Reader Mailbag: Best Book To Movie Conversions
Last month in the newsletter we asked the readers what they felt the best book to movie conversions were. We received a lot of great responses.
Here they are:
Danielle: By far, my favorite book to movie is Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane. Although I was picturing Sean Penn in the role of US Marshall Teddy Daniels the entire time I was reading the book, I think Leonardo DiCaprio nailed the role. I definitely recommend both the book and the movie.
Carol: I will never forget my first reading of “Jurassic Park” or the first time I saw it in the movies with my three children (on a big screen it was even more terrifying than my imagination) I’ve read the book several times since the movie first premiered and also watched it on television, but that first time read and viewing were tremendous and real “gut-punching” experiences. I’ll always remember one image from the movie as being a universal truth, “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.” Roarrrrrrrrr!!!!!
Karole: Early Tom Clancy, The Hunt for Red October. Both the book and the movie did not disappoint. The actors were solid and believable. How could Sean Connery fail to deliver? And, this was the first movie we, my husband and I ,saw a young Alec Baldwin. He showed promise.
Sam: Well, this is an interesting one as I normally only go in one direction on this. If I see a movie that was based on a book, I almost never go back and read the book. But, if I read a book and then there is a movie out about it, I will always try to see it.
That said, there are a lot of really BAD ones I can mention, and after seeing the trailer for American Assassin I’m already cringing in anticipation – but since that’s not what you’re asking, I won’t comment on it. Good ones:
The General’s Daughter, based on the novel by Nelson DeMille. John Travolta starred as the lead in that movie (the character’s name slips me) and did an excellent job. The movie showed really good down and dirty detective work in solving a murder and I think the whole production was excellent.
Another decent one that comes to mind (though not the best movie I’ve ever seen) is The Dark Half, based on the Stephen King novel. The movie stayed pretty true to the book, but it seemed to be a bit low budget and could have been made better than it was, possibly with better actors, sets, etc. It wasn’t bad, and as I said it followed the book well, it just didn’t really do it justice.
Aside from that, I recall a movie version of East of Eden that I saw that was excellent. There were two movies made out of that book, one apparently didn’t follow the book so well (I didn’t see that one) and one did.
Ray: Sorry, I’m Going for the oldies.
The Wizard Of Oz
A Beautiful Mind
The Longest Day
The Old Man And The Sea
Audrey: I think the Jennifer Ehle-Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice was very good, but for me the best adaptations are much more recent.
The Department Q books are a wonderful series by Jussi Adler-Olsen featuring dour Swedish detective Carl Morck and his two odd colleagues.
Recently on Netflix I discovered that there are relatively new movies out of the first three books: The Keeper of Lost Causes, A Conspiracy of Faith and The Absent One. The adaptations are terrific and the casting is excellent. In addition there are a few breathtaking scenes that give cinematic impact to key moments from the novels — making them some of my favorite adaptations of all time.
I sure hope they continue the series.
I enjoy your monthly newsletter very much. Thank you.
Karen: Hi Graeme,
I am usually not interested in movies after I have I have read the book. I feel like no movie could live up to my own “movie reel” as I read the book and am always disappointed when something from the book is not included in the movie version. That being said I did enjoy the following movies for entertainment:
All of The Harry Potter Movies
Gone With The Wind
Me Before You
Peggy: Hi, Graeme
Still love the newsletter, just haven’t been “inspired” by any of the recent questions you’ve posed. For some reason, this month’s elicited an immediate response in my mind.
Despite the severe abridgement, I absolutely loved the film version of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. It captures the foreboding atmosphere of the book and the eccentric personalities of the characters perfectly. And it didn’t hurt that the novel had me utilizing my Bachelor’s degree in Latin or that Sean Connery and Christian Slater are two of my favorite actors.
As for TV, my favorite is the Inspector Morse series adapted from Colin Dexter’s mystery series. The interactions between Morse and Sergeant Lewis are absolutely priceless.
That’s it for now. Keep up all the great work.
EFC: M*A*S*H One of the few movies I have seen that might be better than the book? Both great. EFC.
Kathleen: Re: books into movie/TV conversions. I thought Dune, a 3-part miniseries which ran on the Sci-Fi Channel, was excellent. Much better than the David Lynch film. Of course, having six hours in which to tell your story doesn’t hurt. Children of Dune, which combined the next two books in the series, was also very good.
Wessel: I recommend South African writer Deon Meyer’s thrillers, especially those featuring detective Bennie Griessel.
