"From J.K. Rowling, the author of the book series that kept Borders open for another few years, comes the movie adaptation for people too lazy to read."
Got a hit book
? Turn it into a hit film
. What could be more natural? The name alone will sell tickets, and adapting a hit book to the screen can't be that difficult, can it?
Unfortunately, as many studios have found, it's not quite that simple. Print and film are very different media; what works for one will fall flat on the other. A good rule of thumb is: Great literature usually makes a bad movie, while mediocre literature often makes a great movie.
In print, special effects are easy; in film, they are expensive. In print, describing a character's thoughts is normal; in film, a voiceover is seldom acceptable. In print, a story can take days to read; in film, audiences won't sit still for more than a few hours. Getting round these problems means changing the story, for better or for worse.
One issue is that a typical novel is simply much too long
to fit all of it in a two (or even three) hour movie, so significant parts of it must be cut out. Sometimes entire characters may be changed, have their screen time lengthened/shortened (if not cut altogether), or important book-related plot points may be whizzed by, creating a moment of Fridge Logic
. All of this tends to a trendy belief that no matter how good or bad the movie is, "The book was better."
Sometimes the film is so successful the book gets forgotten
. Other times, the book is still read long after the film is forgotten. In the middle ground, the book will probably be republished with a cover based on the movie poster and "Now a major motion picture!" or something emblazoned on it.
The Film Of The Book is the opposite of Novelization
, except when it's a new
novelization of The Film Of The Book. These are almost always execrable, vastly shorter than the original book, or both.
The Other Wik
i has something to say
about this kind of thing in its usual style. Adaptations like this are likely to lead to Old Guard Versus New Blood
open/close all folders
- The Bourne Identity had its setting moved from The Seventies to the Present Day, and as a consequence its plot, a Cold War tale featuring Ripped from the Headlines villain Carlos the Jackal, had to be completely reworked and now featured the US government, rather than Carlos, as the Big Bad. For some unearthly reason, Marie is turned from a Canadian economist into a German hippy. On the other hand, the adaptations of The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, which were shot by a different director, bear almost no similarity to the books and a major character (Marie) is killed off fairly early on.
- James Bond:
- Goldfinger: The book has a plot to steal the gold from Fort Knox (which the movie Bond points out is impossible) using a nuclear bomb to blow open a door while everyone is suicidally close. The movie changes the scheme into a plan to raid the fort just long enough to place the nuclear bomb in the main vault. Any gold surviving the blast would be radioactive and thus worthless, making the value of Auric Goldfinger's own gold jump at least tenfold.
- Diamonds Are Forever: While earlier films played it pretty close to the books (especially On Her Majesty's Secret Service and, for obvious reasons, Thunderball), this one changed everything about the book's plot and setting, except its central plot conceit about diamond smuggling. Also, the Roaring Rampage of Revenge was not there, at least not at first, in the actual followup novel, You Only Live Twice, being replaced instead by a massive and prolonged Heroic BSOD that takes Bond being assigned a suicide mission by M to snap him out of it, and which does lead to the smackdown being placed, hard and ruthlessly, on Blofeld.
- The Spy Who Loved Me was based off of one of Fleming's least favorite Bond novels, which centers around Bond rescuing a woman from two assassins in a ski lodge. The movie threw it out and replaced with Bond teaming up with a Russian agent to stop a plot to wipe out mankind.
- The only Bond movie from the eighties to follow the plot of the novel was The Living Daylights, which was a short story with major Adaptation Expansion.
- All of the Bond films borrow element from the various novels, with the titles being somewhat arbitrarily attached from the long list afterward. As such, any thing added probably came from one of the other books, and anything taken away will probably show up in a later film. (The Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films used the very same technique).
- Jaws started life as a harmless-enough page-turner with extremely unlikeable characters, and was adapted into one of the best movies ever made.
- K-20: Kaijin nijû mensô den (English title: K-20: Legend of the Mask) is an adaption of Kaijin Nijū Mensō Den by Sō Kitamura, itself based upon the characters from Edogawa Rampo's stories.
- Die Hard was based on an airport novel.
- Fight Club: Even the book's author thinks the film ended better. A foreword in a later run even lampshades this trope; "There was a book?"
- Movie adaptations of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan novels have gone from remaining true to the spirit of the original to... not, as the movie series rolls on, according to some fans of the original novels.
- Watchmen obviously comes from the graphic novel Watchmen.
