The Film is Mightier than the Book

It’s a fairly common event to be discussing a film and having someone say, “It’s not as good as the book”.
Conversely it is a pretty rare event to be discussing a book and having someone say “It’s not as good as the film.”

It seems as though taking a book and making it into a better film is a tricky undertaking but there must be some out there, mustn’t there?

Yesterday I asked you on Twitter to name films which were better than the books on which they were based. 105 of you responded with a total of 204 suggestions. So thanks for that.

A quick note before I move on to the results though – please bear in mind that the number of votes cast doesn’t necessarily indicate the gulf in quality between book and film. It’s also obviously a function of how many people have seen and read them.

Anyway, here is the top 10:

The Top 10

Thoughts on the Top 10

These are my thoughts on the top 10. I’ve indicated on each film whether I’ve seen it and/or read the book on which it was based.

The Godfather (Saw it first, read it later)

Yes, I liked the films better too. The book was good but the films were brilliant. The book, if I recall correctly, covers the first film, plus the Don’s rise to power which is covered in the second film, (the Robert de Niro bit).

The two films benefit from some truly excellent acting performances. Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, John Cazale, Diane Keaton and Robert de Niro are all excellent but it is Al Pacino’s transformation from goofy war hero to ruthless mafia boss which steals it. Forget that Scent of a Woman, “HOOOAAAAA” bollocks – this perfomance blows it out of the water.

The Shawshank Redemption (Read it first, saw it later)

Really? Admittedly I read the novella (Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption) when I was a nipper but I remember feeling fairly non-plussed by the film of it. Apart from Morgan Freeman. He was good.

Blade Runner (Seen it. Never read it.)

The book was Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I never read it. The film was excellent though

Lord of the Rings (Never seen it, never read it.)

I thought about reading it once but it looked massive and I couldn’t be arsed.

Fight Club (Seen it. Never read it.)

I don’t know what the book is like but I’m the only person I know who didn’t think the film was brilliant. It had a brilliant twist at the end but I was fairly bored up until that point. Still, the book might have been worse.

Jaws (Seen it. Never read it.)

The film was brilliant. I wish Steven Spielberg still made films like it, instead of Indiana Jones 4. God, that was awful.

I haven’t read it, but according to @danbeames the shark dies of old age or something in the book. Which sounds a bit less exciting than, “Smile, you son of a -” KAPOW!!!

Jurassic Park (Read it first, saw it later.)

The film has to take some credit for the truly groundbreaking special effects. I preferred the Richard Attenborough character in the book, who was a bit of a shit rather than a nice old grandpa with a dinosaur theme park. Michael Crichton obviously preferred the film since the Jeff Goldblum character died in the book but was still in the sequel. The two annoying brats spoiled the film though. On balance, the book wins.

Stand By Me (Saw it first, read it later)

This was a novella in the same book as Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. It was good but the film was brilliant. The Richard Dreyfuss narration is a bit cheesey but I could watch it again and again.

The Bourne Identity (Seen it. Never read it.)


Stardust (Never seen it. Never read it.)

Never even heard of it.

A Pie Chart

This shows everything with more than 1 vote. Everything with 1 vote is stuck together in the Other section.

Notable Others

These are the other nominations I have both read and seen…

Romeo and Juliet

Probably a lot of screen adaptations. I thought the play was dull but the film version I saw (The Leonardo di Caprio one) was the biggest pile of shit I think I’ve ever had to sit through. “Oooh, we’re setting a Shakespeare play in a modern setting. Aren’t we clever? Let’s all pat ourselves on the back.” A truly pathetic piece of film making.

The Silence of the Lambs

That’s a possibility. The book was quite good but I did think Anthony Hopkins was a brilliant bad dude. Still, everyone says Brian Cox was a better Hannibal Lecter, so what do I know?

Also, if I recall correctly, in the book he ate the guy’s liver with some fava beans and a nice Amarone. I think it’s a better pairing with a human liver. The books wins because of it.

