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Two that immediately come to mind are Witness for the Prosecution and Rear Window.

Jim 7

Righty Ray vs. lefty Joe.

I read the book in the mid-eighties and had no idea how they were going to make it into a movie. The magic realism made no sense to me on film. I was, um, wrong.

The movie is better than the book for one other reason. When I was reading, I was bugged by Kinsella naming his main character Kinsella. I kept waiting for the autobiography to start.

Movie better than the book? Anything by Tom Clancy.

Jim 7

Oh, you said good books. Sorry.

eric k

Jim's comments remind me of a thought I've had: Bad books often lead to good movies, movies of good books can result in ok movies but seldom ones that are as good as the book.

I've been racking my brain and I can't think of another case like Shoeless Joe.

Dan Leo

Elmore Leonard's "Rum Punch" is good solid Leonard, but I love the way Tarantino adapted it into "Jackie Brown", and Leonard said he did too. Q.T. actually cut out a lot of the violence that was in the book, and he brought out two amazing and very moving performances from Pam Grier and Robert Forster. And the opening and closing sequences, both scored to Bobby Womack's "Across 110th Street", are brilliant.

Chris The Cop

Movies improved over the book: French Connection, Get Shorty (I liked both a whole lot, but the movie had Travolta's best and most tongue in cheek performance in years) and The Hunt For Red October, which I think was a pretty good book but a better movie back with before we know about Alec and Kim's child-rearing techniques. Accent? What accent? Only Sean Connery could get away forplaying a Lithuanian sub commander with a Welsh one.



Dog Day Afternoon

The Hustler


No, wait:

Bram Stoker's Dracula

The Bonfire of the Vanities

The Great Gatsby

eric k


I'm gonna have to disagree with some of your picks big time. The movie version of Hud softened the character and made him less obviously a villain. The Bonfire of the Vanities was simply a horrible movie. The Great Gastby was ok at best.

I'll grant you Dracula, several movies are better than the book but I think it is debatable that it is actually a "good book"

Janelle Dvorak

" Only Sean Connery could get away forplaying a Lithuanian sub commander with a Welsh one"
Sean Connery Welsh?


"The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao" turns a strange, dark, Depression-era novel, "The Circus of Dr. Lao" into a sentimental children's film with Barbara Eden and John Ireland and Tony Randall in his only great performance. It's a total improvement, and part of what's great is that the vinegar in the film is true to the original. Here's a link to the imdb important quotes if you don't believe me:

Chris The Cop

Janelle - I thought he was Welsh - what is he, Scottish?


How about Auntie Mame (the Rosalind Russell version)? I liked the book, but the movie was terrific and they deleted the dreary orphans and Maine bits.
Also, I thought MASH was a better movie than the book was, though sometimes its hard to separate the movie scripts from the performances -- I liked the book Captain Newman MD, but in the movie you had Bobby Darrin and Eddie Albert give terrific and memorable performances.


Three Days of the Condor (the book was Six Days of the Condor) -- the movie plot made more sense, I think.

And, yes, Sean Connery is Scottish.


A Clockwork Orange, although I mean simply technically. I am much too much of a feminist to have a high opinion of either the book or the movie purely as far as philosophical merit is concerned.

Fight Club. But in that case, the book simply wasn't that good. The movie is one of my favorites.

Very few good books can be improved upon in a film based on the book - most are horrible disappointments, so I tend to avoid movies based on books I liked. Perhaps I like good books better than a decent movie based on them because if I have to choose a medium, I prefer books to movies. So by definition, it would be hard to improve on a good book if we switch to a medium I like less.

A Handmaid's Tale was as close to a perfect book as I can imagine. I watched the movie with trepidation, but was surprised to find that it was really good. Not better than the book, couldn't improve on the book, but definitely almost as good as the book.



