Hello readers! I’ve decided I would like to participate in the “Top 10 Tuesday” trend suggested by The Broke and the Bookish on this blog. So each Tuesday, barring other pressing news I’d need to post instead, I will post a top-10 list right here on this blog.
Today, I am going to list my top 10 personal favorite book-to-movie/television adaptations. You will notice the sci-fi/fantasy theme (except for #9). Not all of these movies perfectly mimic the books; some I think were even better (but some, worse–but not bad enough to exclude them from the list). Also, I only chose adaptations where I’ve read at least part of the book and seen at least part of the movie/series; I’ll specify where I haven’t finished. Read on and let me know what you think–what would YOU add or take off of this list?
1. Beauty and the Beast/Tangled (Rapunzel)/The Little Mermaid
OK, so I may be cheating a bit with this first one, but there’s a good reason I lumped them all together: they’re all semi-dark fairy tales adapted into Disney movies done well. In each case, I much prefer the movie to the original fairy tale, but perhaps it’s unfair that I saw the movies before reading the tales (I know, I know, but I couldn’t even read yet when two of them came out). I think part of this preference is because each of the movies are adapted for a modern audience, whereas the fairy tales were written for centuries past, with all of its societal influence–recall my “no book is an island” explanation. So while both the written tales and the movies seek to teach lessons, they are different lessons, even if the stories are almost the same. I think Disney did a great job with making happy endings for each of these that don’t diminish the suffering and growth the characters went through–it almost reinforces the good lessons by saying “do good and you will receive good.” One of these original tales has an ending so, so sad that I couldn’t get all the way through it, though I’ve read about it (I won’t spoil it for you, in case you haven’t read them). Plus all the heroines are way more kick-butt in the Disney versions, which you know I love. This is why I will forever be a Disney princess.
2. The Lord of the Rings (+ The Hobbit)
You already know my love for this story is intense. I did see the LOTR movies before I read the books–and actually, reading them is a project I began several times in high school and still haven’t finished, and I can feel your eyes burning like Sauron while reading this, but rest assured they are on my to-finish-soon list. I did finish The Hobbit, and I’m a big fan of what Peter Jackson has done so far. This epic story of good vs. evil is so lush and complex that it will forever be a hallmark in my mind and the mind of literary (and cinematic) canons everywhere. I was not a fan of earlier film adaptations, but I love Jackson’s rendition, for all the flack he gets. (Again, adapting an older story for a modern audience requires some changes–and again, I will never be against making females more kick-butt.)
Stardust has always been described as a fairy tale for adults. It was a book written by Neil Gaiman before it was made into a movie, with the shortest time gap for adaptation so far on this list. In fact, Gaiman had a lot of input on the project. You can read an awesome interview about it here. Although he’s written scripts before, he had a specific screenwriter for this movie–and she had to be female, he said, to have the right touch. (An interesting quirk about Gaiman is that he ascribes a gender to all of his works; Stardust is a female book, he says, but it does appeal to all.) And while I LOVE Gaiman–one of my top 3 favorite authors of all time–I have to say I preferred the movie in this case. Gaiman did a fantastic job of writing in a true fairy tale style, but I think an inherent problem of that style is faraway narrative distance. I didn’t connect with the characters as much in the book as the movie, although I did enjoy the extra details and lore included in the book that weren’t in the movie. Also, I felt like the movie focused more on the love story, which is extremely appealing to a romantic sap like me. ❤ But Neil, if you’re reading this, I still love you the mostest, especially for The Graveyard Book and Neverwhere, and your accent.
4. Phantom of the Opera
There is nothing I don’t love about this movie adaptation–the costumes, the music, the scenery, the acting–it’s perfect. This is a case where I like the movie WAY better than the book, and I like it as much as the musical, which is nearly identical. The book came first, written by Gaston Leroux in 1910 as a horror story. It seems I’m not alone in my preference, because the book did not do well for a long time. It was pure horror and very little romance, and the heroine was much too weak. She’s the only one on this list who wouldn’t qualify as a strong female character, at least in the book (and it’d still be a stretch for the movie). While she is still manipulated in the musical and movie, I can forgive her because of her growth and passion, and because it’s kind of hard not to be manipulated by a psychopath, especially one who sings to you so dreamily and gives you roses, all while wearing a tuxedo.
