Last month in the newsletter we asked people what the worst movies based on books were.

Answers are below.

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Ronald: Jason Bourne! Loved the book, loved the movie but they are miles apart.

Lucienne: I do not often watch movies based on books because of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood movie. This movie took a wonderful book and mutilated and mish-mashed the story. I really thought the movie should have been called The Undivine Slaughter of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Now, I will only watch movies made from books if I am assured they are worthy representations of the book.

Liz: The list of terrible book-to-movie adaptations is long, but the ones that make me shudder are Eragon and the Golden Compass. The books were very long and complex, and the filmmakers tried to squeeze too much into single movies. They should have been split into several movies, if adapted at all. Someone who hadn’t read the books would be totally out of their depth. I HAD read the books, and I was still confused.

Nancy: I believe that one movie from a book that has a movie that is bad is Eragon. The book is rich and exhaustively creates a world that I have enjoyed and shared with my 6th students many times. The beginning of the movie is ok with the plot development (not as comprehensive as the book) and then it seems to me that there must have been a lack of budget or something. The plot begins to be crammed and by the end of that book where there is a very good dwarven peoples rich with detail; the movie comes to a shrieking end by glossing over many elements of the story. It should have been a series of movies…maybe like a MTV series.

gg: All! You use your imagination to move characters them from one page to another in a book. A movie never can replace what you imagined sometimes close but never the same.

Tom and Jeri: Many years ago I saw the movie Practical Magic which starred Sandra Bullock, most of whose movies I thoroughly enjoy. After seeing Practical Magic a couple times and really liking it my daughter gave me a copy of the book by Alice Hoffman. I was so very disappointed when I found the book to be totally different from the movie. I still don’t know for sure if the movie was supposed to be based on the book by Hoffman but I never found the similarity between the book and the movie. Still enjoyed both though.

Kenica: The worst book-to-movie adaptation is “Shepherd of the Hills” with John Wayne. If the title and character names had been changed, I would never have recognized that the movie had anything in common with the book. This was the first movie I ever compared to its book, and I was shocked at how the movie butchered the book.

LIsa: WORST book to movie adaptations I’ve (n)ever seen? I read “Gone with the Wind” every couple of years, & I know the movie is out there… the thing is, as with the Jack Reacher series, the person they put in the lead, male role doesn’t look ANYTHING like the way I picture Rhett Butler, so I have avoided the movie all my life! I also won’t go to see any Reacher movies for the same reason… Sorry, Graeme, I know that wasn’t your question, but I’m super careful about what book/movie adaptation I go to, because I’m afraid that (for books I read & re-read) I’ll spoil the characters in my own head. But that’s coming from someone who has never owned a TV – and I’m not sorry at all.

I love your newsletters, thank you for expanding my world!

Jane: I think one of the worst adaptations was The Shining by Stephen King. I always resent it when the director feels the necessity to change the plot as well as the ending of the book to feed his ego. The viewing public was drawn in to see the movie by the premise that it was a best selling book by King and it wasn’t the same story on the screen. The only people I talked to who really liked the movie had not read the book.

Vic: I suspect that I’ve a few years on you as far as reading books again (and again and again) over the course of my life (I’m now 75). Someone once called my wife and wanted to know if that was me walking along and reading a book; it was and I’m never without one. The great boon of e-readers is I don’t have to worry about “running out” of material (of which I’ve got more than several lifetime’s worth) on my network.

I tend to read (and re-read) books in series — right now I’m on my first pass through Myke Cole’s terrific Shadow Ops series — which oft times becomes a daunting effort. For instance, I really want to go through Sherwood Smith and Dave Trowbridge’s “Exordium” series and its similarities and differences when compared to Simon Greene’s “Deathstalker” saga, but it doesn’t seem to be available in electronic format. When it was first published, I actually corresponded with them because I couldn’t find book four of the series. I was rewarded with an electronic version of the draft (Wordstar format, if you remember that venerable DOS word processor.) Of course, when I eventually got the hardcopy version, I deleted the file.

