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


About RedEaredRabbit
My name is RedEaredRabbit, King of Kings. Look on my works ye Mighty and despair.

3 Responses to The Film is Mightier than the Book

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Film is Mightier than the Book « Musings of a Red Eared Rabbit --

  2. K says:

    Can’t believe their is someone who has not read nor seen Lord of the Rings :0

  3. K says:

    I’m actually not that thick – I mean there!!!

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