It is a truth universally acknowledged that Hollywood can ruin a perfectly good novel with their movie rendition of it. But every so often – as rare as a unicorn sighting – they get it right. Here are seventeen times the movies were just as good, if not better than, the books they were based upon.
With links provided for your shopping pleasure, these book and film choices are great bundles if you’re looking for gift ideas for the bibliophiles and movie buffs alike. Just note that these are affiliate links, which means I might get a small commission (at no cost to you) if you decide to buy something.
17 Times the Movie Was Just as Good as the Book
Please note that this post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase something you see on our site we may receive a commission at no cost to you. Read our full disclosure here.
The Princess Bride
Whether you read the novel by William Goldman, or watch the film starring Robin Wright, Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Andre the Giant, Wallace Shawn, and Peter Falk, you won’t find a better fairy tale anywhere.
Both the book and the film are pitch perfect, with only a few discrepancies or changes between the two. For instance, in the novel Buttercup is about as smart as a box of hammers, her parents are hilarious, and there is no Pit of Despair (what there is is even worse).
Anne of Green Gables
The book series by Lucy Maude Montgomery was my constant companion as a child, and the 1985 film miniseries starring Megan Follows, Colleen Dewhurst, Richard Farnsworth, and my other husband (in my head) the late Jonathan Crombie is every bit as flawless.
If you try to tell me one of those other film versions were good also….
About A Boy
Nick Hornby is a marvelous author, and he’s had a few films made of his complicated, messy, funny, dramatic novels, but this one is my favorite.
Hornby himself was Executive Producer in the movie process so maybe that’s why the Hollywood directors couldn’t ruin this tale of a spoiled, selfish bachelor (Hugh Grant) who – against his better judgement and lacking any real desire – takes on a weird, loner boy (Nicholas Hoult).
With outstanding performances by Toni Collette and Rachel Weisz, About a Boy is the perfect “rom-com” for me: not saccharine sweet, not cloyingly Hollywood, unflinching, funny, smart, and clever.
Nicholas Sparks is a force unto himself when it comes to romantic, sappy novels. And while I don’t love the genre myself, the film rendition of this sweeping saga of true love caught me hook, line, and sinker.
With Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, Gena Rowlands, and James Garner, it’s over-the-top romantic, lush, and will give you all the feels.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The novel by Mary Ann Shafer and Annie Barrows is one of my favorite books, with my least favorite title. Available to stream on Netflix, I thought this film (though too short to include every important scene from the novel, a common issue when adapting a book into a screenplay) was great fun.
And if nothing else, it’s a bit like a Downton Abbey reunion with stars Lily James, Phyllis Logan, Jessica Brown Findlay, and Matthew Goode.
Pride and Prejudice
There are plenty of movie versions out there, based on Jane Austen’s incomparable book, but the 1995 version with (a young and not-quite-famous-yet) Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, is widely agreed upon to be the best.
The Glass Castle
While I nearly didn’t include this one on the list (it’s wonderful but not quite as in-depth as the fabulous true story it’s based on), I did, because Woody Harrelson. He was phenomenal as Walls’ father, Ralph, in this big screen memoir.
Gone With the Wind
This 1939 movie ushered in the phrase, sweeping epic saga. Based on Margaret Mitchell’s enormous tome of Southern literature, it did justice to each word, thanks in part to Clark Gable as Rhett and Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara.
Dudes and dudettes, any film with an intermission in it had me at hello.
The sequel to Gone with the Wind, by Alexandra Ripley, was enormous fun to read, but even more fun to watch, thanks to stellar performances from Joanne Whalley-Kilmer (before she dropped the Kilmer. Alas and woe) and Timothy Dalton. They were born to play Scarlett and Rhett.
Stand By Me
Based on the short story, The Body, by Steven King, this coming-of-age adaptation directed by Rob Reiner, and starring Corey Feldman, Keifer Sutherland, Will Wheaton, River Phoenix, and Jerry O’Connell, is a perfect film.
This reminds me of another film starring Corey Feldman and Keifer Sutherland….
Many movie adaptions have been made of Sir Walter Scott’s tale of revenge, love, treachery, betrayal, and redemption, but I grew up on this one, made in 1982. It made my 13 year old heart flutter. I also liked the 1997 miniseries version.
The book was written in 1820 and when you add in all the Old English, you have to be smarter than the average bear to enjoy it. Watching the film will make your brain hurt less.
I’m not one of those recent converts to the Outlander fandom, just because of the Starz series adaption of the Diana Gabaldon enormous collection of books. Pfft, please, sassenach. I first read Outlander nearly twenty years ago, and those of us who have had to wait this long for Claire and Jamie to be brought to life were not disappointed.
I can’t speak for the latest season, since I haven’t seen it (and I admit to really disliking the casting choice for Brianna), but I can safely say this is another rare instance of the film/series being faithful, true, and as good as the books. Well, nearly as good anyway.
There have been plenty of film and television adaptations of the beloved Louisa May Alcott book, but I’m quite partial to this one, made in 1994, and starring Winona Ryder, Susan Sarandan, Christian Bale, Kirstin Dunst, Gabriel Byrne, and Clare Danes.
I was all set to give the new Masterpiece PBS series a try, but I couldn’t make it past the first episode. Sorry, Masterpiece, you rarely go wrong, but you didn’t do right by us this time.
A Little Princess
Just like most classic and beloved novels, A Little Princess, by Francis Hodgson Burnett, has had several film versions. The 1987 miniseries is my personal favorite, being so true to the book, but the 1995 film is another popular choice.
To Kill A Mockingbird
Rarely has such a classic book been adapted for the screen less, and maybe that’s because the first and only film version (with Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch) was flawless.
The Hunger Games
While the writing in the book series started out the strongest and possibly ended up the weakest in comparison, in the film versions, it’s the opposite: they start out on the weak sauce side, then finish strong. So, we say, it all comes out in the wash, whether you read or watch this groundbreaking series.
Starring the adorably and freakishly talented Mara Wilson, Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, and Pam Ferris (as the evil Miss Trunchbull), this 1996 version of the classic Roald Dahl’s book, is the perfect movie for absolutely anyone in your life. Around my house we’re all quite fond of the new Broadway musical soundtrack as well.