Favorite Book/Movie Pairings

Did anyone watch the Academy Awards on Sunday? I’ve usually only taken a mild interest in the 4-hour Hollywood production, but because of my growing interest in stories (as well as major television deprivation) I watched almost all of it this time and even enjoyed it. I’m still hopelessly behind in my movie watching, having seen only Gravity and August: Osage County from 2013, but I was quite curious about the films that had been nominated.

Anyway, this post is not about the Oscars. Rather, I felt inspired to think about all the books I’ve read that have been turned into movies. As much as possible I always try to read the book first, in large part because the book is almost always better, and I would probably not bother with the book if I don’t like the movie. I also like being able to imagine the characters and scenes without the influence of a movie studio, and then later comparing my own visuals against those on the big screen. So below is a list of all the book and movie pairings that I can recall experiencing, in no particular order:

The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown)
I loved the book but the movie was even worse than my already low expectations. I just couldn’t see how all the details could have translated well on to the big screen.
The Hunger Games, Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins)
I enjoyed both, but in this case I may have actually liked the movies better because of the visual and sound effects (more entertaining than anything I could have conjured up in my head).
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Stieg Larsson)
I saw the US adaptation. I think the movie would have been difficult to follow if I hadn’t read the book first. I liked Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig but I’m told the Swedish version is better.
Eat, Pray, Love (Elizabeth Gilbert)
I fell asleep during the movie though while I was awake I did like the visuals and the scenes of Italy and all the food that Julia Roberts was eating. 
Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
I loved both. I read the book after having seen the movie multiple times. Reading the book was an equally but differently satisfying experience.
The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
I have vague memories of the movie though I think I enjoyed it enough. The book was definitely more powerful.
The Namesake (Jhumpa Lahiri)
Same here. I read the book and then was curious to see the characters on screen. 
Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë)
I read and watched both so long ago that I don’t remember much about the film. But I love Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche so I am pretty sure I liked it if just for the two actors alone.
The Joy Luck Club (Amy Tan)
I remembered enjoying the movie better.
A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)
I am dating myself here but I believe it was the 1980 miniseries that I saw…and I found it gripping. I had just read the book and I was still young so it was quite something to see all of Dickens’ dense text translated into actual people and sights and sounds.
Moll Flanders (Daniel Defoe)
Same here. I don’t remember so much about my reading experience but I do remember the colors and sounds of the PBS miniseries. 
The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
I had a better experience with the movie as I found the book a bit challenging to read. The film was such a feast for the senses, between the beauty of Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas, the cinematography, the dialogue, and the music. 
Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
The book was far more intense and satisfying (of course), though it was fun to actually see the movie after reading the book.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (Lisa See)
I enjoyed this historical fiction set in 19th century China but the movie adaptation was truly awful – they actually added an entirely new and modern-day storyline (to alternate with the original story) that was not part of the book.
The Lover (Marguerite Duras)
I only have vague memories of both…of both being slow, like the lazy humid days depicted in the movie. But I read and saw this years and years ago…I might appreciate the story better now.
The Ice Storm (Rick Moody)
I’m not sure how many people read this book or saw the movie, but I enjoyed both. It’s the story of two unhappy and unfulfilled suburban families in the early 1970s.

And of course, there are many books that I’ve read for which I would now like to see the movies, and vice versa (e.g., Life of Pi, The Painted Veil, Jane Eyre, A Beautiful Mind, etc.).

Otherwise, here is my partial to read and watch list:

The Remains of the Day

Never Let Me Go

Of Human Bondage

A Passage to India

The Age of Innocence

Anna Karenina (with Vivien Leigh)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

The Color Purple

The Silver Linings Playbook

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

And on and on and on…

What are some of your favorite book/movie pairings? What do you recommend?

43 thoughts on “Favorite Book/Movie Pairings

  1. I recently watched Jane Eyre with Michael Fassbender, it’s a beautiful film and does the book great justice. I also think Stand By Me is a great movie/book combo, both are great but the movie just edges it for me!

  2. I recently read “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” by Truman Capote and “Fifth Avenue, 5 am” the story of the making of the movie “Breajkfast at Tiffany’s” I don’t really care for Capote’s style of writing. Plus the movie has Audrey! I am anxious to rewatch the movie now after having all of this new background info.

    Another movie/book pairing is “The Help” the book was so good that the movie paled in comparison.

    • Ah yes, The Help is on my to-see list! I enjoyed the book but will lower my expectations for the movie 😉

      I haven’t watched or read Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but maybe I’ll start with the movie.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. This is a fun post! There are so many movies made from books, it’s hard to come up with any good ones you haven’t already mentioned. I agree with you about usually wanting to read the book first for all the same reasons you pointed out. Sometimes, though, if I think the book isn’t going to be great, I might watch the movie instead to save time. Lately, I haven’t been watching very many movies at all. When the kids were younger, and had an earlier bedtime, I watched them often, but now that they stay up later, it’s too late for me to watch a whole movie without being up too late. So, I feel like I’m missing some good movies lately. Someday, maybe I will have time to catch up.

