Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Best/Worst Movies Adapted From Books

Public domain image from www.public-domain-image.comTop Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week.

This week’s theme is Top Ten Best/Worst Movie Adaptations. Back in December, I did a top 10 list featuring the top 10 movie versions of classic books — so in the interest of not repeating myself, I am not including any of those movies here. After all, I am not Clueless, and I do have some Pride (and Prejudice). I wouldn’t want my blog readers to be Gone With The Wind due to my Vanity (Fair).  (Click on the link above if you want to see all of my classic choices!)

Best:

1) Much Ado About Nothing: The new black-and-white film directed by Joss Whedon is modern, funny, snappy, and a pure delight.

2) The Hunger Games: I don’t know about you, but I was very pleasantly surprised by how great this movie turned out to be. Maybe it helped that I hadn’t read the book in a couple of years, so I couldn’t indulge in my usual post-movie nitpickiness. In any case, I thought The Hunger Games managed to pull off the very hard combination of being faithful to the tone and overall content of the book while still managing to be cinematic and a great piece of entertainment on its own merit.

3) Lord of the Rings trilogy: These movies are all just so, so beautiful and inspiring. Visually stunning, gorgeously acted, all put together so perfectly.

4) Coraline: I loved this animated adaptation of the Neil Gaiman book. The Other Mother was appropriately creepy, and watching the movie really felt like stepping inside the book.

5) Carrie: Sure, this is going back a ways, but there’s something so iconic about the shot of Sissy Spacek covered in blood. The movie captured the horror of Stephen King’s novel so effectively, and managed to be super-scary and surprising even for people who’d read the book.

Worst:

1) The Other Boleyn Girl: Does it count as a bad adaptation if the source material wasn’t great to begin with? I have a circular relationship with this movie and book. I saw a trailer for the movie, thought it looked good so I decided to read the book, wasn’t crazy about the book, and then found the movie disappointing as well. Eric Bana was so miscast as Henry, and Natalie Portman just wasn’t Anne Boleyn. Plus, the plot of the movie veered off in strange ways from the plot of the book, which already took a lot of liberties with the story. Just not good, all the way around.

2) The Hobbit: Sorry, Peter Jackson, but one wonderful book does not need to be three movies. The Hobbit movie was not boring to watch, just overstuffed. J. R. R. Tolkien wrote a terrific, compact piece of fiction. Other than making more money, why split it into a trilogy?

3) The Time Traveler’s Wife: Terrible casting, especially Eric Bana as Henry. (Hmm, maybe I just have a problem with Eric Bana playing characters named Henry?). The Time Traveler’s Wife is one of my very favorite books, but I found the movie bland and watered-down, without the book’s tragic arc and sense of doomed romance.

4) The Stepford Wives: Maybe it’s dated, but the book by Ira Levin was definitely a suspenseful thriller in its day. The 2004 movie version starring Nicole Kidman tried to be a comedy and failed miserably. Just painful to sit through.

Mixed bag:

The Harry Potter movies! Look, I’m a huge fan of the books, and I like — sometimes even love — the movies, but the books and the movies feel like totally different animals. The first two Harry Potter movies were not good works cinematically. They were so faithful to the books that they didn’t stand on their own as movies (if that makes sense), and had more of a juvenile sentiment to them than was necessary. I liked the Prisoner of Azkaban very much as a movie, if I overlooked the sometimes glaring departures from the book. Still, it had a sense of style that was its own, thanks to director Alfonso Cuarón, and was both fun and suspenseful to watch. In some ways, I consider Goblet of Fire to be the best movie. I loved the Triwizard competition set-pieces, including the dragon chases, the underwater scenes, and the hedge maze. Yes, there’s the problematic portrayal of Dumbledore in this one, which I know upset a lot of HP fans (myself included) — but as a movie, it was quite spectacular. The Half-Blood Prince movie didn’t feel quite right to me, perhaps because of the omitted background scenes and the changes to the climax which made the events make less sense on screen than they did in the book. And the Deathly Hallows movies? Amazing, in some ways — visually stunning, with some very satisfying emotional pay-offs (Snape!), and I loved the illustrations used for the tale of the three brothers… but also long and with some strange choices in terms of what was included and what was cut. Kudos to the Deathly Hallows movie, thought, for explaining the whole Elder Wand mumbo-jumbo much more concisely than the book ever did.

So what books-into-movies make your top 10 this week? Any you especially love or hate?

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19 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Best/Worst Movies Adapted From Books

  1. Had forgotten about The Stepford Wives… book was great but agree that it just didn’t translate onto the screen. I think Nicole Kidman is very hard to cast – there’s not much I actually like her in (the exception is on my list this week).

    • I agree about Nicole Kidman — although I’m excited to see how Before I Go To Sleep turns out. Loved the book… hope that one makes next year’s list of great movie adaptations!

    • I just told my son this morning that we should watch the LOTR trilogy over the summer. He’s not convinced, but I am! Coraline is really wonderful (book & movie)!

  2. About a Boy is one of my favorite book adaptations. I thought they did a really good job. Other favorites are The Painted Veil and Being Julia, both based on W. Somerset Maugham novels.

    • Oh, yes, About A Boy! High Fidelity too. I really loved the movie of The Painted Veil, but still haven’t gotten to the book. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Carrie made my list too! And I completely agree… The Hobbit was a horrible adaptation. I still can’t believe they’re going to make three movies out of that teeny book. Ridiculous. And yes, Harry Potter was definitely a mixed bag but managed to make the movies almost as magical as the books themselves which I think is pretty impressive. 🙂 Great picks!
    Bonnie @ Sweet Tidbits

    • I actually prefer Michael Gambon as Dumbledore, but thought there were some weird choices made in the portrayal. Book HP and movie HP are such different experiences, and I think of the characters pretty differently in each as well.

  4. I have to agree with you on the LoTR trilogy, The Hunger Games and Carrie. I haven’t seen Whedon’s version of Much Ado, however, I did rather enjoy Kenneth Branaugh’s take on it (circa 1993). As for the Harry Potter movies go, Prisoner of Azkaban was (by far) my fav. Since I only read the books after I saw all of the movies, I don’t really have any issues with their takes on the source material. There is a LOT of information contained in those books and, overall, I think they did a phenomenal job highlighting most of the key plotlines and details. They brought the magical wizarding world to life right in front of our eyes, so I guess I’m able to overlook any of their flaws. Same goes for The Hunger Games. If they manage to keep the overall tone/feeling of the books and mostly remain faithful to the novels, then I’m generally a happy gal.

    Then again, this is also why I try to watch te movie before I read the book (if I can help it).

    • I guess it would be different seeing the HP movies before reading the books — I don’t have a point of reference for experiencing it that way (and I suppose the movies would seem a lot better — rather than comparing every little detail along the way). I still haven’t seen the Branaugh Much Ado and I really need to (although I think I’m seeing the Whedon version again tomorrow!!)

  5. Yes! Someone else put The Hobbit on their worst list. This makes me happy. I was feeling so alone.

    I still have not seen the new Much Ado About Nothing. I want to so much!!!

    • Regarding The Hobbit, it wasn’t horrible to watch (my son enjoyed all the action) — it just wasn’t a good adaptation! Waaaay too long. I think I’m seeing Much Ado for the 2nd time tomorrow!!

  6. Yeah… I wasn’t that thrilled with the movie of The Time Traveler’s Wife, either. The casting was off.

    I haven’t seen the new Much Ado About Nothing, but I like the older one with Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson.

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