The Beach

Fairly dull book. Turd film.

The Running Man

Rarely can a film have been so loosely based the book. I read the book when I was a nipper. In the book, the character signs up for the game in a bid to get out of the squalid life of poverty he has. Survive 30 days and win a fortune. The game is completely different as well, he gets released into the public with a head start and then the hunters come after him. And they’re not dressed as Christmas trees either. Hard to compare them since the stories are so different but I found the book more enjoyable.


Yeah, the film was probably better, mainly because of the performance of Kathy Bates. “You Dirty Bird!”

No Country for Old Men

Hard to decide on that because both were brilliant and the film does follow the book very closely, even down to the dialogue which is identical in a lot of places. The casting in the film was superb. From Anton Chigurh and Sheriff Ed Tom, to the old man in the gas station and the fat lady who ran the trailer park, every one of them, no matter how small their part, were brilliantly cast. Someone commented that the book had a protracted ending compared with the film. That’s probably a fair comment.
I’m glad no one mentioned another Cormac McCarthy book, The Road. That book was brilliant – I cried my eyes out at the end. I haven’t seen the film but I bet they fucked it up.


No way. The book was 100 times better than the film. Robert Carlisle was brilliant as Begbie though.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Well, Gene Wilder definitely did a better job of playing Willy Wonka than Johnny Depp. Seriously, you wouldn’t let your kids near that guy. I can’t watch it though without wanting to brutally murder the insipid little shit that plays Charlie. “Granpwa Joe! Granpwa Joe!” Oh, fuck off.

Interestingly, it seems there is a pattern in my preferences. In general where I have read and seen both, I am preferring the version I experienced first. Perhaps it’s coincidence but it could be that reading the book after seeing the film doesn’t give you the same freedom to imagine it in your own way. I don’t know. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what I have concluded from all of this but it was fun anyway. The full list of results is below. Thanks for playing.


The Full Listings

The Top 10


The Top 10

These films got 3 votes each

The Shining
Apocalypse Now
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Starship Troopers
The Bourne Supremacy
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Green Mile
The Wizard of Oz

These films got 2 votes each

Romeo and Juliet
Silence of the Lambs
The Beach
The Running Man
2001: A Space Odyssey
Beauty and the Beast
Bridget Jones’s Diary
Debbie Does Dallas
Don’t Look Now
Gone with the Wind
The Exorcist
The Mist

And these got 1 vote each

No Country For Old Men
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
101 Dalmations
25th Hour
30 Days of Night
All Harry Potter Films
All James Bond Films
American Psycho
Angel Heart
Big Fish
Children of Men
Clear and Present Danger
Clockwork Orange
Cobra Verde
Das Boot
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Gangbang Auditions 13
Gangs of New York
High Fidelity
High Noon
Hunt For Red October
I Am Legend
I Robot
Jackie Brown
King Creole
Morvern Callar
Mystic River
Patriot Games
Pet Sematary
Rear Window
Return of the Swamp Thing
Schindler’s List
Sense and Sensibility
Snow White
The 39 Steps
The Da Vinci Code
The Devil Wears Prada
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
The Englsh Patient
The Graduate
The Great Gatsby
The Iron Giant
The Jungle Book
The Last Temptation of Christ
The Lawnmower Man
The Little Mermaid
The Merchant of Venice
The Ninth Gate
The Princess Bride
The Snow Queen
The Third Man
The Time Traveller’s Wife
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
True Blood (TV)
War and Peace
Water For Chocolate


Beating Up The Rich

In amongst the knob gags and poo jokes, someone occasionally writes something serious on Twitter. The other day someone wrote this:

The top 10% of earners pay more than 50% of all income tax. When can we stop beating up on the rich?

It got retweeted and found its way into my timeline. I did try to start a debate with the originator but they didn’t seem to want to take part. Twitter is a fairly clumsy medium for doing so in any case.