I have read many books and series and singletons of series over and over again. Perhaps my favorite is Gordon Dickson’s “The Tactics of Mistake” from the Childe Cycle. But there’s also the 3-book Psi-Power series by Mark Phillips (Randall Garrett & Laurence Janifer) and innumerable oldies but goodies: Dumas pere et fils, Rafael Sabatini, Rex Stout, Erle Stanley Gardner, Ian Fleming, etc. In fact, I have a printed version of Hugo Gernsbach’s signature novel and a personally autographed copy of Asimov’s “Opus 100.” I am a big fan of locked room mysteries (a tip of the hat to John Dickson Carr) and had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with Clayton Rawson, author of “The Great Merlini” mysteries of that genre, and a very talented magician.

I have always found it difficult to dispose of my hardcopy books even when I’ve obtained the electronic versions and there’s a lot of shelf space being used because of that. I’ve actually been rather lucky in that almost every book I’ve purchased is still on the very crowded shelves. I must say that I was heartbroken when my parents moved from our home to an apartment while I was in the Air Force and took the opportunity to dispose of all my books, many of which I’ve never been able to find again (especially the Ace doubles.) Sic transit gloria libra.

More recently, I been (re)discovering the wonderful world of pulp fiction, much of which is from the early 1900’s. A surprising number of very well known authors — and very well known books if not their authors — first appeared in pulp format before transitioning to hard copy and film.

Finally, as far as the worst screen adaptation (and there have been all too many), I absolutely refuse to watch the abominable rendering/rending of “Starship Troopers” in fear of retribution of a grumble from the grave. The book was a good read when I was young and the screen version failed to capture even the vaguest shade of Heinlein’s intent and should have never been attempted. Actually, I don’t think that there is any way to make a decent screen adaptation of it because, while an entertaining enough read for a youngster, there is not enough substance for it to retain its integrity and be dramatized.

As always, I enjoy reading your missives and, when it appears in the new mail list, wait until I’ve finished plodding through the spam before settling back and seeing what’s happening elsewhere from your perspective of our multiverse.

Jane: Harry Potter came to mind when I thought of the “worse” book to movie. Not because the movies were not enjoyable, but because the movie(s) just go from event to event (I have not seen all the movies) whereas the books give the reader a sense of just what it is like to be at HogWarts: a day to day sense of the characters whether the long boring summers for Harry and sense of time through out.

Second, problem (as in all movies) once the actors are selected and the places depicted, it is difficult to imagine any of the characters or places in any other way. If a young person sees one of the movies first, he or she is done for as far as imagining is concerned. This is less significant for Harry Potter because the casting is done so well.

I do not go to the movies much, but how can anyone ever see Dorothy in any way other than Judy Garland, the Lion, the scarecrow….snowwhite…and so on.

Also the American version of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, focuses on the sex and violence and whole back stories are completely left out.

Just saying…

Pat: Hi! For me the worst book to movies adaptation that I’ve seen are the movies of Stephen Kiing’s books. The movies do not portray the “soul” of the various characters nor do they have the spirit of edge of your seat page turners.
Thanks for asking!

spaelement: I have to say it was using Tom Cruise to play Jack Reacher.
Lee Child made jack reacher over 6 ft tall in his books. Come on tom cruise is a good actor buttttttt he is short. Jack reacher is so bad but in a good way.
Tom Cruise was great in top gun. But he is no Jack Reacher.

Sorry people tom just ain’t Jack Reacher!!!!!!

Jim: One of my favorite Stephen King books, “IT” was a terrible disappointment as a TV Mini Series. Tim Curry’s part as Penny Wise, the clown was the exception!
It appears many agree the adaption to screen deserves a second chance. September will debut the new “IT”. Better read the original opus before then to fully
appreciate what may be in store for a hungry audience and fan base from the Master of Horror!

