Why are Books Always Better Than the Movie Versions?

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People who love reading are frequently disappointed by the movie versions of their favorite books. There have been some great films made from books, but typically, movie versions of books tend to frustrate readers because they are not just like the book. When a film director works from an adapted screenplay, the results are not the same as reading the book, for various reasons. For example, a film that precisely follows a novel likely would be too long for most audiences to sit through at a single showing, so some things must be left out. Also, a book can easily convey things to the reader that are much more difficult for a movie to convey, such as background information about the setting, the history and nature of characters' relationships or even what characters are thinking at certain times.

Importance of Imagination

Books and movies are very different entities. Films leave little to viewers' imaginations. When reading, a person is creating his or her own movie in a sense, and he or she decides many of the important parts: how the characters speak, what they look like and what their surroundings look like. This process of imagining and interpreting as a reader is a creative process that is distinctly different from viewing a film.


Casting Decisions

When directors cast roles for films, the actor or actress inevitably does not look the way that most readers of the book had pictured the character. For instance, casting Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon in The Da Vinci Code has been considered a significant mistake by many people. In fact, the book describes Langdon as resembling actor Harrison Ford, who bears no resemblance to Hanks.

Other types of casting decisions that often disappoint moviegoers are when an actor or actress who is known for comedic roles is cast in a dramatic role, or when an actor or actress is given a leading role in a major film despite having acting skills that are considered less than stellar. No matter how the actor or actress performs in the film, it can be difficult for viewers who know him or her from other films to disregard their previous impressions. An actor or actress who speaks with an accent that does not fit the role — either because the character should have a particular accent or because the actor or actress does when the character should not — also can be disappointing for people who "heard" the character's voice differently while reading the book.

Missing Material

A classic complaint about movie versions concerns the omission of material that the reader finds important. If the director must make film that is the proper length for a theatrical release, there is no way to include everything, especially when it comes from a long novel. The film version of Gone with the Wind, for example, omits the fact that Scarlett O'Hara had two children by her first two husbands, and she really disliked the children.

Perhaps the director wanted to make Scarlett more sympathetic and knew that portraying this dislike would make people hate Scarlett. It is an important aspect of the book, and it forms her character into a much more complex person. The film, to many people, is better than the book, but to other people, it is a good movie but not a faithful representation of the book.

Making Changes

Another thing that might annoy people about the film versions of their favorite books is adding material to the story or changing material. There are many such complaints regarding Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings movies, for instance. Important material, such as the battle in the Shire at the end of the last book, is deleted, and other material that was not written by J.R.R. Tolkien was added to the films. These changes include Arwen setting off for the Gray Havens and then nearly dying, Aragorn's flirtation with Eowyn, Sauruman's death by falling off the tower of Isengard and Frodo abandoning Sam before crossing into Mordor. Other additions included Faramir torturing Gollum and kidnapping Frodo and Sam as well as Faramir's intention to seize the ring from Frodo.

Different Interpretations

Despite the complaints about differences from the Tolkien's books, Jackson's films are widely considered to be quite good. The problem for Jackson and other directors is that their interpretation of a book is not the same as anyone else's. In the end, no director can satisfy everyone who read the book, because he or she works off a personal interpretation, might be under time constraint and is working in a completely different medium. Each person creates a mental version while reading a book, and no film version can live up to everyone's mental vision.


Not all movie versions might be considered worse than the books. For example, many people believe that the film The Godfather is better than the Mario Puzo novel upon which it is based. To many Godfather fans, film director Francis Ford Coppola significantly improved on the book and took out a lot of material written by Puzo that was not particularly relevant to the main story. Among the other well-known movies that many people consider to be better than the book versions are A Clockwork Orange, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, The Shining, Psycho and Jaws.


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Discuss this Article

Post 51

In my opinion, the books are better. They add more detail to the story and are more, how can I say, original? The movies, I cannot explain. They are just so different from the book. Take 'The Fault in Our Stars' as an example. Even though I haven't read it or watched the movie, from reviews, I can already tell the book doesn't need a movie beside it. And that's one of the reasons I don't like the movies much. They are unneeded.

