Friday, September 5

10 Movies That Were Better Than the Books

Yes, yes, I know that just last week, I said that people who like the movies better than the books are one of my pet-peeves. What I mean is: I'm annoyed by people who like movies better than the books when the books are actually better.

There are, every once in a while, certain cases where, in fact, the movie—sometimes, maybe—is better than the book. Les Miserable is a good example. One thousand pages too much and not enough singing. You see? Okay, we're on the same page (librarian pun!!).

So here are 10 kids books that turned out better as a movie.

Alfonso Cuaron (1995) vs. Frances Hodgson Burnett (1905)

So this may be a case where I saw the movie before I read the book and so I'm biased. But still. The movie is better. Did you guys know that, in the book, her dad DOESN'T survive?? (Oops, spoiler alert). You all should know by now: I LOVE a good ending. And Burnett does not deliver. No, no, not like Cuaron. Oh man, the last twenty minutes of that movie are just heart-wrenching. The story is beautiful, and the little girl does an EXCELLENT job of portraying herself as a princess, even in the lowliest of places. That is what the story is all about. Now I need a tissue...

P. J. Hogan (2003) vs. J. M Barrie (1911)

There are countless renditions of the book, yes it's true. It's classic! It's beloved! But I'm talking about the 2003 movie, where Peter was finally portrayed by a boy. A really cute boy. Turns out, in the book, Peter is a stuck-up brat who doesn't know what he's got. It's really bothersome to read—he's downright annoying! P. J. Hogan, on the other hand, delivered a fantastical experience that just gets me every time I watch it. The rich colors and really brings the story to life. Hook really is evil, Neverland really is dangerous, Peter really does love Wendy. I just LOVE it.

David Yates (2007) vs. J. K. Rowling (2003)

No, I am not betraying my love for Harry Potter. This is real. David Yates did something amazing to the Harry Potter movies when he got hired on. First, he made the boys get haircuts. Genius. Second, he took J. K.'s most tedious book of the series (even she admits it was long) and really (REALLY) put some oomph into it. It was scary, it was funny, it was heartbreaking, it was beautiful. The battle between Dumbledore and Voldemort at the end was SUPERB. I really don't think I can stress this enough. Also, this all applies to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as well, which, let's face it, was not J. K. Rowling's best book (oh look, we're STILL in the forest). David Yates was able to fix that one, too. He's a genius and I loved these movies.

Wes Anderson (2005) vs. Roald Dahl (1970)

The fact that the movie is better may have to do more with the fact that it had fantastically unique animation with the vocal stylings of George freakin' Clooney and the beautiful Meryl Streep. So it HAS to be amazing. Okay, so this one may be dripping with bias, but the movie really did carry the book to a whole new level. It's funnier, clever-er, and so well done. The book just doesn't compete. Sorry, Roald.

Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders (2010) vs. Cressida Cowell (2003)

Hi, my name is Emily and I wish I had a dragon named Toothless. Because of the movie. The book (and the whole series) is good; I think it is great for reluctant readers (especially boys). It's a funny, slightly immature, imaginative story. But the movie? Oh man. Talk about taking it one step beyond. There was laughter. There were tears. There was pining for a dragon. I love it. It's a beautiful movie about true friendship in a society that doesn't understand. Imaginative, yet realistic, you know? Aw man, get me another tissue...

Phil Lord & Chris Miller (2009) vs. Judi Barrett (1978)

Okay, surprise! This may be one that's hard to believe, but I thought the movie was HILARIOUS. And you know what? The second one was even funnier. Yeah. Now you know how immature my humor is. The book is a classic; it's a favorite! The movie takes that original concept and gives it so much more depth, especially with the characters. Yes, I know that it has to (it's hard to turn a 40 page book into an hour long movie). But it did it so well. I really appreciated it. So...yeah. You may not agree, but I really liked this movie.

Martin Scorsese (2011) vs. Brian Selznick (2007)

This one is a close one. Really close. The original idea behind the book, the research that went into it, the illustrations, and how Selznick tells the story are all fantastic. I learned so much about the early age of film, yet felt it was so magical at the same time. The movie might not have come close, if anyone else had directed it. Somewhat surprising, since you don't really see children's films from Martin Scorsese, but he is a movie-making genius. He stayed true to the basic story, but added such perfect little side stories about the residents at the train station. And Sacha Baron Cohen. Yes. He brought so much more life (and humor) to the movie. I really did enjoy both the book and movie. 

