Movies (and TV shows) That Were Better Than The Book

So I mentioned a few days ago that there are a fair number of movies I like better than their book counterpart and I thought I’d share them with you! I should probably say, first of all, that these are adaptations I personally prefer- not that they’re actually better- to each their own and all that jazz. Anyhoo, let’s get to this:

Princess Diaries– to be fair, I really really dislike these books. The main character is whiny, most of the other characters are pretty loathsome and basically this book got on my last nerves. The movie, on the other hand, is a lot of fun (I think the books did get more bearable, imo, although the second film was… ehh).

Stardust– I feel like this comes up in every “better than the book” list ever. And there’s a reason for that- and it’s not that the book is bad- it’s just that the movie is seriously A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! I get all light and happy when I think about it!!

Oliver!- well for one thing, Fagin comes across as slightly less of an anti-Semitic trope in the musical (I’m not even sorry for pointing that out, cos if you think a money grubbing, dirty Jew character that preys on children isn’t anti-Semitic, then maybe have a long hard look in a history book). I do like Dickens, but that last statement should probably explain why I’m not the biggest fan of this book. On the positive side for this musical, it’s practically perfect in every way, so there’s also that. And yes, the musical is more chocolate-boxy than the book, but I prefer it that way.

Game of Thrones– this is a curious one for me to include, because I’m increasingly realising how well these work in tandem. What worked best (imo) was the TV showrunners cutting the fat from the original books. And boy, is there a lot of fat. In fact, some of this is literal- why on earth there needs to be long, tedious descriptions of feasts and food, I have no idea. Add to that a bunch of characters in later books I had limited interest in and, yeah, I’ll happily admit to liking the TV show more (most of the time, when characters aren’t going north of the wall wearing impenetrable plot armour and fighting zombie bears… man that was dumb)

Lord of the Rings– ermm I think I’m about to have my Tolkien-fangirl card revoked for saying this… I just prefer the movies! I’m sorry! Don’t get me wrong, I really love the books- only the LOTR movies are probably my favourite movies ever. The way I see it, the LOTR movies streamline the story and deliver the emotional punch of a lot of the backstories and are simply full of epic awesomeness- okay? (I do however much prefer the Hobbit book, not just because it’s up there as one of my fave books, but also cos the Hobbit movies suck- and yes, I will fight you on that *catch me outside*)

The Last Kingdom– this is another one that might piss of fans of the books. Hear me out, I did actually really enjoy reading the first four books (and am waiting on number 5 at the library) I just think the TV show got my blood pumping with *even more* fervour than the books did. And I also frankly adored the portrayal and slight changes to Uhtred’s character, which made him even more likeable.

Bleak House– poor Dickens isn’t getting very nice treatment from me today, because the main reason why I prefer the tv version is that I saw it first, and that ruined a lot of the book’s impact for me. I do think this translated so well to the small screen and it’s one of my favourite adaptations, while, like many of the others on this list, it’s not one of my favourite books.

Okay, that’s my list! It’s not very long, because I usually like the book better. Anyway, what movies do you think are better than the book? Let me know in the comments!

And thank you so much for your brilliant responses to my last post- I’m still going through them and I’m thoroughly enjoying every single one! 😀

138 thoughts on “Movies (and TV shows) That Were Better Than The Book

  1. I love the LOTR movies so much, and I’m a big fan of the books too. You’re right, there’s just something about the movies. I haven’t seen the Hobbit movies because I’ve heard so many people say they suck, I’m just not interested. I’ll just re-read the book, haha. Great list!

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  2. I totally agree about LOTR! Tolkien was a genius for thinking up plot and creating character arcs…but his writing style is a lot like Marmite — either you like it or you don’t! Both my first husband and one of my uncles pestered me for *months* to read the books…and when I gave in, I kind of wished I hadn’t! I still love the story and the characters, but I can’t ever see myself re-reading — but re-watching, holy smokes, yes!!!