Re: A Clockwork Orange. No, no, no, no! This is one the most manipulative movies ever filmed. Kubrick loads the dice in favor of Alex. In the novel, Burgess does not make the murder victim a freak, and in fact, there is a second murder that Kubrick does not bother to include.

Mike Schilling

I'm an even bigger sap than Lance is: the end of Field of Dreams just makes me tear up. Every single time.


Catch-22 great movie, great book.

I enjoyed "Sophie's Choice" as a movie so much that I've been afraid to try the novel.

For good back to bad movie, any SF novel will do-- but Millennium has special pride of place. Cheryll Ladd and Kris Kristofferson...

Ken Houghton

"that's meant as an opening for someone to come along and make the case for Dances With Wolves."

Please, get the title correct: Plays with Camera.

Noted for the record: Wal-Mart has three-movie sets of famous actors including, fortunately or not, the guy who played The Corpse in The Big Chill.

The only one of the three they do not offer in Letterbox format is Plays with Camera.


I never saw the movie (but I read the book), and from what I heard about the film version, Thank You for Smoking on screen must have been a whole hell of a lot more riveting than the book.

While not better than the book, I've always been impressed with the choices made by George Roy Hill in his film version of World According to Garp. I derive as much pleasure from both, and that says a lot when you truly love a book. This is also true of To Kill a Mockingbird.

I can't believe no one has said the most blatantly obvious yet - Mario Puzo's Godfather books.


Election. The amazing thing it did was to make it obvious that the narration was unreliable. Many of the monologues in the movie are taken directly from McAllister's and Tracy's first-person narration in the book, with one important difference: in the movie, it's obvious that their perceptions of the world aren't aligned with reality, whereas the narration in the book seems believable. Also, McAllister's wife dumps him in the movie, as opposed to the denouement redemption he experiences in the book, and the change turns him into much more of a tragicomic, petty little man, which is infinitely more enjoyable (at least until you realize that you're probably not always that much less vain or vindictive than he is). Last, I love how much more satirical the movie is: it fills in some of the subtext in the book while still remaining sophisticated.

Interestingly enough, the movie version of "Little Children" came up short because it shied away from presenting as dark a vision as an uncompromising representation of the book would demand, instead make its characters too likable and sympathetic. You're SUPPOSED to be alienated by them, not identify with them and understand why they did what they did.


A nice technical thing in Field of Dreams was how they established that Mann was an iconic writer on the scale of Salinger, by having a public meeting over the banning of his books in the school.

The Hunt For Red October is my favorite example of a pretty good movie made from an awful book. A cardboard character, like "nail-chewing sub driver Bart Mancuso", works a whole lot better when played by Scott Glenn.


Sugarbiscuit, Thank You for Smoking, yes! I did try to read the book and only made it through halfway. The movie was awesome. I'm not sure that the book was actually bad - I think the movie was simply so good that the book paled in comparison.



Sahara (the McConaughey one, not the Bogart one, and that's a technical victory in that Clive Cussler couldn't write a decent novel if you shoved Ernest Hemingway in his ear, dictating characters and plot points. The movie was pretty ugly, too).

I read Shoeless Joe just before the movie came out. I'm not sure I agree with the assessment that Terence Mann made for a better movie character than Salinger (who sued to have his name taken out of the movie, IIRC) and could quite possibly have worked in the film.

The Jones monologue is pretty astounding, but you're right, if not for Jones' voice, it runs flat. In Jones' voice, you can almost here the echoes of historical TV shows like "World At War" and it really does sell that piece effectively.

Has Kevin Costner ever made a good film? Some might argue Dances, but hey, they gave Gladiator an Oscar....


Lance, Costner gave his best performance between Field of Dreams and Thirteen Days, in 1993's A Perfect World. Although that isn't one I would watch with the boys -- too tragic for a family movie night.

