13 Books That Are Better Than Their Film or TV Adaptation

Finally, our list of books that are better than their movie and TV counterparts most of the time. Generally, you can’t beat the original version of the story, and what it took to create such a story must be appreciated. This is the last in our adaptation article trilogy, and here are the top books that are much better than the film or TV adaptations. 

Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn

Unlike the film adaptation of Gone Girl, the television series of Sharp Objects just fell flat. Despite having a fantastic cast, starring Amy Addams (Arrival, Nocturnal Animals), Eliza Scanlen (Little Women), and Patricia Clarkson (The Maze Runner, The Green Mile), the series just couldn’t live up to the darkness of the book. It is a relatively short novel that was drawn out for eight episodes, and what reads as twisted and atmospheric in the novel just didn’t really work on TV. 

Bad Day in Blackrock, Kevin Power

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This Irish novel was turned into a movie called What Richard Did in 2012. Had the movie stayed close to the book, perhaps it would have been better. However, What Richard Did changed several important facts from the book, and as a result, was terrible. The novel fictonalises the true and tragic murder of Brian Murphy in 2000, portraying nightlife and teenage culture in South Dublin, while What Richard Did seeks to alleviate blame and provide an alternative, and unnecessary ending. This had to be on the list of books that are better than their adaptation. Do yourself a favour and read the book instead.

The Passage Series, Justin Cronin

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In early 2019, The Passage TV series began, inspired by the popular vampire trilogy by author Justin Cronin. The novels in the series are huge, full of detail, and are actually brilliantly written where many fantasy and dystopian novels fall short. The television series came across as though the directors had never read the books, and the first season only scratched the surface of the novels, focusing on all the wrong things, and attempting to make certain characters sympathetic when they came off much better as villains. It was no surprise the television series was cancelled after its first season, but the novels remain brilliant, and should be read. 

Enduring Love, Ian McEwan 

books that are betterIan McEwan’s Enduring Love is one of his best novels, all about obsession, but the movie just didn’t work. Despite featuring brilliant actors like Daniel Craig (Knives Out, Spectre) and Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows) the movie adaptation decided to change too much and as a result, lost the tension of the book. The opening to both the movie and the novel is fantastic, but after that the movie quickly loses its appeal. Hence why Enduring Love is on the list of books that are better than their film counterpart. 

We Need To Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver 

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This award winning novel became a film in 2011, starring Tilda Swinton (Dr. Strange, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe) and Ezra Miller (Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, The Perks of Being a Wallflower). The film isn’t bad per say – there are actually some fantastically shot scenes and it does a good job at building the same tension that can be felt in the book. However, the novel just provides a mountain of detail that cannot come across in the movie, and for that, it deserves the winning spot. 

Looking For Alaska, John Green

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The television series of John Green’s 2006 novel Looking for Alaska came out in 2019, and as with We Need To Talk About Kevin, it wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t as good as the book. With 13 years of anticipation, it was never going to live up to the hype, and though it is pretty good, it doesn’t have the same magic to it as the novel. Although the casting is done quite well, the character of Alaska just isn’t as she’s described in the novel in many ways, and as the titular character, this did negatively impact the show. 

His Dark Materials: Northern Lights, Philip Pullman 

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Philip Pullman’s wildly successful book series His Dark Materials was adapted for film in 2007. The Golden Compass, originally titled Northern Lights, as with many films and series on this list, was full of famous faces, including Nicole Kidman (Big Littles Lies, Moulin Rouge) and Daniel Craig, but due to the massive popularity of the novels, the film simply couldn’t live up to the world that Pullman had built. 

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien 

While The Lord of the Rings series made it to our list of films that are as good as the book, the same cannot be said for The Hobbit series. J.R.R. Tolkien’s first novel is actually relatively short, only 300 odd pages. How they managed to turn it into three movies, starring Martin Freeman (Sherlock, Fargo) was both unnecessary and just plain greedy. Although there is a certain charm in these movies, had they kept it at only one, or even two maximum, there may have been a better shot of them outshining the book. 

The Twilight Series, Stephenie Meyer 

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It is commonly known that the Twilight movies leave a lot to be desired. This interpretation of the books is intense and often garish, with Kristen Stewart (On The Road, Charlie’s Angels) and Robert Pattinson’s (Tenet, Remember Me) performances coming across as stiff and awkward at the best of times. Both actors are good actors, as can be seen in their other films, but the way Twilight and its sequels were directed just leave a weird taste in the viewer’s mouth. The books give both characters much more personality and likability, and remain popular to this day, with Meyer releasing Midnight Sun in August 2020. 

You can watch the Twilight Series on Netflix, or buy the books on Amazon.

The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini 

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Hosseini is known for his incredibly thought-provoking and touching novels, all based in Afghanistan in the latter half of the 20th Century. The Kite Runner was his first novel and did tremendously well. The film does a pretty good job at portraying the same emotional scenes, but the book remains the better of the two, able to provide far more detail and history that is required for a story such as this. 

American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis 

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The novel of American Psycho is a metaphor for hell and cannibalism in today’s society, portraying Wall Street as somewhere the stock brokers only consume and consume and consume. The book is violent and full of double meanings, and though the film, starring Christian Bale (The Prestige, The Dark Knight Trilogy) has its merits, the novel is simply able to dive deeper into the society it is critiquing. 

Carrie, Stephen King 

Stephen King’s first novel Carrie was to set a standard of what was to come over the next 50 years of his writing career. This novel, which is a cultural reference and so much more, is about a teenage girl who is bullied and abused by her mother, and eventually cracks, putting everyone around her in danger. It has been adapted for film and the stage many times, but none can quite portray the intricacies of what’s going on in Carrie, the insight into Carrie’s mental state, or the air of forbidden and dirty love amongst all the teenage characters, who act completely like adults. 

Holes, Louis Sachar 

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This is controversial, and Holes the book is only marginally better than Holes the movie. It very nearly made it to our list of films and tv series that are as good as the book. But instead it just about remains on this list. Despite stellar performances from Shia LaBeouf (Fury, Transformers) and Sigourney Weaver (Avatar), the way the book is written, how it appeals to a younger readership so well, just about wins out. Read the book, and then watch the movie for the full experience. 

Are there any books on this list where you preferred the film or tv series? Let us know in the comments below. 

Katy Thornton
Katy Thornton

Katy is a Creative Writing graduate from UCD who freelance writes and is currently working on her debut novel.

One comment

  1. Better book than film although great performance from Jack Nicholson,………One Flew Over The Cukoos Nest. Also definitely agree with you on Enduring Love.

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