- The Band of Brothers miniseries is based off of a historical novel written by Stephen Ambrose, and despite a few blatant inaccuracies. The sequel, The Pacific, is based off of several veterans' memoirs.
- Tropic Thunder lampshades and parodies this trope hard. The entire premise of the film is that a movie company is attempting to make a film based on an in-universe book of the same name. Humorously enough, it's implied that the script is fairly faithful to the book... it's just that nobody has read either. The trope is eventually subverted twice when it's revealed that the author never went to Vietnam and at the end, when the film is changed to Tropic Blunder, a documentary on how badly the production of the film failed.
- The Guns of Navarone became a movie.
- The book Battle Royale was made into a film of the same name.
- Smith's Dream, by C. K. Stead, about an industrial dispute that grows into civil war in New Zealand, was adapted as Sleeping Dogs in 1977, the first film to be entirely produced and set in that country.
- Tomorrow, When the War Began, an adaptation of the book of the same name. This is used for a meta joke when one character, while reading a book, remarks about how the book is always better than the movie.
- The Rambo movies started out as an adaptation of a novel entitled First Blood. The movies diverge from the source material after the first act of the first film, and never look back.
- Kingsman: The Secret Service based off of The Secret Service.
- Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff. The movie turned out to be pretty faithful.
- White Fang and The Call of the Wild by Jack London. The problem seems to be that Hollywood can't handle an animal as the main star of a movie, and so completely rewrites the story to include an important human who is actually the main character. The canine star becomes the sidekick.
- Somewhat inverted in Monty Python and the Holy Grail with "The Book of the Film" which they dip into to cover the boring bits quickly.
- The Seeker is supposedly based on The Dark Is Rising. The book is pretty good, to the point that some consider it an underground classic of (children's?) literature. The movie is pretty bad, to the point where it deserves to have an episode of MST3K based around it.
- Disney Animated Canon:
- Peter Pan
- The Jungle Book Book-Kaa was a wise and trusted friend who took over as Mowgli's mentor when he was too grown-up for Baloo. Book-Hathi was the wisest and strongest of the animals and generally acknowledged as Master of the Jungle (until Mowgli learned a secret about him). The monkey-folk didn't have a king, and if they had, it wouldn't be a member of a different genus from a couple of thousand miles away. Book-"Father Wolf" is renamed "Rama" which is the name of a bull in Kipling's original. And many other things as well. Other than the setting and some names, there is next to no resemblance.
- 101 Dalmatians: A Pragmatic Adaptation that actually stays commendably faithful to the original, more so than almost any other Disney film listed here. There's a mere two Composite Characters, the remaining human characters get somewhat expanded roles and in Mr Dearly's case a different job, Cruella's Living Prop husband is excised completely and most of the events of the trip from London to Suffolk are streamlined a bit. The only significant criticisms that can be made stereotypical, inconsistent or occasionally non-existent British accents that the whole Disney Animated Canon suffers from, and the decision to turn the chapter in which all 101 dalmatians hitch a ride in the back of a removal van into a full-on Chase Scene. They get away with the latter, however, because it was one of the best parts.
- Charlottes Web: Author EB White was extremely displeased (and reasonably so) with the first Animated Adaptation of his story. We will never know how he would have felt about the new live-action film, but at least it's mostly faithful to the book.
- Watership Down had a fairly good animated movie, despite cutting off some characters and changing minor plot points. Fortunately, it wasn't Bowdlerised.
- Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is a good book, and The Secret Of NIMH is an equally good movie, but while they share some similarity of plot, they diverge sharply in genre and character focus.
- The Secret Of NIMH 2: Timmy To The Rescue, a straight-to-video musical with virtually nothing to do with the first film.
- Much of Roald Dahl's children's fiction canon has been made into movies. Results vary considerably.
- Dr. Seuss: In addition to the many animated TV specials based on the works of Dr. Seuss, four of his stories have made it to the big screen: How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, The Cat in the Hat, Horton Hears a Who!, and The Lorax. Horton was pretty well received, while both Grinch and The Lorax were more YMMV. However, Cat was widely considered to be a cinematic disaster. In fact, The Cat in the Hat is essentially the reason there will be no more live-action Dr. Seuss movies.
Wikipedia: As a result of frequent mature themes, the widow of Theodor Geisel (who holds the rights to his work) declared that there are to be no more live-action movies based on the works of Dr. Seuss, arguing that the film has clearly deviated from her late husband's family-friendly work.