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  3. I so agree with a lot of these. I tried reading Game of Thrones and failed miserably. I just can’t get into them and it’s like the farther we get into these books, the farther we get away from the core elements and characters that started the journey in the first place. I also agree with Lord of the Rings. I’ve not actually read them as an adult and only remember them as bedtimes stories with my dad, but I think the soundtrack is the big difference maker. Like you said, the emotional component is just a lot more moving. (The Hobbit films were also a major disappointment.)

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  4. GoT and LOTR.
    For me, the GoT just worked a little better in the tv form, probably purely because I’m visual and managed to learn all characters’ names fairly easily that way, so many characters in those books plus many lengthy passages didn’t work for me. With that said: I may enjoy it the books more now given I finally know those characters’ names.. 🤔
    I loved the Fellowship of the Ring book but found the other two a bit long. Don’t take me wrong, I adore Tolkien and am a bit crossed with Jackson re. his Arwen’s portrayal as I thought she was a bit different in the book… but those movies are just so epic and I love them. I’m with you re. The Hobbit.

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    1. Yeah I really agree with you about GOT. I totally get what you mean- a lot of the long winded elements weren’t as good for me. I do get that. They took me a while to get into, but I did end up liking them (unfortunately there hasn’t been a new book in 6 years though…)
      Yeah I get what you mean. Honestly I loved the adaptations and I’m glad you agree about the Hobbit.

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  5. Definitely agree on Princess Diaries! I acually have a lot of movie that I think were better from the book, Forrest Gump, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, THE NOTEBOOK!

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  6. I agree with you on both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit lol I’ll join your side of the fight. Stardust I don’t know I don’t want to choose! They’re pretty different in tone and ending and execution and the movie has Captain Shakespeare!?! Best addition to a movie adapt by far. I think one that I love better than the book is Fight Club, especially the ending and well, everything is improved in the movie. For others where I can’t choose I just can’t! (*insert “both. both is good.” gif from The Road to El Dorado.) // The Secret Life of Bees, The Outsiders, Howl’s Moving Castle, A Scanner Darkly, Pride and Prejudice (2005) now /that/ one I might have to fight people on lol but it’s such a gorgeous movie and I love the casting and the tracking shots *heart eyes 4ever*

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    1. I’m glad you agree about LOTR and Hobbit!! hehe! Ah fair enough- I do think both are brilliant! hehehe YES!! I love Captain Shakespeare!! Oh fair enough- I’ve only seen the movie for that one (and really liked it). I’ve still only read the books for Howl’s moving castle and Outsiders (still need to watch the movies). hehehe ahh I can’t pick the movie for Pride and Prejudice though 😉

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      1. Oh definitely recommend Howl and Outsiders (I don’t think there’s too much of a split for audience love/hate on those lol). Howl (movie) is like an AU, practically perfect in its own way, and The Outsiders is pretty much page to screen, and the casting is fab. I’ll have to check out The Last Kingdom sometime – I wasn’t aware the TV series was based on /that/ series, although I’m sure I’ve seen copies around my library.

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  7. I cannot agree with your Dickens choices…however well argued! Oliver! Gets under my skin and I end up with the songs stuck in my head for weeks at a time and I chose to study Bleak House for my dissertation and named our chickens Ada Clare and Esther, and out duck Mr. Tulkinghorn as a result of my long attachment to the novel! 😉

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    1. hehe fair enough- glad you thought it was well argued though. That’s fair- I personally like the music, but if it’s not for you, I can hardly argue 😉 And that’s totally fair- I *wish* I had read the book first for bleak house, because I loved the writing- but unfortunately I’d seen the adaptation a number of times, so I was always jumping the gun and thinking “when’s it going to get to *that bit*?” hehehehe I absolutely love that you did that- the fact that your duck is called Mr Tulkinghorn is just the best! 😂