I am a Year 6 child and want to become an author when I grow up.

Post 50

I can't say movies are better, but sometimes you just want to chill and watch. Here, the movies sound better than a book. Sometimes, also, you want to just read it. For example, I read a book and I just loved it. I was curious about the film so I asked my friend and she said she saw the movie and it was horrible! But don't even think all the movies are the same. For example, Harry Potter is still impressive, and I read all the books. Also, movies can make you want to read the book again. Anyway, it's fifty-fifty.

Post 49

A single picture says a thousand words. The average film is 90 minutes long at a frame rate of 24fps. 90 mins = 5400 seconds. Lets do the math...5400 x 24 = 129,600 frames x 1000 = 129,600,000 words. The Lord of the Rings book rough word estimate is 561,792. and that's just comparing to a 90 min movie, not TLOTR motion picture which is over double in time. Movies = more in depth than books.

Post 47

I think the main reasons that people love "Gone with the Wind" so much are the nostalgia and the visuals (e.g., Vivien Leigh, the beautiful dresses, the stately plantations/homes).

Post 46

I like imagining the people and voices myself, like my own little movie. --JES

Post 45

I love watching movies. Books are not as good.

In response to the first comment, I think I must defend the writer. He is suggesting that the author has no imagination? In no place in the article does the author defend movies as a better form of entertainment. I think readers who often complain about movie adaptations are often hardcore fans of the original. Many of these fans have read the latter more than once. They have invested a great deal of imagination in mentally picturing characters and settings in the book.

As a reader, I find that the potential of film is a bit damning, however. What I mean by damning is that if I watch, for example, "The

Colour of Magic" adaptation I am often disappointed with bits cut out, or characters who are nowhere to be seen or even worse, bits that have no business or relation to the former. Of course I understand that the film is a new sort of telling of the story. For example, stories often retold get changed by the storyteller. The Grimm's Fairy Tales often have elements that are repeated in groups of threes (that is to say they are repeated three times). Another element of storytelling is to repeat each element as if to retrace the storyteller's footsteps. It is a memory aid. It makes it easier. And finally a camera sees everything; a human eye can only focus on one thing at a time.

In my example of "The Colour of Magic," I may be focusing on the pretty maiden Cohen rescues, but I fail to notice what Rincewind or Twoflower is up to.

Post 43

anon150710, Post 25: It is a nice idea, but it has one simple fault: you say the movies you do will be exactly like your book. No. They will be exactly how you see and imagine your book. They won't be the way I see your book, or anyone else sees your book. That is the problem. Books are interpreted differently by everyone who reads them. If you portray a character as you have written her, as you see her, she will look and sound different from the way I see and imagine her to be.

Post 41

This is probably terrible coming from a person who wants to write novels, but I wouldn't say reading a book is better than watching a movie; it's just different. There are books that are so hard to get through but by the end you're speechless and can't explain how brilliant it was. On the other hand, movies bring books to life; they can even chop up the book and still be brilliant.

Books are not written for the screen. Capturing the feeling of the book is the most important thing in a movie. There are movies based off books that follow the story close enough and have decent actors but are just bad. “The Hunger Games,” for example. I

can't comprehend how anyone can like it. It's like they could completely mess up the book and still make a better movie than that. I try to keep my mouth shut though, because I guess people are entitled to their own opinions, even if they're stupid ones. I finally figured out why the trailer was three times better than the movie (even though the movie had all the clips from the trailer). It was because it completely lacked feeling, and a music score gives that feeling - the feeling of the book. It had no music in the most epic parts -- the reaping and the games – that the trailer did. It was so very bland. Imagine your favorite movie without the music. Ouch! You didn't realize how crucial music is in a film, did you? A shaky camera and obviously terrible directing, which can be blamed for the poor quality.

