We’ve all heard that saying before: the book is always better. But is it true? In the book vs. movie battle, are movie adaptations doomed to fail before production even starts? Well, I wouldn’t go that far. In fact, I think sometimes the film is actually even more enjoyable than the source material.
But, let’s look at a few book vs. movie examples to see where the truth lies.
Book vs. Movie Adaptations
The recent Netflix release, Blonde, was a fairly controversial one. Based on the book by Joyce Carol Oats, the film is a fictional take on the life of Marilyn Monroe.
At the Venice Film Festival premiere, Ana de Armas received a 13 minute standing ovation.
I read the book years ago. It’s extremely long (as in, 700+ pages) but was beyond captivating. Joyce Carol Oates is a beautiful writer and her depiction of MM was empathetic and heart-wrenching.
The movie, on the other hand… well, it wasn’t great. Ana de Armas’ portrayal of the iconic Marilyn was fantastic. But, other than that, I wasn’t impressed.
Final Verdict: Book, hands down
2. Luckiest Girl Alive
When Netflix announced the upcoming release of Luckiest Girl Alive in September, I jumped at the chance to read the book.
To be fair, it has been on my TBR list for quite a while now. Still, the timing was pretty fantastic which and definitely gave me a push to read it faster.
Fun fact—Luckiest Girl Alive actually what inspired me to write this post. And, of all the book vs. movie comparisons here, this one is by far the most recent. As in, I just watched the movie today.
For the most part, I really liked the movie.
Mila Kunis was great in the role, and it was an entertaining watch. What bothered me, though, is how much was changed from the novel. In fairness, I think most adaptations do that, but the changes seemed really noticeable to me. Perhaps because I took in both the book and movie in the same week, but still. The things that were changed made a difference in the story.
Final Verdict: Book, but I’d still recommend the movie
3. Gone Girl
Whenever I talk about book adaptations that have been done well, Gone Girl is the example I use.
The Gillian Flynn novel was an absolute game-changer. It was one of those books that absolutely everyone was talking about. And for a while, it sparked a whole surge of similar psychological thrillers.
If you, somehow, haven’t read it, I’d highly recommend it. Of course, I’d also highly recommend the movie. Rosamund Pike gives a phenomenal and chilling performance. Ben Affleck is arrogant and smug, which definitely works for him here.
While I wouldn’t go so far as to say the movie was better than the source material, I’ll say this: it does the book justice.
Final Verdict: Tie
4. The Devil Wears Prada
This movie has become so incredibly iconic that it’s easy to forget it was actually based on a book.
The Devil Wears Prada was written by Lauren Weisberger about her time working at Vogue. It’s fiction, but pretty clearly based on Anna Wintour, the notoriously difficult fashion editor.
The book was a bestseller, and for good reason. It’s funny and thoroughly entertaining. But, can anything compete with Meryl Streep? Her icy, intimidating performance next to Anne Hathaway’s eager, earnest one is the stuff of movie legends.
Final Verdict: Movie, honestly
5. The Woman in the Window
If you’re a fan of psychological thriller’s with unreliable narrators, The Woman in the Window was practically made for you.
I remember tearing through this book when I first read it. Yeah, it’s one of those that’s incredibly hard to put down once you get started.
The movie adaptation features Amy Adams, who is one of the most underrated actresses of our generation, and she gives a fierce and believable performance. Julianne Moore is also in this one, and she too is amazing. Their acting skills alone make this one worth the watch.
Still, the film never manages to give you the same I’m-on-the-edge-of-my-seat feeling like the novel.
Final Verdict: Book, but barely
6. Perks of Being a Wallflower
I remember reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower for the first time when I was in high school. And I remember the profound impact it had on me.
For a long time, I listed this as one of my favorite books, right up there with The Great Gatsby and Little Women.
I still love it, and I’ve read it at least 5 times. The movie, though. Well, the movie was OK. Not bad, but also, you know, not great. Decidedly mediocre.
Final Verdict: Book, without a doubt
7. The Girl on the Train
Remember how I said Gone Girl sparked a wave of similar books in the psychological thriller genre?
Well, The Girl on the Train is one of those “similar books” often touted as “like Gone Girl” (but honestly, just not as good.) Still a fun read, mind you. And still a book I’d definitely recommend.
Which is more than I can say for the film adaptation. Emily Blunt is a great actress and she does the best with the material she’s given. Unfortunately, that material isn’t very well developed. Do yourself a favor: skip the movie and just read the damn book.
Final Verdict: Book, by a long-shot
I’m usually team book as there tend to be more details in the book. But of course, The Devil Wear Prada is the exception.
It’s such a classic movie!
Gone Girl – loved the book thought the film was well done. Girl on the Train, really liked the book, tried to watch the film twice….fell asleep both times, make of that what you will ha, ha, ha
Totally agree. The movie for Girl on the Train just didn’t do the story justice.
Generally, I find the book version is better than the movie but always try to remember that as they are two different mediums they will provide a different experience. If the movie plays a lot with the plot and changes/leaves things out that really resonated while reading the book then I feel like the movie fails to capture something. I recently watched ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ and it’s a good movie but misses something compared to the book (for me). Fab post (I will have to read ‘Luckiest Girl Alive’).
That book has literally been on my ‘TBR’ shelf for like OVER a year. I don’t know why I haven’t read it yet but I absolutely need to.
Great post! The movie always draws me in. If it is halfway decent, I’ll find the time to read the book.
Lol that’s an interesting approach!