Patrice: I loved the Paul Bowles book The Sheltering Sky and when the movie came out I was so disappointed. I had such high hopes especially with Bernardo Bertolucci directing. I thought that the actors, Debra Winger and John Malkovich, were completely wrong In that they seemed too contemporary. It didn’t translate the hopeless feelings and the countries atmosphere or the drama in the book. I believe this was the first book to movie I had seen also and I wonder if anyone could have been able to deliver the book to a motion picture.

Pam: I taught school to 5th through 8th graders for forty years and we spent a lot of time talking about movies – teaching math, reading, English, spelling, and social studies allowed many connections to movies. We used to spend a great deal of the time complaining about how terrible most of them were. It finally dawned on me that didn’t do much good so I started describing how to divorce your conceptions about what the movies should be like – characters, plot, whatever and focus instead on whether or not the movie did its job – entertain, enthuse, possibly teach and things became more interesting.

That being said, I don’t really have any one movie that is the worst. There are so many that cause me to cringe as they progressed that I try to forget how bad they were as soon as possible.

Thanks for the great suggestions on books and the very idea that your website exists. I use it frequently.

lklatimer: There have been so many books that I have read and then was so disappointed when the movie version comes out. Two Stephen King books that I thought were excellent and was not thrilled with the movie version were : 11:22:63 and Under the Dome. Now the TV version of Under the Dome did not even follow the book and ended wrong. Hated that. Now 11:22:63 was not a bad adaptation, but could have been done so much better. Sometimes I wonder if the person responsible for the move really did read the book or is going by another person’s opinion. I love reading and can see in my mind’s eye a movie coming out of most books. I visualize as I read all the time.

Katrina: The very worst movie adaptation from a fabulous book, Inkspell by Cornelia Funke. Story was changed and made into something totally stupid. Anyone seeing the movie would never want to read the trilogy.

kpowers: The worst movie adaptation is My Sister’s Keeper. They changed the ending.

Kacey: Like you said, it has to be Reacher.
I love the books. Can not stand Tom Cruise.
He looks nothing like my minds image of Reacher. He is too much of a cocky actor. Just his mannerisms say,” I’m better looking and a better person than anyone”
I would NEVER, ever want his face in my mind as a read my Reacher books so I would not waste my money to see him NEVER live up to my Jack!!
No way. I wouldn’t watch if the tickets and all the drinks, popcorn and candy were free!!!

Anne: What a timely topic! I was reminded just last night of what I think is an awful movie adaption of a book I love. The book is Exodus by Leon Uris. The movie of the same name starred Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint. Great story (based on actual historical events) with great actors. Should be fantastic, yes? No. The movie actually starts out fairly strong – even taking into account such absurdities as Kitty (Eva Marie Saint) wearing a silk dress to work in a refugee camp – but shortly starts to unwind. Granted, Exodus is a very long, complicated book, but the movie felt like the script writers got tired of writing and just decided to stop. Even the main storyline of Ari (Paul Newman) and Kitty isn’t resolved. I wanted to scream.

Brenda: My most hated book to film adaptation is “The Shining.” For me, the film captured none of the psychological suspense or horror, and actually made parts of the book comical. Nicholson breaking through the door with the axe was The. Worst. Scene.

Barb: Janet Evanovich- — One for the Money. Did not like the cast choices. I love the book series.

Sharon: Jack Reacher – FOR SURE. Worse adaption ever. I love the Jack Reacher novels.

Adrianna Trigani, Big Stone Gap, novel adaption was a total disaster in my opinion. I loved the Big Stone books. But the actors chosen to be in the movie did not match my mental image of the characters.

Elise: Hello

I think one of the worst for me was the interpretation of the stieg larsson books especially the Swedish version just didn’t make any sense at all

Love your newsletter it’s great I always look at the recommendations

Yrsa Siguroadottir books have been a great read !