I happen to like Costner in a number of movies and find that the reaction to him has gotten rather pat, similar to the venom consistently directed at Stallone and (until he redeemed himself last year in a big way) Mickey Rourke. Of course Costner's acting isn't much like that of Rourke. Costner is more of a throwback to the studio stars, with a persona that he tends to ring variations on. But he has proved he can deliver in a number of movies.

I will grant you, however, that The Bodyguard was an ungodly mess, one of the most inexcusably bad things I have ever seen.


OK, I stand corrected: Costner made A Perfect World. He was good in that.

Costner's trouble is, he tries to magnify himself beyond his talents. Waterworld and Postman were inexcusable examples of his hubris, which tends then to splash back on his earlier works.

I cite, as an example, 3000 Miles To Graceland and how his awful performance there ended up tainting Perfect World's credible killer.

He's not the only one. Jim Carrey, for example, had no business stretching from Ace Ventura all the way to things like Eternal Sunshine.


@sugarbiscuit: yes, i was going to say Garp too. Great novel, great movie, and the astonishing thing is how perfectly the director figured out how to condense a loooong novel into 2.5 hours without losing anything crucial either to the plot or to the emotional impact. Never seen a feat like it.

@actor212: what a depressing, arrogant worldview you seem to have. First of all, lots of people (me included) love the stretched-out-ambitiously version of Jim Carrey; second, even if somehow the great omniscient God in the Sky agrees with you instead of me, why on earth is it Carrey's or Costner's or anyones obligation to sit around modestly accepting some viewer's assumptions about their limitations? You don't own anyone's talent.

Thirdly, "the Postman", as a David Brin novel, is extraordinary and would I think appeal strongly to lots of people here; if Terry Pratchett wasn't funny but retained all his other gifts and worldview, and was actually a sly bit _more_ subversive, it's something he could write.

I've never seen the movie, but Brin has explained how Costner, a late-comer to the project, single-handedly rescued it from selling a worldview diametrically (and brutishly) opposite the book's, salvaging it into an over-ambitious but generously intentioned muddle. Even if it _was_ my business to decide how Costner spent his life -- and it isn't -- I don't see a good reason for complaining about that.


why on earth is it Carrey's or Costner's or anyones obligation to sit around modestly accepting some viewer's assumptions about their limitations?

Uh, cuz, that's how you gain self-awareness and in turn become a better actor? When someone who has a bit of understanding of the craft (note the nym) speaks about how another actor is handling himself, it might make sense to pay a little attention to him or her.

Just a, you know, thought.

Jim Carrey is arguably the worst comedic actor outside of his one-note slapstick parts. He is by no means a dramatic actor, and his box office numbers and reviews tend to bear this out, so he wouldn't need me to tell him that.

But, if his ego is that big that he thinks he can play Curly of the Three Stooges...he can imitate him, I'm sure. *condescending pat on Voxie's wrist*

As to Costner, well, I've said a lot about him. I'll add this: he's put himself into this position of being a parody of himself every time he makes a movie (Swing Vote? Hullo?). He can get himself out of it, but he needs to drop his pretensions and learn who he is now. He's still living off Field of Dreams and Silverado.


Even if it _was_ my business to decide how Costner spent his life -- and it isn't -- I don't see a good reason for complaining about that.

Sorry, I missed this part.

So you're defending his taking a lead and commanding his inflated salary to make a movie that would have been Ishtarian and move it up to the level of Heaven's Gate?

I think that alone is worthy of complaint, nevermind that the movie ran nearly three hours so wasted an entire afternoon for the handful of people who actually saw it, many of whom might have been forgiven for mistaking it for a comedy.

How many really good movies could have been made for just Costner's paycheck, nevermind the $63 million dollars he wasted directing a bad movie (and that's the first time I've made fun of his directorial chops)?

eric k

Another good recent Costner performance was The Upside of Anger (you gotta admit the man can play a washed up athlete)


I just saw The Prestige and haven't read the book. Apparently, the book won some award so probably it was decent, but could it have been better than the movie? The movie was something else. Nerve racking, but terrific.

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