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.)

ZZZZzzzzzz…….

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.

Misery

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.

Trainspotting

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.

RedEaredRabbit

The Full Listings

The Top 10

 

The Top 10

These films got 3 votes each

The Shining
Trainspotting
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
Carrie
Debbie Does Dallas
Don’t Look Now
Gone with the Wind
Kickass
Psycho
The Exorcist
The Mist

And these got 1 vote each

Misery
No Country For Old Men
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
101 Dalmations
25th Hour
30 Days of Night
Alien
All Harry Potter Films
All James Bond Films
American Psycho
Angel Heart
Atonement
Big Fish
Children of Men
Clear and Present Danger
Clockwork Orange
Cobra Verde
Das Boot
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Frankenstein
Gangbang Auditions 13
Gangs of New York
Hannibal
Hellraiser
High Fidelity
High Noon
Hunt For Red October
I Am Legend
I Robot
IT
Jackass
Jackie Brown
King Creole
Morvern Callar
Mystic River
Patriot Games
Pet Sematary
Pinocchio
Rear Window
Return of the Swamp Thing
Ringu
Schindler’s List
Se7en
Sense and Sensibility
Shrek
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)
Wanted
War and Peace
Water For Chocolate

TweetUp

Around the start of 2010 I became properly involved with Twitter. Around 6 months before, I had created an account for the sole purpose of following Bradley Wiggins during the Tour de France and during 2009 I did little with it. I am not sure of how many people I followed or followers I had by the end of the year, but I would guess around 10 and 5 respectively.

In January, due to a mixture of gadget envy and frustration with my turd of a mobile, I decided to buy an iPhone and then, because it was free, installed TweetDeck. This seemingly insignificant step was probably the flap of the butterfly’s wings which caused the typhoon – I now had access to Twitter everywhere I went.

If something funny happened to me or something funny occurred to me pre-Twitter, it would have at most been shared with a couple of people in my immediate vicinity, or often it occured when I had no one to share it with at all. Now I started to Tweet these things as and when they happened, I suppose because I always had an audience.

More importantly, I started to find other interesting people on Twitter and follow them. All of this quickly snowballed and as I exchanged tweets with other users, I started to enjoy feeling part of a virtual community.

I can’t remember exactly how or when I started following Simon Key, but over time he has become one of my favourite people on Twitter. Simon, I should add, co-owns The Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green. Unfortunately, Wood Green is absolutely miles away from the bit of London in which I live and until yesterday I had never even been there but as fate would have it, I found myself only two tube stops away with some spare time, and I thought what the heck, I’ll pop in.

This decision is more significant than it perhaps seems. This is the first time I have actively gone to meet someone I only know through Twitter. I have followed a few people I know and bumped into a couple of people I started following because we share a local but this was different – this was me changing my plans specifically to meet someone with whom the only connection I have is Twitter.

As I entered the book shop, I immediately recognised Simon. This is partly because I have in built Terminator-style face recognition software but also because he is distinct from the crowd with long hair, a super-hero t-shirt and woolly hat. (And partly because he was standing a metre or so from the doorway.)

For this much, I was prepared. However, I also recognised the man with whom he was in conversation. You see, I also followed him on Twitter. This second, unexpected Tweeter, was Greg Stekelman who’s blog I even link to from my own.

Now, I do remember roughly how I started following Greg. As I recall, I was watching MasterChef and someone retweeted one of Greg’s tweets. Greg used to tweet a lot about MasterChef and not in a “Now Dave is chopping an onion.” kind of way. Whatever it was made me laugh out loud (I don’t say lol, I’m not 15) so I checked his other recent tweets. During that episode of MasterChef he had been tweeting something equally funny every few minutes for the entire duration. It was stunning and I was hooked.

Anyway. Back in the bookshop, I was standing in the doorway (like a muppet), watching these two in conversation. I introduced myself, slightly nervously. I had no idea how to do this. “I follow you on Twitter,” I said to Simon. “I’m RedEaredRabbit.” If I contravened the official Twitter etiquette for these situations, he didn’t let it show and he shook my hand and offered me a cup of tea.

While he went off to brew it, I chatted with Greg. Now Greg, I should add, is somewhat famous on Twitter. Not famous like Lady GaGa in that people only follow him because he is famous outside Twitter. Greg is famous on Twitter for what he writes on Twitter. To give you a measure of this, Greg tweeted that he was talking to me and I instantly got 10 new followers. True power.

Greg doesn’t follow me on Twitter, so us meeting led to an interesting social situation – I knew a hell of a lot more about him than he did about me.

Greg : I recently moved.

Me: I know – your neighbours sound like hell.

You may think this would make conversation difficult but actually it was discussing this phenomenon which opened the conversation up. Hands up, I am a complete Twitter novice compared with Greg. Not just in terms of the respective number of people who follow us, but also because I have never had :

In spite of this, it transpired, the way in which Tweeters interact with each other through these seemingly insignificant messages is a genuinely interesting subject to both of us.

While I was talking to Greg, Simon was trying to split time between us and running the shop. When he was free he would always come over and easily drop into the conversation, be it Twitter, books, buses or MasterChef.

I hadn’t just visited the book shop to chat though, I was keen on buying some books and asked Simon if he could recommend some. I didn’t want to guide him too much – I wanted to see what he would recommend given how little he knew about me. If you are ever fortunate enough to visit Simon in the Big Green Bookshop, I recommend you do this. Simon is passionate about books – not at all in a contrived way, but he has a genuine, understated love of what he does. As it turned out, he did a fine job and as he went through the selection he explained a little about each book and why he liked it. Simon’s selection (plus two choices from Greg) is below:

Simon's selection, plus two choices from Greg

I left the shop happy in the knowledge that what I worried could have been a disaster was actually an hour spent meeting two marvelous people. I have no plans to seek out all the other people I interact with on Twitter (Dave Gorman’s next project?) but I hope to bump into some of them at some stage.

I hope by the time I do, I’ll have understood the Twitter etiquette for such things and I hope, as well, they are every bit as nice as @simontkey and @themanwhofell.

RedEaredRabbit