The year is 1983. As a teenager, I’ve waited for months for one of my all-time favorite books, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, to be released on the Big Screen. Attending one of the first showings became an obsession.
Now, to refresh your memories, The Outsiders had a teen heartthrob-studded cast: Patrick Swayze, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Leif Garrett, C. Thomas Howell, and Tom Cruise. But even this hunkfest did not make the movie live up to my love for the novel.
I think this was the beginning of a recurring pattern for me. For the most part, I have found the movies based on the books I thoroughly enjoyed to be a disappointment. I don’t believe it’s the producer’s, director’s, or actor’s fault. I think it’s simply hard for the big screen to capture all the nuances a book can. A book can take you inside the character’s mind. A movie has to try to show you what they are thinking or feeling. Not to mention, the actors chosen seldom resemble the characters in my imagination.
There are exceptions to this situation. I have thoroughly enjoyed the Hallmark’s Love Comes Softly series based on Janette Oke’s books. Even the annoying actor/actress changing of key characters in the various installments of the series did not ruin the storyline of these very well-done movies.
I also loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy. While I missed the exclusion of some of my favorite parts from the books, I knew there would be no way to include everything Tolkien had written in his volumes. I believe went in with different expectations. I was not disappointed by the amazing special effects or the incredible acting.
It appears there will be no end to books making from the page to the stage. According to Mid-Continent Public Library’s database , there are over 1,250 books which have made the leap since 1980, and these books have produced everything from Mrs. Doubtfire to Who Framed Roger Rabbit to A Beautiful Mind.
Out of curiosity, I went in search of a best and worst list. I found one at Reel News and Reviews. The following is their opinion of the worst and best movies which were based on books.
1. “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” by Tom Wolfe
2. “North,” book by Alan Zweibel
3. “The Island of Dr. Moureau (1996),” book by H.G. Wells
4. “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” book by Douglas Adams
5. “Eyes Wide Shut,” book by Arthur Schnitzlerby
6. “Cheaper By the Dozen (2003),” book by Frank B. Gilbreah
7. “Beowulf,” book by Anonymous
8. “Beloved,” book by Toni Morrison
9. “Sphere,” book by Michael Crichton
10. “A Time to Kill,” book by John Grisham
1. “The Shawshank Redemption,” book by Stephen King
2. “The Princess Bride,” book by William Goldman
3. “Misery,” book by Stephen King
4. “Jurassic Park,” book by Michael Crichton
5. “A Christmas Story,” book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd
6. “Fight Club,” book by Chuck Palaniuk
7. “The Lord of the Rings Trilogy,” books by J.R.R. Tolkien
8. “Blade Runner,” book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Phillip K. Dick
9. “The Bridges of Madison County,” book by Robert James Waller
10. “The Notebook,” book by Nicholas Sparks
See anything missing from one of the lists in your opinion? My teenage daughter pointed out they are sadly lacking in some of the recent adaptations from young adult literature such as Holes, Eragon, and Because of Winn Dixie. (She didn’t say which list she’d put any of those on.) And I’d be hard pressed not to add To Kill a Mockingbird or Gone With the Wind to the best list–even if the books are still better.
So, let’s talk about what would be on your best and worst lists? Would you agree with any of the ones listed above? Which films surprised you that they’d come from a book? Why do you think some books make the leap more successfully than others?
As for me, after reading the larger database list, I realized that as long as I haven’t read the book first, I truly love a lot books that have become feature films, and I have one book I’d love to see on the big screen someday.