Anthony Hopkins, Cider House Rules, Fellowship of the Ring, Godfather, Hannibal Lecter, hobbits, homoeroticism, Jaws, Jodie Foster, Lord of the Rings, Manhunter, Mario Puzo, Peter Benchley, Red Dragon, Return of the King, Scarlet Letter, Silence of the Lambs, Ted Levine, Thomas Harris, Tolkien, Two Towers, Watchmen
It’s axiomatic that a film is never as good as the book which spawned it. The cinematic dustbin is jammed with book-to-movie abominations such as Watchmen, The Scarlet Letter and Oscar-winner, The Cider House Rules.
Occasionally, however, a certain confluence of creative people (producers, directors, actors, etc.) conspire to create a film that is in every way superior to the sum of its parts. Following are a few examples of films which are superior to the written work which spawned them.
Jaws: Not only did this film make an entire generation afraid to enter the surf, it also stood head and shoulders above Peter Benchley’s page-turner. The book is darker and its ending less rosy than the film version, but lacks Robert Shaw’s magnificent monologue.
Silence of the Lambs: In the days before Hannibal Lecter became a caricature of himself, he was featured in two thillers, Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs. The first film version of Red Dragon, Manhunter, was well-recieved but made little enough of an impact that the novels might still reign supreme if not for the stellar performances of Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins and Ted Levine.
The Lord of the Rings: While the impact of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King on fantasy literature cannot be overstated, some readers find the books to be overlong, turgid tomes (others find Tolkien’s literary generosity to be refreshing). The films, with the exception of The Return of the King with its interminable series of endings, distill the books down to their most basic elements (keeping all the groovy hobbit homoeroticism), while eschewing a lot of the dryer history and lore which adds richness to the books, but would detract from the films.
I’m sure there are other movies which have broken from their novel’s event horizon and gone on to existences wholly seperate from the printed word. If anyone has any other examples, I’d love to hear ’em.