It’s not often that a movie outshines the book it was based on. Usually the written word so far surpasses the film that you almost wish you hadn’t read it in the first place so you could have enjoyed the movie in all its mediocrity. But once in a while, a brilliant cast or visionary director breathes new life into a story and makes you glad you spent your life’s savings on the cost of admission. Here are a few book-based tales that were better told on the big screen.
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The Devil Wears Prada
No offense, Lauren Weisberger, your book served its purpose, but Meryl Streep’s performance as the insufferable Miranda Preistly was priceless. While the novel felt a little schmaltzy and contrived, the film struck a nice balance of cheeky sincerity. Plus, the story takes place in the offices of a high-profile fashion magazine; had Weisberger’s book included glossy photos of all the fabulous clothing that was showcased in the movie, maybe we’d be having a different conversation right now.
Before Tobey Maguire suited up in jockey pants to ride Seabiscuit to glory, Laura Hillenbrand wrote about it. Her book _Seabiscuit: An American Legend_ grabbed a spot on the New York Times bestseller list in 2001 and was praised for its nuanced and insightful telling of a little-known slice of history. But Maguire’s compelling performance and the adrenaline-pumping horse races were the stuff of cinematic magic. The movie made Hillenbrand’s story jump off the screen and into the hearts of audiences everywhere.
There are plenty of Chuck Palahniuk fans that would battle me on this one, but _Fight Club_ the movie kicked _Fight Club_ the book’s behind, thanks, in large part, to the inspired casting of Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, and Helena Bonham Carter in the three lead roles.
Tom Hanks is to _Forrest Gump_ as ketchup is to french fries: one completes the other. Although the story line, based on the 1986 novel of the same name, was solid, it’s hard to imagine we’d have been as drawn into the serendipitous follies of a guy who jogs across the country had it not been for Mr. Hanks and the movie’s epic cross-generational soundtrack.
This movie is such a classic, it feels trite to point out its greatness. (_Hey guys, have you heard of the Princess Bride movie?! It’s rulll good!_) Suffice to say, the book was great, too. But the casting, set design, costumes, and comedic delivery of the movie set it apart as a treasure for the ages.
Michael Cunningham’s 1998 novel was good. So good, in fact, that it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction the following year. I won’t go so far as to say the movie was better, but the breathtaking cinematography and inspired casting (kudos again, Meryl Streep) brought a new, compelling perspective to the tale.
Did you know that the movie _Stand by Me_ was based on a novella by Stephen King called _The Body_? Neither did I. The iconic film gets a spot on this list for that reason and also because it introduced a new generation to the musical stylings of 1950s legends Buddy Holly and Jerry Lewis and to the lollipop-lovin’ Chordettes.
High Fidelity makes the list because John Cusack so perfectly embodied lead character Rob Gordon (changed from Rob Fleming in the book) that all other interpretations of Hornby's story were eclipsed. Not to mention the fact that it was the world’s first introduction to the force of nature that is Jack Black.
Helen Fielding’s novel of the same name was already wildly popular before Renée Zellweger entered the scene; it even won the British Book of the Year award in 1998. The movie had two advantages, though, and their names were Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, a duo so compulsively watchable they could make QVC entertaining.