Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: best / worst book to movie adaptations

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week they post a new topic that the participants come up with a top ten list for.

This week's topic: top ten best or worst movie adaptations

The question what makes a 'good' movie adaptation of a book is a beast all its own and I don't really want to get into it here. Just for the record: just because a movie is very much like a book does not automatically make it a good adaptation for me. If it follows the book to the letter without offering an interpretation of its own, I don't really see the point.

So here are five adaptations that I think work well:

The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien (Peter Jackson)
Those movies are a work of art all of their own. The setting, the costumes, the music, the acting... it's all absolutely incredible. Jackson took some liberties but I think he really stayed true to the spirit of the books. I'll never grow tired of watching them.

Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray (Mira Nair)
Again, this adaptation takes some liberties with the book (it makes Becky quite a bit more likeable) but it's absolutely gorgeous and the acting is great!

Harry Potter - J.K. Rowling (various directors)
Well, can't simply skip those movies, can I? Some I like better than others, but all in all it was well-done. The movies also managed some things the books didn't. They made me really like Luna Lovegood. And The Halfblood Prince made me actually feel sorry for Draco Malfoy at one point, which I didn't really while reading the book. Oh, and Helena Bonham Carter is fantastic as Bellatrix Lestrange!

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World - Bryan Lee O'Malley (Edgar Wright)
This is originally a 7-volume comic, and especially the later volumes are quite different from the movie, but it really takes up so many comic- and video game elements that it becomes a league of awesome all of its own! It's hilarious and crazy and quirky. I can watch it a dozen times and I still think it's funny! The soundtrack rocks, too.

Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk (David Fincher)
I actually prefer the movie. There's a dimension to the book it didn't quite capture but the movie is waaaay more of a mindfuck than the book is. And it drives the main points home wonderfully. Not to forget that once More, Helena Bonham Carter does one hell of a job as Marla!

I could have added a couple others that I like, among them adaptations of Shakespeare plays and Hornby's About A Boy, but let's leave it at this for now.

... And five adaptations that didn't quite do it for me:

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant - Darren Shan (Paul Weitz)
I hurried to finish the first book before going to watch the movie, and they just changed so many things. Some I liked, some I found unnecessary, and some took the movie into a whole different direction. They also made the snake-boy (Ezra? Can't remember his name...) look sort of stupid and ridiculous, which he isn't at all in the book. All in all, it wasn't horrible but it left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Eragon - Christopher Paolini (Stefen Fangmeier)
To be honest I don't remember the movie all that well, but I think it was really reductive and just cut too much from the book. It lacked the complexity I enjoyed about it. Maybe they should have made it into a TV series instead?

Interview with the Vampire - Anne Rice (Neil Jordan)
This is partly a problem with the book. I don't know how, but it's just rather dull. Louis is just soooo mopey!! I like the later books where Lestat is the narrator much better. The movie has some good scenes but over all, it just didn't do it for me.

Twilight - Stephenie Meyer (Catherine Hardwicke)
Back in 2007 when I came across the book shortly before Eclipse was released, I fell for them. Hard. I've since gotten a different perspective on what goes on in them (and I really didn't like Breaking Dawn) but let's talk about the movies. I think they're actually good adaptations - apart from that first one. What made me like Twilight back when was apart from other things the dialogue between Edward and Bella. In the movie, that's all cut in favor of shots of trees and awkward exchanges in the cafeteria. Um, no. I've seen a few of Hardwicke's other movies and liked them a lot, but not this one. Sorry.

I'm not quite sure what else to pick. Quite often I'm in the situation that I've either not read the book or not seen the movie, so I can't really compare them. I think The Golden Compass looked pretty but wasn't really much like the book. I sort of liked the first Percy Jackson, but from what I've heard it's also a lot different from the books and kind of mixes a few of them together. As for more recent films, I haven't seen Beautiful Creatures but the cast doesn't look AT ALL the way I imagined the characters. Ethan and Lena look like they belong in college, not high school.

Anyway, that's what I could come up with. What are your most loved or most loathed ones?


  1. Agreed on Twilight. The first movie wasn't a good adaptation at all. I actually prefer the movie Fight Club to the book as well. I only read the first Scott Pilgrim, but I love that movie and from what I did read, they did a good job with the adaptation. Great list!
    Natflix&Books' TTT

  2. LOVE your list! I can't believe I forgot about Fight Club. And I agree with you Interview with the Vampire. The book itself is rather dull- but I do Lestat in the later books! Tom Cruise that as Lestat? LOL It just makes me giggle.

    And I agree about Twilight. The first one was terrible especially. I wasn't crazy about the others, but the first was by far the worst.

    Great choices!

    -Sonnie (Here's my TT)

  3. Completely agree with you about the Harry Potter movies!

  4. LOVE Scott Pilgrim! Didn't read the book or whatever, but still love it. And I agree, Twilight and The Golden Compass were both poor adaptations. Great list!

  5. Twilight wasnt good but ill always have a soft spot for them lol. LOTR is of course awesome. Thanks for stopping by my TTt

    Teresa @ Readers Live A Thousand Lives

  6. Good list, I love Fight Club, Harry Potter and Scott Pilgrim as well.

  7. I'm sad to say that I haven't watched any of these movies. -hides behind a rock. Which is behind a tree. Which is behind a house.-
    I've only read Twilight too, when I was in like 5th grade. :P
    Yeah, shame on me. ):

  8. Alright, I'll start with the movies adaptations you picked as ones that worked: I completely agree with LotR- liberties were taken but all things considered those films stand on their own and are quite brilliant. The HP films belong there too even though like you I liked some a lot better than others but for book series that size, they did a pretty good job adapting. I loved the Fight Club film immensely but I still haven't read the book *cringe* I want to though!!

    As for the movies adaptations you thought didn't work, I can safely say that the Twilight films are a LOT more cheesy and lame then the books ever were. The books aren't perfect by any means but I found them addictive all the same. The films I only enjoyed because I had already loved the books - and cause I have a crush on Pattinson LOL As for Eragon, I saw the film first and I think that's why I still haven't read the book >.< Oh and I agree that Golden Compass was pretty, but it really didn't work as well as the book did. I enjoyed the first Percy Jackson film too but the books are much better - especially as the go on and I can't imagine the future films holding up to be honest...they already seem to have changed a lot in the trailer for film #2 O.O

    Anyways, great selections here and I loved your reasoning behind each one!

  9. I'm glad to see someone else with Eragon on their list. That was my worst offender. It was just... Awful.

  10. The Lord of the Rings - "a work of art all of their own" *nods* And while they are not in my top ten, I loved the HP movies as well.
    Fight Club - I prefer the movie too :)
    I wanted to list About A Boy, but like you, run out of numbers
    Twilight - loved the books, but the movies were meh
    Interview with the Vampire - I loved the movie, but have to agree, the book was dull and boring