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      1. Oh I have absolutely nothing against the music, I was just over-exposed to it at school! The tv series is one of my favourite adaptations of any book and I do love it! I have a post half finished on my Dickensian birds, just waiting for me to get on with when I have no other ideas on hand 🙂 we call him Mr. T for short 😉

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  8. I agree with all of these (that I’ve seen the adaption of and read the book of). It’s only recently that I’ve noticed Stardust come up on a lot of lists like these, the book was great but the movie was just amazing, and with Game of Thrones yes there was just so much in the books and the TV show can cut down on that and deliver the action we love so much! 😀
    I haven’t read the books, but I did enjoy The Princess Diaries film, and I’m a little out of the age range so I can’t really say I’ll be picking up the books anytime soon.
    For me though the main movie I like as much as the book (can’t really say better because they’re both amazing) is The Book Thief! It’s just wonderful. 🙂
    Great post. 😀 ❤

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    1. I’m glad you agree!! I know right- totally agree about Stardust! And absolutely!! 😀
      Yeah even if you were the age, I wouldn’t exactly recommend it 😉 But the film is fun and made some great changes.
      And that’s good to know about the book thief- I loved the book so much that I never watched it, but now I want to!
      Thank you!! 😀 ❤

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  9. I wasn’t a massive fan of the LOTR movie, but it was defo way better than the book. I mean, i couldn’t read the book at all. It was a shameful DNF after like 50 pages…

    I’m still on the fence about game of thrones. I loved the book, but loved the series as well… kinda gave on the next book ever coming out 😀

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  10. Some of these I definitely agree with! Especially fantasy books and historical fiction can have a huge amount of stuff in them that really doesn’t need to be there for the story or characters at all, it’s just there because dammit you’ve built yourself this whle world and you’re going to share it with everyone if it kills you! (Or the momentum of your plot. Whatever.)
    Stardust was indeed a great book, but I agree that every single person in that film seems to be having a whale of a time, espeically the brothers!
    Film and the written word are such different mediums and its no shame to try a story out in different formats and find that some things just work better one way rather than the other!

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  11. Totally agree! I loved the LOTR movies more than the books, although I can’t say my opinion is reliable as the last time I read the books were when I was…eleven? lol 😛

    Ooh, and yes to Princess Diaries! That movie is just really cute, and it’s a guilty pleasure of mind. 😉

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  12. 100% agree with you on Stardust and LotR! The source material for stardust is good but the film is just something else! 👏🏻👏🏻 And the LotR books I just couldn’t get into at all! Far too descriptive!

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  13. I am 100% with you on LOTR! My only lasting complaint is the treatment of Faramir’s character. (There are lots of other minor things which I can get annoyed about with the movies, but my annoyance about what they do to Faramir will always be there.)

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    1. Thank you! Ah fair enough- and to be honest, I might end up feeling differently about the last couple of books (if they ever come) vs the show- but based on the first few seasons (probably not the last one) I’d say it’s better overall.

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  14. Ohhhh my gosh I loved loved LOVED the TV version of Bleak House! I haven’t read the original book, so I can’t properly judge, but I seriously doubt it could beat the miniseries. It was simply perfection and I love Mr. Tulkinghorn so so much X3 It may or may not be because Charles Dance played him, heheh.

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  15. I think nearly all screen adaptation of Charles Dickens are better than the books. Am I allowed to say that?! It’s just that the screen versions are so much more concise and painful to read. I appreciate Dickens’ work so much more once I’ve seen the adaptation, then gone back and read the book. His prose is so dense, so sometimes it feels like a chore trying to get through the description and to the story.

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  16. I like the movies “Let the Right One In,” “Little Children,” “Room,” “Winter’s Bone,” and “Breakfast on Pluto” better than their book versions. I haven’t read the book “Stardust,” but I love the movie! 🙂

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  17. LotR definitely!! The books were SO boring. I tried to read them prior to the movies and it was a chore, I really did NOT like them. We are on the same page with ‘Stadust’ 🙂 And I have never read ‘The Princess Diaries’ but used to LOVE the movie!! I watched it several times when I was a teenie.