- Holes by Louis Sachar got a pretty faithful adaption, but that's mostly because Sachar wrote the screen play.
- Ella Enchanted takes the premise of Gail Carson Levine's novel and plays it for unsubtle comedy.
- City of Ember is actually not a bad movie on its own, though it did add a new mentor character for Doon and also a giant mole that chases the kids through an empty storeroom, among other things.
- Coraline is a nice example of Pragmatic Adaptation. A lot of it is pretty inaccurate to the book in details (they invent a few new characters, for starters), but in spirit it was faithful. Some changes were adding a character named Wybie to allow Coraline a chance for exposition and tying him in to the backstory (his grandmother's twin sister was one of the children the Other Mother kidnapped, leading him to comment that his grandmother didn't like renting the house to people with children.). Apparently author Neil Gaiman saw that the first script was extremely faithful to the book and told them to make a few changes — because if someone wanted the book they'd read the book.
- Where the Wild Things Are
- How to Train Your Dragon is an animated film set in a very similar world to that of the original children's books, with many of the same characters, but in a Pragmatic Adaptation the premise is altered to allow for dramatic conflict and dragon riding that impress on-screen.
- The Brave Little Toaster, even though it's probably not possible to get the book anywhere except online for a ridiculous price.
- Ramona and Beezus
- There was a Canadian TV series in the 1980s based on the Ramona books, starring a young Sarah Polley.
- Harriet the Spy
- The Nutcracker has many adaptions, and sometimes fan wars over them.
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid actually started out as a webcomic.
- Erik the Viking is The Film Of The Book in name only, and not even that, as the book was called The Saga of Erik the Viking. After much disagreement between the Terrys — author Jones and director Gilliam of Monty Python's Flying Circus — the ship being sneezed out of the dragon's nose ended up being the only scene the film and the book had in common. It's also not a children's film; it opens with the title character accidentally killing a woman he was trying to save from being raped, Played for Laughs.
- Shrek was considerably expanded from the source material.
Coming Of Age Story
- To Kill a Mockingbird: Replacing all of those subtly significant threads with the most important subplot (Boo Radley) and taking a more guarded approach to characterization would've made the book rather simplistic, but made the movie great.
- Gone with the Wind
- Forrest Gump was adapted from a very funny novel about an Idiot Savant who becomes an astronaut, a chess master, a harmonica player and a millionaire into a guy who's Inspirationally Disadvantaged, and who touches important events and people. The character of Jenny was changed from a sensible Girl Next Door type into a tragic shallow party girl (admittedly deepening her character). The sequel, Gump And Co., followed more in the vein of the movie, both in increasing the number of random cameos and retaining the deaths of Forrest's Mom and Jenny, neither of whom died in the original book.
- The Godfather novel, written by Mario Puzo which becomes:
- The Godfather movie, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, which has since become one of the premiere classics of the genre. In the subsequent 18 years, two more movies were produced; Part II, which surpassed even its worthy predecessor. And Part III, which didn't.
- In the early 2000s, an author named Mark Winegardner published two books, entitled The Godfather Returns and The Godfather's Revenge, which in many ways are sequels to Part II. In many ways, the new novels read very much as if written in Mario Puzo's own hand, only enhanced in quality and subtly altering facts which simply did not fit. Eventually, in the closing chapters of the second book, we learn that Nick Geraci, a Winegardner original character who had died trying to take over the Corleone family business, had written his memoirs while in exile and had them published posthumously. Which, in time, are...
- ...made into a trilogy of movies (two of which become cinema classics) detailing the story of a "fictional" mafia family through the years. Thus, it is suggested that, within this apparently separate universe, the events of the books and film are true and were brought to us by somebody who was there.
- Apollo 13 was based off of Lost Moon, written by mission commander Jim Lovell about his experience on that mission.
- Primary Colors. An epilogue is added to the movie that is not in the book but which naturally follows from the story the book was very loosely based on.
- Most of John Grisham's early novels have been made into films by this point, with varying degrees of success. Even the novel that Grisham said he would never option for film (A Time to Kill) was made into a movie... a fairly good one at that. It helps that Grisham's novels are essentially beach-read page-turners.
- Never Let Me Go, based on the book of the same name by Kazuo Ishiguro, kept the majority of the plot intact, as well as pulling off spot-on portrayals of the three main characters.
