5 Best and 5 Worst Book Adaptations for Film and TV


There are countless films based on books, including many of the most beloved movies ever made. However, many others failed to capture the magic of the book and disappointed fans and critics alike.



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This list will focus on ten movies that have succeeded or failed to adapt a beloved non-fiction book. So movies that were only loosely based on novels were much more acclaimed than the book,developed on short stories or adapted non-fiction books will not be included.

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Worst: “Eragon” (2006)

Eragon is the first book of The inheritance cycle by Christopher Paolini, which tells the story of a farm boy named Eragon living in a fantasy world ruled by an evil king. After finding a dragon egg in the mountains, Eragon teams up with an ancient Dragon Rider to defeat the king. Eragon enticed readers with a reminiscent storyline the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter and was the second best-selling paperback of 2005.

This popularity led to a movie being released soon after in 2006, but fans of the book rejected the adaptation, causing the potential movie franchise to die when it arrived. The film received poor reviews and only grossed $75.0 million domestically against a budget of $100 million. Luckily for fans of the books, a Disney+ series is currently in the works.

Best: “Harry Potter” (2001)

Harry Potter is a series of seven fantasy novels by JK Rowling. The novels tell the fantastic story of a young wizard who attends a magical school and fights against dark forces. With over 500 million copies sold worldwide, it is the best-selling book series in history.

Due to its mega-popularity, expectations for the films were sky-high. Fortunately, the first two, led by Christopher Colombus (Alone at home), appealed to audiences of all ages with their whimsy and family fun. As the series progressed, the films matured, aligning perfectly with their intended audience throughout. They stayed true to the books and captured the charm and excitement of the magical world, leading to huge box office success. The Prisoner of Azkaban and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 were particularly appreciated by fans and critics.

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Worst: “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” (2010)

Percy Jackson and the Olympians attracted a large and passionate fan base and has been a bestseller for nearly two decades. The series chronicles the adventures of a young boy who discovers he is the son of Poseidon, bringing elements of ancient Greek mythology into the modern world. The books are beloved for their intriguing mysteries, thrilling adventures, and high-stakes action.

The series was so popular that it spawned a film franchise that was to succeed Harry Potter. Unfortunately, the five-book franchise was canceled after two disappointing films received mixed reviews and disappointing box office returns. Both alienated fans of the book with their unfaithful adaptation of the material. The complaints centered on the cutting of entire scenes, the reworking of the endings of both films, and the aging of the characters. Luckily, Disney+ is currently working on a TV series with the book’s author, Rick Riordanoverseeing its production.

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Best: “Flight Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975)

Flight over a cuckoo’s nest is a 1962 novel about a group of inmates in a mental hospital. It was praised for its nuanced critique of psychiatry, and Time Magazine included the book in its list of “The 100 Best English-Language Novels 1923-2005”.

While the novel is considered a classic, the movie was arguably even better. It is often considered one of the best of the 1970s and is one of only three films to win all five major Oscars: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Picture.

Worst: ‘Dune’ (1984)

dune is a wild sci-fi epic written by Frank Herbert and published in 1965. Set on various planets in the distant future, the novel captivated readers with its original story and won the first Nebula Award for Best Novel. Despite its popularity, the filmmakers were reluctant to adapt the book due to its complexity and length, with many deeming it “unadaptable”.

After the success of eraser head and The Elephant Manvisionary director David Lynch directed the film adaptation in 1984. Lynch, known for his unusual and ambitious projects, seemed like the perfect choice for dune. Unfortunately, adapting the entire book into a single film proved difficult, resulting in a film that received a mixed response from critics and grossed less than $28 million domestically vs. a budget of $40 million.

Best: ‘Dune’ (2021)

Nearly forty years after the failure of the 1984 film, another famous director has taken up the challenge of adapting the novel by Herbert, the French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve. An avid fan of the novel, Villeneuve realized that there was simply too much content to fit into one film and wisely decided to split the novel into two parts.

The first part was released in 2021 to positive reviews from critics and won six Oscars. Villeneuve’s film was essentially the first half of the original novel, and a sequel, which will cover the remaining story, is slated for release in 2023.

Related: Every Denis Villeneuve Movie Ranked

Worst: “The Golden Compass” (2007)

In the late 1990s, the author Philippe Pullmann launched the Its dark materials trilogy, which tells the story of two children who discover a series of parallel universes. The golden compass is based on the first novel in the trilogy titled Northern Lights.

The book was aimed at an adult audience with deep themes and thinly veiled critiques of religion. Conversely, the film avoids controversy and targets a younger audience. Despite its outstanding cast and Oscar-winning special effects, The golden compass the book’s alienated fans and disappointed critics.

Best: “The Lord of the Rings” (2001)

The Lord of the Rings is an epic series of fantasy novels by JRR Tolkien. Set in fictional Middle-earth, the six-book story is a sequel to Tolkien’s 1937 book The Hobbit. The books received critical acclaim and achieved immense popularity, selling over 150 million copies.

After an animated film adapted from the six books in 1978, peter jackson took over the project nearly 30 years later and delivered three of the best fantasy films of all time. All three were huge box office hits that garnered critical acclaim and significant awards. The last movie, The king’s returnholds the record for most Oscars, winning all eleven categories in which it was nominated, including Best Picture.

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Worst: “Divergent Series: Allegiant” (2016)

Divergent is a bestselling series of science fiction novels for young adults from Veronique Roth set in a post-apocalyptic Chicago. The books were popular with teenage readers who enjoy romance and dystopian action, drawing comparisons to The hunger Games. Divergent released its first film in the summer of 2014 and two more over the next two summers.

Although the first two films received low scores on Rotten Tomatoes (41% for Divergent and 28% for Insurgent), they were faithful to the source material. They do better with audiences (69% and 58%, respectively). However, the third film in the franchise, alleviatingwas criticized for deviating from the novel and for unnecessarily dividing the book into two parts, the second of which was never made. alleviating received an 11% critic score and a 41% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes and only grossed $66.2 million domestically, a steep drop from previous films, which respectively $150.8 million and $130.1 million.

Best: “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991)

Thesilenceofthelambs is a 1988 psychological horror novel which was the sequel to the 1981 novel Red Dragon. The thrilling sequel won the 1988 Bram Stoker Prize and the 1989 Anthony Prize for Best Novel.

While horror/thriller fans adored the book, the film captivated audiences. Although he is most notable for Anthony Hopkins‘ legendary performance as Hannibal Lector, he is spectacular on all levels. In 1992, it became the third and, to date, the last film to win all five major Oscars. It’s also the only horror/thriller film to win Best Picture.

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