_Blade Runner_? I'm not quite sure that _Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep_ is a _bad_ book, but it's not as good as the movie, I'd claim, and is certainly a highly imperfect book. I suspect something similar might be the case for many movies made from pulp novels or westerns, but as I'm unsure which movies this applies to, I can't say with any certainty.

(Another movie that I think is better than the book it's based on is _The Princess Bride_. The book is pretty good, though, so it doesn't fit exactly what's asked for here. But the movie cuts out a lot of stuff that's less central and less interesting.)

Mike Madison

My favorite movie-better-than-its-source is "Rear Window," a fantastic movie based on a mediocre short story ("It Had to Be Murder," by Cornell Woolrich).

Charles Paul Hoffman

It's usually not that the book was "bad," just that it was critically flawed in some way—a flaw that the movie is able to avoid one way or another.

A few examples come to mind:

Fight Club: Novel is okay, but the critique of commercial capitalism is much less successful, meaning the "Project Mayhem" response seems much more juvenile.

The Sweet Hereafter: There's a lot of good stuff in Russell Banks' novel, but a lot of it feels instantly dated (esp. the surviving girl being a pageant queen) and the demolition derby that comes near the end is just . . . silly. Atom Egoyan's film avoids these problems, and also manages to really get to the heart of the *feeling* of loss. (For those unfamiliar with the book/film, it centers on a community dealing with the aftermath of a school bus crash that killed all but one of the kids onboard; Ian Holm gives an amazing performance as an attorney trying to sue the manufacturer of the bus, while haunted by the "loss" of his own daughter to drugs; Sarah Polley is also amazing as the lone survivor)

Vertigo: Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac's "The Living and the Dead" was basically a pulp mystery that Hitchcock turned into a masterpiece about obsession.

I'm sure I could think of more if I were at home in front of my bookshelf. But there are a lot of these. Usually they are movies that you didn't even realize were based on novels.

Charles Paul Hoffman

@Matt - I agree about The Princess Bride. The novel is a fun read, but there's a lot of random filler (which is funny, given it's supposed to be "the good parts version") that is rightfully cut from the movie.

@Mike - I suspect if we go through the entire Hitchcock catalog, we'll find about two dozen more examples. The only counterexample that comes to mind is Rebecca—it's one of the very rare examples of a good book/good movie.


"The Shawshank Redemption"?

"Field of Dreams"?

Calvin Massey

I have to take issue with the suggestion that Shoeless Joe, by W.P. Kinsella, from which Field of Dreams was derived, is a bad novel, or even worse than the movie. Kinsella is a superb writer, and this was one of his better efforts. The entire Hobbema short stories, not much known, are priceless.

Brian Bix

The example that I always see referred to of a pretty good movie from a pretty bad book is "Bridges of Madison County"

TS Paige

"Forrest Gump"

The book character is much more human - believable and very flawed, but the book gets unrealistically silly. The author Winston Groom writes as if he were angling for a cheesy movie. Cut about a third of the book from the middle and you have a good story.

The movie is a feel-good favorite.

Steven Lubet

"The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" actually falls into the first category: a very good short story (by Dorothy Johnson) that was turned into a classic film. Although I guess it is easier to improve a short story than a good novel.

And then the after-released theme song improved on the film.

Jacqueline Lipton

I know this is showing my ignorance, but I thought "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" was a short story. Was it a full novel?
Was "Minority Report" better than the book? I haven't read that one either.


Hi Jacqueline,
It's not a very long novel (245 pages with modest type in the version I have) but still a novel, I'd say. It's not _extremely_ close to the movie, but you can see how nearly all of the movie comes from the book.

Anon Prof

I prefer the film version of The Natural to Malamud's original book.

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