Adaptational Angst Upgrade

Sometimes when Hollywood decides to do a movie adaptation they'll try to make a character more interesting by giving him some angst not present (or not discussed) in the book. Reasons vary: it makes the character easier to empathize with, it is an attempt to avert an Invincible Hero, it adds more conflict to the story, etc. Often used to add more Character Development.

It may be caused by historical Values Dissonance. Many of the examples below are adapted from older works, or even The Oldest Ones in the Book. In the past, The Hero of the Monomyth was expected to accept his destiny as a great hero and leader, but modern ideals would rather support the character of a Cincinnatus-style humble Everyman.

Compare and contrast with True Art Is Angsty. Usually contrasts with Adaptational Comic Relief.


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     Anime and Manga  

  • The title character of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha in The Movie manga continuity. Fans gave this version of Nanoha the Fan Nickname of "Emoha". This is especially noticeable in the part after the movie's events where, in contrast to the anime where she's pleased with the outcome but somewhat worried about Fate, she believes in the movie manga that she failed to help anyone. At the beginning of their mock battle in the manga, Fate believes that since she caused Nanoha trouble, she doesn't deserve to be friends with her.
  • The first Fullmetal Alchemist anime had this happen on a few occasions.
    • Ed had a 10-Minute Retirement from being a State Alchemist after hearing about Nina's death and Tucker's execution which actually turned out to be a cover-up.
    • There's also the scene from the manga, when Al thinks that Ed may have fabricated his entire personality when binding his soul to the armor. Originally, it only takes Winry telling him that the question Ed was scared to ask was whether Al hated him to bring him to his senses (that and hitting him on the head with a wrench). In the first anime, he parts ways with Ed, but realizes the truth when helping a pair of Ishvalan refugee brothers.
    • In the first anime, Ed and Al both tend to angst about their struggles a lot more overall.
    • Roy has significant more guilt and trauma in the first anime, and it's portrayed much more explicitly. This could be partly due to him being the one who killed the Rockbells in this version, but he has PTSD flashbacks to other parts of his actions in Ishval throughout the series (see: "Fullmetal vs. Flame").
  • Inverted in the Slayers franchise in regards to Zelgadis's chimeric state; despite being used as a Butt Monkey ploy several times in the anime, he's actually less prudish in regards to his appearance, and embraces the awe and nicknames that he receives from strangers (i.e "The Heartless, Mystical Swordsman); if for nothing else, he gets upset when he's being used for a silly ploy (such as being used as an anchor.). In the original novels, he is far more sensitive about his appearance and not frivolous at all; a side-story featuring him emphasizes this angst in which he broods over the fact that he made friends who see beyond his appearance in the first place.
  • Vision of Escaflowne's Darker and Edgier movie adaptation begins with Hitomi attempting suicide, and a huge part of her Character Development involves overcoming her depression. In the series she was fairly more balanced, with most of her issues stemming from her romantic conflicts and lack of confidence.
  • In Trigun, after Vash is forced to kill Legato he immediately falls into a state of shock after being horrified at his actions. In the manga, he is able to get over this fairly quickly after remembering that he still needs to stop Knives who is threatening everyone on the planet Gunsmoke. On the other hand, in the anime Vash remains in this depressed state for over a month, even growing suicidal before Meryl and Milly are finally able to snap him back to normal. It's also notable that the anime actually did this scene first long before the manga one was published, but it is based on what the creator was planning to do for the manga.
  • In the Duelist Kingdom arc in Yu-Gi-Oh!, after he winds up essentially forfeiting to Kaiba, feeling he's let his weakness take over him causes Yugi to turn into a sobbing wreck. While in the manga Mai is able to snap him out of this after about 2 or 3 pages, in the anime it took a whole filler episode with Anzu challenging Mai to a duel to get him back to normal.
    • In the dub, Yugi was still too afraid to let Yami duel. It took 4˝ more episodes and an almost one-sided duel with Mai to overcome it.
  • The Kotoura-san anime does this by shifting the focus from Manabe to Haruka and adding in the very angsty Downer Beginning.
  • The anime adaption of Devil Survivor 2 does this to the protagonist (here called Hibiki Kuze) removing much of his literal Bunny-Ears Lawyer attitude in the game and replacing it with this trope.
  • Shauna in Pokémon X and Y is a Cheerful Child who's always smiling and happy. In Pokémon Special she's very sarcastic and bitter, likely because in this canon she watched a dear friend fall into depression and was unable to do anything for him.


