If there’s one thing that troubles me, it’s a movie that butchers a plot. I can list a dozen movies that started with excellent books and went completely off the rails. But when a director does do a good job with a book turned into movie, the result is magical.
My favorite stories are wonderful, but I love when they’re told well on film. I’ve mulled over this list for a while – which book to movie adaptions have I loved?
My Favorite Bookish Movie Adaptions
Anne of Green Gables
How can this not be on my list? I had very, very big expectations for this movie. And it’s my mom’s fault 🙂
I was reading this book, and (surprise) I wasn’t quite done. My mom casually mentioned a rule…if the movie was based off a book, I should read the book first. When a few days later, my babysitter offered to show me this movie, I protested. I haven’t finished the book, I can’t watch the movie!
Long story short, I didn’t get to watch the movie for another 3 years. In that time I had devoured Anne nearly a dozen times. I would wake up at dawn on Saturdays and read till my parents woke up. I read Anne before going to bed…I read Anne in the car, I read Anne to my dog. I loved Anne.
When I finally watched the movie, I was devastated. They changed the storyline! It wasn’t the exact book I had read dozens and dozens of times. If I recall correctly, I only watched half of the movie. I was just too disappointed.
But two years later, my Mom borrowed the movie from the library. The whole family watched it, and I was old enough to enjoy an adaption. It wasn’t the book, but it was Anne. The movie embodied the character I loved.
And yes, my favorite scene is probably Anne whacking Gilbert with a slate.
Whenever I’m teasingly asked if I’ve found Gilbert Blythe yet, I like to reply that I’ve not yet wacked anyone with a slate. But wait. It’s bound to happen.
The Hunger Games
I read these books after the movies came out, but I didn’t see the films until two years after I read the books. My sisters and I coerced my mom into reading these, and then my dad actually read them with us.
I loved the political intrigue, the world building, and the character development involved in The Hunger Games. And the films not only matched, but exceeded my expectations.
I get goosebumps watching Katniss volunteer for Prim – the emotion is overwhelming. The confusion of the Capitol, the fear and determination to live. It’s mixed into a perfect screenplay that adds in the extra dimensions of more layered characters. Where the books failed due to first person perspective, the films are able to interlay the political intrigue happening behind Katniss’s back. Now, you might be able to argue that Mockingjay Part 1&2 could have been kept as one film…but it would have been super crammed. And splitting the story in two allowed for emotional development.
My favorite film in the trilogy is Catching Fire. I loved the global aspect of the rebellion, the districts protesting while the Capitol dances in decadence. And my all-time favorite scene in both the books & movies, is the interview in Catching Fire.
Why do I love this scene? Let me list the ways 🙂
First, Cinna. Cinna knows he’s risking, rather giving, his life for a cause. One show of rebellion, one spark, and Cinna is vanquished.
And Katniss doesn’t have a clue Cinna planned this. It may not be clear in the movie, but in the book Katniss is shocked. She had no idea Cinna created her dress to turn into a Mockingjay – the emblem of defiance against the Capitol.
Finally, Peeta touches this sense with all his charm and good sense. He breaks through the Capitol’s bubble of contentment surrounding the game, and manages to help unite the victors.
Perfect scenes need three things, Cinna, Katniss, Peeta. And a emcee like Caesar Flickerman adds the perfect touch.
Pride and Prejudice, 1995 version
Is this is a movie or a tv show? I think it was a tv show, but it was binge watched before Netflix popularized the idea. Since I’ve nearly* always watched this classic in one sitting, I’ll go with movie.
(When I don’t have 6 hours, I just watch all my favorite scenes. The Merryton Assembly, Netherfield Ball, Hunsford Proposal, Pemberley Park meeting, and all of Episode Six. Because you have to watch both Lady Catherine’s fit and Darcy’s proposal and all the drama in-between.)
And while I do love all six hours, my favorite moment is the Hunsford proposal. So much turmoil in just 4 minutes.
And fun fact: this is the first scene Collin Firth and Elizabeth Ehle filmed together.
The Book Thief
I remember a reviewer calling this movie a “Thomas Kinkade version” of World War II. But that accusation is unfounded if you’ve read The Book Thief.
The Book Thief has a childlike innocent quality, mixed with the terrible story of the Holocaust. The story is narrated by death, and yet filled with hope.
As Death laments, “I am haunted by humans,” we hear and see the heroism of one little girl, her foster father, her inexhaustibly optimistic friend, and her hunted, wanted Jewish friend.
When it comes to telling a tale, The Book Thief movie is perfect. The script follows the emotional and factual journey of the book. It confronts viewers and leaves an audience asking questions.
This scene is my favorite. It’s horrible, it leaves my gut twisted.
Not every story can be happy but every story should be truthful.
The Scarlet Pimpernel
Sink me, I do wish more people knew The Scarlet Pimpernel. I wouldn’t know this story except for a short mention in a magazine. A story set during the French Revolution? I checked it out from the library and reread it five times in one week.
Then I bought the entire Pimpernel series on Kindle and read all of the stories the next week. I love, adore, and love, Sir Percy Blakeney.
I’ve written a previous post on why exactly you must read The Scarlet Pimpernel. They say the more something is mentioned, the more important it must be. So, I have to mention it at least twice. If you read any classic story, please read the Scarlet Pimpernel.
Anyway, the movie is perfect. The acting, the score, the setting. And the movie combines two books in the Pimpernel series, Eldorado and the original. So if you read The Scarlet Pimpernel, you might think it fudges with the plot. Instead, the writers combine two plots into one! How cool is that?
And if you’ve never met Sir Percy, this scene shows his double-nature very well. And a final reminder, if you watch any of the movies on this list, do watch the Scarlet Pimpernel.
Did I mention your favorite bookish movie adaption? Comment with your favorite!