Book to movie adaptations are the biggest hit-or-miss events in entertainment. It's so rare to find a movie that fans of the original source material can agree is so-so in portraying the message of the book. Most of the time, a movie adaptation is either good to great, or bad to terrible. This is a crying shame, considering all the amazing stories that get lost in bad movie productions.
Part of the problem that studios and directors have however is trying to figure out what exactly to keep in and what can be cut out, as most of the time a movie just can't fit everything in the book. If it did, movie adaptations could easily stretch to 4 hours or longer in some cases. It can take a great deal of luck and some talented script-writers as well as a flexible director in order to get a story onto the silver screen and tell it properly. It's not uncommon for fans of a jilted series to come clamoring for another, better remake, even if the whole fandom agrees it was generally ok as an adaptation.
Today we're going to have a look at 10 movie adaptations that were just plain awful, and 10 adaptations that left audiences begging for more. If we missed any from either side, let us know in the comments below. Otherwise, sit back and join us on this journey between the good, the bad, and best of both worlds.
20 Bad: Right Before Sunset
To this day, it is still a mystery why anyone would think that the Twilight series was in any way a good series, and why it had managed to gain the popularity it did. Some think that it has to do with romance, as long as you didn't turn on your brain long enough to see that it was creepy.
The author had created a character so bland that girls couldn't help but project themselves onto her.
Either way, it doesn't change the fact that that four movies were made from the franchise. The first one should have ended it all right then and there though. How anyone could take the awful special effects and makeup seriously is hard to understand. It's a bad sign when the main cast openly hates this franchise during interviews.
19 Good: The Most Famous Wizard
J.K. Rowling’s seven book series is a phenomenon that took the world by storm during the late nineties and early 2000s. Even after the book series’ conclusion, Rowling has continued adding more content and adventures to her magical world through the PotterMore website and her new movie series Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
When the first whisperings of a movie adaptation for the Philosopher’s Stone began to circulate, fans initially had their doubts.
When the first movie came out, everyone’s fears were put to rest. Daniel Radcliffe was the image of Harry Potter, and supporting actors Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, as well as the legendary Dame Maggie Smith and the late Alan Rickman brought Hogwarts to life. As the series progressed, fans got to watch four young talents grow up and continue to give quality entertainment.
18 Bad: Cat In Hats
Dr. Seuss is a household name that holds a very fond place in just about anyone's heart. His most beloved instalments in his whimsical worlds include Green Eggs and Ham and How The Grinch Stole Christmas, but most of all, everyone remembers The Cat in the Hat. This wacky parable describes how two young children learn that a little fun is a good thing, but there is definitely a point when it goes too far.
There was never any real story behind it, just a couple of kids being visited by the cat while their mom was away, who then proceeds to practically destroy the house with the help of his tiny friends. The movie itself was a monstrosity. With Mike Myer's in a horrifying cat suit, and a poor attempt at trying to inject sibling rivalry and the mother not exactly being perfect. Also a water park?
17 Good: Bewitched Jewelry Is Everything
High fantasy is a very hard genre to define your story with. So many cliché elements tend to take over, like orc or elf races, or thinly veiled version of either one, as well as magic of all kinds... it’s hard to stand out. George R.R. Martin is one of the few that have managed to make his medieval world stand out, but before Game of Thrones became popular, there was The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.
From the very first trailer for the first instalment in the movie trilogy, fans were foaming at the mouth for more.
Orlando Bloom as Legolas had ladies and gentlemen everywhere squee-ing with happiness, and Viggo Mortensen was the epitome of rugged, yet royal charm. While certainly some large parts of the story were cut for runtime, the brilliant directing could almost make a hard-core fan forget that they were there.
16 Bad: Animated Magic Rings
On the absolute opposite end of the scale, we have the animated version The Lord of the Rings. The still above is a prime example of the many things wrong with this adaptation. For starters, the art style for the characters is atrocious. The background is gorgeous, but the mono coloured, un-shaded cartoon characters are jarring against it.
Let's not forget about the incredibly bad designs of the characters themselves.
If you squint hard enough, you can recognize Legolas and Gimli, but if you weren't aware of who is who, could you tell who Boromir and Aragorn are supposed to be? It turns out that that viking is supposed to be the heroic Boromir of Gondor, while Aragorn kneels in the back next to the exhausted hobbits. Why on earth the art director chose that look for Boromir will likely be debated for years to come.
15 Good: Filmed, Not Read
While is it generally considered common knowledge that the James Bond franchise is based off of the novels of Ian Fleming, there are still some from the new generations who might still be surprised by this fact. Supposedly inspired by Fleming's own experiences in the field as an agent, the adventures that Bond gets up to have become very much a part of Western culture.
Almost anyone can do a perfect impression of Bond's famous introduction: "The name is Bond. James Bond."
