Why Books Are (Almost) Always Better Than the Movie

bored-audienceIt’s not uncommon to go watch a movie and be completely disappointed by the outcome, especially when it’s a movie based off of a book that you love. Only once in a blue moon will the movie be better than the movie (Forest Gump) or the movie will not completely change key points in the story (Unbroken). Here are a few reasons why I think the book is often better than the movie.

1. It’s All About the Details

We are a people that need detail in order to color in the context of any given situation. I mentioned Unbroken above, and while the movie gets and A+ for not changing anything from the book, it still cannot hold a candle to the book because it cannot describe the details of the anguish the hero felt or the true expanse of struggles he endured, both internally and externally.

2. Unlimited Runtime

We all know someone who will talk and talk and talk even though everyone around them has completely lost interest. Well, movies don’t have that luxury. They’re given strict time limits to tell their stories (usually between 90 and 120 minutes). But books, thank goodness, do not have a limit of page numbers (or volumes) to tell their story. Therefore, they are able to really stretch the story out and let it linger longer where it needs for impact, whereas movies need to hit the point and move on. I think The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy would have been a lot less successful if Peter Jackson were forced to cut back the runtime.

3. Wrong Place, Wrong People

Most people have vivid ideas of who the main characters look like when they’re reading books (except me – everyone sort of just have blank faces). But if a movie is cast wrong (like so many complain about Prim and Peta in The Hunger Games movies), then it’s game over for many people. But then again, sometimes those miscast people can really grow into their roles (again, like Prim and Peta).

4. True Love

When a producer is picking a director to adapt a book into film, it’s extremely important that the director chosen is a die-hard fanboy of the book and has a true appreciation of fellow fans. The director must appreciate the original work so much so that he or she feels compelled to match it as closely as possible so as to the do the book and author justice. I know it’s not technically based off of Crichton’s work, but what the director did for Jurassic World was beyond everyone’s hopes and expectations. Why is it so popular? Because he is a true, die-hard, Jurassic Park fan. And it shows.

Do you agree with my list? Disagree? Add some more thoughts below as to why books are usually so much better than the movies. 

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Published by Andrew Toy

Writer when I'm not being a husband or dad. So mostly just a husband and dad.

54 thoughts on “Why Books Are (Almost) Always Better Than the Movie

  1. I ALWAYS say that the book is better than the film, but my family (being non-book lovers) don’t see where I’m coming from. Reading a book is quiet and personal and like you’ve stated, we can feel how the hero feels. We can immerse ourselves in books so much easier than we can in films which is why they are always better!


  2. I happen to agree with you. I’ve seen so many books that were turned into movies, and I always feel short changed, even if the movie was good because I’m aware of all the good elements that were left out or not mentioned. As far as wrong people, Fifty Shades come to mind because the characters chosen for the movie are not the ones I envisioned in my head from the book; Christian’s sister for example, if completely different from who she is described in the book.


  3. Yep, almost always true. The only time I think I preferred the movie was Breakfast At Tiffany’s. Hated the novel. I get what Capote’s trying to do with it, but it just seemed lazy to me.


  4. I completely agree! I am almost always disappointed in the movie version. One thing that will make me like a movie as much as the book is if it is visually exciting. I found this true of “The Hobbit” and “Lord of The Rings” films. They were so beautifully done and included some of Tollkien’s words. The characters were not able to be as well developed and much was left out but that is to be expected. Still I consider the movies well worth watching.


    1. I actually think the movies are better than the books (I know!) because I felt like the books were super complicated. But I feel like Jackson did a superb job at capturing Tolkien’s essence in ever scene.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. So true especially the third. To those who have seen the movie first, I always say “Don’t judge a book by its movie”


  6. For the most part I enjoy both, although, if push came to shove I would have to agree with you; books are better. I think a more interesting comparison would be current TV shows to books. With movies they only get a few hours. TV shows get quite a few more.


  7. I totally agree with you. I think only Hunger Games as a good book to movie adaptation. I recently finished Jane Eyre and the I watched nearly every adaptation of it, but the adaptations either focus on one point or skip all my favorite parts. None of this novel’s adaptations satisfied me.


  8. Characters have pretty blank faces for me too. It’s more about the essence of who they are as a person and not their physical characteristics.

    For the most part, the book is always better. There are three cases where I think the reverse is true:

    1. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory — Gene Wilder! I mean, I loved Roald Dahl’s book, but Gene Wilder is just so much fun to watch. And, of course, there is the opening with all that chocolate. No matter how good of an imagination a person has, seeing it onscreen outdoes all imagination.