On the other hand, take “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy (messed with the book quite a bit). Even though Tom Bombadil may have been important to the awesome author of the books, don't you think it might have been cheesy in the film? People complain about how the lead love story should have been between Faramir and Eowyn and how dare they have so much of Arwen. The fact is, everybody loves Aragorn and they want him to get his girl and so, yes, Arwen's character was simply expanded (their love story was in the appendix in the book anyway). Yes, characters were messed with and chunks of the book were twisted or taken out of the book, but it had the feeling of the book, (and a great music score too). Great director, abundant Oscar wins -- they were brilliant, especially with the "small" time frame.

And then there are the multiple film adaptations of a book. Take a classic “like Pride and Prejudice.” There's the BBC version with Firth and Ehle, and the 2005 version with Macfadyen and Knightley.

Personally, I like the 2005 version best. Again, this is probably terrible coming from a future novelist. The BBC version is almost quote for quote from the book (though I noticed Darcy doesn't give Elizabeth the reassuring smile after asking for Mr. Bennet's consent and in the 2005 version he does), whereas the 2005 version has characters left out and bits and pieces from the book are toyed with. Thing is, as a film I find this version more enjoyable, Of course, it's made better as far as cinematography and stuff like that, but they were made in different decades, so I get that. But I find this version captures the feeling of the book that we all like and is more enjoyable, with good actors, and is not as slow, because after all, books aren't written for screen. I can literally watch it over and over. However, I do respect people's opposition on this one - I get it.

So, this turned out to be a blog entry, but, that's what I think. Movies and books are very different from each other, both beautiful and fascinating in their own ways.

Post 39

I think books are much better than the movies. Due to time constraints, it's not possible to cover all the content of a novel. The lack of content and lack of imagination are the main disadvantages of movies over books. I don't like the adaptation of movies from novels.

Post 38

My complaint is the changes that make it completely different from the book. Such as with the series "Legend of the Seeker." The only thing that was the same as the book in the series were the characters and bits and pieces of what they could do.

I feel if movies and series based on books would follow the book's story, which doesn't mean it has to include every last detail, then those movies and series would do a lot better than what they have been.

Post 36

Horror films are better than horror books.

Post 32

Reading for me is not more enjoyable than watching a movie. They are on 100 percent equal footing. Why would anyone ever in a million years walk into a theater and expect a similar experience to opening a book? It's foolish to expect them to be the same. Tom Bombadil in the “Lord of the Rings” would have been laughable and confusing. If the X-Men wore yellow spandex in the movies, I would have cringed and probably never have admitted to anyone I'd ever read a comic book. Some changes I gladly accept, such as the elimination of Hermione's hippie cause S.P.E.W. from the Harry Potter movies. I ask myself one question when I leave the

theater after a movie based on a book or other property: "Was it a good film?"

People go into these adaptations hating them before they've seen them and then get surprised when they walk out of the theater hating them. They never gave it a chance. They simply nit-picked the handful of (generally) minor details as opposed to enjoying the flick.

The problem with readers on a whole is they think books are higher brow. Hardly. Watch a truly good film. It's like there's this mentality that because books have been around longer they are more intelligent. They are both works of art and need to be respected in their own rights instead of compared. They aren't the same thing, you can't compare them. What works in books won't always work in movies and vice versa. Ever read a novelization to a movie that wasn't previously a book? They make tons of changes and no one really complains about that.

It's like readers today have completely forgotten the parts of a story (or they never really knew them and they just fancy themselves as being smart because they open a book once in awhile). As long as the basic elements are intact, I have no real complaints. I notice the differences, and I might have a preference for one way or the other, but I will never really complain about differences due to the transition to a completely separate medium. In fact, I expect and even hope for them. Imagine, for example, a “Fellowship of the Ring” movie that covered every single damn detail in the book. Trust me when I say this: I wouldn't watch it.

Post 31

Jackson made a good job of the drama and the physical conflicts that happen in the Lord of the Rings. The battle for Middle-Earth has never been better portrayed, but aside from the absolutely stunning sets and landscapes, the film almost totally fails to capture the wistful, fading magic and sense of a long and tragic history that underpins the novels. Strangely enough, the closest it comes is in the very opening seconds of the first film, when Treebeard's words are spoken by Galadriel. Of course, the books are virtually unfilmable as written; the trilogy is too long. Having said that, there was no excuse for some of the mischaracterizations: the trivialization of the young hobbits, the transformation of

Gimli into a comic turn, the assassination of Farmir's character.