Casino Royale follow's James' high stakes poker game with a terrorist financier in a bid to get him to lose and seek asylum with the British government in exchange for information about his clients. Fans, initially skeptical of Daniel Craig taking over as Bond from Pierce Brosnan, were pleasantly surprised to find that he was more than a great replacement.
14 Bad: Thanks For All The Fish
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy was a witty and hilarious science fiction adventure featuring Arthur, the every-man who finds his house is about to be bulldozed in order to create a new highway. That very same day, an extremely bureaucratic race of aliens that govern much of the galaxy show up to Earth and announce the very same thing, and then proceed to end all life and the planet itself in an instant.
Arthur spends the rest of his days monologue-ing his wacky adventures, much to the entertainment of fans everywhere.
The movie was practically none of these things. While certainly hilarious in many ways, it felt as if the director was just trying too hard to be goofy and zany, while entirely missing the point of the book: Arthur's inner monologues. Well, at least we were left with the hilarious Goodbye and Thanks for All the Fish song by the dolphins.
13 Good: Girl, Bye!
Gone Girl is a suspense and mystery novel by Gillian Flynn. It follows the story of a husband desperately searching for his wife. After looking everywhere, she returns to him, but only to reveal that she in fact faked her violent disappearance and framed him for it. As his life falls apart around him as suspicion builds, we are treated to both sides of him looking and his wife hiding, as well as her reasons for doing this.
With husband and wife both brilliantly played by Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, viewers were taken on a twisting journey filled with heartbreak and revenge. As Pike's character's motivations come to light, viewers are faced with the question of whether or not she did the right thing.
Most would say no, but that doesn't mean that it still isn't worth discussing.
12 Bad: Stealing Lightning And Taking Names
It's hard to watch anything you love to pieces crash and burn so spectacularly. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief could have, and should have been the next Harry Potter-sized franchise. Instead, Rick Riordan's amazing and humorous books about the adventures of powerful demigods and their bid to save their loved ones was almost unrecognizable once it hit theatres.
It started out promising, with Logan Lerman playing Percy Jackson. Fans might have been all right in accepting the massive age-up the characters were given with him alone. Things very, very quickly went downhill however when the movie left out key elements.
When the heroes were inexplicably sent to go look for three pearls to help them escape the underworld (which is very much was not how things happened in the book), fans were left feeling bitter when they considered what could have been.
11 Good: The Girl On Fire
The beginning of this young adult book franchise’s movie transition certainly wasn’t very promising. Set in the dystopian nation of Panem, the first movie felt like a watered down version of the horror author Suzanne Collins was trying to convey. While Jennifer Lawrence made a great Katniss, the rest of the movie attempted to show a brutal competition without any of the brutality.
Fans left theatres feeling disappointed with The Hunger Games.
It turned out that Catching Fire was an apt name for both book and movie though, as clearly the studio took the audience criticism to heart, and ramped up the action and violence of the next movie. This one wasn’t afraid to show heart-wrenching scenes such as the mockingjays mimicking the distorted voices of character’s loved ones. By the end of the film, the audience was ready and waiting for the final two movies to hurry up and be made.
10 Bad: Getting Lost In The Snow
The original novel, known under the title of Northern Lights features a fantasy world where the souls of humans live outside their bodies and parallel universes may created by a strange substance simply called "dust". The Magisterium, the main religious body of this world, suppresses everything that it deems as heresy. This includes the existence and study of this "dust".
Much of Golden Compass covers philosophical questions that made the novels deep and impressive.
Many fans agree that this helped to set this story apart from so many others. The movie however did away with all that, and turned into a surprisingly bland adventure into a magical world that should have been magical to watch. We're still raw about it, to be honest.
9 Good: Birds That Don't Make It
Harper Lee’s beloved classic tells the heartbreaking realities of a young Jean Louise (Scout) Finch growing up in a Depression-era town where the majority held to many terrible prejudiced ideals. Today this book is required-reading in many school English classrooms in order to show to young minds how and why racism is such a terrible thing to perpetrate, such as innocents being blamed for a crime they didn’t do simply because of the colour of their skin.
When the movie adaptation came out on Christmas Day in 1962, it became an instant classic. The on-screen incarnations of Scout and Atticus are stilled hailed for their brilliance in the acting community even today. Anyone who watches this beautifully made movie is sure to be moved to their core.
8 Bad: The Green Light
F. Scott Fitzgerald's American classic has been adapted several times into movies over the years, but if there is one that stands out, it's the the version released in 2013. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, and Toby Maguire as Nick, the trailers promised a riveting retelling of a rich man trying woo an old flame.
Alas, the newest adaptation of the Great Gatsby did not fare as well as we'd hoped.
