There was a huge response to my piece in last month’s newsletter about the new movie of Emma and it was intriguing to read all the different reactions. I know that no film version can ever match the perfection of that novel, but what about other books? I was recently asked to name cases where the movie or TV version was better than the book, and it took me a while to come up with a list.
I loved the Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries on TV and felt they were better than the books by Kerry Greenwood (which have no romantic tension between Phryne Fisher and Policeman Jack). However, the recent movie was so truly dire that I came close to walking out of it, so the books are better than that particular film. So, in this instance, I think the TV series got it right, but the movie didn’t.
The TV series Lark Rise to Candleford was also far more fun than Flora Thompson’s original novel, P.D. James’s Death Comes to Pemberley was more plausible and more interesting on TV than on the page, and I do prefer my Inspector Morse on the TV screen to the page. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was a far better movie than book, as was One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Jane Austen Book Club.
Almost always, in my view, the book is better than the adaptation. However, there’s perhaps one case where I think it’s a dead heat between book and movie – E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View. It’s probably my favourite film ever, it does full justice to the novel to which it is faithful, and both book and film are both totally fabulous. Perhaps To Kill a Mockingbird also falls into this category – a rare case where the film is just so right for the book. And I do think that the 1981 ITV Brideshead Revisited adaptation was also the equal of the book.
Other movies listed on the web as being much better than the book include The Godfather, Jaws, The Princess Bride, Forrest Gump, Julie and Julia, The English Patient, The Shawshank Redemption and The Notebook. However, with these examples I’ve seen the film but not read the book, so I can’t comment. You might like to do so?
Can you add to my list? Let’s have a discussion about movies you think are better than their books, please comment here.
Streaming Guide from JustWatch: Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries.
Streaming Guide from JustWatch: Lark Rise to Candleford.
Streaming Guide from JustWatch: Death Comes to Pemberley.
Streaming Guide from JustWatch: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.
Streaming Guide from JustWatch: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Streaming Guide from JustWatch: The Jane Austen Book Club.
Streaming Guide from JustWatch: A Room with a View.
Streaming Guide from JustWatch: To Kill a Mockingbird.
Streaming Guide from JustWatch: Brideshead Revisited.