Jackson's ear was deaf to Tolkien's elaborately crafted back story of ancient mysteries and he threw away their music, not realizing that the books are unlike any other fantasy novel in that they were written by a man who constructed them on an intimate knowledge of the Old English language, mythology and storytelling. Jackson also completely missed the importance of Faramir: his believability, his generosity of mind and his delicate positioning on the cusp between the beauty of the old world and the brash hardness of the coming world of men.

In the end, we got three very good films, but they cover less than 50 percent of what the novels are about.

Post 30

Well, in my honest opinion, the novels/books are usually better than the movies in the majority of the cases. Why do I think this? You can carry around a book and read it whenever you'd like, right? As for a movie, you either have to pay money to go to some unsanitary movie threatre that reeks with the smell of popcorn, sweat, and other nasty things. It's also a hassle to have to wait until you get home and put in the DVD yourself.

Post 29

Yes, of us some may have literacy difficulties and some book lovers may be pompous, arrogant people who are not able to watch a movie and absorb more than the script. Your sense of sight can take in more information in one glance than a thousand pages of a book may describe (if you have an imagination). Just because some cannot or don't have the ability to absorb this info well, maybe a slower paced book will work for you.

Post 27

congrats to anon 150710 on wanting to grow up to be both the author and the actress. that's the way to find your niche in this world. you go girl.

Post 26

i prefer the movies better cause sometimes i just don't feel like reading the book and to me the movie explains more and you can get a better view of the movie.

Post 25

I personally think that the books are better than movies because you can read a book and imagine everything.

Also, the thing I hate most about movies is that sometimes the characters look different so when I read, i imagine the character in the book, but then it changes to the character in the movie and it's just all confusing.

When I grow up, I want to be an author and an actress and all the movies I'll do are going to be from my book. Exactly like my book.

Post 24

It is nearly impossible for a movie to be better than the corresponding novel for two reasons. The first is inner dialogue. It is nearly impossible for a movie to accurately portray all of the inner dialogue that so permeates a novel and explains so much of what is occurring.

The second is time constraints. For some reason, so many movies feel they must make it in at under two hours in order to retain the attention of the viewer. I personally feel this is absurd and rather feel like I am being cheated for every minute under two hours. If more film makers would take time to develop the story, then they might start making significant improvements in creating movies that hold up to their novel counterparts.

Post 23

in my opinion, the books are better than the movies because:

1] it widens the imagination from what the author describes.

2]some movies that come out after the book are rather disappointing because it wasn't as good as imagined.

3]if you keep reading the books, then it helps with your reading skills and encourages you to read more.

I like a lot of romance and mystery books and all the novels I read are picture-less books.

Post 22

Reading a book will always provide more pleasure than watching a movie because it is an interactive activity so therefore the reader has some control over the imagery that the book creates - based on the skills of the author.

Watching a movie is almost always a passive experience and therefore there is far less thought process involved. Don't get me wrong, I love watching movies but nine times out of ten watching movie adaptations is disappointing. Apart from the personal interaction the other reason is that to include every detail of a 400 page book would require a film about three weeks long.

The exception is where the book has been very simplistically written and therefore there is a lot of room for expansion of plot and ideas for the director.

Post 21

i think movies are better because it's easier with a visual aid.

Post 20

When I read a book it is like watching a movie. I can imagine all the characters myself. I watched the Twilight series and I felt they were decent movies. However, when I read the books I found that the movies added certain items and left some out. They tried to keep the basic idea of the book in mind but to me did not do the book justice.

Post 19

I really hate when books i like are going to be made into movies. i was really upset when i found out that Uglies by Scott Westeerfeld is going to be made into a movie. the books were so good, and i feel like the movie will not only not live up to the books, it will turn people off the books. it makes me sad.