    I loved watching Jane Eyre after reading the book, but there are so many versions, I had to do some research on which one to watch. I recommend the mini-series from 2006 with Toby Stephens. And a movie that I have wanted to see since reading the book is Bleakhouse.

    • I’m quite confused by all the different versions of classic stories, so thank you for the Jane Eyre recommendation!

      I hear you on the difficulty watching movies. I remember not being able to see movies when my son was very young, and also now that he is older and going to bed later, as you wrote about as well. But I do like that we can now watch PG and even PG13 movies together…I’m looking forward to being able to watch all sorts of movies with him and discussing them together!

      • I really look forward to that, as well. My older daughter and I have done it a few times when the 2 younger ones have been at cub camp with my husband. It can be hard when you have to wait for the youngest to catch up a bit.

        I went back to read more comments from your post, and there are some great recommendations. I had fun adding my 2 cents worth!

  4. I’m currently reading Gone With The Wind and I’m planning to see the movie as soon as I’m done. It’s a terrific book! I’m sure I’ll enjoy the movie as well. I never knew the The Color Purple was made into a movie too; I should see that one too. 🙂

    • That’s great! The movie (GWTW) doesn’t capture every single story line in the book (for example, Scarlett only has one child in the movie) but it was quite powerful, especially if you keep in mind that it was made in 1939.

  5. I hated what they did to Snow Flower. The Age of Innocence is absolutely my favorite movie of all time. I have never seen the Ralph Fiennes version of Wuthering Heights, but I don’t think any version has successfully evoked the book. On the other hand, I have always thought the book was overrated, just a bit. It is NOT romantic. The American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has its own qualities, but the Swedish version is better, more atmospheric.

    You forgot to mention the most successful adaptation of all time for maintaining the feel of the book: To Kill a Mockingbird.

    • I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t mention To Kill a Mockingbird because I have yet to read it…I saw the movie, and now I will have to read the book!

      I think Wuthering Heights the book was more powerful than the movie…I have a vague memory that they didn’t cover the entire story (that they abbreviated it). I would really love to check out the Swedish version of the Stieg Larsson books!

        • I have to admit that I always lose interest in reading the book once I’ve seen the movie…so that is the only reason I haven’t yet gotten around to the book. Since then though, I’ve heard so many compelling things about the book that I need to read it regardless. It was actually this viewing that prompted me to make a policy of reading the classics first before watching.

    • That’s good to know! Maybe I had a feeling…I had many chances to pick up the book at various used book sales but kept putting it back down…I’ll start with the movie.

      • I wonder if I had started with the book I would have liked it more. I saw the movie first and expected the book to be like the movie. Maybe safer to start with the book. Part of the impact of the movie is the stunning photography of such scenes as the opening one where the two girls are playing in a field. It’s been awhile, and I guess I should reread the book, because I would probably look at it differently now that it’s been a long time since the movie.

  6. It’s so much fun going back and forth between books and movies. I just don’t seem to have as much time to do it these days. I have so many favourties! The Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law come to mind. For something quieter, funny and more romantic, I swear by Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet.

  7. I second Naomi’s recommendation of the 2006 BBC series of Jane Eyre. I have seen a few Jane Eyre adaptations and that one is my favourite. The casting of Toby Stephens (Mr. Rochester) and Ruth Wilson (Jane) was perfect; they have a great rapport. I was very disappointed by the 2011 movie, starring Michael Fassbender.

    Regarding your to-read/to-watch list, I cannot recommend Silver Linings Playbook highly enough. I’ve seen the movie three times and every time I watch it, it leaves me feeling uplifted and optimistic. And Jennifer Lawrence is great in the movie: her best performance so far, in my opinion. I’ve also read the book but I preferred the movie. Usually, it’s the other way round but this was one of the rare occasions when, IMO, the movie was better than the book.

    One of my favourite book/movie pairings is Pride and Prejudice with the 1995 BBC adaptation, starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.
    I enjoyed the 2005 P&P movie, with Keira Knightley as Elizabeth, but it doesn’t come close to the BBC series.

    Oh, just before I click “Post Comment”, here’s another recommendation: Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates and the movie adaptation starring Leonardo diCaprio and Kate Winslet. It’s a compelling portrayal of a marriage between two people with different goals in life, set in 1950s ‘white picket fence’ suburban Connecticut.

    • Thanks for your very thoughtful recommendations! Yes, I would very much like to see Pride and Prejudice. It’s been so long that I’ve read the book so the book is on my to (re)read list as well. I loved Revolutionary Road the movie and it was on my to read list for a while. Maybe time to bring it back near the top!

  8. What a great list! It just made me realize I have read many of these books but have not seen the movies either. I thought the Da Vinci Code movie adaptation was horrible! I read Water for Elephants, but didn’t like the movie one bit. Books I have read (and enjoyed) and want to see the movies for are The Book Thief and The Great Gatsby. I haven’t read or watched, but am curious about: the entire Harry Potter Series and the Stieg Larson books.

