5 Books That Are Better Than the Movie + 1 Movie That Beats the Book

This summer, Teen Central has two teen employees helping us out with content. Local high schooler Charles McLaughlin has been working on a list of books that are better than their movie adaptations - check out his thoughts below!

It’s time-old praise to call a movie “better than the book.” I could talk about the best movie versions of just about anything all day long. I am a ride or die film nerd. But today I’m going to be looking at five books that surpass the movie in storytelling, characters, or just plain quality... and one movie that blows the book out of the water. 

5. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy By Douglas Adams 

Both the film and the original book tell the story of a man named Arthur Dent. After the destruction of Earth to facilitate the construction of “a hyperspace bypass,” Arthur is thrust into a galaxy-spanning adventure to find both the meaning of life and a lost planet that builds other planets.

The movie is competently put together, averaging 6.5 out of 10 scores across the board, and starring a great cast including Martin Freeman, Sam Rockwell, and Stephen Fry.

The book, however, is an incredible piece of literary comedy, and a staple of both my and many others greatest books of all time lists.

4. The Lightning Thief Series By Rick Riordan

For a YA option, the obvious entry is the entirety of Rick Riordan’s original Percy Jackson series. One of my favorite series as a kid, it follows a collection of demigods sent on  increasingly world-ending adventures all while dealing with the Greek gods.

While the book series remains one of the best YA series in recent memory, the two movies suffer from trying to cram a whole series into a short time-frame and a weak understanding of the original story and its characters. The movies are a severe waste of an admittedly strong cast. 

3. The Hobbit By J. R. R. Tolkien

If Percy Jackson suffered from too many books being turned into too few bad movies, The Hobbit has the opposite problem. The Hobbit is the prequel to the incredible Lord of the Rings series.The Hobbit movies have the advantage of keeping Peter Jackson as director, and have an absolutely incredible cast.

But ultimately, development hell, the loss of key figures like Guillermo Del Toro, and studio interference dragged out this film series into too many movies. The Hobbit book however, is just as enthralling as it was when it was released over 80 years ago.

2. World War Z By Max Brooks

Perhaps showcasing the greatest disparity in quality on this list is World War Z. The book is an incredible anthology of people’s experiences in a fictional war against zombies, assembled by a fictionalized version of Max Brooks, son of comedy legend Mel Brooks.

But when it comes to the film adaptation, the two works are similar in name only. The movie is just another dime-a-dozen story about a guy who will defeat all the zombies in the world by the sheer power of being Brad Pitt. The original audiobook adaptation, including such voice actors as Mark Hamil, Nathon Fillion, and even Martin Scorcese, is hands down the best way to experience this story.

1. The Shining By Stephen King

Before I am crucified in my sleep by a mob of angry film nerds, I am in no way implying that Stanley Kubrick's version of The Shining is a bad movie. The movie is incredible, with strong performances from Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall, and as a standalone piece I have little critical to say about it.

But after reading the original book, it is just about impossible to go back to the film for one central reason: the depiction of Jack Torrance in the film is utterly alien to his role in the book. King has so much passion for Jack, no doubt due to seeing himself in the character. The novel is an incredible look at how you can love an abusive person and mourn their descent. Jack Nicholson’s film performance feels like just another role where he plays Jack Nicholson.

The Movie: Starship Troopers dir. Paul Verhoeven 

Based on the book by sci-fi author (and all around weird guy) Robert Heinlein, comes Dutch director Paul Verhoeven’s film adaptation of one of Heinlein’s most famous works, Starship Troopers. 

While Heinlein’s original piece has some good points, most are marred by the fascist ideology of the book, as well as Heinlein’s depiction of women and non-white characters. The film, however, is an incredible satire of the fascist nature of the original book and America itself, often described as the best movie about the Iraq War to come out before the Iraq War.