5. Harry Potter
Harry Potter was such a special experience for my generation, because we grew up with Harry as the books and movies came out. The books and movies taught us all about courage, friendship, and love. Despite small discrepancies, I thought the movies were very faithful to the books. More had to be left out later in the series, because the books got longer, but still, the ideas and main events were preserved. I love both the books and the movies, and I’d like to reread the whole book series as an adult and see what it’s like from that perspective. J.K. Rowling opened up a whole world for writers and readers alike, and her magic extended beyond the pages and made kids want to read again. The movies had that power, too, compelling fans to read the books to see what they’d missed.
6. The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games is another mostly faithful book-to-movie adaptation. The rest of the movies aren’t out yet, but based on the first one (and the INTENSE trailer for the second one), I think they will not only be faithful but excellent. Some books read like movies, and this series is one of them. This made the violent parts a little gruesome to get through, but more than anything else I’ve ever read, all the violence had a purpose, and it was sobering. The first movie did a great job of balancing the theme of it with making it PG-13 enough for younger viewers to sit through; it will be interesting to see how they navigate that for the future movies, since, as series go, it will only get MORE INTENSE. The Hunger Games introduced me to the dystopia genre of books, which is one of my very favorite. The movies made me realize it was already one of my favorite cinematic genres, although I’ve seen more that did it wrong than right. THG has set the bar very high, and it’s made big steps in legitimizing YA books/movies for adults–not one I’d recommend for younger than high school. Oh, and BTW, Katniss (in both the books and movie) is the ultimate strong female character–physically strong, emotionally responsive, and imperfect. She’s a great role model for women of all ages.
7. The Mortal Instruments
This first movie just came out, and I almost need to see it again to finalize how I feel about it. I love the book series, as I’ve mentioned, and the movie was fascinating and very cool. Most of it was pretty faithful, up until a certain point where it started pulling in elements from future books, so let’s just say I was glad to be done with book 3 (of 6) before I saw the movie. I can understand some of the changes, but not all, at least without having seen any of the future movies. This is definitely one I’d recommend reading before seeing, but it’s still on the list because I know I really liked both versions. When I watch the movie again, I will try to watch it as a movie, not as a comparison to the book. What both got right was development of the primary characters, which is one of the main draws to this series. They are all complex, believable, and at the end of the day, lovable in their own ways. Both also did a fantastic job of portraying the world–it actually helped to see it on the big screen to tie all the elements together visually.
This book series and TV miniseries has been one of my favorites since the beginning of high school. Like LOTR, it has a sweeping story about good vs. evil with a complex universe. And like LOTR, this is the only adaptation I like; the earlier one is soooo trippy, even for a universe where people get powers from a drug. Of course, these universes differ, and Dune has always been strictly sci-fi, whereas LOTR is strictly fantasy. I’ve read 2/3 of the Dune series and none of the other posthumous publications based on Herbert’s works; this is another to-finish series on my bookshelf. This miniseries adaptation was very faithful to the books, and it did a good job with pacing, scenery, acting, etc.
9. Game of Thrones
This one made it on the list mostly out of speculation. I must confess, I’ve only read a small bit of the first book of the series. I was holding off watching the series till I finished the books, but I couldn’t resist any longer. A few friends have recommended watching the series first because it helps you keep the characters straight to see them visually (though it’s still difficult, because there are a billion of them). I’m only 6 episodes in, but I’m already on the path to obsession. I think about it when I’m not watching it, and when I am watching I forget to watch the clock. It’s high fantasy in some ways like LOTR, but with more rated-R+ content and less magic. From what I’ve read so far, it’s a great adaptation, and I can’t wait to finish both versions (no rush, George R. R. Martin).
10. Pride and Prejudice
This is the only one on the list that isn’t sci-fi/fantasy, but I love it just as much. Oh, do I love it. Austen is one of my top writing, life, and humor influences; she’s one of those authors who’s changed my life in immeasurable ways. I can’t imagine many other books that have been adapted as much as this one, and I can’t imagine any book that fans would be more defensive of. That being said, the BBC version is well-loved by diehard fans of the book, and deservedly so–it is the closest book-to-screen match I have ever seen. The dialogue is verbatim in many parts. Settle yourself down for six hours of wit, romance, and eye candy (Mr. Firth, I’m talking about you), or escape in the pages/your own mind to the rural England of the nineteenth century–it’s up to you, because you’ll get the same experience either way. Elizabeth Bennet is an SFC of the Regency Era, convincing girls to be strong in their own rights rather than rely on the opinions and actions of others.
I hope you enjoyed the list! What do you think is missing? Let me know what your favorite book-to-screen adaptations are.