Post 18

Well, if you think about it the books are better because you get to imagine the characters on your own. And it increases your intelligence.

Post 17

Books are almost always better and to the first comment you must not have much of an imagination, or you are just lazy. Books have more detail and movies are all about "oooh. how can we add action to this?" i think really they should be asking themselves how can we destroy this perfectly great book or storyline?

Post 16

has anybody seen the movie new moon or read the book?

Post 15

I have read twilight but i haven't seen the movie.

Post 14

I think it's up to the person. if they want to read a book they can and if they like watching movies better well they can do that.But I value your opinions and I like hearing them. Thank you.

Post 13

I for one like both, but depending on what book and movie it is, i like most books more than the movie. Mainly because in books you can put in more details and you have as much time pages to write everything you need to say. This is not so with most movies.

Now, pertaining to Tom Bombadil, that was one of my favorite chapters as well, but if you think about it, it was not totally crucial to the story. And if you think about it, time on a film takes money.

So, if i were the movie director, i would also leave that part out for the sake of saving some money. Even though it is still one of my favorite chapters in the lord of the rings.

Post 12

I believe both movies and books have their place. When you make a movie from a book, no matter what, you are going to let people down, but what makes me mad is when a director or screenplay writer doesn't even seem to have read the book, they just take huge amounts of artistic liberty to make it their own.

If someone is trying to make a movie from a book they should make it match the book. The place for artistic liberty is in something they created themselves.

I think that authors should always be included on set and in the making of a movie based on their book.

Post 11

and the chapter about tom bombadil? that whole chapter was eliminated from the movie, that was one of my favorite chapters in the rings series.

Post 10

They are both wonderful forms of entertainment. Two very different beast attacking the same subject. They are both my friends! :)

Post 9

oh by the way: one more point i find very important is that books can be carried anywhere with you, whereas you can't carry a T.V set with you. And don't say you can carry a dvd player because you can't start playing a movie if the batteries

are dead!

Post 8

i was also very disappointed in twilight the movie.taylor was an okay actor for jacob, but rob and kristen just messed up.

Post 5

i totally agree. i was very disappointed with the film "twilight." however i have read the full series of books and found them amazing. i feel that robert pattinson was completely the wrong person to portray edward cullen and that Kirsten Stuart is far too miserable and sullen to play bella.

Post 4

I love watching movies. Books are not as good.

Post 3

In response to the first comment I think I must defend the writer. He is suggesting that the author has no imagination? In no place in the article does the author defend movies as a better form of entertainment. I think readers who often complain about movie adaptations are often hardcore fans of the original. Many of these fans have read the latter more than once. They have invested a great deal of imagination in mentally picturing characters and settings in the book. As a reader I find that the potential of film is a bit damning, however. What I mean by damning is that if I watch, for example "The Colour of Magic" adaptation I am often disappointed with bits cut out, or characters who are nowhere to be seen or even worse bits that have no business or relation to the former. Of course I understand that the film is a new sort of telling of the story. For example: stories often retold get changed by the storyteller. The Grimm's Fairy Tales often have elements that are repeated in groups of threes (that is to say they are repeated three times). Another element of storytelling is to repeat each element as if to retrace the storyteller's footsteps. It is a memory aid. It makes it easier. And finally a camera sees everything; a human eye can only focus on one thing at a time. In my example of "The Colour of Magic" I may be focusing on the pretty maiden Cohen rescues, but I fail to notice what Rincewind or Twoflower is up to.

Post 2

In reply to the following post:

If you possess such an unstimulated imagination that you are incapable of populating the narrative of a book with believable characters then I truly pity you, you are missing out on one of life's greatest experiences. Reading is, for me, much more enjoyable than watching a film of a book. There is a place for films and a place for books and never the twain should meet, if it was up to me. However, I appreciate that some people have genuine literacy difficulties and it would be very wrong to deprive these people of a taste of some of the greatest works known to the world.

Post 1

I think that movies are better, coz they imagine the people for u.

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