  • Comic books in general are this trope in its truest form. Over the years, the lighthearted stories of yester-year have become Darker and Edgier more and more in later years.
  • One of the most notable examples of this is the case of Barry Allen, The Flash. Originally a humble do-gooder who was motivated to become a superhero mostly because he liked comics and had just gained superpowers, meaning superheroics was the next logical step (he was already a police forensic scientist, so he already had a sense of right-and-wrong and desire to help justice), but later retcons when he was brought into the present era included giving him a new backstory of a murdered mother with his father being falsely accused and convicted of her murder. Notable is the fact that this was both unneeded (Barry, while a Nice Guy, wasn't exactly without his angst as it was, what with the death of his first love Iris, and him killing his arch enemy Professor Zoom (Iris' killer) in order to save his second love), and justified at the same time (the retcon was explained away as Zoom going back in time to mess with Barry's life, killing his mother to give him more misery).


  • In The Lord of the Rings films:
    • Aragorn reveals his inner conflict more often than in the books, and is not convinced that he should return as king until the last movie. The DVD commentary for the film outright admits this was done as a way to give him a character-building arc, although it is easier to rationalize considering the opinion the film's Elves hold about the will of Men in general during the story... which also wasn't so prominent in the books.
    • Faramir in the books was able to refuse the ring when Frodo offered it to him without a second thought. In the movie, Faramir being tempted to take the ring like his brother was, but ultimately realizing that he had to let Frodo go, was the driving force behind his entire arc in the second movie.
    • In the film, Gollum turns Frodo against Sam before ditching him at Shelob's lair, and Sam is left walking back home in tears after pleading with Frodo not to believe him. In the books they merely get lost in Shelob's lair after Gollum abandons them.
  • Thorin's background in The Hobbit. He seems reasonably content in the book and his reason for returning to Erebor mainly seems to be to regain the treasure. In the film, it's a source of great pain to him that his people lack their rightful home, and he also wants revenge for the deaths of his kin.
    • In the second film, Beorn's scenes are not a funny and lighthearted break from a desperate ordeal with goblins because Beorn isn't a cranky but reasonable force-of-nature-like person who has to be conned into sheltering the company for a couple of nights. Instead he's the Last of His Kind escapee from Azog's gladiator pits who only helps the Dwarves because he hates Goblins more.
  • Peter in The Chronicles of Narnia films, especially Prince Caspian, is far less confident and kingly than his book counterpart. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader also adds sub-plots where Lucy worries a lot about her looks and the consequences of worrying about it, Edmund angsts about his time as a traitor to the White Witch, and Caspian has daddy issues. The first movie also gives Edmund the psychological excuse of being the sibling most affected by their father being off fighting in World War II; in the books, the war is pretty much just a device to get them all to a big strange house in the countryside and is barely if at all mentioned after the first page.
  • King Leonidas from 300. Turns his wife into a major character and makes her the voice of reason and confidence.
  • The eponymous hero in the Christopher Lambert version of Beowulf.
  • This happened to James Bond in the latest movies.
  • Stuart Little was changed (understandably) so that Stuart was adopted instead of Mrs. Little actually giving birth to him, leaving George with disappointment about getting a mouse instead of the "real" brother he'd wanted and a bit of a complex about being overshadowed by the novelty of Stuart. In the book George was a fairly minor character whose defining characteristic was being kind of a know-it-all.
  • Hook, a movie sequel to Peter Pan, makes the grown-up Peter into a distant workaholic dad who has to learn that his kids are more important.
    • Likewise PJ Hogan's Peter Pan greatly expands upon Wendy's reasons for running away to Neverland. Not simply just afraid of growing up, Wendy is afraid of what growing up will actually mean - becoming an Old Maid or Stepford Smiler and being unable to have her adventures. This is all for the sake of undergoing Character Development as Wendy realises that she was only afraid of growing up because she was not ready for it. Meanwhile Peter gets plenty of angst as well, not being able to understand the nature of his feelings for Wendy, as falling in love is a part of growing up which Peter refuses to do. The film even ends on a bittersweet note with the narrator describing Wendy's happy family as "the world he could never be a part of".
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory gave Willy Wonka a Freudian Excuse.
  • The Last Temptation of Christ.
  • Film adaptations of Bible stories will typically add this - for example, the book of Exodus never says that Moses had no idea of his Hebrew heritage. In fact, it implies the opposite, but most versions have his true heritage be a surprise, to up the angst. Other such examples are:
    • A film version of the Book/Life of the prophet Joel gives Joel a love interest who is killed (in front of him) by the oppressors, spurring Joel onto his passionate, even frenzied preaching.
    • The story of Ruth, already an impressive one in and of itself, is given an extra punch by making Ruth a priestess of the Moab religion, rather than just a Moabitess, and therefore her conversion to Judaism is much more meaningful.
  • The Last Airbender: Movie!Aang spends most of his time angsting over his job as the Avatar and being the last airbender. While Cartoon!Aang isn't a stranger to angst, he's The Pollyanna. Also people are quick to notice that Movie!Sokka never cracks a single joke when he was known as the funny guy in the series.
