I have a very strong belief that the movies are not inferior to books, and movie adaptations are definitely not inferior to the books that they are based on. If you ask me, there is a layer of snobbiness to the idea that the book is always better with no exceptions and I don’t agree with it at all. If you like the movie more, then that’s fine. If you don’t want to read the book, that’s also fine. But that is not what I am here to talk about.
Today, I wanted to share some of my absolute most favourite movie adaptations! I have read the books that most of these books are based on, and it’s not a big deal to me if I go my whole life without reading the book a movie is based on. Some fiction movies are based on non-fiction books that I will never have an interest in, and I’m not going to beat myself up over it.
This movie is pretty damn problematic these days, but we have to remember that it came out in 1960 and the book in 1959 when attitudes towards mental illness and gender diversity were a lot worse than they are now (we still need to do better, though). But I do still love this movie because of how suspenseful it is. Sure, the fact that the movie’s biggest star gets killed off 30 minutes in is common knowledge 60 years later, but it is impossible for me to watch the shower scene without clenching my teeth.
I haven’t read the book yet, but I am aiming to read it this autumn!
This is probably the only time I will ever say that the movie was better than the book. I have watched American Psycho so many times while I have read the book only once and probably will never reread it. I understood the satire of the story a lot more with the movie than I did with the book because the book really goes out of its way to talk about a bunch of shit that I don’t care about. I don’t care about 80s designer clothes so I didn’t get that the characters are all dressed terribly, and I don’t care about the history of Whitney Houston or Phil Collins’ music careers enough to want to read entire chapters about them. And then it gets violent and sexually violent and I felt sick.
The movie takes a lot of that stuff out in order to both fit the run time and also be able to make a profit because the higher the age rating a movie is given, the fewer butts are able to get put in seats. I don’t mind that the more graphic parts of the book were taken out because so much of it is just Patrick Bateman sexually assaulting and then murdering women in the most brutal and disgusting ways possible.
But to me, the movie is so much funnier because jokes and satire are easier for me to understand when they’re verbalised rather than written down, and Christian Bale really toes the line of charming and creepy so well. Having Tom Cruise as a reference point really works because he is charming and creepy.
Oh, can I bring up something that I don’t understand about the title of this book and the movie? Why is it called American Psycho when Norman Bates, from Psycho, is also American? It’s something I’ve never understood about so many pieces of American media that have “American” in the title. Maybe one day I’ll write a gross book about a homicidal Tory and call it British Psycho.
I will say once and for all that book-to-movie accuracy has no sway in whether I enjoy a book adaptation or not. It really does not. However, this Dracula adaptation is my favourite because it is more accurate to the book. It’s not 100% accurate because of all the “Dracula is really Vlad Tepes” stuff and Mina being the reincarnation of his dead wife is not in the book at all.
I have three main reasons for enjoying this movie:
- the aesthetics are gorgeous. I love Gothic movies that use both Gothic themes and Gothic aesthetic, which Francis Ford Coppola does amazingly well.
- the practical effects are incredible, especially since this was made at a time when CGI was becoming steadily more commonplace.
- Keanu Reeves. Is he good in this movie? Not at all because his accent is surprisingly atrocious for someone who had his entire life to study a standard English accent. But he’s pretty. Leave me alone.
Remember how I said that book-to-movie accuracy isn’t that important to me? Well, here’s an example of a movie that is barely anything like the book it’s based on, but I still enjoy. IIRC, this movie is actually based on a stage adaptation of Frankenstein rather than the book itself which explains why Victor is called Henry, he has an assistant called Fritz, and the monster is called Frankenstein too. I personally don’t like to see adaptations that deviate from the source material as being “wrong” but as alternate versions. Changing things because they would fit the medium better is entirely different to a director going “oh, that’s dumb, let’s take that out even though it’s important to the characters” (*cough*taikawaititi*cough*).
I do, however, want to see the more book-accurate adaptation which is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein starring Kenneth Branagh and Helena Bonham Carter. I’ve seen a little bit of it but that was a long time ago, so I’ve kind of forgotten it.
It has been a very long time since I watched this movie, but it is still one of my all-time favourites. It just takes a lot of motivation and energy for me to watch these days because my days of being able to sit still and watch a three-hour movie are past me. And I’m only 24. You will not catch me watching The Lord of the Rings any time soon.
I have read the book that this movie is based on and it is almost lifted directly onto the screen for the movie. It helps to actually have the author of the book write the screenplay with the director, who dissected the entire book and made heaps and heaps of notes. That’s not an exaggeration, Francis Ford Coppola tore apart his copy of the book, glued the pages onto pieces of paper and then made notes on every single page.