Brian: Hi
I would say Clive Cussler’s “Raise the Titanic”
Being a Clive Cussler fan and an avid reader of Titanic books, the book was great the movie was just bad. Jeff Shara’s “Gods and Generals” the movie left out Sharpsburg a key battle. They failed to bring back or misused actors from the killer angels. Horrid movie

Cheryle: The Revenant was horrible. The book was great, but the changes in the movie did not live up to the hype. Just because Leonardo was in it brought many people to the theaters, but they were robbed.

Amber: What a great question

One for the money, by Janet Evanovich the first book in the Stephanie Plum series infuriated me. This series is one of my all time favorites. I was so excited when the movie came out, but 10 minutes in I was not just annoyed but angry. The casting was truly horrible. —– I just had to delete the next couple of paragraphs because I realized that I was ranting about each character & who I would have liked to see instead. I have managed to make myself angry again and I sound like a nut.—- needless to say, a great book was butchered by a casting director who wanted to cash in on the popularity of Catherine Heigl. (I assume) Also the screenplay was terrible, pieces of the book cut & pasted to fill the time, they had so much raw material to work with! I was irritated with what they chose to put in and leave out. I have been leery to watch another book to movie since. (I’ll not even attempt the 50 shades, because I didn’t like the casting either. I don’t want to tarnish the books by repeating this)

Yes, I am aware that I obviously need a therapist.

Joanne: Has to be One for the Money, the first in the Stephanie Plum series. Katherine Heigl, whom I love, was so wrong in the part. The overall casting was abysmal. These are New Jersey characters but they were plain flat. Could have been so much better!

Sandra B: Well…you got it in one!

Tom Cruise is an amazing actor/stunt man but he is NOT
Jack Reacher.

Roz: Worst book to movie for me was “A Thousand Acres” based on novel by Jane Smiley. I had a clear mental picture of each woman as I read the book and discussed it with my book club. Several of us went as a group to see the film and found it very distracting when the character on screen did not match up to the book character, in either personality or looks. Maybe it was a good challenge for the actresses but too much of one for me. Good movie if you haven’t read the book!!

Lonny: Don’t see how there could be a worse adaptation than “The Scarlett Letter” starring Demi Moore. They just threw out the book and u7sed the title. Although they are classic films, the Disney fairy tales, “Snow White”, “Cinderella” etc did not follow the originals too closely.

NancyG: OK, worst book to movie adaptation?
The first thing that comes to mind, being relatively recent & based on one of my very favorite books, is The Hobbit. So many unnecessary changes, interpretations, additions! I put up with those things in the first movie, one obvious one being the presence of the white orc, or whatever he was called, plus the circus clown-like appearance of most of the dwarves (excepting the 3 who were ridiculously handsome) & was hoping for better things in the subsequent installments. No such luck: a ridiculous love story between an elf & a dwarf, an overdone barrel ride/escape from the woodland elves, an attack on Laketown by orcs, and that enormous arrow to kill Smaug! Which reminds me of the portrayal of Bilbo as an absolute idiot, when he removes the Ring in the presence of the dragon. Argh! I could go on & on, and probably did just that to my family after seeing the movies. Peter Jackson, hang your head in shame!

Kathryn: My pick for the worst book to movie idea was trying to take on Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum and One for the Money.

Okay, I’ll admit I didn’t see the movie – I just couldn’t! After enjoying Stephanie Plum through 22 novels (and now #23), I “know” how Stephanie Plum looks, how she talks, likes and dislikes, you name it – not to mention every other character in the books. So when I saw that Katherine Heigl was cast in the lead role, I just shook my head and said no way. Heigl is too old, too sophisticated, too NOT Stephanie Plum.

Dan: OK …Worst movie based on Book !!!!
Ta Da
Starship Troopers by Robert A Heinlein

The book was a great science fiction classic … and was a very strong commentary on service to the country, citizenship and war in general.
Strong characters.
The movie had non of that just a glorified horror film with weak characters. Was excited when it came out and walk away very very disappointed!