    • The difference is jarring to fans, as one of the trademarks of Aang's character in the original series is his apparently-eternal optimism, and the few times he truly fell into depression were: after realizing he really is the last Airbender (by discovering the remains of Monk Gyatso); had his oldest and closest friend stolen by sand-raiders; and effectively lost the war by allowing the Fire Nation to finally seize control of the Earth Kingdom (leaving only a small band of rebels, amounting to little more than a single battalion of soldiers). While Aang always has a subtle sense of melancholy and quiet moments in the original series, Movie! Aang is basically morose throughout the entire film, with nary a sign of the cartoon's positivism.
  • Spider-Man in the movies is a lot more somber. Peter Parker was always as angsty as he was in the films, but usually he puts that angst aside when in his Spider-Man persona; not so here.
    • The Amazing Spider-Man is much more angsty than the preceding films, adding the baggage of missing parents on top of Peter's responsibility and love interest woes. However, it also turns Peter's snarkiness when fighting as Spidey.
  • Master and Commander: The Far Side Of The World, the only film so far of the Aubrey-Maturin novels, has a plot condensed from several of the books plus some stuff that's just made up. A few characters suffer Death by Adaptation; in particular, one midshipman is Driven to Suicide by a major sub-plot expanded from a minor and suicideless one in one of the books. Presumably due to Values Dissonance, the decision to have a sailor flogged is also played as a rare event and significant moral dilemma for Aubrey, while in the books it's treated as a routine if sometimes distasteful part of his job.
  • Goku in Dragonball Evolution suffered this trope. In the movie, he has zero self-confidence and feels that he "can't get the girl", a far cry from his actual personality, where he had no worries in the world at all, and initially had trouble identifying what a girl was.
  • Most of the angst in the Harry Potter films comes directly from the books, but there are still some film-specific examples of this trope. In the book version of Deathly Hallows, the fact that Hermione bewitched her parents to forget about her is something which is briefly mentioned in passing. The movie actually shows it, creating a heart-breaking scene. In the sixth film, Slughorn is seen to harbor much guilt and sadness over the death of Lily Potter via an anecdote about a gift she once gave him. The films actually avert it more often than not:
    • In the first book, the time our heroes lose one hundred and fifty house points makes them despondent and hated by their classmates, but the movie just skips directly from them losing the points to their detention.
    • The second movie greatly downplays Harry's angst about potentially being the Heir of Slytherin, although it gets a little more play in the film's Deleted Scenes. The fourth movie doesn't explain Barty Crouch, Jr.'s angsty backstory and portrays him as a straightforward villain.
    • In the fifth movie, Harry doesn't fly into frequent ALL CAPS rants of rage at his friends nor does he Rage Against the Mentor with Dumbledore during the final scenes as in the book; the movie instead portrays his inner struggle throughout the plot as one of bleak isolation because of his tribulations rather than angry frustration from feeling like he's treated with kid gloves too often.
  • In Star Trek: First Contact, Captain Picard deeply hates the Borg, due to having been assimilated by them once, and has to overcome the urge to go Captain Ahab on them. In the series, he never showed any sign of irrational hatred for the Borg, even in episodes which dealt with the Borg and took place after his assimilation.
  • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Maya pretty quickly recovers from Mia's death, or at least is able to act as if she has. In the movie, she is more upset and, at the end of her trial, screams at Red White and demands to know why he hurt her family so much. Also, while the backstory of Yanni Yogi was plenty tragic in the game, the movie actually shows him having to suffer through being accused of murder, having Robert Hammond say to his face that he doesn't care of Yogi is innocent or not, being harassed by his neighbors, and coming home to find that his wife has committed suicide.
  • Mrs. Brisby in The Secret Of NIMH is shown as a much more timid character on her quest to save her son than in the book which focused more on the rats' escape from NIMH. The film places much more emphasis on the values of courage, which is justifiable since Mrs. Brisby is a mouse.
  • Played with Aurora in Maleficent. In Sleeping Beauty, Aurora becomes heartbroken when she learns her identity as the daughter of King Stefan and Queen Leah, meaning that she'll have to leave her simple life in the woods with her aunts and marry a prince, never able to meet up with the nice guy she met in the woods (of course, said guy turns out to be Phillip, her betrothed all along). In Maleficent, Aurora is told by her aunts about her curse (to fall into eternal sleep) and even about Maleficent, who cursed her. However, in this continuity, Aurora has grown to know Maleficent as her Fairy Godmother, and even planned on moving into the Faerie Moors with her when she turned sixteen. As a result, this film places more emphasis on how Aurora feels betrayed by the people she grew up seeing as her family, while adding on the angst that any teenage girl would get when they learn they're essentially doomed to die.
  • Though her hiding from others is not shown as much in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, Katniss' concern for Gale, Prim, and especially Peeta is played way up in comparison to the book. For example, when she gives her demands to Coin in exchange for being the Mockingjay, she does not include her demand that she be allowed to kill Snow personally, only concentrating on saving the victors (and keeping Buttercup). This is especially shown in the mission to save the victors. While in the book, she was concentrated wholly on Finnick's revelations about Snow and therefore developing an increasingly complex relation with him as a result in their friendship, the revelations are more or less in the background, including the fact that Finnick was a Sex Slave not even having him on screen at the time of the comment, with her focused entirely on the screens involving the secondary purpose of the reveals.
  • A rather minor case with Jack in the film version of Into the Woods, who develops a bit of angst due to his mother's treatment.

