I have a complicated relationship with the onscreen adaptations of the books I have read. Just remembering how they treated Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is appalling to me. However, I have since come to realize that I have to treat the adaptations as their own thing. They cannot mean the same to me, otherwise I will never be happy with what I see on screen.
So with that said, I still carefully consider the adaptations I see onscreen. My first rule, of course, is that I need to read the book before watching the movie, if I know ahead of time that a particular movie is an adaptation. I do also like to see how well they have translated the book onto the screen, whether it is a literal translation or simply translating the essence of the book. I had to expand it to include the essence, because as I have said I need to treat the book and the movie as separate things and sometimes something in the book cannot be done literally for one reason or another.
Without further ado, I would like to present you with my top book to movie adaptations (in no particular order). I would like to note that I am not grouping together major series, but rather picking my favourite adaptation from the series. Make sense? Let’s go!
The Return of the King
I think that all three of the movies are good, but I find The Return of the King comes out on top when I think about all three. It surprises me a little, since it has the most to live up to in my opinion, since the final volume is my favourite in the books. However, it also does not surprise me.
One of the major things I love is how Peter Jackson chose to intersplice the stories. You may not remember, but in the books Tolkien essentially split his books into two parts per volume. So in The Return of the King, we had Frodo and Sam’s story told in one half, and the rest in the other. In the film, Peter Jackson chose to shorten the moments and flit between them more often. While this can get confusing in certain cases, it did not in The Return of the King. The best thing it did, in my opinion, was to avoid spoiling parts of the future for the other side of the story.
Of course I cannot pass up the opportunity to talk about Éowyn again. The way they handled her shining moment in battle, along with the build up to it, was amazing. Of course, it is not quite like the book version of events, but I rather enjoyed the way they did it anyways.
The Princess Bride
I think that The Princess Bride is one of the ones perfect for adapting. You may not know this, but the book version of it actually has the author integrated into the story. He notes that his grandfather only told him the interesting parts of the story and left out the “boring” bits. As such, he created an abridged version of the book, which fits really good with a movie version. There are, of course, still some differences, but I still think that the movie works.
You have so many iconic lines in the book, many of which appear almost exactly in the film version. You actually do not get that much anymore in films. If you are lucky, you might get one line. It is not necessary, of course, but I think it shows quality when the film manages to keep exact lines while maintaining the pace an essence of a written story.
The Green Mile
I remember I saw this film years ago, and I do not remember the book much. I am actually not sure if I read it? I must have though. I guess I should take the time to do so again?
The sheer emotion in this film is astounding. The story, if you are not aware, is about a corrections officer in 1935 and what he saw on death row. The supernatural element to this adaptation is handled quite well. I liked how the movie itself was long, I think just over three hours, because a lot of time passes in the story. It makes things seem more real than if they had tried to back everything in two hours or less. Honestly, you should give this movie a shot. You will not regret it.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Out of all the films in the Harry Potter series, I think that they did the best with The Prisoner of Azkaban. I would have picked the two Deathly Hallows films, but it would not be fair to count them on this list. I would have to treat them separately, and I do not believe either would make it as one half of a story.
I think that the only significant flaw in this film is how they treated the Firebolt portion of the story. In the books, it comes into play earlier rather than right at the end. It gives the Trio some conflict and other portions of the story develop from that. However, the visuals in this film and the way Alfonso (the director) presents the rest of the story make up for most of that. I love how they show the Whomping Willow, the Dementors, freezing flowers, et cetera.
I am sure that I could pick others for this list, but I thought I would cap it there. Keep in mind that I have not seen every single adaptation, and because of that there could be some gems on this list. I would love to get some recommendations on new things to read and watch! Make sure you provide the information for the book, because as I said, I like to read them first.