It’s hard for me to choose whether I like the movie or the book more because they’re so close, but I do appreciate that the parts that were left out of the movie either didn’t add that much (like Johnny Fontane’s movie career), wouldn’t have fit in with the movie’s story (Sonny’s mistress moving to Las Vegas so she can keep an eye on Fredo and getting surgery from her boyfriend to fix her, ahem, loose vagina. ew.) or were added to the second movie, which is what happened with the gigantic chapter that chronicles Vito Corleone’s childhood and rises to be the boss of the family. Also, I’m glad that Coppola decided to not make Mama Corleone a huge Italian-American stereotype, like she kind of is in the book. It’s a little cringeworthy to read her dialogue where she “talk-a like-a dis”.
It has taken everything in me to not make this list almost exclusively Disney, so I have controlled myself and only included my top three favourite Disney movies. Tarzan has an extremely special place in my heart because it was one of the first movies that I can remember going to see in the cinema when I was only three years old. This movie has always been a huge part of my childhood because my dad bought the soundtrack and would play it all the time in the car, and he even still has the Phil Collins songs on his iPod today. We also used to go to Disneyland Paris a lot when I was a kid, and our favourite part of the park was the Tarzan show which is no longer there. Believe me, when we went back and found out that the show wasn’t on anymore, it was like mourning a family member. There are still videos of it on YouTube so you can see what it was like, trust me it was amazing.
This is another movie that isn’t book accurate but considering that this is a Disney movie made for a family audience, I completely understand why. The original Tarzan books are so violent. Especially for early 20th century standards. He gets beaten half to death by a gorilla, fights with the other apes for dominance, hunts his own food, and even kills a couple of people at times. You can’t really show that in a movie that children are going to see, so naturally it’s really toned down. It’s still violent by Disney standards, but it’s nowhere near as violent as the original book. Where the nationalities are switches around and Clayton is Tarzan’s cousin.
Am I a terrible feminist for liking this movie? Probably, but we can like problematic things. And besides, the female characters in this movie do a lot more than the male characters anyway. I don’t really consider Prince Phillip to be the hero of the story because everything he does is because of the fairies.
But anyway, the biggest thing I love about this movie is the artwork. Even though the characters have the signature Disney style, the backgrounds are so different from any other Disney movie and they look so different. I also love how the movie’s score is entirely based on the Sleeping Beauty ballet because some of the pre-1960 Disney songs can get very samey at times so basing it on the ballet makes it stand out to me.
Also, coming back to Disneyland, the castle in Disneyland Paris has an animatronic Maleficent dragon in the “dungeon” part, which is the coolest thing ever. And it has real stained-glass windows. I went to the original Disneyland in Anaheim last October and the castle there felt so lacklustre compared to the Paris castle.
The Little Mermaid is another movie that has a very special place in my heart because it was my favourite thing ever when I was a child. You know those little girls now who still have Frozen merchandise and love the movie even though it’s been seven years since that movie was released? That’s exactly how I was with The Little Mermaid. I had Ariel toys, clothes, swimsuits, a swim bag, shoes, socks, underwear, a birthday cake, pyjamas, bedsheets, if you can name something that could have had Ariel on it, I had it. In fact, Ariel is currently my avatar on Disney+. And because of that, I will never complain about Frozen still being popular today.
Ha-ha! I’m throwing in a curveball by including a movie that is based on a biography! These days I’m not the Tim Burton fan I used to be because I think there is a serious diversity issue when it comes to the casts in his movies (the only black character I can think of in a Burton movie is Harvey Dent in Batman), but Ed Wood is a movie that I constantly come back to because I love Hollywood biopics about Hollywood. I especially love to learn about eccentric figures from the past, which is probably the best description of Ed Wood. He was a horror and sci-fi movie director who made what are considered to be the worst movies ever in the 1950s along with Bela Lugosi who had hit such a horrific career slump that he was struggling with a morphine addiction. Oh, and Ed Wood was a crossdresser who surrounded himself with other people who were considered outcasts by 1950s standards, like gay people, TV horror hosts and “psychics”, and professional wrestlers.
I guess this movie could be considered problematic by today’s standards because it shows a lot of 1950s American attitudes towards crossdressers, gay people, and transgender people, but I kind of see it as important because Ed Wood wasn’t a “degenerate” he just liked wearing feminine clothes and wanted to make movies.
talk to me!
What are some of your favourite movie adaptations? Are there any adaptations that you like more than the book?