Literary Adaptations...The Good



Any book snob will tell you that the book is always better than the movie. Always! I'm not a very good book snob, because I think that's baloney. A book is a different medium, but that doesn't mean that it's always the superior one. So get ready to hate, because here is my list of movies that I like more than the books they're based off of:



Practical Magic: Ok, qualifier here. This isn't a "good" movie. But it's really fun to watch. I remember being SO excited when I found out it was based off a book and eagerly tearing in...and hating it. The fun and lightness of the movie were nowhere to be found and while I've watched the movie over and over again, I've never been tempted to reopen the book.



Gone With the Wind: A lot of people love Margaret Mitchell's novel and it's widely considered a classic. But I'd seen the movie, with the absolutely perfect Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable so many times before I read it that it just couldn't measure up. The movie sheds some of the side plots that are more narratively deadweight, which helps it feel like it's moving along even through a run time long enough to require an intermission.



Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet: Reading the play is one thing, but seeing it come to vibrant life, original language and all, is awesome. Luhrmann finds the youth and impetuous energy of this play about young people and with the help of a well-cast Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes makes the Bard's words resonate way more than your randomly assigned classmates in 5th hour English.



The Godfather: The first two movies in this series (I pretend the third doesn't exist), tell what I will argue is the greatest American tragedy ever presented: the rise and fall of Michael Corleone. The story that Mario Puzo's The Godfather tells is a pretty boring gangster drama. Skip the book and watch the movies until you can recite them from memory instead.



Clueless: This is saying something, because I LOVE Emma. But Alicia Silverstone is so delightfully vapid but good-natured as Cher Horowitz that it's impossible to not just fall in love with her. It's not an especially faithful adaptation, but there are a lot more of the major themes and plot points in there than you might give it credit for unless you think about it. It updates and refreshes the story without being too revisionist.



The Shining: Stephen King's tale of claustrophobic horror is legitimately great, even though I honestly don't much care for horror as a genre. Either in books or movies, but Kubrick's version of the story (which shares only broad outlines with the original, much to King's dismay) is so weird and visually stunning that its domination of the source novel can't be denied. 



Breakfast At Tiffany's: Truman Capote was famously displeased with what the movie did to his novella, which is beautiful written. Instead of casting Capote's friend Marilyn Monroe as Holly Golightly as he'd wanted, they gave the role to Audrey Hepburn and completely changed the ending. But I feel like the movie works even better, somehow, as Capote didn't want it, with a staying power much more durable than the original slim volume. 

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