Stewart Sternberg had a good post today about movies versus the books that were the basis for them. I thought I’d riff off of it. First let me share my bias. Books are almost always better than movies. And I mean almost always. Stewart mentioned how good the Lord of the Rings trilogy of movies were, and how good Silence of the Lambs was with Anthony Hopkins, and he’s absolutely right. They were good, but they still couldn’t touch the books. For me.
I may lose some folks here but this is the way I honestly feel. A good book always beats a good movie. There are no exceptions to this rule. In fact, a decent book generally beats a good movie. Movies have only one advantage over books that I can see. They provide the visuals rather than requiring the viewer to generate them. Personally, I often find this actually to be a weakness. For example, the movie Ghost Story was disappointing because I’d read the book first and the visuals of the movie were so weak in comparison to what I saw in my head. I probably would have liked that movie better if I hadn’t read the book first.
On the other hand, books have the advantage with characterization, mood, emotional involvement, and pretty much everything else. As an analogy, movies are a sugary snack. They temporarily distract your hunger but they don’t satisfy like an actual meal.
Here’s some of my judgments. Who disagrees?
Books that are better than movies:
Silence of the Lambs: Good as a movie, great as a book.
Lord of the Rings Trilogy: Good as movies, tremendous as books.
Dracula: Great as a book, adequate as a movie (the most recent one).
Frankenstein: Wonderful as a book, terrible as a movie.
Congo: Good as a book, very weak as a movie.
Sphere: Good as a book, weak as a movie.
Salem’s Lot: Book is tremendous, movie is decent.
Misery: Tremendous book, good movie.
The Dark Half: Very strong book, adequate movie.
The Mist: Great novella, strong movie.
The Andromeda Strain: Great book, adequate movie (the original)
The Shining: Great book, decent movie.
Pet Semetary: Great book, very weak movie.
Ghost Story: Tremendous book, barely adequate movie.
Red Dragon: Tremendous book, decent movie.
Dune: Tremendous book, bad movie.
2001: Great book, boring movie (except for the ape part at the start)
The Hunt for Red October: The book is better but the movie is good.
First Blood: Much, much better as a book, although the movie was OK.
Marathon Man: Better as a book but not by much.
Watchers: Tremendously better as a book.
Phantoms: So much better as a book that there’s no comparison.
War of the Worlds: Book is much better; movie is pretty decent.
Journey to the Center of the Earth: Book is so much better.
20,000 Leagues under the Sea: Book better.
Treasure Island: Book is much better but the movie is pretty good.
The Man in the Iron Mask: Far better as a book.
The Three Musketeers: This one is a toss up. I liked both.
Robinson Crusoe: Much better as a book.
Swiss Family Robinson: Better as a book but the movie was fun.
The Land that Time Forgot: Book is wonderful, movie is OK.
Fight Club: Better as a book but very good as a movie too.
The Old Man and the Sea: Tremendously better as a book.
Cannery Row: Better as a book but pretty damn close as a movie.
Ice Station Zebra: Extremely good book, almost as good a movie.
The Wolfen: So much better as a book.
The Dark: A much better book but interesting as a movie.
Black Sunday: Much better as a book. Pretty bad movie.
The Black Stallion: Much better as a book.
In the Name of the Rose: Very good book, pretty good movie.
The Haunting of Hill House: So, so, much better book. Movie sucks.
Deliverance: Better as a book but pretty good as a movie.
Prophecy: Bad as a book and a movie, but slightly better as a book.
Day of the Triffids: Much, much better as a book.
Lord of the Flies: Much better as a book but decent as a movie.
Fahrenheit 451: Good as a book and a movie but a better book.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Good movie, great book.
Eaters of the Dead: Better as a book but only slightly. As The 13th Warrior it was an extremely good film, one of my favorites of all time.
Movies that are better than books:
The Exorcist: Very good as a movie and only decent as a book.
Jaws: Pretty decent as a book but better as a movie.
Blade Runner: This is a close decision but I think the movie was slightly better than the book, which is entitled “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.” I actually go back and forth on this one. It's very close.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Slightly better as a movie, and I mean the original and first remake.
The Handmaid’s Tale: I didn’t care for either that much but maybe the movie was a touch better.
The Dead Zone: Both book and movie were weak but I’d say it was somewhat better as a movie. There were fewer boring parts.
The Stand: Not terribly good as a book or as a movie. Better as a movie because it’s shorter.
Jurassic Park: I thought the movie was actually better than the book although I enjoyed both.
The Wizard of Oz: The movie is tremendously better than the book, which is horribly written.
The Outlaw Josey Wales: The movie is so, so much better than the book.
So what do you think? Tell me where I’m all wet. Are there advantages of movies over books that I've missed?