Tolkien about books

Harriet Metcalfe discusses some of the best and the worst book to film adaptations

Harriet Metcalfe
15th May 2020
Image Credit: IMDB
Book adaptations can either fly or flop, there often isn’t much of an in-between. Whilst Steven King adaptations and Lord of the Rings are normally hailed as some of the best, these are some of my personal favourites, and some that are plain rubbish;

The Best:

Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

So technically this film was a mixture of the Little Women books, switching between their childhoods and adult lives – but it made the film all the more better. Greta’s adaptation did something I don’t think any movie has done; it made me appreciate the book even more because Florence Pugh (being the legend she is) made Amy a likeable character at last. I would like a spin-off series where she teaches the March family and Laurie to make marmalade, please.

The Hunger Games (Gary Ross, 2012)

No, not all the films. Just the first. Honestly whilst some of the others were pretty good, The Hunger Games is one of those rare times when the film is just about as amazing as the book - and convinced me to finally buy a Mockingjay pin (which I still have!). The later films dragged a little for me and, let’s be fair, nothing will ever come near the iconic “That is mahogany!” line.  

To Kill a Mockingbird (Robert Mulligan, 1963)

Be still my beating GCSE English lit heart. Gregory Peck is legendary as the lawyer Atticus Finch and the film captures Harper Lee’s novel so well that younger me didn’t even care the film is in black and white. If any studios even so much as think about re-making this adaptation, I will be rioting.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Blake Edwards, 1961)

As well-known as the Truman Capote novel itself is Audrey Hepburn standing on fifth avenue and gazing into that Tiffany store shop-window (not to brag, but I’ve been there… didn’t eat a croissant outside it though). Like the book, it’s one I keep wanting to come back to and explore again, and I love it every time I do.

The Worst:

Eragon (Stefen Fangmeier, 2006)

If their surname literally sounds like a breed of dragon, you’d think they’d be a good director to adapt Eragon – the first in a series of adventure fantasy novels that were some of the bizarre things I read as a kid – right? Any vague memories of this film are god-awful. How it even got as much as 16% on rotten tomatoes is beyond me.

The Great Gatsby (Baz Luhrmann, 2013)

I spent two years studying the Fitzgerald novel at A-Level, and I’ve come to the conclusion that we should all just leave the book alone and stop trying to adapt it. If a perfect adaptation of The Great Gatsby is the green light at the end of the bay - we need to stop looking at it. This film was just a two and a half hour advert for Lana Del Ray’s music... and will someone please stop Leo from referring to someone as “old sport” ever again.

Twilight (Catherine Hardwicke, 2008)

Look, before you skip this one, I was a diehard member of the Twilight franchise. I mean I had posters. I would spend days watching the films and reading the books back-to-back. I even had those crap ‘unofficial guides’. I was also team Edward – sorry. The books might not be brilliant classics, and there are definitely better YA ones out there, but the film destroyed any good scraps of Bella that were left. Kristen Stewart moped around for a few hours, Robert Patterson (bless him) sparkled and became a vampire monkey jumping in trees. The only salvageable stuff from the film was Bella’s dad (Billy Burke) – and even then he didn’t get enough screen time.

Divergent (Neil Burger, 2014)

Or as I like to call it – the crap version of The Hunger Games. Sure, there were some fun action sequences (the jumping-off-trains bit stressed me out if I’m honest), but aside from that? You’re much better off reading and watching the original books on society being divided into categories (aka The Hunger Games).

Sure there are good adaptations. But I'm a strong believer that the book is always better than the film - and that you read it first then watch it. Can we all at least agree on that?

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AUTHOR: Harriet Metcalfe
English Literature BA student. Loves film, TV, books and coffee. Thinks "Thor: The Dark World" gets too much hate. Twitter: @hattiemetcalfe

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