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  18. I actually find The Song Of Ice And Fire book series to better than the GOT tv series. Yeah, they can get a bit too descriptive at times, but the storyline of the books is much more interesting than that of the show(from the point when the show went its own way).

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  19. I completely agree with Stardust and the Last Kingdom but I can’t agree with Game of Thrones. The quality immediately dropped when A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons were condensed into a single series and then became even worse when they didn’t have the source material to work from.

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  20. I pretty much agree with all your choices especially considering I haven’t read Stardust, but enjoyed the movie, haven’t read LoTR but enjoyed the movies and havent’ read GOT and super enjoy that show. Oh, same for The Last Kingdom too. Haven’t read those books but that show is fantastic! I’d add Outlander to your list. I only made it through the first two books but I like the show better. Also, Poldark. I didn’t read those books either but I ADORE that show. There’s a trend here with me obviously but to be fair, most of the time I hear about the show or movie before the books and by the time I’ve seen the show or movie, and love them, I’m not too interested in reading the books, haha. Oh the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe would be another one. Never read any of those comics but loooooooove the movies!

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  21. Oh this is a great post! I read The Princess Diaries WAY before I saw the movie, so… I can’t really compare the two, but I think re-reading the books now and seeing the movie, I would probably feel the same way 🙂
    I haven’t read the LOTR books, but… I do LOVE the movies 😀

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  22. Let’s say I agree on GoT and LOTR, simply because of the epicness of the music (GoT soundtrack is my life), visuals, costumes, characters’ emotions feel more real… okay everything. 😀 Though, of course, I did miss some stuff from the books, like Tom Bombadil, Lady Stoneheart, etc.but yeah, all in all it’s a greater visual/emotional impact, and the boring descriptions of feasts are easily reduced to 3 second shots of feasts. 😀 Stardust, as I remember it, was good, but I loved the movie so much more! Didn’t read the other ones so can’t comment, though I loved The Princess Diaries movie, the first one. 🙂 Awesome post! 🙂

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  23. Agreed with Game of Thrones!
    Disagree with LOTR and Bleak House! 😀
    Eowyn is one of my favourite characters in the books and I couldn’t believe how shortened the scenes between her and Faramir were in The Return of the King…
    And I do prefer Bleak House the book to the TV series, but I agree the TV series is pretty awesome. Especially Charles Dance as Tulkinghorn!

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    1. Glad you agree about GOT!
      Fair enough about both of those! I did think it’s disappointing that she has fewer scenes with Faramir (although I believe there’s more in the extended cut- I’ve definitely seen more scenes somewhere)
      And that makes sense about Bleak House- I was very stupid for watching the TV version not just once, but many times, before reading it (which ruined the book somewhat, cos I knew it inside out before reading it, which was a shame). But so agree about Dance!

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  24. “The Hobbit movies sucked” is music to my ears. I’m still bummed about those films: they’ve given me real mixed feelings for Peter Jackson.

    One more: the book version of The Princess Bride was good, but the movie was even better in my opinion.

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    1. Ah yes, I’ll never be totally over that too. I have mixed feelings about Jackson too (though I find I’m more forgiving weirdly enough because it seems he didn’t want to take the project on in the first place and the studio pushed it on him after getting rid of Del Torro)

      Oh fair enough- I’ve not read the book version yet though

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  25. I love the A Song of Ice and Fire series but, yes, the show definitely was better, especially the first few seasons. The last few seasons have been messy because of having to work without book material. Despite that, season 7 was action-packed, stupid in many way but still thoroughly entertaining.
    But the books do definitely have a lot of more symbolism, prophecies and foreshadowing that the show doesn’t always contain which makes it enjoyable especially for anyone who fancies themselves a detective. I know a lot of people love the Dorne plot in the books but I didn’t care much for it.