     Live Action Television  

  • In Smallville, Clark and Lana's relationship is nothing like the lighthearted high school romance - more like a troubled, twisted, angst-filled...something. Both of them angst a lot more than their usual selves.
  • Merlin in the series of the same name.
    • Arthur has his moments as well, as well as having to get over prejudices against magic and class not usually touched on in other adaptations.
  • The original Little House on the Prairie books notably ran on Angst? What Angst? The seventies TV show, which wound up well into They Just Didn't Care territory, derived plenty of its drama from things that didn't remotely happen in the books/in Real Life. The 2005 miniseries stuck closer to the letter of events but sometimes added emotional overtones where none had been, including mining angst from the books' characteristically restrained hints at the "Well Done, Son!" Guy element in Laura's relationship with her father.
  • Moist von Lipwig in the TV adaptation of Going Postal broods much more on his past crimes and their consequences than he does in the book. Also, Adora Belle Dearheart has lost not only her brother.
  • In the Poirot adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, Hercule Poirot agonizes a lot more over whether to turn in the person or persons responsible for the murder than he does in the novel.
  • The original series of Kolchak: The Night Stalker had Kolchak investigating strange stories of the supernatural solely because he kept running into them on his beat. The short-lived remake The Night Stalker had it so that he was driven to investigate the strange after the mysterious death of his wife, for which he was still considered a suspect.
  • The Granada Sherlock Holmes series flip-flops on inverting this or playing it straight for different incidents, the decisions usually hinging on the absence of Watson's narration from the books. Holmes's cocaine addiction, at any rate, is given a good bit more active screentime.


  • One could argue that this trope was the basis for the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. In fact, it was precisely this reason that many people initially protested the film — because the all-powerful Christ isn't supposed to show feelings like the rest of the mortals, dammit (never mind that the Bible does have several entries in which he does just that).

     Western Animation  

  • Moses in The Prince of Egypt, compared to other films such as The Ten Commandments. In the original source however he's arguably even more angsty.
    • Aside from not realizing he was adopted (see above), this version also emphasizes the fact that he and Ramsees were raised as brothers and friends, giving them a tragic Cain and Abel dynamic not present in the Bible or other versions. But since Tropes Are Not Bad many people prefer this because it humanizes both of them.
  • Disney's Treasure Planet ages up Jim Hawkins and gives him single-parent/teen-rebel angst.
  • In The Frog Prince, the female lead is a princess whose worst worries are getting her ball out of a pond and having to deal with her promise to a frog. In The Princess and the Frog, Tiana is a workaholic bordering on a nervous collapse because she feels that if she doesn't achieve her dream of owning her own restaurant, she will let down her dead father (who shared the same dream and, in fact, inspired her). She also seems aware of what her friends, family, and the town in general thinks of her devotion to her dream and it gets to her.
  • In Rapunzel, while Rapunzel being kicked out of the tower isn't very pleasant, it still isn't emphasized as being the worst thing ever. In Tangled, Rapunzel has to deal with discovering that her "mother" actually kidnapped her in infancy and intends to imprison her for as long as she lives. And when Rapunzel fights back, it ends with watching Mother Gothel die in front of her and Flynn nearly dying.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man is an inversion surprisingly enough. In the original comics Peter spent at least half the time moping about how he was essentially life's punching bag, especially in Stan Lee's original run which the show was in part directly based on. In the cartoon itself Peter does gripe about his problems every now and then, but overall has much more of a positive outlook. Even as the comics and movies increasingly follow a rule that says "there's no such thing as enough Wangst," what is Peter's first scene? As he webslings his way through the city, he says "Tell me there's something better. Go ahead, try."