Movie adaptations that were better than the book (yes, really)

It’s a refrain you’ve heard many times in the popcorn-littered lobby of a theater as everyone from awkward first-daters to couples to best friends to families leave a movie: “The book was better.” All stereotypes have some ring of truth, and it’s hard to beat the extra time (not just time you spend with it, buy time for the author to weave more details and include more scenes) and sheer intimacy of experiencing a story by reading a book. However, I’m not willing to let my beloved cinema be laid to waste by extreme bibliophiles. In the eternal battle of Books vs. Movies, books usually win, so in support of the underdog, here are a few of the upsets that made us cheer the loudest and proved that yes, sometimes the movie can actually be better than the book.


Both are great! Both are great. Veronica Roth, the author of the Divergent series, is talented and amazing and I want to be her. But the story is so action-packed and visuals-heavy that the movie is just SO satisfying. Theo James is the Four of my dreams, and Kate Winslet makes Jeanine terrifyingly icy. The training scenes pack a (ahem) punch that just can’t be captured in the book, and the dystopian version of Chicago looks great on screen.

The Little Mermaid

The original story, by Hans Christian Anderson, is the most tragic thing ever. There’s a beautiful statue of Anderson’s mermaid by the water in Copenhagen, which is extra sad, since in the original story, the titular mermaid throws herself into the water and dies because her prince chooses to marry another woman. Oh yeah, and the whole time she walks around on land, she has shooting pains in her fight like she’s stepping on needles. It’s safe to say that the movie version, with the PERFECT shower song (don’t lie, everyone sings “Part of Your World” in the shower), coolest villain around, and lovable animal sidekicks, is a much more feel-good and less unreasonably tragic version. TEAM MOVIE ARIEL.


Shrek was originally a picture book by William Steig, also known for writing nightmare-fuel Doctor De Soto about a mouse-dentist and a hungry fox. The book is fine. The movie is a hilarious classic featuring the comic greats of the late 90s, a body-positive message, and the first movie soundtrack I ever bought on CD. Shrek does so, so well what other movies fail to accomplish: It’s a genuinely funny parody that also stands on its own, with too many pop culture references to count and a heart-warming ending. Who doesn’t love a movie that produces actually tolerable sequels?

Perks of Being a Wallflower

This is one of those books that is so lauded and loved that it’s touchy to criticize, but honestly, the overwrought introspection of the book is hard to translate to the time limitations of screen, making the movie a winner. Emma Watson’s atrocious American accent also is a benefit in my eyes. The movie captures both the soaring moments of unknowing and the low depths of powerlessness that happen during high school.

Mary Poppins

The Mary Poppins books by P.L. Travers portray Mary as a semi-sociopath who can walk in and out of magic realms and sometimes insults the children to the point of tears. Sure, she’s cool and weird and mystical, but also, she’s terrifying. Wouldn’t you so much rather see Julie Andrews (#lifegoals) and the uber-talented Dick Van Dyke sing and dance and generally be charming? Also animated penguins. I rest my case.

Related links:

Old Lady Movie Night: ‘Ever After’

20 films you need to watch in your 20s

(Images via here, Summit Entertainment, Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures, DreamWorks Animation, Summit Entertainment, and Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures.)

Filed Under