These 10 Film Adaptations Are Even Better Than The Books
And we are not talking about The Lord of the Rings here, although it did set the bar that high.
"A Single Man" (2009)
Based on Christopher Isherwood's novel of the same name, the film was helmed by designer-turned-director Tom Ford, and let me tell you, the man can direct!
The narrative centers around George Falconer, an English professor struggling with depression after the death of his partner. The novel dives into George's internal world, offering readers a thoughtful, melancholic meditation on love and loss, yet it's in the film where this emotional devastation truly comes to life.
Colin Firth 's Oscar-nominated portrayal of George grips you from the start, his loneliness is almost palpable, and the film's highly stylized aesthetic takes us on a visual journey that's as melancholic as it is beautiful. It surpassed its source material with an 86% Rotten Tomatoes rating.
"Smoke Signals" (1998)
This indie darling took the essence of Sherman Alexie's short story collection "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven" and somehow crafted an even more compelling narrative.
The film, directed by Chris Eyre and written by Alexie himself, focuses on two young Native American men journeying from their reservation to collect the ashes of one of their fathers. It's a touching story of friendship, fatherhood, and the wounds of the past.
Despite the book's poignant exploration of life on the Spokane Indian Reservation, the film took it a step further, offering a more personal, intimate perspective. Rotten Tomatoes ratings? A robust 81%. It goes to show you don't need a Hollywood budget to craft a cinematic gem that surpasses its source material, isn't it? Take notes, Disney and WB. Take notes.
"The Last King of Scotland" (2006)
"The Last King of Scotland", while grounded in the novel by Giles Foden, takes significant liberties with the plot – and for the better, I might add. The movie drills down to the chilling friendship between the infamous dictator Idi Amin and a young Scottish doctor, played by James McAvoy.
While Foden's novel offers an intricate portrait of Ugandan history, it's Forest Whitaker's Oscar-winning performance as Amin that elevates the film to a whole new level. The raw intensity of his performance brings an immediacy to Amin's tyranny that the novel simply can't match.
"In the Bedroom" (2001)
"In the Bedroom", a film based on Andre Dubus' short story "Killings", offers a potent exploration of grief and revenge that arguably outdoes its source material.
Directed by Todd Field, the movie extends the narrative of the short story, adding depth and nuance to the characters and their emotional struggles. Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek deliver incredible performances as the grieving parents whose son is murdered, their anguish resonating on a deeply personal level.
Sure, the short story was powerful in its own right, but the film adaptation fleshed out the story in a way that made it even more resonant. Even the critics agreed, bestowing it with a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
"Let the Right One In" (2008)
This Swedish vampire tale is a true under-the-radar classic I'm pretty sure none of you have seen – yet. "Let the Right One In" is based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote the screenplay. The movie revolves around the unlikely friendship between a lonely boy and a child vampire, offering a poignant, chilling, and surprisingly tender story.
The original novel was praised for its unique take on vampire mythology, but the film is an even stronger narrative beast. Its stark, icy cinematography and the haunting performances of the young leads take the tale to another level.
"Persepolis", the film adaptation of Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical graphic novel, manages to perfectly capture the spirit of the book while offering an even more immediate and striking visualization of Satrapi's life. The film, also directed by Satrapi, follows her experiences growing up during the Iranian Revolution.
While the book's black-and-white illustrations pack a punch, the animated adaptation adds an extra layer of depth and emotion. Despite being an animation, it's a deeply human and moving story with a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes to attest to that.
"Inherent Vice" (2014)
"Inherent Vice" is a film that manages to distill the chaotic essence of Thomas Pynchon's novel into a slightly more coherent, albeit still bewildering, narrative.
Pynchon's labyrinthine tale of a stoner detective in 1970s LA is not an easy read, let me tell you. But under the direction of Paul Thomas Anderson, the narrative tightens up, the characters become more grounded, and the humor comes to the fore. Joaquin Phoenix 's performance as Doc Sportello is nothing short of genius, his bemusement and confusion a mirror of our own.
The film, with its 74% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, managed to turn the dizzying, disorienting world of the novel into a film that was, well, still dizzying and disorienting, but also hilarious and somewhat discernible.
"Short Term 12" (2013)
Remember "Short Term 12," starring pre-MCU and pre-Room Brie Larson? Of course, you do! What a brilliant little film, and you wouldn't believe it was actually based on a short film of the same name by director Destin Daniel Cretton.
The feature-length film dives deep into the everyday life of a short-term foster care facility, giving us a gut-wrenching, yet heartwarming look at the lives of at-risk teenagers and the young adults struggling to help them.
Now, in the short film, the story revolves around a day in the life of these characters. But the feature-length film, oh boy, it provides us with a richer, fuller perspective, meticulously unravelling the backstories of the staff, their own traumas, their dreams and disappointments, essentially creating a more comprehensive world than the short film ever did. Critics didn't miss it, the film holds a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
"Wendy and Lucy" (2008)
"Wendy and Lucy" is a deeply moving film adaptation of Jon Raymond's short story "Train Choir." This tale of a woman and her dog on a doomed journey to Alaska is a masterclass in economic storytelling. While the short story sets the stage for this heartbreaking journey, it's the film that fully explores the depth of Wendy's plight.
Kelly Reichardt's minimalist direction and Michelle Williams' stripped-down performance offer a level of raw realism that truly underscores Wendy's desperation. You'll find yourself entangled in Wendy's struggles, feeling her every loss, sharing her every victory, no matter how small.
"Ghost World" (2001)
"Ghost World" is one of those (pretty rare, might I add) films that even outdo its comic book origins. The original comic by Daniel Clowes is a cult favorite, no doubt, capturing the ennui of teen life with biting wit and distinctive visuals. But when transferred to the screen, the story of Enid and Rebecca, two cynical teenagers drifting apart after high school, truly comes alive.
The film adds a new storyline involving an eccentric loner, played by Steve Buscemi, which adds an extra layer of pathos to the film. Scarlett Johansson and Thora Birch bring a tangible authenticity to their roles, their friendship and eventual fallout hitting a little too close to home for most of us.