- Several reviewers note that They Just Didn't Care for The Scarlet Letter. This was mocked in Easy A, in reference to English students watching the film adaptations of their required reading in lieu of doing the actual reading.
- No Country for Old Men by The Coen Brothers is a very rare example of a film that's even better than the book it was based off of. And the book is pretty damn good.
- Mysterious Skin is considered another rare success: It is both faithful to the book, and it presents the difficult subject matter with consideration instead of shoving it into the viewer's face.
- The Lovely Bones is a highly-acclaimed book and a movie.
- Greed, the film adaptation of the novel McTeague, is famous in film history as the most literal adaptation ever. Director Erich von Stroheim faithfully recreated every scene as it appeared in the novel, included every character most of the dialogue (not a mean feat consider that it's a silent movie), and was shot on location. The result was a movie that was a unwatchable mess (except to film buffs) that's over ten hours long (for comparison, the unabridged audiobook of the novel was only 14 hours long). The producers trimmed the footage down to a more manageable 2 hours, whereupon von Stroheim disowned the film.
- The Color Purple
- Deep Love though the film was displaced by the later series.
- Cold Mountain was based on the novel of the same name by author Charles Frazier.
- S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders was adapted into a movie that was identical. To know one is to know the other.
- L.A. Confidential managed to make a great film out of a brilliant book, despite having to shed about half a dozen subplots, compress the action from five years down to one, and alter the ending slightly.
- The Black Dahlia however, didn't do so well. James Ellroy even mocked it before it was being made.
- Jackie Brown, Quentin Tarantino's adaptation of Elmore Leonard's Rum Punch
- La Reine Margot, adapted from the novel of the same name by Alexandre Dumas, père.
- My Left Foot was made into an oscar-winning movie of the same name.
- The book Trainspotting was made into a movie, but not without a Pragmatic Adaptation as the content was deemed unfilmable.
- The 2007 film version of Gone Baby Gone. Director Ben Affleck did a good job of condensing and streamlining a very complex novel.
- The novel The Day of the Locust was made into a feature film in 1975. The film received mixed critics.
- Mildred Pierce was adapted for the screen in 1945 and again for a TV mini-series in 2011.
- Larry McMurtry's novel The Last Picture Show was made into a feature film in 1971.
- Ordinary People
- Sophie's Choice
- They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
- Inherent Vice is the first attempt to adapt a work by Thomas Pynchon, whose work was previously thought to be un-filmable.
- Field of Dreams was based off of WP Kinsella's novel Shoeless Joe. The film eliminates Ray's twin brother Richard, and transfers Richard's rift with their father onto Ray himself. It also changes J.D. Salinger into the fictional author Terrance Mann and makes Ray's wife Annie a stronger character, and her brother a more believable "Bad Guy".
- Harry Potter: Some removed plotlines. Major in the case of the third, fourth, and fifth movies, which took good chunks out of the main plotline. Most obvious in the third movie, as some of the stuff taken out was vital to understanding the plot. In the fifth film, a scene which foreshadows The Reveal of a Snape's motivations for his entire life was filmed, but cut, and not even included on the DVD as a deleted scene. This not only resulted in unknown actress Susie Shiner getting a Deleted Role, but has outraged many fans, who have been waiting for years to see her in this scene but it still has not been released.
- Cho and Harry's relationship in Order of the Phoenix is changed to take up less time. In the book, they date until Harry realizes they're only together because Cho thinks being with him will help give her closure over Cedric's death. In the film, after one kiss the romance tapers off. Presumably Harry just got over his crush by himeself.
- Also major in the case of the sixth movie, which misses the overall function of the book by almost entirely omitting the lessons delving into Voldemort's past that ultimately help Harry understand and thus defeat Voldemort.
- Eragon. Multiple missing main characters, more main characters having a single line or so, completely different locations, general failure to understand universal laws such as magic in-universe, and a completely different ending. Proved a Franchise Killer to the prospect of a movie of the sequel, since so much was omitted or defiled, although it still managed to make a profit.
- The Lord of the Rings, some notable differences are the removal of the Tom Bombadil and the Scouring of the Shire subplots, the increased role for Arwen, and the different motivations and actions of Faramir's character (and Elrond's). The biggest change was making Gimli a comic relief when the original book had no comic reliefs, probably a decision based on heightism.
