Fiction to Film: A Top Ten List

In a topic near and dear to my heart, this week’s top ten list is movies based of books. I’ve done this a few times already (see here, here, and here), luckily there is no shortage of material for lists like these. I’m splitting this into five good and five bad adaptations.

As I’ve previously discussed the successful Jaws, Drive, Trainspotting, High Fidelity, Casino Royale, and conversely, the less than successful The Shining, I am Legend, Beowulf, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, and The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, here are ten new options (as hosted by The Broke and The Bookish):

Sin City

Best Adaptations:

10. Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare. I’ve been to the movies twice this year. Once to see Stoker and once to see Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing (this past Friday) and I was alone (as in the theater was entirely empty, save me) both times. Does no one want to see excellent movies anymore? Because The Lone Ranger was packed. Those who have any love for Benedick and Beatrice, go see Joss Whedon’s excellent version.

9. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. This might be one of the rare instances where I enjoyed the movie more than the book. I’d recommend both though.

8. The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving. Long live the ’80’s, dysfunction, and eccentricities.

7. Clueless (based on Emma by Jane Austen). Emma is one of the Austen novels that didn’t work for me. On my list of literary characters to loathe, I labeled her annoying, spoiled, frivolous, nosy, gossiping, inconsiderate, manipulative, and self-centered. However, Clueless ranks among my favorite movies. Anything that can make the story of Emma palatable is a success.  Has anyone else noticed that Paul Rudd doesn’t age?

6. Sin City by Frank Miller. If Frank Miller’s happy, I’m happy.

Worst Adaptations:

5. Troy. Loosely adapted from Homer’s Illiad, I couldn’t get past the removal of all the gods. It’s important not to underestimate the importance of ‘loosely’ in the previous sentence.

4. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. The one with Gwyneth Paltrow. As I’m not a GP fan, this was not destined to be appreciated by me. However, it looked pretty.

3. The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. Perhaps Nothing’s worse than The Bonfire of the Vanities. It’s not that it’s a bad adaptation, which it is; it’s truly a bad movie. Clearly, whoever cast the film did not read the same novel I did (or pointedly ignored it), because Tom Hanks is not Sherman McCoy – among the many, many other issues. I just watched this, so I’m still freshly disdainful.

2. Sahara by Clive Cussler. Confession time? I am a huge fan of Clive Cussler’s old school Dirk Pitt novels. Cyclops? Deep Six? Pacific Vortex? Loved ‘em. Perhaps I’m a little in love with the Doxa dive watch wearing, ocean exploring, damsel in distress rescuing, tequila drinking, opaline green-eyed adventurer – then again, who isn’t? But Sahara was very, very bad. What Die Another Day did to James Bond is what Sahara does to Dirk Pitt.

1. Bag of Bones by Stephen King. Consider this a warning for upcoming profanity. I am a huge Stephen King fan. Movies like The Shawshank Redemption, The Shining, The Green Mile, Carrie, Misery, and Stand by Me prove that Stephen King adaptations can be done well. So don’t fuck with my favorite Stephen King novel. In this modern era of filmmaking, it seems inconceivable that a movie (or miniseries) could veer as far off course as Bag of Bones did. Pierce Brosnan is a crotchety 60 year old, dark haired Irishman attempting (and failing) to portray a pleasant 40 year old, blond haired American. WHY? Also, anyone thinking that Maximum Overdrive should’ve taken this spot over Bag of Bones is missing the brilliant and unintentional hilarity of that movie. Good stuff.

Do you have a favorite movie based on a book? Do you think books are always better than the movies? I don’t (heresy, I know).

Image (originally Miramax?)

61 thoughts on “Fiction to Film: A Top Ten List

  1. Troy made it on my not-so-good list briefly but then I decided to add an extra entry on my good list, kicking it off, lol. But seriously, why remove the gods from the story? *le sigh*

    I haven’t actually watched Fight Club from start to finish *blushes* I caught the latter half of the movie on tv one time…should go back and watch it/read it

    My TTT


    1. Way to focus on the positive, nicely done. I think it’s easier to find bad adaptations, as there are so many of them.

      And Troy. What a mess. Even though I don’t like him, Brad Pitt’s hair looked nice though (see, focusing on the positive). I just realized I have more than one Brad Pitt film on my list…hmmm.