Regarding a great transition from book to film, I thought Joe R Lansdale’s Cold in July was highly enjoyable in both media. I love his Hap and Leonard series in particular. Incidentally, while I can never accept Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, I enjoyed both films.
Michele: Hands down my hubby and I agree that The Green Mile movie was just about as good as the book. Not to mention all of the awards it earned: 5 People’s Choice Awards including best adapted screenplay. In addition it received 4 Academy Award nominations including best writing adapted screenplay.
Allan: My absolute favorite conversion from Book to Movie is The Martian, by Andy Weir. As Andy was deeply involved in the movie production the movie closely followed the book getting in most of the key points of the novel. This book was well researched by Andy and a lot of that is visible in the production of the movie as well. The main Character of the book and movie (Mark Watney) is a funny and endearing character that is very memorable. I have read this book seven times over the past year and have watched the movie almost as many times.
LaJeanne: USUALLY pretty bad, frankly!
One success was “to Kill a Mockingbird” in which the movie stayed true to the spirit of the book and both are masterpieces!
Also, interesting, because Harper Lee is a “character” in the movie version, as she was in the actual events, “In Cold Blood” the wonderful, eerie, sad/ depressing but brutally truthful story of the murder of an innocent farm family by two life long criminals, looking for money……Truman Capote’s masterpiece, and there have been two movies made from the book. The first movie was made in ’67 and starred Robert Blake.
The second movie was called “Capote” and was a look at the investigative journalism that went into the creation of the book “In Cold Blood”……Capote’s relationship with the two murderers, and the help he received from his life long friend, Harper Lee, are all “new” aspects of the story.
“Capote” starred Philip Seymour Hoffman, and was an excellent movie.
Interestingly, if you go back to Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” the odd, strange, misfit little boy who is the close friend of Scout (Harper Lee) and her brother, is, in reality, Truman Capote, and they remained life long friends!
Other movies which came from good books and made the transition well: Dr. Zhivago for one…….
All the Harry Potter series of juvenile novels! for another!
I haven’t seen it, but understand that “Hacksaw Ridge”, based on a true story, is very accurate and true to the people and events…….
Mary: This is an oldy for you. A Room with a View is a beautiful movie that stays remarkably true to the classic novel it’s based upon. It’s also the movie that made many people first fall for young Helena Bonham-Carter.
Sue: The best movies to books has to be Nicholas sparks! The books stir up my emotions and I usually hate watching movies cause they ruin the story but
Not with these I love the movies as much the books.
I read a lot but work and life have been making this difficult I started Patricia Cornwall books after Christmas finally on red mist. There has been a couple that have disappointed but other wise they are good.
I hope to have collected the whole eve Duncan series by the time I’m done so that will be my next series.
About 5 years I started collecting the whole series of books and now that I have most my series completed I have started to read them all. My husband said I can open my own library. I hate getting through a series and be missing a book.
I have Nora Roberts (JD Robb), Patricia Cornwell, Nicholas sparks, Debbie macomber, Susan wiggs, lee child, fern michaels, Danielle Steele, Tami Hoag, Lisa Gardner, and many more.
Thank you for you email of constant updates I love to know what to look forward to. It not like other updates it books and authors that I follow awesome job.
Celeste: I just can’t imagine Cruise as Reacher. My mind perceives him very differently from Cruise, bigger, tougher, maybe a younger Clint Eastwood but not a Tom Cruise. I am so hooked on Daniel Silva, I found a list of all his books, ordered them from Amazon, dated them and actually just finished his first “The Unlikely Spy”. Quite different, but very good. No Michael Osborne or Gabriel Allon. I have just started “Moscow Rules” so back to all the Allon characters. I don’t read during the day only at night. My husband and I usually watch a movie from 7-9. We just watched “Bridge of Spies”. Thought it was great!!! Then my husband goes to sleep and my favorite time is reading from 9 to sometimes midnight. Last night I reluctantly turned out my light at 12:15.
Corinne: Far and away the BEST book-to-movie I have seen is ‘The Martian’ by Andy Weir. Of course the book is almost always better, but even so this was fantastic and followed the book very well. I read the book (twice on audio book from the library and then once in paperback!) when it first came out and loved it, although somehow none of my friends seemed to be aware of it until a year or two later and then they were all, “WHY didn’t you tell me about this book?!” And then the movie came out and I took my aunt to see it, she has never read a sci-fi book in her life and even she loved the movie. I recently re-read the book and then had to go order the movie on DVD so I could watch it again, that’s how much I love it.
