Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Book to Movie Adaptations

Posted February 22, 2011 by Heather in Top Ten Tuesday / 8 Comments

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week they post a new Top Ten list complete with one of their bloggers’ answers.  Everyone is welcome to join.  All they ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own post and comment on theirs with a link to your Top Ten Tuesday, to share with them and all those who are participating.  If you don’t have a blog, just post your answers as a comment.  If you can’t come up with ten, don’t worry about it–post as many as you can!  (See a list of future TTT here.)

I don’t usually participate in Top Ten Tuesday except to leave a comment on the post from The Broke and the Bookish, but this week’s topic is something that I have very strong opinions about.  This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is the Top Ten Book to Movie Adaptations, and I definitely want to say something about this and see what other people’s opinions are.  There might be some obvious movies that you think I’ve missed or forgotten–such as Lord of the Rings–but if I don’t mention them, I probably haven’t seen them.  No, I haven’t seen LOTR.  Yes, I love the books and yes, I will get around to watching the movies eventually.  Anyway, here are my top ten picks for the best book to movie adaptations:

  1. The Thorn Birds – I have to admit that I have never read this book.  I have seen the mini-series about five times, but I always forget to pick the book up when I’m in a bookstore or at the library.  This movie is fantastic.  Oh, Father Ralph de Bricassart…  *sigh*
  2. The Silence of the Lambs – This is another of my all-time favorite movies, and I would say it’s just as good as the book.  Anthony Hopkins really made this movie what it is.  I would say that because of his acting ability, I actually enjoy the movie more.
  3. This Boy’s Life – I first saw this movie in one of my English classes in college.  The cast is awesome:  Robert De Niro, Ellen Barkin, and a young Leonardo DiCaprio.  I finally read the book a few years ago, and they did a really great job with the movie.
  4. Doctor Zhivago – This is another book I have yet to read, but I love the movie.  It’s so good.  If the book is better than the movie, I will be an even happier camper.
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Do I even have to explain why this movie is so good?  I would be surprised to find anyone who doesn’t agree that this is a great adaptation of the book.
  6. The Hunt for Red October – I’m not sure how many movies have been made out of Tom Clancy’s books, but I’ve only seen this and Patriot Games.  I was pretty disappointed with Patriot Games, but The Hunt for Red October is really good.
  7. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – This is one of my favorite books, and I’ve read it four or five times (at least).  I was really afraid to watch the movie because I didn’t want the book ruined, but I finally watched it last year and I was really happy with it.  Mos Def was great.
  8. Running With Scissors – Another fantastic book, really great movie and awesome cast.  It’s so funny, and kind of sad at the same time.  I can’t imagine being Augusten Burroughs and growing up that way.  His life has certainly given him a lot of writing material.
  9. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire (the Swedish versions with subtitles) – I am combining these into one of my choices since they are two parts of a trilogy.  I haven’t seen The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest yet, but I intend to see it soon.  There is so much in the books that they’ve left out of the movies (for the sake of time, I’m sure), but I’m really impressed with what they HAVE done with the movies.  I think they are capturing the essence of the books very well.  I won’t be watching the American versions of these movies at all because I have read that they are already planning on changing some major parts of the plot, and I think that’s stupid.  Leave it to Americans to think they can do everything better.  Pffft.
  10. Circle of Friends – I was hard-pressed to find a tenth book-to-movie adaptation that I’ve really enjoyed.  Then I remembered this movie that I saw years ago that I really liked.  Maeve Binchy wrote the book this movie is based on, and watching the movie is actually what made me start reading her books.  The movie was a good adaptation.

In thinking about what to put on this Top Ten Tuesday list, I was reminded of the movies I have seen that actually made me mad because they were so much different from the book (in a really bad way).  There are two movies in particular that I was pretty excited to see when they came out that I ended up being really disgusted with because they were so horrible.  The first of these is Queen of the Damned.  Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles is one of my favorite book series.  As far as the movie goes, the cast is pretty decent (I am very fond of Aaliyah), but the movie was very, very bad.  I can’t imagine what went through Anne Rice’s head when she finally saw this.  I’m pretty sure I read that Rice actually left the movie project (of course I read this AFTER seeing the movie, or I wouldn’t have watched it in the first place).