I hope I am not doing the originator a disservice but I think the case being made was one I have heard on several occasions – that because such a large proportion of tax is coming from a relatively small proportion of the population they must be more than paying their way and it would be unfair to ask them for even more.

The point I wanted to make was that this statistic on its own doesn’t really tell us enough to know whether we should stop beating up the rich or not.

(I think we are talking about a metaphorical beating up here. I want to make it explicitly clear that I do not condone the beating up of rich people irrespective of the income tax rate for high earners. Except perhaps Duncan Bannatyne and even then no more than a wedgie and a titty twister.)

So why does this statistic not tell us enough on its own?

Reason #1

Let’s look at two fictional economies:


The country of Thatcherland has 10 residents. Nine of them earn £10,000 per year. One earns £10,000,000 per year.
Income tax is a flat 30% irrespective of salary.

=> In Thatcherland the richest 10% of earners pay 99% of the total income tax.


The country of Getoffmyland is populated by 10 farmers. Nine of them earn £10,000 per year. One earns £30,000 per year.
In Getoffmyland, income tax on salaries up to £20,000 pay income tax at 10%. For anything over £20,000 income tax is 40%.

=> In Getoffmyland, the top 10% of earners pay 40% of the total income tax.

If we simply assume that a higher proportion of income tax paid by the rich is equivalent to fairness then Thatcherland comes out as a brilliantly fair economy! Look, that lovely rich person is paying almost all the income tax. The other 90% of residents only have to find 1% between them!

Of course, it isn’t fair though because we just neglected to take into account the income gap between the rich and the poor: If the income is unevenly distributed in the first place then it should not be a big surprise to anyone that the income tax is too.

Reason #2

The statistic tells us only about income tax and we can’t make a valid judgment without taking into account all the other taxes we have to pay. e.g.

  • In Getoffmyland there is another tax which farmers have to pay based on the size of their farmhouse. The bigger it is the more they have to pay.
  • In Thatcherland, this tax has been replaced with a poll tax where all residents pay the same.

Even if the income tax were fair in Thatcherland we would be fairly rash to declare the whole tax system fair without taking the poll tax into account.

Let’s forget about our fictional economies and move to a real one. The UK government is currently in the process of implementing fiscal austerity. At the highest level they have two ways to do this:

  • Decrease Government spending
  • Increase Taxes

It seems to me they are a lot keener on adjusting the former than they are the latter and I do have a big concern about this. In August the IFS published an analysis of the government’s emergency budget and found that contrary to George Osborne’s claims the policies were not progressive. i.e. they proportionally penalised the poor more than the rich. (You can read the post I wrote about that here.)

This shouldn’t be a big surprise. If you hugely reduce the budget of local councils then libraries close, public transport services reduce etc and those services benefit the poor more than the rich who buy their own books and have their own cars. Additionally there have been much publicised cuts to both housing benefit and tax credits and despite what the Daily Mail says, people who claim benefits are not all millionaire hoodwinkers.

Strangely though, throughout all of this, no one has seemed to consider for 5 minutes financing any of this through a rise in income tax on the wealthy (metaphorically beating them up) and I really don’t for the life of me understand why. Austerity in the current climate is foolhardy but if you are dumb enough to want to implement it, why not start with the people who aren’t going to starve?

Prior to the downturn the UK economy had enjoyed 15 years of sustained growth and a great many people benefited because of this. Now the economy is in a bad way, why is a government hell bent on austerity, not considering going back to those who have benefited the most and asking them to contribute more? It seems especially odd when the alternative is asking the poor to foot the bill.

I must though, be fair to the government and highlight a progressive policy they are implementing – the freezing of the television license fee. It is just a shame that David Cameron had to get in bed with Rupert Murdoch to come up with one.

Leaving the rich untouched and taking it all from the poor just increases the income gap, pushing us still further towards the economy in Thatcherland.

And as we approach Thatcherland, the richest 10% will pay more and more of the income tax.

And things will be more and more unfair.