Top Five Movies That Are Better Than The Book

  • The following, composed in rather rapid fashion, is an off-the-cuff top-five list of movies that are better than the book:

    Number 5: The English Patient, a well-written novel by Sri Lankan-Canadian writer Michael Ondaatje. The movie, directed by the English auteur Anthony Minghella (RIP), with phenomenal acting performances by Juliette Binoche and the stunning and skeletal Kristin Scott Thomas, but most especially Ralph Fiennes, concretizes the complicated plot in ways the novel does not approach.

    Number 4: The Grifters, by Big Jim Thompson (1906 — 1977), who was a prolific and good (if uneven) pulp writer. The movie came out in 1990 and is a kind of neo-noir film, directed by another English auteur named Stephen Frears, produced by Martin Scorsese. Anjelica Huston and Annette Bening deliver unforgettable performances (“So what’s it going to be? The lady, or the loot?”), but the undisputed star of this show is John Cusack, who plays the cool and tragic Roy Dillon.

    Number 3: Wild At Heart, by Barry Gifford, whom I admit to having a true literary affection for — though I’m not entirely sure why: he writes so much mediocre stuff. And yet there’s something about him, something unlike anyone else. I did genuinely like his slim novel Wild At Heart and I recommend it for the writing style alone. In fact, it’s among his very best efforts and the writing is truly beautiful. But it doesn’t compare to the movie, directed by none other than David Lynch, and 1990 winner of the coveted Palm D’Or at Cannes — a flawed movie, to be sure (all Wizard of Oz references should have been removed), but a movie that is not unintelligible, as so many David Lynch movies are, a gorgeous movie with profundity and strangeness and seriousness and laugh-out-loud humor, all at the same time. Sailor Ripley, incidentally, the main character, is one of my favorite movie characters of all-time.

    Number 2: After Dark, My Sweet, which was also written by the previously mentioned pulp writer Jim Thompson, a book told from the first-person perspective, as most of Jim Thompson’s novels are, and in this case that first-person perspective flaws it, in my opinion. But I did like the book. The movie, however, directed by James Foley and starring Jason Patrick and the very lovely Rachel Ward (who never looked lovelier), is filmed with a sparseness and sense of longing that takes the story to a level far beyond noir. This is one of the most romantic movies ever, with a heartbreaking ending you will not see coming.

    Number 1: Blade Runner, of course. Of course. A semi-famous novel, first published in 1968, entitled Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by American writer Philip K. Dick, who is a good writer, though you wouldn’t necessarily know it from this book alone. The movie Blade Runner (directed by the vastly overrated Ridley Scot) is not only better: it’s better by light years. In fact, Blade Runner is bottomless, and without any doubt one of the greatest movies ever made.

About The Author

Ray Harvey

I was born and raised in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. I've worked as a short-order cook, construction laborer, crab fisherman, janitor, bartender, pedi-cab driver, copyeditor, and more. I've written and ghostwritten several published books and articles, but no matter where I've gone or what I've done to earn my living, there's always been literature and learning at the core of my life.

13 Responses and Counting...

  • Averil 04.12.2012

    Torturing me with After Dark, My Sweet again, are you? It’s so wrong. You could at least tell me how it ends.

  • I admit it: I thought of you specifically, Averil Dean. How could I not?

  • David Fincher’s – Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Rooney Mara was a casting coup – and let’s face it anyone who gets past the first fifty pages of the book deserves a medal.

  • Avril, what a joy to see you here.

    I couldn’t agree with you more — about the book. I must confess, though, that because of the book, I haven’t seen the movie. Yet. You liked?

  • The Bourne Identity. Seriously, was Ludlum getting paid the useless detail?

  • Fuck a fat man! I forgot about The Bourne Identity. I couldn’t agree with you more. I loved that movie, thought the book was purely mediocre.

    Thank you for that.

  • “paid by the”. In this case “by” is probably not useless.

  • Okay, since Jefe was quicker than I on submitting TBI, I have to fall back and punt.

    Jaws, Peter Benchly. The book was inexcusably verbose, and tried yet failed to draw the reader in with side plots and scenes meant purely to shock. The movie got it right. Beautifully filmed, and ironically more terrifying because the mechanical shark didn’t work and Spielburg had to film around it.

    Winter’s Bone, Daniel Woodrell. It’s not that the book is bad, but the focuss on descriptive details results in one dimensional characters and the reader becomes only an observer. The movie cuts to the heart of the main character’s plight and you really feel both her strength of character and bewildered dispair. The scenery is so lovingly crafted that you can almost feel the biting cold and smell the damp, decaying woods of the hollers.

  • Cindy, my dear, I forgot all about Jaws as well, which I completely agree with you on, but I’m afraid I can’t comment on Winter’s Bone: I neither saw nor read it. But I’m going to see it — on the strength of your recommendation alone. Thank you.

    And thank you for dropping by.

  • Fight Club was a winner for me. Although the book was pretty good, it gave away the ending far too early. The movie managed to hold onto that little secret a lot longer.

  • I confess I’ve never read Fight Club, but I work with a guy who worships at the shrine of Chuck Palahniuk.

    Thank you for dropping by, DavidS.

  • I’m going to go ahead and disagree with number one. I know everyone has a artistic boner for Blade Runner (and I certainly do as well), but I view them as different works of art asking the same question. The film introduces ambiguity for Deckard’s character, sparking the debate of whether or not he is an android. Dick makes it plain that Deckard is not an android. In fact, if Deckard WERE an android, that would destroy some of the power, I think. Both works circulate around how humans transmogrify themselves into machines and vice versa. If there aren’t any humans to be turned into machines, it’s not much of a comparison. Fundamentally, though, I just don’t think they’re the same work at all. Also, I have a soft spot for the works of Dick and his religious paranoia.

  • Ray

    Hi Karl. I agree with much of what you say — about artistic boners and Dick, in particular — and I like the way you say it, but I worry a little over what I detect as hesitation (on your part) in comparing the two: Blade Runner and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

    As far as I’m concerned — and I know you don’t disagree with this — if you make Deckard a replicant, as Ridley Scott wanted, though his writer Hampton Fancher and producer Bud Yorkin did not, you ruin the entire meaning of the movie: i.e. replicants are “more human than human.” On that basis alone, I think the two are comparable.

    Thank you for dropping by.

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