Robert Stevenson (1964) vs. P. L. Travers (1934)

Remember when I first read Mary Poppins? I wasn't all that impressed. And this may be the problem with seeing the movie before the book: I had certain expectations. Like Burt, for instance. He's lovable, he's comic relief, he's my favorite. And he's hardly in the book. Like one chapter. And all the singing and dancing in the movie definitely lend itself to a rather cheery story. The book? Not so much. Plus there are some really weird scenes. Let's just say it makes sense that Disney did not try to fit every part of the book into the movie.

Brian Henson (1992) vs. Charles Dickens (1843)

Okay, okay, so I might be being a little silly, but who doesn't love the Muppets?? Dickens' classic is just that: a classic. It's portrayed soooo much in different movies or plays or rewrites. And some are very good. But this one? This one takes the prize. Especially with Michael Caine in it. It's hilarious, but still stays true to Dickens' original story and meaning. You can't help but feel festive!

Joe Johnston (1995) vs. Chris Van Allsburg (1981)

Maybe part of me wants to pay homage to Robin Williams, but I really do think the movie was superb. Yes, it is another case of picture-book-turned-movie where a lot of the story had to be made up and filled in. This, and Zathura, were successfully built up and showcased (Polar Express was NOT). It stayed true to the original concept, and yet... There's danger and excitement at a much better level than the book—it really makes you think twice before rolling the dice. I really enjoy the movie.

Do you have any movie-over-book preferences? There's quite a lot of kid's books-turned-movies that I didn't know about. See the most comprehensive list of children's books to movies on Wikipedia.


  1. I think Big Fish, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Forrest Gump are all better movies than books.

    1. Agreed. I think there's a lot of movies-better-than-books if people just stopped and thought about it.

  2. I thought The Warriors worked much better as a movie than the book.

  3. I feel the same way about The Painted Veil.

  4. Sorry Roald the movie has George freaking Clooney in it....Wow... The way you show no respect for a master of childrens literature is scarey. Can't wait to see Kardashians selfie book in your top ten.

    1. Oh I agree Roald Dahl is a master. But "Fantastic Mr. Fox" was hardly his best. And plus...George Clooney.

  5. Mary Poppins is my go-to some-movies-are-better when people discuss movies/books and which is better. Her character in the books is a pretty bitchy, which is definitely not the tone of the movie (you get just a taste of it in the scene right before she sings "Stay Awake"). Her go-to attitude after a fantastical adventure is "that never happened SHUT UP" which is hardly endearing. And the fingers snapping off and making sweets to suck on is just.... weird? That word seems inadequate.

    1. YES. Exactly. Preach.
      I swear, when I read the scene with the gosh. I don't know the right word for it either.

  6. I can completely agree with "A Little Princess" being better than the book. I remember my Mom would read us novels, and she wouldn't let us watch the movie versions until she finished reading the books to us. But about two chapters into Little Princess, I got bored, and when she was out shopping I snuck a viewing of the movie and really enjoyed it. Then when Mom finished reading the book to me and my brother I burst out crying because the ending wasn't the same, and I actually was forced to admit to Mom that had watched the movie. From that day forth, I have made sure to read the books first as much as possible, so as to avoid so,etching like that ever happening again.

    Peter Pan from 2003 is one of my favorite movies of all time, and it's one of those times where I can't decide if I like the book or movie better. If there's one thing that I'd change about the movie I'd actually put the deleted scene with grown-up Wendy back into the movie, in order to show the new generation that Peter will bring to Neverland. But, the way the movie was actually cut works very well without it anyway.

    I actually thought that the fifth Harry Potter movie rushed through things a bit too much. It also cut out a lot of details that I really liked in the book (such as the fact that Umbridge was the one who sent the Dementors after Harry and Dudley).

    How to Train Your Dragon I agree with. I didn't really like the book to be honest.

    My favorite movie of A Christmas Carol is the one with George C. Scott. But I still keep going back to the book.

    I agree with the other ones here.

    One movie I often mention as being better than the book is Stuart Little. The book was episodic, and retreading it as an adult has shown me that it hasn't aged well. But I love the movie, and sequel is even better (back when I was a little kid I would watch them back-to-back like one long movie. I can't imagine the sequel not existing. Of course, I absolutely hate the third movie).