5 Times the Movie Was Better Than the Book

Gangs of New York, Carrie, The Godfather
Everett Collection

Everyone always says “The book was better!” when it comes to movie adaptations. But sometimes, it’s just not. Here are a few examples of movies that exceeded the quality or popularity of the books they were adapted from.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy


New Line/courtesy Everett Collection

This is perhaps the most notable case of “the movie is better than the book” that I can think of. I read all of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series in high school, and I much preferred the movies, which were a HUGE hit. (It was the Game of Thrones of its time.) Director Peter Jackson later tried to recreate the success of this trilogy with its prequel, The Hobbit, but it was nowhere near as good as The Lord of the Rings (both the book and the films). I didn’t even realize there were three of them!

The Hunger Games Trilogy

I’d say the same of the Hunger Games series as the Tolkien universe (except more so) — skip the books and just watch the movies. Tolkien is at least readable, if not overly long and detailed, but it was a product of its time; the Hunger Games books are just not good, and in serious need of editing.

THE HUNGER GAMES, Jennifer Lawrence, 2012.

Murray Close/Lionsgate/Courtesy Everett Collection

The film production team did a great job of cutting some of the overwrought, overly sentimental soliloquies of book-Katniss and made her way more likable, especially with Jennifer Lawrence playing her. Now Lawrence is so famous everyone has probably forgotten that was her breakout role!

Gangs of New York

GANGS OF NEW YORK, Leonardo Di Caprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Henry Thomas, 2002, (c) Miramax/courtesy Everett Collection

Miramax./Courtesy Everett Collection.

Gangs of New York is considered one of the best films ever made (something I agree with wholeheartedly), but the book it is based on is very, very long (well, it feels very long; it’s actually just 366 pages) and far less compelling, probably because it is a nonfiction historical summary. I’m sort of biased towards fiction, though, so it might just be me.

GANGS OF NEW YORK, Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo Di Caprio, 2002,

Miramax/courtesy Everett Collection

Set in the 1800s with a very Count of Monte Cristo plot, it centers around a young Irishman (Leonardo DiCaprio) who returns to his gang-ridden New York neighborhood, after years in an orphanage, consumed with vengeance towards the man who killed his father, Bill “the Butcher” Cutting (portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis in what was possibly his best work). Scorsese directed the hit drama, which was nominated for 10 Oscars.


CARRIE, from left: Sissy Spacek, William Katt, 1976

Courtesy of Everett

I know I’m in the minority here, but I just do not like Stephen King‘s writing style at all, and I am going to go out on a limb here and declare that all the movie adaptations are probably better than his books. I have yet to finish an entire novel of his, including Carrie, so this is just an educated guess.

The Godfather

THE GODFATHER, Al Pacino, Marlon brando, 1972

Courtesy of Everett

What more can be said about Francis Ford Coppola‘s The Godfather series? It’s got Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, and is one of the best film series of all time. I haven’t read the novels by Mario Puzo, so this is another educated guess, as I can’t comment on their quality, but with how good the movies are and how few people have read the novels, I’d say the movies win here.

What movie do you think is better than the book? Let us know in the comments!

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