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Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.

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Hello dear readers,

Since I’m down and out with a cold, I’m in the mood for something lighter today.

The general consensus is that the book is always better than the movie version, but there’s exceptions to every rule.

Here is my top ten list of movies that were either better than–or just as good–as their written counterpart. Can you add to the list? Do you agree or disagree with mine?

1) The Shawshank Redemption (based on Stephen King’s novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption). King’s story about freedom, dignity and friendship was beautifully adapted for the screen, and stayed true to the original work. It starred Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins. Can’t do much better than that!

2) Stand By Me (based on Stephen King’s novella The Body). If anything, the movie is even better than the story, as its ending is a little more optimistic. Powerful performances by River Phoenix, Will Wheaton, Corey Feldman, and Kiefer Sutherland also lend weight to the movie version.

3) The Joy Luck Club. This is one case where I liked the movie better. The talented cast did a great job of bringing heart to Amy Tan’s grim tale of Chinese mothers and daughters.

4) The Color Purple. Based on Alice Walker’s best-seller, the movie was protested for its bleak portrayal of black men in the early 20th century. Although all the actors were fantastic, Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey stole the show.

5) Out of Africa. This epic is a compilation of Isak Dinesen’s memoirs about her experiences running a coffee farm in Kenya. The film does a terrific job of telling her story, and stars Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.

6) The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. It’s unfair to pit the English translation of this novel against the Swedish film, as I suspect much of Stieg Larsson’s writing style was lost when converting his work to English. However, the movie really shines, and does away with the technical information that slows down the story.

7) Capote. Philip Seymour Hoffman does a phenomenal job of portraying the superficial, self-centered author. While the biography by Gerald Clarke is still a good read if you want more detail, the movie is far more powerful.

8) What’s Love Got to Do With It. Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne are incredible as Ike and Tina Turner. I was surprised to find that the movie was more riveting and touching than the book it is based on–Tina’s memoir I, Tina.

9) The Lovely Bones. Many people complained about the film, but I’m not sure why. I thought it did Alice Sebold’s beautiful book justice. The movie is heart-wrenching, and brings Susie Salmon to life (and death).

10) Beloved. I loved the film for making sense of a lot I didn’t understand in Toni Morrison’s book. It was widely panned and a huge flop, but I still liked it better than the book. It’s highly creepy and disturbing.

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9 Comments

  1. Life As I Know It

    Stand By Me was a phenomenal movie. I remember seeing it in the theater with my friends, afterward we all developed a tweeny crush on River Phoenix.

    Reply
  2. Lisa

    Wuthering Heights starring Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier. Loved the movie as much as the book.
    AND – triple threat – there is also a powerful song about the book, too (Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush).

    Reply
  3. Madeline Mora-Summonte

    I agree the Stand By Me and Shawshank movies did the novellas justice. I would also add Misery – Kathy Bates absolutely became Annie Wilkes. Terrifying!

    Reply
  4. Story Teller

    @ Life As I Know It: The same happened with me and my friend, though we had to rent it on video (which we did, repeatedly). I had a thing for Will Wheaton, since he was the writer in the film. My friend Darbi had a crush on River Phoenix AND Kiefer Sutherland. When I interviewed Kiefer years later, I wish I could have shared it with her.

    @ Lisa – thanks for your comment! That book is on my “to read” list. On that note, “Gone With The Wind” was a great book-to-movie as well.

    @ Madeline – I did consider adding Misery to the list, but I’d have to read the book again. I agree that Kathy Bates pulled off a fantastic performance in that movie. Brr!

    Reply
  5. kungfusinger

    I can’t comment on the movies you have posted there because in every case, I have either read it or seen it, but never both. Two movies that I thought were as good as the book are “PS I love you”, which in my oppinion was much better than the book; and “Where the Heart Is” which I rate as being equally good.

    Reply
  6. kungfusinger

    My comment is not quite true. Looking over the list, I did read and see one selection. I saw the movie the Joy luck Club before reading the book. Since so much of the book dealt with emotional resonances and internal dialogue, much of the movie made no sense to me until I read the book. Once I knew what was going one in their heads I loved the movie, but it really was not a stand-alone piece in my mind.

    I have neither read nor seen #4, #5, #7 or #9 so I still cannot comment, but for a slightly different reason than stated above.

    Reply
  7. Story Teller

    Thanks for your comment. Don’t worry about not being able to comment on them all!

    I did see PS, but I really didn’t like it. Haven’t read the book, though. I’ve read Where The Heart is, but haven’t seen the movie, so I’m in the same boat.

    Reply
  8. Tasha

    I’d add To Kill a Mockingbird — wonderful novel, and a luminous movie.

    Reply
  9. Story Teller

    Hi Tasha. Thanks for your comment. Haven’t seen the movie, but I love the book. Good pick!

    Reply

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