Thanks as always for your great newsletter and website Graeme!
Eamon: Good morning from Thailand!
Great article this month. Have just contacted my friend and told him to look out for the Reacher movie on his flight. I really enjoyed it. Cruise and Robert Duvall rescued the first film from total obscurity.
I am quite elderly so two adaptations I can remember sticking relatively religiously to the books are Airport and Hotel, by Arthur Hailey. The Caine Mutiny is another favourite.
While I agree wholeheartedly about the feel of a book and the pleasure of turning the pages, kindle is the only option in Nakhon Sawan, where I live. I am going home in April so I will bring a bunch of stuff back with me.
Take care, keep up the good work and thank you for Order of books.
Joy Ellis is a decent writer.
Heather: I loved The Color Purple! The book was amazing and the movie followed the book faithfully. The Hunger Games was exactly like the book-I was extremely impressed! I agree about Gone Girl being great, I saw the movie first and was so stunned it took a while before I could pick up the book. I thought the book would have much more in it since books usually do but the movie had followed the book so closely it was like watching the movie again. (Though the book did clear up how she got pregnant.)
I loved the Harry Potter movies despite the enormous amounts of detail from the books that weren’t included.
Technically not a movie but Diana Gabaldone’s Outlander has been made into a series on Starz and it is riveting, spectacular, and addictive!
Janet: Hi again Graeme,
I too liked The Firm and Runaway Jury, I can’t say they aren’t my all-time favorites.
Top two are Wizard of Oz the version with Judy Garland and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder. Wizard of Oz was kind of scary with the flying monkeys when I was 5 or 6, but the older I got the more I loved it. I read the book in the early 70’s in school. And it made me love movie even more. With Willy Wonka, it was the special effects that got me. Sure, the book described details of the machines and mayhem, but my I didn’t visualize them that well when I read the book a few years before the movie came out. Once I saw the movie, the book seemed be better since I could visualize scenes from the movie.
The next two are quite different. First is The Shining. The first time I saw the movie I had already read the book. The movie scared the living hell out of me and all my friends. It was early 80’s and I was a senior in high school when teen slasher flicks and horror genre were so cool. Most of the books and movies were so far removed from where we were, Subic Bay Navy base in the Philippines, that we knew that kind of thing couldn’t actually happen to us. We didn’t get snow, there were no Elm trees, Halloween costumes didn’t entail a lot of layers or masks due to the weather, instead of creepy forest land we had creepy icky jungles with evil monkeys that spit at you, giant lizards and really weird bugs that never appeared in horror flicks of the day. I saw it again a few more times years and it was almost comical. Jack Nicholson’s acting was so over the top that it made you want to laugh. I guess since I knew what was going the shock and scare factor were gone.
Where the Heart is by Billie Letts would be next. The movie did a great job of showing the characters as Billie Letts wrote them. The living in Wal-Mart scenes were so funny just like in the book. I loved the book and had to see the movie. It was one of the few times I actually liked the movie just a smidgen more than a book. Ok, full disclosure, most of the others are animated movies like Jungle Book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Never-Ending Story.
I could add Schindler’s List, The Green Mile and Pelican Brief and Escape from Alcatraz.
Kim: My vote is for the film Man Called Ove. The book was excellent- a sensitive, complicated, dark but poignantly funny account of a Swedish man and his coming- to- life depicted from his perspective in his later years. The film was true to story, to character and one of the rare instances where the images offered by the author very closely matched my own so there was no big disconnect when I saw the representation on screen. The characters were an absolute delight, the script and acting natural and genuine. I loved it. Bring your hankies!
Laurie: I think the best book to movie was “The Princess Bride”. The movie couldn’t possibly include everything from the book, but they kept the most important part – the flavor of the humor. And I think they did a brilliant job of casting.
Linda: One of the best movie remakes I have read recently was “Light Between the Oceans”. The movie did have to leave out some of the emotions encountered in the book, but was still an excellent remake. All time favorite was probably “The Firm” . Stayed true to the book and was just as good. I am usually disappointed in movie remakes as the book is always better. I hope next month is it the worst book to best movie or worst movie to best book. Got a couple of them.
Marcy: the sum of all fears by tom clancy – even thought the movie really left a lot out about the president’s pyscho behavior i thought it did well moving through a complicated plot very well.
real old school – “And then there were none” by Agatha Christie – and the 1945 version movie – probably because it is in black and white so the darkness made it a more eerie.
