I just finished reading Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. The movie, as you may know, is a classic. Genuinely great. And I feared that this would be one of those rare instances that the film is better than the book.
I almost didn’t read the book for this very reason. I bypassed it several times, choosing other books in favor of it, afraid of being disappointed.
But eventually I decided to read it, and I liked the book. I’m glad I read it. Unfortunately, I was right. The movie was much better.
Sacrilege, I know. But not unprecedented.
In my life, I have encountered three other films that were better than their literary counterparts.
The Firm by John Grisham. Though I loved the book, Grisham’s ending lacked the punch and surprise that the film provided. I was disappointed by the way the novel sort of petered out at the end, whereas the film captivated me until the final scene.
Forrest Gump by Winston Groom. The book was not good at all. In this case, I saw the film first and discovered much later on that it was based upon a book. How anyone could read that novel and create the Academy Award winning film based upon it is beyond me.
Minority Report by Philip Dick. The literary version is actually a short story, so it’s hard to fault the book for not measuring up to the movie, but it didn’t. Dick’s version of the story reads more like a detective story set in the future,whereas the film is a more provocative look at the future through the lens of a detective story.
And now Fight Club joins my list. Like The Firm, I liked the book quite a bit, but like The Firm, the ending of the film far surpasses the ending of the novel. I also think that there are moments in the book that suffer from the limitation of first person narration that the film is able to avoid.
But that’s it. Four films better than the books after a lifetime of reading.
It’s interesting to note that in three of the cases, I liked the book a lot but liked the film even more. There were also a bunch of instances in which I thought the movie was as good or almost as good as the book, but none were good enough to overtake the literary version of the story.
And now Charles Portis’s True Grit is sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read. And once again, I’m worried. I just saw the Coen brothers’ version of the film and thought it was remarkable. I’m hoping the novel measures up.
Any movies-better-than-the-book that you would like to suggest?