Judging Books by Their Movies

I’m starting to forget what I’ve written about over the last few months. I think this is post number 270 or 271 and the vast majority of those have come from February until now. But I’m confident I haven’t touched on this topic just yet. I don’t think.

Okay. We all know about judging books by their covers because everyone does it. We also are likely familiar with judging books by their authors because we do that too. But what about judging books by their movies? What do you think? Think you judge books by their movies? Or maybe you view them as separate entities?

This is where I tell you which side of the fence I fall on. Hm. Interestingly enough, I’m actually okay with this. Don’t go gasping away before giving me the chance to explain. There have been a number of wildly successful adaptations in recent years, but we should all know of the even greater number of films that have been flat out horrible. As in, what-kind-of-studio-would-ever-want-to-adapt-this-for-film horrible. But literary adaptations aren’t going anywhere.

The Hunger Games movies have been adapted quite well, in my opinion. As were the Potter films and John Green’s mega-bestseller The Fault in Our Stars. The LOTR films are probably my favorite adaptations ever. Gone Girl was released just last week to critical acclaim.

But you know the movies that are good and those that aren’t, so I won’t continue with my little list there. But am I the only person who thinks there may be a correlation between the quality of the book and the quality of the theatrical adaptation? I know not everyone loves every book or movie, but it seems to me that books that are nearly universally liked adapt well into film. Not because people like the book, but because it’s high quality. Sometimes the book is higher quality than the movie, but only once can I think of the movie actually being better than the book.

For instance, the Twilight movies were not very good at all. I’ll admit to having seen every one of them, but come on. The Hobbit movies are not on par with the book. Bad movies can come from bad books. And bad movies can come from great books. But great movies do not come from bad books. It just doesn’t happen. That’s the point that I’m trying to make.

If you see a bad movie adapted from a book, then you may or may not choose to go read the book to compare the two. But if you see a truly great movie adapted from a book, then you absolutely need to read the book because you’ll likely enjoy it even more than the movie. Even though you’ve likely already read it.

Have you ever judged a book by its movie? And do you agree that great movies typically come from great books?

6 thoughts on “Judging Books by Their Movies

  1. I don’t think its fair to compare a book to it’s movie or vice versa. The differences in format would result in massive contrasts. I think the Harry Potter movies would stand far apart from the books, Azkaban in particular for me. The movie works so well there.
    That being said, there have been good adaptations (Silence of The Lambs always comes to mind) as well as the bad ones (Hannibal Rising, anyone? Or draw the comparisons between Michael Mann’s Manhunter to Brett Ratner’s Red Dragon).
    Also – I find the adaptation for The Hobbit to be equally (if not more) dragging as the book – especially the second half of the book.


  2. I think it makes a world of difference when the authors collaborate with the movie makers. This was the case with Hunger Games and Gone Girl. Compare that with the nightmare that was My Sister’s Keeper, a movie that RUINED the original, heartbreaking story. As a rule, I always read the book first.


  3. It’s hard to make a bad book decent when you translate it to the screen, hence Twilight. So for that, I agree – great movies almost have to come from great books . I mean, I do like The Time Traveler’s Wife and The Hunger Games movies more than their books, but they were still good books, you know?

    Some people hate film adaptations simply because they change stuff, but I accept changes if they’re thoughtfully made. The Hobbit is a stinker for me because it’s so bloated. That’s a design flaw in their adaptation, because the movies are lackluster despite good source material. They’re using shoddy CGI, they’re stretching it into a trilogy for some reason, the frame rate choice was weird…..it’s not so much about the story changes for me as much as the filmmaking choices bug me.


  4. You can’t judge books by their movies but you can judge their stories, as these are the only ones that remain more or less the same. The both medias are, nevertheless, fun to analyse when interpreting the work. For me it doesn’t matter whether I see the film or read the book first: in both cases I may be interested to see how they’ve translated it into another media.
    Does the original source have to be popular to begin with? Yes, but you can improve from the original as I believe was done (so far) with the Hunger Games trilogy. There are books that were simply made to be filmed, which sometimes makes the film versions slightly better from the original (e.g. Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock).
    The author’s collaboration may make a positive or negative difference. Take for example most of the Stephen King adaptions that he himself has approved (or directed). Despite the author’s dislike of the Kubrick adaptation of The Shining, it is one of the most popular (if not THE most popular) adaptation of his books today.


  5. I don’t think I have ever judged a book by its movie. Though a lot of the current movies based on books I haven’t read, I often heard from others that the books are usually better than the movies and if one really want to understand the movie, they should read the book first. I don’t know if that is the case for all stories, but until I read a book turned into a movie, I will not know for sure 🙂


  6. Actually, I’ve found a few cases where I like the movie worlds more than the book. I liked Stardust’s movie adaptation way more than the book, and I also enjoyed Silver Lining’s Playbook’s movie way more than the book. However, both books are critically acclaimed and are enjoyable to read — I just prefer the movies more.


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