Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Top Ten Book to Movie Adaptations

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week a list is created based on a different theme. I've seen this fun meme around and have been wanting to participate but I kept forgetting about it each week. I'm excited about this week's theme so I made a point of being prepared!

This week's theme is book to movie adaptations.

I love when books are adapted as movies, especially when the movies do justice to the book although to be honest that doesn't happen very often. There have been some terrible crash and burn kind of movie adaptations where the movie doesn't even resemble the book or the changes alienate fans of the book. For all those duds, however there are a few that get it right. Of course, I'm sure not everyone will agree with my list!

My list of top ten book to movie adaptations:

1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

I think Peter Jackson's film trilogy is the best book to movie adaptation I've ever seen. It does a great job of capturing the book while at the same time being an entertaining film that reaches an audience that wouldn't normally enjoy the book. I didn't mind the absence of Tom Bombadil or other liberties taken with the script (such as making Arwen's part much, much bigger). If anything, the movie is the reason I read the book in the first place and only enhanced my love of the story.

2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I love both versions of Pride and Prejudice that I've seen (the BBC/A&E adaptation with Colin Firth and the 2005 Keira Knightley film). The first one is more faithful to the book. It made me a true fan of Jane Austen. I was assigned to read Sense and Sensibility for a class in college but it was watching P&P that caused me to pick up Austen's other books and read them on my summer vacation. I prefer the 2005 movie though because I love Keira Knightley's portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet. Jennifer Ehle fails to capture Lizzy's spirit and wit. She comes across more often as the fun squelching big sister. On the other hand, Colin Firth is the better Mr. Darcy and Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are more accurately portrayed in the miniseries.

3. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Richard Armitage as John Thornton and Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret Hale

Mr. Darcy has been eclipsed by John Thornton as the ultimate literary hero in my book. I first watched the film version and I loved it so much that I had to read the book. The film does a great job of showing the difference between Margaret's former home in the south of England and Milton, the industrial town that her family moves to in the north. The bright colors and beautiful outdoor scenes from the south are softly lit while the harsh north is shown as this gloomy dark place. The characters are mostly true to the book, with the exception of Nicholas and Bessy Higgins. In the book, I found their dialect to be difficult to follow and Bessy is very much like Helen Burns from Jane Eyre. The movie portrayals are much more likeable. The one minor thing I didn't like was that John Thornton is portrayed as having a bad temper in the movie while in the book, he isn't quite like that.  I believe this change in the movie is so that the audience will understand why Margaret would not like him. In the book, Margaret is a little stuck up at first. If you are a fan of Pride and Prejudice, I strongly suggest you watch North and South. You'll love it!

4. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling

While Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone may not be the strongest book in the series, it is the one that first introduces us to the magical world of Hogwarts and Diagon Alley and the film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone does a brilliant job of bringing the page to the screen. I loved the first glimpse of Hogwarts and the scenes in Diagon Alley as Harry first sees it. The performance of Richard Harris as Dumbledore is also a particular favorite (Michael Gambon just doesn't do the character justice in my opinion). I think this is one of the best adaptations of a YA fantasy book I've ever seen and the rest of the books have also made excellent films, especially the latest ones.

5. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

I have a confession to make. When I took that British Lit class, I watched the film version of Sense and Sensibility before taking my exam because I didn't have time to finish the book. My first reaction to the film was anger-why did the guys treat the heroines so poorly? Why did one of the characters end up with the old guy instead of the better looking romantic young guy (too bad he was a cad)? After reading the book and watching the movie again however, I loved it. Though Emma Thompson is way too old to portray Elinor (she was in her 30s whereas Elinor was still in her late teens) she does a fantastic job with the role. The one thing that is majorly different from the book is the absence of Lucy Steele's sister Nancy but that wasn't a big deal to me. The movie really shows the closeness of the sisters and the differences between them which is what the book is about.

6. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables is a childhood favorite of mine and I think Meagan Follows is the perfect Anne Shirley. Watching her antics with Diana and Gilbert brought to life in this film just made me love the book more. Sadly the subsequent films are not as true to the book although the second film is still a treat to watch. (I pretend that movies three and four don't exist).

7. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

This is one of the rare instances where the film is better than the book. When you have actors like Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton, and Eileen Atkinson involved, you know the film will be top-notch. The movie is based on the book Cranford as well as My Lady Ludlow and Mr. Harrison's Confessions. I've only read Cranford but the book is rather meandering and reads more like a series of sketches than a cohesive story with a plot. The filmmakers did an amazing job of putting it together in a story that is very moving, funny, and romantic.

8. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

When I heard that Queen Latifah was going to be in this movie, I didn't know what to think because I was used to seeing her act in comedies but I was really pleased with her performance here as August Boatwright. Alicia Keys, Sophie Okonedo, and Jennifer Hudson were also fantastic. All of the actresses gave strong performances that really reflected the characters from the book, even Dakota Fanning as the main character, Lily Owens. Paul Bettany does such a good job as Lily's mean and hurting father T. Ray that I didn't even realize it was Paul Bettany until I saw the credits! It is a great story both in film and print.

9. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

This is another rare instance where I liked the movie more than the book (even though the movie eliminated Lena's little sister). I really liked how the four girls' stories were shown. My favorite characters were Tibby and Carmen and I'll admit to getting a little teary eyed at certain parts. The movie moved me in a way the book did not.

10. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

I am sure that a lot of die hard fans would disagree with me but I thought this was a worthy film adaptation (though Prince Caspian was not). I didn't mind the liberties taken with the plot to make it more action oriented. I felt that the basic message of the book was still strongly present. I loved the portrayal of Aslan and I think the kids did decent jobs in playing their characters, especially Edmund. The book was a favorite of mine as a young child and the movie made me remember why.

Do you agree with my list? What are your favorite book to movie adaptations?


  1. I do like the Narnia film, but to be honest I'm a bigger fan of the BBC series from the '80s. They're definitely not as good as the films in many many ways, but they hold a childhood nostalgia for me, so I don't think I'll ever stop loving them! I totally agree about Lord of the Rings. The Fellowship of the Ring was the first film that I thought was at least as good if not better than the book!

  2. Great list! I can't believe I forgot Anne of Green Gables- I was obsessed with it when it first came out! Cranford sounds interesting- I must check that one out. And you know I love your Austen picks!

  3. I agree with every movie on your list! I said the exact thing about Mr.Thornton lol . Thanks for including that picture of Richad Armitage/John Thornton! I love that scene.

  4. Okay, after seeing Secret Life of Bees on so many lists already I guess I'll have to watch and/or read it!

  5. I'm so glad that you listed The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants - that is one of my favorites as well. I have been hearing great things about North and South - I think I might have to watch that soon (after I read the book, of course!)

  6. Good list. I've seen about half of them. For some reason I could only think of bad adaptations when I tried to make my list, so I dis a Teaser Tuesday instead! Here's my teaser from The Arrow Chest.

  7. Margaret Hale from North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell is one of the extraordinary heroines of Classic Lit. Elizabeth Gaskell isn't quite as known or as celebrated as Dickens or the Brontes, people who had been big friends of hers, according to her biography, but she was a gifted writer in her own right and her talent shows in this wonderful gem which I will reread again in the not-so-distant future.

  8. I have to agree with you about the first Harry Potter - it really does a great job at introducing you to the world. I don't like the story of the Lord of the Rings - but I thought the movies were well done. Great top 10!


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