    • I was thinking about watching Water for Elephants, having read the book last year, but I guess I’ll pass! I missed The Book Thief and The Great Gatsby so hope to catch them on video! Funny you mention Harry Potter as I just watched my first one two nights ago. My son’s deep into the book series right now so we’re watching the movies alongside (slightly after he’s done reading each one). It’s quite fun. I read bits and pieces of the first book and JK Rowling seems to be a gifted storyteller. My son absolutely loves the books and has been losing so much sleep over them (I mean, by staying up late and waking up early to read)! The Stieg Larsson trilogy was great.

  9. Such good taste! I am usually a book rather than film person eg I have read The Ice Storm but not seen it. Would like to though! It was so well written, from the points of view of all the characters.

    • I watched the movie first (I was a big Kevin Kline fan at the time) and enjoyed it, and then decided to read the book. Do check the movie out if you ever have time! (And nice to know that someone else has read the book!)

  10. I love this post! I have to say, as a dedicated Jane Eyre fan, I do NOT recommend the BBC version with Ruth Wilson. They added an almost-sex scene in there that is completely unnecessary and not true to the book at all. I was very disappointed. And while I don’t think Mia Wasikowska is an ideal Jane (Keira Knightley would have been better), Michael Fassbender is everything I want in a swoon-worthy Mr. Rochester. That’s just my opinion. 🙂

    I think you’re really going to enjoy the movie adaptations for both Kazua Ishiguro books you have on your list. Also, I love Vivien Leigh, but if you haven’t seen Anna Karenina with Keira Knightley, I do recommend it. The cinematography is stunning and they do a great job of weaving in overarching themes of the book through the setting and props.

    • Thanks, Ariel! And very interesting to hear the different opinions of the ‘best’ Jane Eyre adaptation. I may need to watch both the BBC production and the movie 😉

      I had heard mixed things about the recent film version of Anna Karenina but I’m glad to hear that you recommend it. The cinematography would certainly be more impressive than the Vivien Leigh version.

  11. I’m impressed that you were able to remember all of these! I much preferred the “Girl with a…” book series to the movies, but I actually prefer the American version of the film. They simply grossly miscast Mikael Blomkvist in the Swedish version, and didn’t acknowledge the fact that sadness was at the core of Lisbeth’s relationship with him.

    Completely agree with you about The Kite Runner! I can barely remember the movie, but the book stayed with me.

    One of my favorite book/movie pairings is Jane Eyre. It’s one of my favorite books of all time, but I still very much enjoyed the movie with Mia Wasikowska. I’d like to see them turn The Casual Vacancy into a movie, but I doubt that will ever happen…

    • I actually had to look up books-turned-into-movie lists on the internet to remember what I have read/seen!

      I am now really tempted to see Jane Eyre after everyone’s comments, though I will need to reread the book first since it’s been such a long time. I have not read The Casual Vacancy!

  12. I enjoyed this post, Cecilia. Many times books turned into movies fall short for me. My recent experience involved The Great Gatsby. I love Fitzgerald’s work and also like Leo Dicaprio. The movie was awful. I also agree with your assessment of Snow Flower – the movie took liberties that denigrated the meaning of the book. I felt the same with the movie version of The Namesake.

    On the other hand, I haven’t read Hunger Games, but watched both movies and enjoyed both of them.

    Maybe you might consider posting about a book/movie once a month as a on-going series. Thanks so much for this post.

    • Thanks for your comment here, Rudri. I had heard similarly negative things about The Great Gatsby. It’s a shame.

      And thanks so much for the suggestion for a book/movie series! I would definitely like to do something like that!

  13. Hi Cecilia! Love your list of book/movie adaptations. Can you believe that not only have I never read Gone With the Wind, I’ve never seen the movie either!? You know I love both movie and book versions of The English Patient. I love all the English period dramas of Jane Austen and the Brontes and Dickens of course, but my favourites are the series based on Elizabeth Gaskell’s “Cranford” (Judy Dench is perfection as always) and “Wives and Daughters” (so gorgeous and sweet) and “North and South”. N+S is one of my absolute favourite books and the series really adds to the reading just as the book adds to the viewing. Thanks for your list – some new titles on there for me to check out.

    • It’s great to hear from you, Lee-Anne, and I hope that you have been well! I do recommend Gone with the Wind, either the movie or the book or both 🙂 And thanks so much for your recommendation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s movie adaptations. I am embarrassed to say that I have not read any of her books, but I have heard such great things about them. I will definitely add her titles to my list!

      • Thank you! Yes, I am doing well – so much more energy so I am Up and Doing at an astonishing rate. Sunday I walked 16 km at a meandering pace (took 3 hours) and although I’m still feeling it, it was bliss to be capable of such a feat after months of illness. As a result of all this freedom I haven’t been on the computer as much, although I am still reading lots. Maybe one of these days I’ll actually post something 🙂

        • I am so glad to hear that, Lee-Anne! I also think it’s great to not be on the computer all the time. We lost our power last Friday night, and it made us remember how good it felt to just do other things besides sitting in front of a screen. I hope you continue to be on the up and up!

  14. I felt the same way about “Eat, Pray, Love.” It’s such a great book, but I felt much of the meaning and significance of Gilbert’s story was lost in the plot of the movie. But yeah, the food scenes made me so hungry. I was thinking of going to Italy just for the pizza!

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