Elizabeth: I love the Jason Bourne books, but the 2nd movie changed everything so much, I didn’t enjoy it at all. At least now when there is a new Bourne movie it has a different title so I’m not comparing it to a book.

Genk: Just to tell you how much I enjoy your site and have introduced so many friends. And also to tell you that I don’t generally bother seeing films or TV adaptations of a book. I learned at a very young age that my own visualizations were ‘better’ and truer to the aurhor than the production staff could offer. There are many reasons — some you mentioned. The missing factors that a reader thinks are important, the casting, a change of location — I decided before I was 12 to stick to the book and what the author intended. I am now 83 and was right to decide that! I must say, I’d probably like to see The Handmaid’s Tale. (And probably won’t.) The most frightening and longest lasting horror I have felt was related to Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. I was a radio baby — young long before television. I listened to radio in the traditional manner — under the covers at night. The Lottery had been adapted for that medium, leaving me to visualize. I did not exorcise that horror until I was well into adulthood.

Gwen: Hello,

The worst book to movie adaptation I have ever seen/ read is Allegiant by Veronica Roth. The book was good but not great. It was a nice ending but it also left a lot of people upset. However the movie was so much worse. I didn’t even recognize it anymore. As a popular YouTuber (Sasha Alsberg) said “its Allegiant on mars.” The movie was almost nothing like the book. It was like mars compared to earth.

I hope this answer the question well. Thank you!

Order of Books » Newsletter » Reader Mailbag: Worst Book to Movie Adaptations

7 Responses to “Reader Mailbag: Worst Book to Movie Adaptations”

  1. Jill Piangerelli: 5 years ago

    The Bless the Child movie was pretty bad, too. Pretty much the only similarity between it and the book it was “based” on were the character names. Even the relationship between the two main characters changed.


  2. Lucie Gray: 6 years ago

    The Green Mile was a total surprise. It was so good. It was an amazing transition from book to movie.


  3. Capenana: 7 years ago

    The only movie that was as good as the book was “Jaws”. Here on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard this movie is shown in the theaters every summer. Can’t say much for the sequels but the original was lots of fun!


  4. Umbrella Man: 7 years ago

    I’ve never read Dune nor seen the movie, but Herbert fans regard the movie as a travesty and a sacrilege.


  5. Mongoose218: 7 years ago

    Really, almost all of them!!! Hard to think of a GOOD book-to-movie! Take “The Shining”, a fabulous book by Stephen King… was made into a classic movie by the great director, Stanley Kubrick…but the movie has only the slightest resemblance to the book!

    MOST movies made from popular books are just junk, sad to say!


  6. Linda Latimer: 7 years ago

    I am also retired, so I read the same books all year round. The only exception is if a Mary Higgins Clark movie comes out a little before summer, I do save it for a summer vacation. The reason is she is such an easy read that it fits into a relaxing time at the lake.
    Now my recommendations for reading anytime is The Gray Man series by Greaney. I just finished the series and the last two books were terrific. His best two. I could not put them down. Stayed up way too late some nights trying to finish. I have always been an avid reader and am amazed that there are still authors out there that I have not tried. That is one reason I love this site. I like to go by what others are saying. I also read The Innocent Sleep recently. A very good read on the order of Girl on a Train. I also have a 6 year old granddaughter who I read to and she loves The Ghost in the Library series and The Billie B. mystery series. They are fun reading for children.


  7. Phoenix Hocking: 7 years ago

    I’m retired, so I don’t have to wait for summer to read what I want. I’m almost always up for a good medieval mystery. Anything by Jan Karon; almost anything by Alexander McCall Smith. I’m currently reading Day After Night, by Anita Diamant. Excellent!

    Now, may I recommend a book as well? “The Diviner’s Chronicle,” by Frank DuPont. If you are a fan of historical fiction, this book is for you. The action takes place about the year 1860 B.C. in Sumeria. The author’s research is evident throughout, and one gets a real look into an ancient culture, as well as drawn into a taut and thrilling story. Well worth the read. More than once!


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