5 Worst Book to Movie Adaptations

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“The book was better.”

It’s almost impossible to avoid hearing or uttering that phrase after seeing a film that’s been adapted from a novel.

And it’s true (of course it is) that Hollywood often fails to capture the magic of beloved literature. With that being said, not all adaptations are terrible. Most recently, The Hunger Games movie franchise has been praised for its accuracy.

At the same time, there are often more bad movie adaptations than good, especially when it comes to classics. Here are five of the worst book to movie adaptations.

5. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

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Douglas Adams’ spirited sci-fi romp falls flat when shoehorned into this gimmicky film version. The movie lacks most of the wit and charm of the book it’s derived from. The sole redeeming quality is Martin Freeman, who makes his American motion picture debut in this film.

4. The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)

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I’m sure Alexandre Dumas would despise this adaptation. For one thing, a handful of characters have been entirely removed from the narrative. Moreover, the director even had the gall to change the original ending. Not even young Henry Cavill can save this one.

3. The Scarlet Letter (1995)

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I don’t know who thought Demi Moore and Gary Oldman would look good onscreen together, but… no. While Gary Oldman does a fine job of playing Dimmesdale, poor Demi Moore gets the shaft when it comes to the poorly-penned script. Most of the novel’s complexity is abandoned in favor of playing up sensuality and a lighter, happier ending. High school students beware: you’re better off reading the book.

2. Great Expectations (1998)

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Who reads a Dickens’ classic and thinks, “yeah, this book is dying for a modern-day rechristening?” Alfonso Cuaron, that’s who. This film functions like a weird mishmash of Titanic, Moulin Rouge, and a teensy bit of Dickens. Why did this happen?

1. Gulliver’s Travels (2010)

Jack Black stars in Gulliver's Travels.

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I don’t think I could think of a worse film adaptation than this one if I tried. The film lacks most of what makes the original narrative great. On top of that, it’s just not funny. It tries too hard to be.

I’m sure there are worse movie adaptations than these out there, but I have yet to experience them.

What do you think of these adaptations? What other bad ones can you think of?

P.S. In Conversation with–Bob Gale, Co-Writer of Back to the Future and Selections from Pixar’s 22 Rules for Storytelling.

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4 thoughts on “5 Worst Book to Movie Adaptations

  1. Harliqueen

    I have to admit, I’ve never read the Count of Monte Cristo, but I did enjoy the movie (probably because it had Jim Caviezel in it :D). But films often lack the depth books have, and I think that’s the problem.

    There is so much in a book that has to be cut to make it to a movie, and a lot of the time it can feel flat because of that.

    Great list and post! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Briana M. Post author

      Thanks! I think I would’ve liked the movie version of The Count of Monte Cristo if I hadn’t read the book. Same with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

      Reply

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