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians, based on the novel of the same name. The bare bones of the book's story is there (Poseidon's child is framed for stealing Zeus's lightning bolt, he goes on a quest to get it back with Annabeth and Grover, he's successful). Might be more towards executive meddling because a number of the plots that were left out because they leave things open for future movies, which they didn't know wouldn't happen. Add to that some of the character personal changes (namely aging the main characters 4-6 years) made it easier to make the movie.
- They removed a swordfight with the god of war.
- The biggest outright removal was the main villain of the series, Kronos. Among other things they changed the character of Grover from a somewhat serious character who had moments of comic relief, to an outright jive-talkin' black kid. They removed the concept of mist, which explains why no one noticed greek gods actually existing. They didn't mention the prophecy that led to no children of the big three being born. All the characters were changed from ages 12 to ages 16, and the main overarching romantic plotline between Percy and Annabeth was resolved in the first film. And they killed Luke the other main villain of the series (even though it could be considered somewhat ambiguous, as he is last seen being launched into the water by the trident, so it is possible that he survived.
- The second movie is stated to be more accurate to the literature than the first one. Although there's a still a lot of small changes though, but like the first film, the main premise and plot of the book are the same in the movie.
- The Princess Bride had a particularly accurate film version. It helps that William Goldman (who was an Oscar-winning scriptwriter to begin with) wrote both the book and the movie.
- Mary Poppins. P. L. Travers, author of the Mary Poppins books, was horrified with the result, even after demanding and getting an unusual amount of creative control.
- The NeverEnding Story: The film doesn't actually show the whole book. Far from it. It simply couldn't. Even so, some changes were unnecessary. In the book the protagonist (Bastian Balthasar Bux) is an overweight, awkward kid and his Fantasia-based friend Atreyu is green-skinned. The second half of the book puts the protagonist in grave danger. The movie, if faithful to its source, needed to be at least two movies long.
- The second film covers the second half of the book, and takes more liberties with it.
- The Chronicles of Narnia films.
- The Golden Compass, an adaption from the His Dark Materials novels, suffered from considerable Executive Meddling for its subject matter and Downer Ending (which is on YouTube!). While it is often praised as a good film by people who haven't read the book, the Executive Meddling caused many fans of the series to hate the film.
- Stardust took Neil Gaiman's pointedly Bittersweet Ending and changed it so that the last line of the movie is "And they all lived happily ever after". They also threw out Tristran's sister and step-mother. Then they changed the main character's name (removing the second R), removed the Fairy Tale and nursery rhymes that marked it as a fairy tale for adults, but instead pumped it full of One Scene Wonders, fleshed-out versions of previously bland characters (especially the one that Robert de Niro played), and gave the story a genuine climax.
- Interview with the Vampire
- 7 Faces of Dr. Lao is the film adaptation of The Circus of Doctor Lao.
- MGM's The Wizard of Oz, somewhat loosely based on the first book, shortened the journey to Emerald City and ended the story shortly after the Wicked Witch was killed. Among other changes was addition of original characters like Almira Gulch, creating a new subplot involving Dorothy's family. Perhaps the most infamous change in the movie was that Oz had been made an elaborate dream instead of a fantasy country. The reasoning for this was that executives believed that audiences were too "sophisticated" to accept a "real" fantasy world.
- What Dreams May Come is based on a 1978 novel of the same name by Richard Matheson. There are substantial differences between the book and movie in the characters, the presentation of afterlife, and the ending. Matheson based his depiction of afterlife on extensive research into mysticism and near-death experiences, which he lists in a bibliography at the end. He states in an author's note at the beginning that the characters are the only fictional component of the book.
- Dinotopia. The miniseries and TV series were very different than the books.
- When The Saga of Darren Shan was adapted into a movie, Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant, there was a mixture of outrage and pure disgust from fans of the series. The first three books were attempted to be crammed into the movie (plus added spoilers from book nine) meaning many scenes were missed out.
- It doesn't stop there. Some fan favourite characters were cut (Debbie and Sam) and put back in as a single entity: Rebecca the monkey girl. Personalities of both main and secondary characters were changed and an added pairing was put in, practically destroying a canon one apparent in later books.
- Something that also annoyed many UK and Ireland fans was the way the whole thing was Americanised, as the general consensus is that the main character is Irish, due to him supposedly being the same person as the Author, just from a parallel world.
