10 Great Adaptations That Were Anything But Faithful

10 Great Adaptations That Were Anything But Faithful
Image credit: 20th Century Studios, Paramount Pictures, Netflix

Contrary to popular belief, a good adaptation doesn't always have to be faithful to the original, and in rare cases can even surpass it.

Looking at the myriad of terrible adaptations of various works that have little in common with the originals, one might think that they must always stay close to the source material.

However, these ten movies based on existing works were about as far from the originals as you could possibly imagine, which somehow didn't stop them from being universally praised, and some even managed to surpass the source material.

1. Oldboy (2003)

Park Chan-wook's groundbreaking masterpiece, which practically opened up South Korean cinema to Western audiences, is actually based on a Japanese manga of the same name.

The success of the film completely overshadowed the original, as while many people have seen the 2003 movie, the majority of them are not even remotely familiar with the original manga.

While most of the main story elements and character archetypes remained more or less the same in the movie, many changes in the characters' personalities and motivations, along with the movie's ignoring of countless subplots, make the two versions of the same story feel drastically different.

2. Jaws (1975)

Not everyone is aware that Steven Spielberg 's legendary thriller, which spawned an entire franchise, is actually based on a 1974 novel of the same name by Peter Benchley, and is considered by many fans to be even better than the source material.

This is due in no small part to the many changes that were made to the film, from the elimination of some incredibly problematic elements that were common at the time, to changes in character personalities, major plot points, and even the ending.

3. The Shining (1980)

Perhaps the most well-known example on our list, Stephen King 's dislike for Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of his work has become legendary over the years, and the author even personally supervised the later 1997 version to prevent a similar situation from happening again.

Regardless, despite the major deviations from the source material, the 1980s film has become an absolute cult classic and is hailed as one of the best films in the director's career.

4. Blade Runner (1982)

Arguably the most renowned adaptation of Philip K. Dick's works, this legendary sci-fi film based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? ironically has very little in common with the original, but that didn't stop it from evolving into an entirely new creation.

The novel is set in San Francisco instead of Los Angeles; there are hardly any familiar terms like "Replicants" or the titular "Blade Runners"; the protagonists, despite sharing the same name, have very different backgrounds and personalities, along with a myriad of other differences large and small.

But, as mentioned above, thanks to all these changes, Blade Runner managed to become a completely unique creation that was one of the founding pillars of a whole new genre, cyberpunk, while the original novel was more of a classic sci-fi story.

5. Minority Report (2002)

Another Philip K. Dick adaptation on our list, this Tom Cruise-led movie, based on the short story of the same name, also changed many aspects of the original, though not as much as Blade Runner.

First of all, the protagonist, John Anderton, isn't nearly as handsome as Tom Cruise, described as "bald, fat and old," and was practically split into two different characters in the movie, played by Cruise and Max von Sydow.

The relationships between the characters and the ending are also quite different, along with the fact that the precogs in the novel are effectively brain dead, compared to their relatively normal counterparts in the movie.

6. Starship Troopers (1997)

Based on the novel of the same name by Robert A. Heinlein, this cult classic directed by the legendary Paul Verhoeven is hailed as a clever satire of militaristic society, which is quite ironic considering that the book was just the opposite in tone.

The original was absolutely serious about everything the film adaptation poked fun at, being a much more political story that criticized the ideas of liberalism.

It also had much less action, focusing more on the time the protagonist spent in training camp, described arachnids using actual energy weapons, had no psychic powers at all, and had many other things the movie's creators chose to ignore.

7. Total Recall (1990)

Also directed by Paul Verhoeven, this movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger is another Philip K. Dick adaptation based on the short novel We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.

The movie took only the core of the original story and changed almost every other aspect of it, from altering the backstory of the main character and actually including Mars to completely changing the antagonist and adding an alien artifact to the plot.

There was also a 2012 movie of the same name starring Colin Farrell, but it was neither close to the source material nor the previous adaptation, and it was not particularly good.

8. Annihilation (2018)

Based on the novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer, Alex Garland's film is a great example of how an adaptation can feel completely different while still following the same story.

The movie relies heavily on visual storytelling for obvious reasons, while the book relied on almost uncomfortable descriptions similar to those found in the works of H.P. Lovecraft, with your imagination filling in the gaps.

But the differences don't end there, as the book doesn't even give names to the main characters, offers different takes on the same ideas, and has an even more ambiguous ending.

9. Jurassic Park (1993)

Steven Spielberg's film, based on the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton, has achieved legendary status over the years, but it is very different from the source material.

It completely changed the fates and personalities of several characters, while removing others from the story, changing crucial plot points, and featuring a much more uplifting finale than the one in the book.

10. Forrest Gump (1994)

Winston Groom, the author of the original novel on which Robert Zemeckis' iconic film is based, didn't like the adaptation so much that he referenced it directly in the second book about Forrest, and not in a positive way.

However, even though the movie changed the personality of the main character and altered or removed a number of major plot points, it didn't stop it from gaining a cult following and impressing even fans of the original.