For most works of classic literature, a movie has been made. Whether it follows the book or not, well, that’s a different story. In almost every book-to-film adaptation, parts end up being changed or altogether cut from the original novel, and, of course, some movies adapt a book better than others. What makes a good adaptation? A good adaptation doesn’t have to quote the entire book to be faithful, although it is important that it include portions of the original text. But just as importantly, it should capture the spirit and feel of the book, and the cast needs to capture the personality and essence of the characters. Here, listed below, are the top 5 best film adaptations I’ve seen followed by 5 of the worst.
5. Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel (1985 and 1987, starring Megan Follows)
These two were terrific. They followed the books very closely (especially the first book), and the casting was absolutely perfect. Megan Follows made such a great Anne. The second one is my personal favorite, but they are both faithful adaptations.
4. Sense and Sensibility (1995, starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet)
While this movie didn’t follow the book exactly, and some characters were missing, it certainly did a fantastic job. It really captured the spirit of Austen’s novel, and the added scenes were ones that you could imagine actually happening in the book.
3. Sherlock Holmes (TV series, 1984, starring Jeremy Brett)
This was the absolute best Sherlock Holmes adaptation. There were moments when I was quoting the book as Mr. Brett was speaking his lines. There were a few episodes where I was like, “What? This never happened!” but 99% of the time, it stuck super-close to the book. And you can’t beat Jeremy Brett’s Holmes. He was Holmes. Absolutely fantastic.
2. My Fair Lady (1964, starring Audrey Hepburn)
I adore My Fair Lady. It stuck to the play, Pygmalion (the play it was based on), faithfully, added some great songs, and even a satisfying ending, making it a wonderful adaptation. Hepburn perfectly captured the main character, Eliza Doolittle. Here’s one of my favorite songs from the movie:
1. The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit (2001-2003 and 2012-2014, starring Elijah Wood in The Lord of the Rings and Martin Freeman in The Hobbit)
I know, I know. I know what the Tolkien purists are saying now, “What? Peter Jackson … he ruined the books! He changed so much!” Yeah, he changed stuff, but the changes he made, made sense. He created a fantastic series of movies, and without them, I doubt there would be as many Tolkienites as there are now. Even though there were changes, I still believe the movies did a great job of presenting and adapting the books for screen. And just in case there’s someone who hasn’t seen it yet (and because I want to share it!) here’s trailer number 2 for The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug.
5. Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story (2000, starring Megan Follows)
What happened?! How could the people who made the first two wonderful Anne of Green Gables movies make this bomb of a third. Did they lose their minds? It was as if they took the characters of Anne and Gilbert and ran with them off to Europe and a World War and forgot there was ever a book.
4. Treasure Planet (2002, starring Joseph Gordon-Levett)
One time when I was sick with a cold and bored, I decided to try this animated movie. It couldn’t be horrible, right? Oh, yes, it could. I didn’t even finish it, it was so bad. It’s based around Treasure Island, and boy, did they ruin it. They stuck everyone in space, for one. For two, Jim Hawkins was a whiny, troubled teen, and I couldn’t stand him. Lastly, they ruined Captain Smollett. They turned him into a her, named Captain Amelia. The worst part was … Amelia was a cat. Yes, a cat. Now, I like cats, I just don’t like cats to be Smollett. Right now for school I am reading the book, and every time I read about Smollett, I just picture Amelia. I’m forever confused because of this bad movie. 😄
3. The Jungle Book (1967, starring Phil Harris)
The reason it made my worst list is because it barely followed the book. You can disagree, but in this case, I think it was a good thing. I didn’t particularly enjoy the novel The Jungle Book (except for Rikki Tikki Tavi), but I loved the movie. So, in a way, this could be considered a great adaptation because it took a book I disliked and turned it into a great movie.
2. Frankenstein (1931, starring Colin Clive)
In my post called “Going Where No Book Has Gone Before,” I related that the novel Frankenstein was mentioned in Star Trek: Enterprise. Well, in the episode, Commander Charles “Trip” Tucker told Sub-Commander T’Pol that the film selected for that night’s movie night was Frankenstein. Now, Trip is my favorite character from Enterprise, but he has no taste in movies. In Frankenstein no one could act, and the movie didn’t follow the book at all. They changed Victor Frankenstein’s name to Henry. Elizabeth wasn’t killed by the monster either. The monster was laughable, at best. I guess the public liked it though, because the filmmakers went on to make the movies The Bride of Frankenstein, The Son of Frankenstein, The Ghost of Frankenstein, and The House of Frankenstein. Here’s the trailer:
1. Heidi (1937, starring Shirley Temple)
It’s been years since I’ve seen this, but the very first movie that came to mind for the worst category was this one. The movie had very little of the original book in it. It was really just a showcase for Shirley Temple who made a terrible Heidi. The scene I can still picture is Grandfather running through the streets of a city, screaming for Heidi because she was kidnapped by gypsies, which, of course, never happened in the book. Actually, after some digging, I managed to find the clip on YouTube. It’s as horrible as I remember.
From Heidi to The Lord of the Rings, I hoped you’ve enjoyed my list of the best and worst film adaptations. Do you agree with my choices or disagree? Which ones are your favorites?