  2. I can’t remember where I heard it, but there was a rumour that even Chuck Palahniuk thought the Fight Movie movie was better than his book.

    I’m also a fan of Clueless, I’m not looking over my list to see if I can squeeze it on — it’s still an hour and a half until Tuesday here.

    So glad to hear you enjoyed Joss Whedon’s Much Ado. In fact, you reminded me to check and contrary to what I believed it is playing at a small local cinema in my town. I know what I’m doing tomorrow. 😀


    1. Ah, it’s so good. I really loved it.

      I like both the book and movie version of Fight Club, it might depend on which day you ask me as to whether I like the book or the movie better.

      And no one hates Clueless…right? (That would be a travesty.)


    1. You must.

      I have a thing for graphic novels/comics (though rarely admit to it – don’t know why). Technically my love for Locke & Key started it all, but it lead to great places (like Sin City).


      1. I haven’t, I’ll have to check it out.

        Locke & Key is worth another try, should your TBR list ever get under control.


    1. I really was so impressed by Much Ado About Nothing. I can’t say enough about it, I’m sure it helps that that particular play is my favorite of Shakespeare’s and I’m usually a Joss Whedon fan.

      I have so many issues with Great Expectations (both book and film) that I sincerely doubt there will ever be an adaptation I enjoy.


  3. I really like Great Expectations as a book so every movie adaptation has fallen a bit short. Great list! Clueless is a great movie. I wish I’d added that to my list!


    1. It is nearly impossible to adapt a favorite book. It didn’t matter who adapted Bag of Bones, it never would have been good enough (although the miniseries was truly awful).

      That particular Great Expectations pared down the novel too much. I’ll be curious to see the newest adaptations with Ralph Fiennes and Jeremy Irvine. At least they didn’t change Pip’s name.


  4. Great list! I agree with both Fight Club and Sin City. ugh Troy should have never been made and the GP Great Expectations version is horrible.


    1. If they hadn’t remove the gods from Troy, I might not hate it quite as much. But as they did, I do.

      I found the GP Great Expectations to be pretty to look at and I figure they were trying to capture the success that Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet had, but it was still an absolute mess. I liked the soundtrack though. I should be careful or my sometimes stuck in the ’90’s musical preferences will show.


  5. i am very much looking forward to seeing Much Ado because I love the play and the movie with Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branaugh, plus it’s by Joss Whedon with an amazing cast & I CANNOT WAIT! and of course Clueless, which I still quote, but have you seen the latest BBC version of Emma with Jonny Lee Miller. Very well done. I, too, could not sit through the book, but this movie is great.


    1. I did watch it, I liked Jonny Lee Miller’s Knightley, but it’s still not a story I love. Emma just annoys me and I always felt Knightley was too good for her. However, it’s quite a bit better than the GP one. Of course, it’s possible I just don’t care for Ms. Paltrow.

      I still quote Clueless too, probably more than should be allowed.


    1. Ugh, me too (obviously).

      I agree about the soundtrack. I still love Scott Weiland’s ‘Lady, Your Roof Brings Me Down’ and Duncan Sheik more than I’d prefer to admit in public.

      I think every 30 year old (or near 30 or slightly post 30) loves Clueless. I think most of us can quote it as well, I know I can (probably the entire movie). 🙂


    1. Bruce Willis/Peter Fallow’s character…what?!? I just finished the book last week and watched the movie this weekend. You’re right – horrified.


  6. I haven’t seen all the movies you’re mentioning, but Troy was absolutely a horrible movie. Where were the gods?


    1. It’s excellent, I highly recommend it (of course). I’ve not seen the old version (and haven’t been particularly curious too), but I’m nearly convinced it’s not possible to top Whedon’s.


  7. YES! Paul Rudd doesn’t age. Sorry about this slight freakout, but I’ve been saying it for ages and then I mentioned it in my Top Ten post this week. AH. You’re kind of the best person ever for noticing that as well. But yes, Clueless is amazing!