- The Sky1 Made For TV Movies based on the Discworld novels have been generally well-received, although it's been observed they've been getting steadily more pragmatic. Going Postal keeps the main characters, their basic characterisation and the broad strokes of the plot, and proceeds to change almost everything else.
- Vampire Academy.
- The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.
- Pick any Stephen King book, and chances are it's been adapted to film (in some cases, twice).
- All of Thomas Harris's books involving Hannibal Lecter — in fact, the most recent one, Hannibal Rising, saw the screenplay (also by Harris) finished before the book was. The series of four novels has produced five movies (The Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon, Hannibal, Hannibal Rising, and Manhunter, an earlier adaptation of Red Dragon starring Wiliam Petersen). The Silence of the Lambs is one of the few movies that is probably better than the book.
- An American Haunting was based on the novel The Bell Witch: An American Haunting by Brent Monahan, which was itself based on the Tennessee legend of The Bell Witch.
- Although frequently so altered as to be nearly completely unrecognizable, almost every single movie by Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock were based on books (notable exceptions are 2001: A Space Odyssey and North By Northwest, and Kubrick wanted the 2001 book written and out before the movie).
- The early sections of 2001 (set on the Moon) were based on Arthur C. Clarke's short story, "The Sentinel".
- Stir of Echoes is a movie "based" on a book of the same title by Richard Matheson. Other than one or two plot points, they have nothing else in common. The book itself is fairly outdated, which probably explains why the movie managed to be so removed from it and still be good.
- The Relic was a highly entertaining book that has spawned a really interesting series. The movie, not so much.
- Psycho, the classic film by Alfred Hitchcock, was adapted from a much less well-known book of the same name by Robert Bloch.
- Dracula has been made into dozens of films, the most notable being the 1931 Bela Lugosi film (actually an adaptation of a play that was based on the book) and the 1958 Christopher Lee film (a direct but loose interpretation).
- Flowers in the Attic was adapted in 1987 from the 1979 novel of the same name.
- Eye Candy: R.L. Stine (of Goosebumps and Fear Street fame) wrote the novel as his last attempt at taking on the adult market. The TV show is not only Darker and Edgier, it also gives the heroine and her two potential love interests drastic upgrades in personality, IQ, backstory, and general appeal. It changes the killer's identity, but the path to discovering said killer is much more intricately plotted; the killer also gets an upgrade: from a two-part threat: a troubled but ultimately harmless guy with delusions of killing women, ala Patrick Bateman, and a homicidally jealous room-mate who really should have been caught much earlier in the book to a cyber-genius psychopath and stalker.
- The Da Vinci Code.
- The Name of the Rose described itself as a "palimpsest" of the book. A palimpsest is a page of a manuscript that has had the text scraped off and been reused as blank space, a medieval practice (paper was expensive). Nowadays, both the original and the follow-up text can be read with UV light and other tricks. Appropriate for a movie based on a book about Sherlock Holmes in the 14th Century, no?
- Subversion, but also a confirmation of the reasoning behind most changes — the Vayner brothers' 300 page detective novel Era Of Mercy was adapted nearly word-for-word into a 9 hour "cinematic serial". Even that didn't satisfy the fandom, which complained about insufficient motivation for one of the leads without a voiceover to explain his thoughts.
- James Patterson's first two novels, Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls, became films.
- As did First to Die, the first book in the Women's Murder Club series, though that was direct-to-DVD.
- With the exception of A Scanner Darkly, no book by Philip K Dick will ever be faithfully adapted. Mostly because he was crazy, and yet the books were incredibly smart. Also, almost none of the movies keep the titles of the books and stories that inspired them, mostly due to trying to turn quirky, introspective science fiction into bigass action movies, and the names had to reflect that switch.
- Children of Men was more enjoyable than the book, which was a 350 or so page guide to how to do Christan symbolism in the least subtle way possible.
- Dune. David Lynch took a lot of liberties in the 1984 adaptation. The film's biggest hurdle, though, was telling the story in less than six hours — if you've read the original, there's a reason its first volume is divided into three "books". Syfy's [Mini Series, Frank Herbert's Dune and Creator/Frank Herbert's Children of Dune, were much more faithful than David Lynch's film, though they still took a few liberties. Such as increasing certain characters' roles, and downplaying or outright removing other characters.