    2. Julie and Julia — This one’s for Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci. The book was a huge letdown, kind of a collection of rambling blog posts. Had the original blog been posted about 10 years after its original time, I don’t think it would have gotten quite as much attention. But the movie was magnificent.

    3. The Devil Wears Prada — I read the book and finished it feeling like I’d just visited someone’s high school with all the meltdowns and cat fights. But the movie…oh! And once again, it’s because of Streep and Tucci. And Anne Hathaway just makes the whole thing come together.


  9. We generally don’t like a movie’s portrayal of a book we’ve read because it goes against what our minds created up. I think without even realizing it, when we read, we tend to take what’s being said and slightly alter it to make it more of our taste (fiction writing). It’s hard to do that with a movie. I think a lot of people are like me…I retain more when reading than I do just watching something happen. I suppose it’s because I’m more comfortable when I read…perhaps.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I totally agree with you and a lot of the other people who have commented. With books, the reader has so much room for imagination. You have the freedom to use the authors descriptions to create a whole other world inside of your head. With films what you see is pretty much what you get. There’s a bit of room for interpretation but not as much.


  11. I would absolutely agree with you! I would (almost) always read the book as opposed to watch the movie. Books have that something special that movies simply lack. It’s almost as if I can relate to the characters on a more personal level when I’m holding the pages between my hands!


  12. I think you hit some important points. I am definitely a book person rather than a movie person. For me, it is because books allow for more internal thought and external dialogue for any given character (your 2nd point); however, I long ago gave up the idea that a movie must live up to the book. I see film as a completely different entity. Quite literally, film makers are conveying the same message with a different medium, and I don’t think they have any obligation to be the same as the book. We wouldn’t expect a painting of the Battle of Gettysburg to hit all the same points in the exact same way as a ballet about the Battle of Gettysburg. Know what I mean? I let myself enjoy the book for what it is and the movie (when I decide to see it) for what it is on its own terms. Makes me a happier reader and movie-goer. Be well!


  13. It’s always hard to transform a book into a movie, mostly because of silly restrictions like OUR OWN IMAGINATION on how things look and should be, time and money (and weird directors or poor scriptas or whatever). I prefer reading to watching movies (although I probably spend an equal amount of time with both movies and books – a *really* substantial amount of time, that is) 99% of occasions and there are only a few books I feel are translated well into movies. I agree with your list 100%. Books that weren’t a disappointment as a movie to me includes Coraline and the first Harry Potter.


  14. Movies do have to be adapted, not only because it’s a different format but also because there’s the anticipation of a wider audience. So some things do have to be changed so the story in the film can run smoothly like turning a bit of dialogue in the book into an action in the film so changing some character dialogue a little bit. But I do agree, book is usually always better than the movie and I think that is because of the detail given in the books. We get more internal struggle and inner dialogue from a character whereas in a movie, an actor has to visually portray the feelings the character is going through. Sometimes it’s a hit sometimes a miss. I think one movie I was really disappointed in was Blood and Chocolate, complete change from the book and the movie trailer was what got me reading the book!


  15. I’d say books have the luxury of time and words. However movies by “character” and “nature” you have to cut out a lot of words and let the visual tell the story. So that makes it difficult to retell a story in movies. Personally some stories work for me reading them in books while i am relieved to have a movie version especially if i find the story or author cumbersome to read. But i love stories told in books because then each reader can enter into a personal world of imagination about characters.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Reblogged this on Just Writing Here and commented:
    These are some very good points. Sometimes it’s a tricky thing, turning books into movies. But I feel like Hollywood needs to stop turning books into movies for a while. Kind of like 3D; too much of a good thing. Or new thing.


  17. A few movies that were better than the book come to mind:
    1. Apocalypse Now (Heart of Darkness)
    2. Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep)
    3. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
    4. Casino Royale

    These seem to be of two kinds: movies that bring their books up to date (Vietnam vs. the Amazon, Genetic Androids versus mechanical robots, Texas holdem vs. Bacarat), and movies that condense a boring book into a “good parts only” version (Apocalypse Now and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).

    I find that there are whole genre’s that I don’t read (spy novels for example) that I can enjoy in movie form. I wonder if I did read the novels whether I’d still like the films as much.


  18. Thanks for saying that the characters you read have blank faces, same for me. I seem to imagine my own choice of hair color and body shape , too, and if either of those things becomes a plot point I have to take a minute and regroup. I think reading is richer than movies because I have to use my imagination, not have everything spoonfed to me.


  19. I certainly agree that 9 times out of 10, the book will be better than the movie. One exception for me would be the latest Godzilla film as it was better than the novel version for me.


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