What looked like an interesting, avant-garde movie featuring modern tracks as part of the party music (in an attempt to connect with today's youth, no doubt) turned out to be a mess of a film that seemed determined to race through every scene with fast edits and dialogue. What could have been a fun way to interpret a classic that have many students nodding off in class over turned into something that was just trying too hard to be hip. Better luck next time!
7 Good: Not The Father, But..
The Godfather movies are generally seen to be among the greatest movies of all time, but what many people might not realize is that it's based on a book of the same name. This classic crime novel unsurprisingly translated well to the big screen. Detailing a crime boss played by Marlon Brando and his reluctant relative played by Al Pacino, this movie has spawned almost countless references and homages across cinema and TV.
Detailing the intrigues of five powerful mafia families going to war in New York, Al Pacino's character learns to become part of the family business. In the end, he becomes the new head of the family, and moves the entire base of operations to Las Vegas. With main characters dropping like flies left right and centre, it's hard not to be riveted to the screen to see what happens next.
6 Bad: On A Legendary Level
How any adaptation can fail with Will Smith as the lead and one of the only characters the audience gets to know seems unthinkable. Smith's charm and charisma has carried more than one movie to at least moderate success, and when the entire focus is centred around Smith's character having to deal with the fact that he may be the last human survivor in the world.
Instead of delving into the moral implications of his actions (considering that his vampiric enemies are in fact sentient in some cases in the novel) as well as pondering the fact that he is now the last remnant of his civilization, the studio apparently decided to make this an action flick. The main character had a lot of hard questions to ask himself about his actions when the truth comes to life. In the movie, we just have Will Smith blowing himself up to end some feral vampires.
5 Good: American Psycho
Patrick Bateman is often cited to be one of the most chilling attackers in both book form and his onscreen adaptation. His icy contempt with those around him, as well as his own sickening materialistic values and almost compulsive vanity is chilling to both readers and viewers. Part of this story's draw is that it's difficult to tell what is real and what is in Patrick's head.
There's plenty of evidence for both sides of the argument that Bateman's acts might have been all in his head.
Enter Christian Bale, who captivates and terrifies from his first moments on screen. Describing his daily morning routine that speaks to an obsession with his looks, and then the horrifying line about how he "simply isn't there inside" has certainly given many fans a lot to chew on when considering the human condition. If you want a jaunt through a terrifying human psyche, look no further.
4 Bad: Flying Too Low
Eragon was a rising star among teenage readers, being set in a fantasy world where Eragon learns to ride a dragon and fight an evil tyrant king. It was pretty standard stuff as far as fantasy goes, with a few fun twists such as magic being facilitated with a language that you cannot lie with, or that a dragon will depart at the same time as its rider. One of the most interesting aspects of the series though was that the author, Christopher Paolini, was only fifteen years old when he wrote it.
The first trailers for Eragon looked promising, as they often do, but fans couldn't be prepared for what they were greeted with.
After racing through the story, and leaving out extremely important details, the movie devolves into a bland attempt at an adventure. The disappointment for fans was extreme, and many are often in the habit of half-jokingly claiming that there was no Eragon movie.
3 Good: Digging For Lizards
Holes is often considered one of the best book-to-movie adaptations of all time. Starring Shia LaBeuf as Stanley Yelnats, the movie is almost the entire book verbatim, and in the best way possible. Familiar scenes such as Stanley receiving his official camp nickname, to the romance between a teacher in the Wild West and the local handyman; schools everywhere organized trips to see this movie as part of their English class curriculum.
Many fans consider this movie to be a benchmark in how to treat a movie adaptation.
Imagine The Lord of the Rings movies done verbatim, for example. Still, it definitely should be required reading/viewing for anyone looking to adapt a novel to the big screen.
2 Bad: A Band Of Totally Average People
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a comic written by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neil, and involves high profile classical characters such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Invisible Man, and Dorian Grey. The comics were dark in tone, and often delved into the supernatural side of things.
You'd think this would have been an easy book to adapt into a box office hit, right? Wrong.
Wrong. Even with Sean Connery as part of the main cast, this movie failed spectacularly at the box office and with fans alike. The movie's story was over complicated, and didn't seem to really follow much of the source material except for the main characters. It really is too bad when a cool concept just can't seem to find its stride.
1 Good: Hannibal Lecter Behind Bars
The Silence of the Lambs is one of those films that every book-to-movie adaptation wants to be. Sir Anthony Hopkins' incredible take on the Doctor Hannibal Lecter has been recreated either as a respected spoof or a direct homage to his portrayal of the terrifying and brilliant psychologist.
When Agent Clarice visits him at his cell, Hannibal's entrance sends shivers up your spine.
Unfortunately for Clarice, she is forced to work with this psychopath in order to find another by the name of Buffalo Bill, who in some ways might be even worse than Hannibal. As Lecter's obsession for Clarice grows, it's hard not to wonder if the agent is playing with fire in order to get what she needs.