The second movie I was completely disgusted with was Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.  The book was SO GOOD.  Then I saw the movie.  Talk about horrible.  Ugh.  They completely changed the ending of it and the ending they used was so stupid.  It was awful.  I can’t say that enough times.  It changed the entire feel of the relationship between the mother and daughter the author conveyed so well in the book.  (I mean, an elephant ride???  Come on.)  I called my mother (who also loved the book) as soon as the movie was over and told her not to even think about watching it.  I understand that movies can’t be made EXACTLY like the books in many cases because books are about imagination, and we can do so much more with our imaginations than we can apply to a movie set.  But when a screenplay writer completely changes parts of what the author originally imagined for the book (especially the PLOT), that really irks me.

Which brings me to a question for all of you:  Would you rather read the book before watching the movie, or vice versa?  My mother and I were actually discussing this a couple of weeks ago.  I would rather read the book before I see the movie.  I know that 9 times out of 10 the book is going to be a thousand times better than the movie—and what if the movie really sucks like Queen of the Damned did?  I am afraid that if a movie is really bad and I haven’t read the book, it might make me not want to read the book at all.  Then I might really be missing out on something good.  My mother would rather watch the movie before she reads the book.  Her thought process is that if the movie is bad, and then she reads the book (which she’s sure will be better) the story won’t be completely ruined for her.  She doesn’t like the thought of a movie ruining a good book, and the book can’t be ruined if she reads it after she sees the movie.  I can understand this way of thinking, but I would still rather read the book first.

What about you?  Book before movie, or movie before book?  Or doesn’t it matter?  What’s on your top ten list?

H.L.

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  • Jamaal

    Well, for starters, I am definitely a book before movie person. I’ve made the mistake of watching some movies first, which completely ruined the book for me. After watching a bad movie, when reading the book I always remember the bad scenes and how I felt when watching them.

    A few movies that go into my Top Ten are: “Let The Right One In”, “The Godfather”, “Fight Club” (though the book was 25 times better), and “I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell” (for sheer stupidity of it all).

    Great post, and great movie choices!

    • Oh, man… I completely forgot about “The Godfather.” My ancestors would be ashamed of me. Hahaha!

  • I am definitely a book before movie person as well. When LOTR came out my Mother and I forced my dad to read the books before we’d even think of letting him go to the movies. We did the same thing to my sister for Harry Potter as well.

    That being said, I can definitely see your mom’s point of view on this. A movie would never spoil a book for me, but I can see myself being intensely disappointed in the movie if it was poorly done. However, I have found that over the years I have gotten quite good at separating out books from movies and can usually find enjoyment in both.

    • I try very hard to view the movies independently from the books, but I always end up picking the movie apart and pointing out all of the things that were different. Haha!

  • This really is an amazing list! I’ve seen some of these movies but not read the books. I have to say I remember watching Hunt for Red October and really enjoyed that movie. Although Sean Connory made it nice to watch too. I really enjoy his acting.

    I’ve seen the movies of LOTR but never read the books. I’m going to have to get those books at some point.

    Great post!

    • Thanks, Mel! In hindsight, I actually forgot a few really great movies, but I could only choose ten, and I think I would still stick with the ten I chose. I think. Hahaha!

  • Queen of the Damned is my favorite book so you can imagine my horror upon seeing the movie! They completely massacred what was so great about the book. I didn’t think Stuart Townsend was too bad as Lestat, but the rest of the movie was crap, except for the music. I love the soundtrack.

    My favorite movie from a book on your list is Silence of the Lambs. I also enjoyed Dragon Tattoo and Played with Fire…and Circle of Friends. I haven’t read the latter three books yet though. Let Me In was another great book to movie adaptation, but I still love that book so much better than the movie…no matter how good the movie was!

    • The Vampire Chronicles is one of my favorite series, so I was just as mortified, Michelle. Ugh.