Mark: Lord of the Rings and Jurassic Park for a movie, Game of Thrones for a tv series.
Mishawn: I have enjoyed many books and then saw the movie and enjoyed them. I enjoyed “The Lincoln Lawyer” by Michael Connelly and loved the movie. “The Great Gatsby” is another great one. When you read a book you get an image in your mind and when you see the movie, and it is done well, it adds more color and definition to your image. Stephen King’s “The Shining” is one of those. It was fun reading it but seeing it was actually scarier because it brought my image to life and it was worse than my mind had imagined. I read many books and then watch the movie. Some are okay and some are bad, but I still watch them!
Nancy: Loved both the book & movie version of To Kill A Mockingbird, and The Princess Bride.
Pam: Oh, so many!! 🙂
Some of my favorite books and their movies are:
To Kill a Mockingbird – Thankfully the movie stayed true to the great writing and sequence of events of the book. Plus it told the story with a reverence it deserves.
The Wizard of Oz – For my generation this is one of the movies that defines our childhood. Although quite different from the book, both are excellent stories with so much room for imagination.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – What a wonderful saga of good vs. evil, and the movies brought it to life in EVERY detail. The location, actors, costumes, and special effects made me feel like someone could see inside my mind as I read the story.
Pam: Hi Graeme-
Like you, I had some things come up that kept me from my books. I’m back to reading now and it feels SO good!
As far as best conversion books to TV/movies, I loved the book Gone Girl and thought the movie, which I also really liked, was true to the book. Going a bit farther back, I loved Jennifer Weiner’s book In Her Shoes and also the movie–again true to the book. Last, but not least, and this is an oldie Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides and the movie with Nick Nolte & Barbra Streisand. Oops, almost forgot Gone with the Wind–book and movie are classics!
Thanks for your newsletters and recommendations/suggestions, Graeme. You’re doing a great job for your subscribers!
Rhea: Usually, I think movie versions of books are lacking because they don’t reach the depth of character development that books do but there are a few that I love. From the classics, I loved the books “Wurthering Heights” by Bronte and “Rebecca” by deMurier and the movies did them justice. At the other extreme, I cringed when they made a movie version of Janet Evanovich’s “One for the Money” but the movie was pretty good and funny. After all, it had Katherine Heigel. A few movie versions of James Patterson’s Alex Cross series were good as were the classic Stephen King projects. I can’t wait to see “Girl on a Train” to see if it even comes close to the book.
Rita: This is my first ever email to you hope it is successful. I enjoyed The Firm and The Runaway both book and Author but my best series of all is the Twilight series written by Stephanie Meyer, of course the books were much more intense but actually seeing it on screen made it somehow more real, am reading the book again and if the movies pop up again sometime with certainly watch them again somehow I never tire of them. David Baldacci I just love his novels, Absolute Power I enjoyed the book more so than the movie, being of the much older generation I have to rely on the Library for my books I get such great satisfaction out of reading and have gone along with many of the authors you have read each month and really enjoy the change so add them to my list. Thank you I enjoy catching up with your news letter.
Susan: To answer your question about the best book into movie. I would have to say the best 2 are The Fault in Our Stars and The Light between Oceans.
Sydelle: I enjoy watching Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swenson series on Hallmark after I have
Terry: A recommendation good gritty crime. Gene Kerrigan Irish author, good characters!!
Tom: As far as books ending up as movies, “Sometimes A Great Notion” is one of my favorites. “Shane” is another favorite along with “The Martian” as far as newer books and movies go. After watching a movie, sometimes I try to find a book that might have been the original idea, even though I know what the story might be. This is a great site with tons of reading ideas. I sometimes wish I had six eyes so that I could read more than one book at a time.
Gil: I like Lee Child and have read nearly all of the Reacher books. I’d never watch one of the movies because I believe that Reacher being 6’6″,
and Cruise being 5’7″ detracts from the whole idea. I think Cruise is a good actor, which is why I was surprised that he even thought about
taking on the role.
I read the book of GONE GIRL and have no desire to see the movie. The same goes for THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. Both were well written,
but as ‘mysteries’ not really my thing.
SHOGUN by Clavell is a classic. I’ve read that and the one he copied the idea from, written about 1924.
Diana: I read The Lord of the Rings while I was in college (a gift from my boyfriend, now my husband of 37 years) and I loved the movies. They were fairly true to the books, although they had to leave a lot out.
I took up archery and joined the Society for Creative Anachronism as a result of watching The Lord of the Rings movies. I’m so glad I did!