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    1. I’m glad you agree! Yeah I really agree with you there, I do think that without the books it’s messier and stupider, unfortunately, but still entertaining.
      And yeah I do get what you mean there- and I definitely do like playing detective 😉 I get what you mean about the Dorne plot in the books, though I much preferred that to the TV version, which I didn’t like.

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  26. When you mentioned making a list of movies/tv shows that were better I thought is there such a thing? Then after some thinking I’d probably toss True Blood and Under the Dome into the list so I suppose there is such a thing. LOL

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  27. Yaas, The Hobbit films are terrible, sometimes I don’t understand how the same people who made the absolutely epic Lord of the Rings managed to make The Hobbit trilogy as well…anyway, I love loads of your picks here especially Princess Diaries which was actually one of those where I saw the film first and then read the book and was like, what? How did they make such great, funny films out of this? Great list! 🙂

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  28. Interesting list. It is rare to see shows or movies that are better than the book. Sometimes I think shows are just as good as the books (Handmaid’s Tale comes to mind). But better is tough. But you make a compelling argument for these!

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  29. I have read some other books by Meg Cabot but never the Princess Diaries, but I can totally imagine the movie being better. And you already know I TOTALLY agree on Game of Thrones and Stardust 😀 I love posts like this!!

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      1. Which ones did you read? I loved Avalon High the most (cause anything King Arthur is cool in my book) and then I had this two books in one volume, but I don’t remember what they were about. One was with a girl who meets the son of the President of the US or something?

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        1. Ah I never read that (saw the movie and thought it was fun though- I did want to read it) I think I read that one and liked it. I really liked Jinx as well and Freddie Sullivan is a freak. There’s a few others- but it’s hard to keep track cos there’s so many! (and sorry for missing this comment earlier!)

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  30. Great topic! I totally agree with you about Stardust and Game of Thrones… to be honest, I didn’t get past the first book of the latter because I enjoyed the TV show more, in large part due to the fat cutting you mentioned. As for Lord of the Rings, I 100% agree with you on the first movie (it really did streamline the story) and possibly the second, but by the third one the balance was tipped in favour of the book for me personally, just because I felt the movie overdid a few things (I still liked it though).

    I think the last Hunger Games movie (or was it two movies? If so I guess I mean the second part) was better than the last book, in terms of I felt it made sense of things that didn’t make sense to me in the book, and I enjoyed it more… though in truth I wasn’t a huge fan of either 🙂

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    1. Thank you! I’m glad you agree. So get that- it took me ages to get through the books tbh. And yes for sure. And that’s fair- I know a lot of people have more mixed feelings about movie 3.

      Oh fair enough- I was a bit bored with part 1 and haven’t seen the second part yet (which I assume you’re talking about) and have heard it’s much better. Fair enough 😉

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      1. Ah yes I think the part 1 movie (of the third HG book) was pretty boring, it was part 2 I was positively surprised by because the character actions toward the end made more sense/felt more right to me than they did in the book… but again, my bar was set pretty low by that point so it wasn’t too hard to rise above my expectations 🙂

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  31. Yesss, the Lord of the Rings movies are so much better than the books. I’m with you on Stardust as well. Though the movie actually made me appreciate the book more in a weird way. It’s such a brilliant movie, I need to rewatch it!

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  32. Totally agree with you on Lord of the Rings, even though I’m afraid to say that out loud. I loved GoT, both the books and the show. I think my experiences with those two are just different and I can’t really compare. I can’t say much for The Last Kingdom since I’ve only read the books, but I will say that I read up to book 7 before I got tired of sitting around and waiting for Uhtred to just take back Bebbanburg already. I’m done.

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  33. I’ll throw my totally unpopular opinion in the mix: I thought the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo films (both American/Foreign versions) are waaay better than the books. *dodges tomatoes*

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