- The Giver
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was made into a film (with the screenplay written by the book's author, Douglas Adams). An unusual example in that the series doesn't have a canon, which is how it's been since the beginning, and after a while Douglas Adams almost certainly did it deliberately. The books it was based on were comedic and satiric, but the laughs, except for a few throwaway lines, did not come from the dialogue or the situations but rather from the narration itself. The novel were themselves adaptations of the original radio series, as well as lending and taking elements with the British television production, during all of which Adams constantly fiddled with jokes and narrative order.
- The Host
- The Hunger Games have so far (as of this writing only the first two books have been released as films) been rather faithful to the books, especially in terms of tone and theme. It is at the same time a Pragmatic Adaptation, cutting out several minor characters and plot threads. One very noticeable change is in Haymitch, whose alcoholism is severely downplayed in the films.
- Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend has been adapted to film four times in four wildly different adaptations: The Last Man on Earth, starring Vincent Price; The Omega Man, starring Charlton Heston; I Am Legend, starring Will Smith; and The Asylum mockbuster I Am Omega, starring Mark Dacascos. Not a single one of those adaptations is faithful to the book.
- I Am Number Four is based off of the book of the same name by Pittacus Lore, a penname of James Frey and Jobie Hughes.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars was made into John Carter. Some needful updating was done but some very pointless major alterations were also made. Instead of Mars being a dying planet simply because it's really frigging old, the Therns were dragged in from a later book, Gods of Mars, as the real power behind the Zodangan leader Sab-Than. He leads the mobile city (perhaps inspired by Greg Bear's Strength of Stones?) of Zodanga. Mars' deprecated state is blamed on the planet-wide resource pillaging of the Zodangans, with the Therns as the shadowy big bad behind the scenes, though they show up in the first few minutes. The atmosphere factory, powered by Ninth Ray energy is nowhere in the film. It was likely excised to give Dejah Thoris a reason to be made over into a scientist working on a machine to use the Ninth Ray to restore the environment. To make it a family friendly instead of NC-17 film, everyone on Mars is wearing way too much clothing. ;) To the good, the designers got the Tharks, thoats, Woola, white apes and other critters dead on to the book. Too bad they didn't adhere so close to the actual story.
- Jumper was adapted into movie form. "Based on the novel" was very noticeable during the opening credits of the movie. Other than the title, only three points from the source material remain: the protagonist ran away from his alcoholic father, he uses his ability to teleport ("jump") to steal money from a bank vault, and he ends up in a relationship with a girl named Millie; and the backstories involving each of these events were considerably changed.
- 1962's The Man Who Fell to Earth, by Walter Tevis, was adapted for the big screen in 1976. The basic plot is the same — an Alien Among Us, trying to save his dying planet/race via establishing a Mega Corp. on our world to provide the means, falls prey to human treachery and addictive vices like alcohol and television. But the movie is far less straightforward in the telling of it, to Mind Screw levels. In addition, the relationship between him and a hotel maid is upgraded from mere friendship to increasingly troubled romance and the sex lives of all the significant characters are explored (often in depth) whereas the book never even raises the issue. On the other hand, the side issue of how Earth will benefit if the hero's plot succeeds is dropped. The Criterion Collection DVD edition allows viewers to compare and contrast the book and the film by including a physical copy of the novel as an extra feature.
- The Japanese book Parasite Eve circa 1995 got sent to the big screens in '97. Then in '98, Squaresoft caught on and made a video game sequel called (you guessed it) Parasite Eve.
- The Postman became The Postman
- Planet of the Apes has had two very different film adaptations in the 1968 film and in the 2001 film.
- Richard Matheson's novel Bid Time Return was made into Somewhere In Time (the title of which was used for later editions of the book). There are some significant changes in its adaptation to screen, most notably in the period to which the protagonist travels back in time (in the book, it's the late 19th century, in the movie early 20th) and in the nature of what's happening (in the book, but not the movie, the protagonist is dying from a brain tumor, raising questions about whether the time-traveling experience is real or not). Also, the movie but not the book includes a spectacular ontological paradox centering around a watch with apparently no origin (the protagonist receives it from an old lady in the present day; he goes back in time and gives it to a younger version of the same lady, and that's how she got it in the first place; and so on).
- Starship Troopers: The script was already mostly written (under the title "Bug Hunt at Outpost Nine") when they heard about "a book that had a bug war similar to the one in the script" as well as Verhoeven never finishing the actual novel.
- Battlefield Earth's film is a good example of a Pragmatic Adaptation not being enough to salvage the source material, but can at least be said to have turned out better than a purely faithful adaptation.