    My Top Ten


    1. Ha! And you’re my new favorite commenter!

      He doesn’t age, or ages incredibly well – depending on how you want to look at it.

      Clueless is the best. Cher is way less annoying than Emma, but I’d be happy with either Josh or Knightley.


    1. You don’t mess with Homer. Or at least you shouldn’t when the original is a masterpiece (also my issue with the movie Beowulf).


  8. Much Ado is amazing! I saw it during a film festival screening and the theater was PACKED. Loved it so much that I’m planning to see it again tomorrow. Clueless is always a favorite of mine (and actually I like the Gwyneth Paltrow Emma too). I absolutely agree about Bonfire of the Vanities — groundbreaking book turned into a hokey, awful movie. Great list!!


    1. It’s one I’ll buy when it comes to DVD. Toni Collette saved that version of Emma for me, I love her.

      The Bonfire of the Vanities had so much potential and it just failed in most ways. I generally like Tom Hanks (mostly in comedy), but he was not Sherman McCoy.


    1. Clueless is a better version of Emma, but I would still recommend it. Emma really is annoying as all get-out. However, Knightley (and Paul Rudd) is a good romantic hero who has all the needed traits – patience, loyalty, devotion, and the willingness to overlook one’s annoying flaws. Obviously all need to be like that. 🙂


  9. I am dying to see Wheadon’s Much Ado About Nothing. It looks amazing. I love the juxtaposition of Shakespeare’s language with a modern setting.


    1. It’s amazing. I initially thought I wouldn’t like the very modern setting with Shakespeare language (yet modern soundtrack), but I had no need to worry. It was amazing.


  10. Clueless – it’s not just Paul Rudd who doesn’t seem to age – Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, that bloke who was in Scrubs… All terribly Dorian Grey, innit, blud?

    Bonfire…oh why, oh why, oh why? I thought about writing about this one, but I ran out of swear words. But I’m going to give it another go. Maybe.

    Heard great things about Much Ado.


    1. I agree with Stacey Dash and Donald Faison. It’s not that odd, I haven’t aged in 10 years or so. Alicia Silverstone…all I can picture is her spitting food into a kid’s mouth. Do I ask about blud? Or just leave it?

      I knew there would be issues with Bonfire when I saw the cast list. After watching, fuck a duck pretty much summed up my thoughts. You could always invent something though.

      Much Ado is excellent if you like the original play or Joss Whedon.


      1. Yeah but Clueless came out in, what 1994?

        The urban dictionary tells me that blud derived from a Jamaican swear word and misappropriated by Brits as a term of endearment, synonymous with mate, buddy, pal etc.


      2. True, I have aged since 1994 thankfully. And AS still looks great for her age (adding for her age makes it sound like an insult, but it’s not).

        My parents lived in Jamaica for a little bit, so I just wanted to check. I’ll assume you meant it kindly, so thanks, mate.

        (Urban Dictionary is always right. Always,)


      3. It definitely is about the British appropriation of ‘blud’ anyroads.

        Anyroads is a northern (specifically Liverpudlian I think) equivalent of anyway. Pretty obvious I suppose…


      4. I could’ve (it’s worth noting my iPad just autocorrected could’ve to cliudberry, which is…?) inferred that, but now I know a bit of its etymology – so I feel better. (It’s now on a list below me sen.)

        As to blud (blue, says autocorrect), I’m just messing with you. I don’t really think you’d insult me purposefully.


    1. They definitely are, but they don’t have to be atrocious. In Bag of Bones, Mike is supposed to be a nice, normal New Englander, not an Irish New Yorker with an attitude problem. And yet I still bought the miniseries on DVD because I’m a masochist, obviously. At any rate, nothing would’ve been good enough, I was just severely disappointed.

      I keep hearing rumors of a remake of The Stand (with Ben Affleck directing), I try not to get excited about it, but it needs to be done!


      1. No, I wasn’t able to get to a computer until about 2pm and they were already so out. Crazy. But I’ll be checking Craigslist and hope something legitimate pops up!


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