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Generally, fans of a book who see the movie know way ahead of time that no matter how good the movie may be, it doesn’t have a chance of surpassing or even living up to the book. Books have more time to tell the story, plus they have the advantage of your imagination helping to perfectly cast every character.
That’s usually the way it goes, but not always! There are rare times when a movie transcends the book it’s born out of. This could be because the book wasn’t especially good in the first place, or just that the visual element of the movie perfectly complements the plot.
We’re taking a look at a few of those rare movies that people generally agree are better than the books they’re based on.
Based on Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel, also titles Jaws, director Stephen Spielberg took this film beyond where the book could go thanks to some spectacular action sequences. In the process, this film essentially invented the summer blockbuster.
2. Blade Runner
Loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the rough plot and character names in Blade Runner come from the book, but it differs in several key ways. Even if that weren’t the case, Blade Runner works so well as a movie that it moves beyond its source material. And hey, even Dick was a fan.
The Hitchcock movie is based on the book of the same name by Robert Bloch. While the book spends more time lingering on the psyche of Norman Bates, the film is 100 percent taut thriller. The sheer visceral nature of the movie makes it the superior version, though both are good.
In the case of The Princess Bride, it’s not necessarily better, I’ll admit, but very different. Both subvert the typical fantasy tale, but in different ways. In the movie, it’s the frame story featuring Peter Falk and Fred Savage, but in the book, it’s the commentary by the editor, abridging the original by fictional author S. Morgenstern. But hey, the movie has Wallace Shawn and the book doesn’t.
There is nothing wrong with Michael Crichton’s novel, but Jurassic Park is such a good film that there’s only one choice if you need to pick between the two. In fact, so many Crichton novels have been made into books at this point that it seems he’s writing some of them with that in mind.
Based on the Pierre Boulle novle La Planète des singes the original Planet of the Apes movie is very different from the book when it comes to the plot. While the book’s plot is fine, one of the twists that essentially defines the movie is radically different in the book. The movie does it better.
The sheer weirdness of Wes Anderson and his take on films is enough to make his take on Fantastic Mr. Fox better than the Roald Dahl book. Plus, the voice cast is great, featuring George Clooney, Meryl Streep, and Bill Murray.
The book that this movie is loosely based on, Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, is more or less a straight-up detective story. In combining over-the-top animated characters with real-world actors like Bob Hoskins, the movie more effectively blends the real world with the cartoon world.
This 1964 black comedy is based on the Peter George novel Red Alert. While the book plays things completely straight, the movie’s darkly comical take elevates it above its source material. Throw in standout performances by George C. Scott, Slim Pickens, and Peter Sellers in three separate rolls and you end up with an undeniable classic.
Classic Novels Still Worth Reading
While these movies are at least arguably better than the books they’re based on, that don’t mean that you will like them better. Maybe you’re not in the mood for a movie and feel like reading instead.
If you’re looking for some reading recommendations, you don’t need to go scouring the web. We’ve got some right on this very site. For starters, take a look at our roundup of classic science fiction novels that are still worth reading.