Top 5 adaptations I liked better than the books
Hello bookworms!! Welcome to Top 5 Tuesday!! This week’s Top 5 Tuesday is top 5 adaptations I liked better than the books.
It’s inconceivable, really, but sometimes I have loved the adaptation more than the original text. I know, I can’t believe I said it either!! It’s basically sacrilegious.
So, today let’s talk about really great adaptations. I had to think long and hard about this one. Especially after I realised that most of my list is adaptations of classics!! Not that I dislike classics, but I do often find that the visual representation is easier to digest than the written. Plus, the BBC do a particularly amazing job of them.
If you missed the May topics post, please click here!! Top 5 Tuesday was created by Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm, and is now being hosted here @ Meeghan reads.
top 5 adaptations I liked better than the books
Romeo + Juliet (1996 film)
Borderline contentious, but the 1996 Baz Luhrmann adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is one of my all-time favourites. Aside from the impeccable casting, the reason I love this film so much is the combination of modern visuals with the original text. I know, I’m a complete paradox.
So, if you haven’t seen this film, it needs to go to the very top of your “to watch” list. Not only is Leonardo DiCaprio at his absolute hottest, but it’s Luhrmann’s second film and I still think it’s his best. In fact, I almost put The Great Gatsby on this list too (because I do like it way more than the book), but if I had to pick only one Luhrmann film, this will always win.
For me, it’s that combination of heady intoxication you feel from the way this has been filmed and edited mixed with the original prose from Shakespeare. The gun fights, drugs, beach parties, cars, clothing, and almost gang-like war between the Montagues and Capulets, all give the film this chaotic energy that is hard pressed to find outside of other films. (I’d maybe only put Trainspotting or Moulin Rouge in the same category). But then you replace all of the speech with archaic prose and you might think it would come off stilted, but it really doesn’t. The passion and emotion behind the delivery of every single line give this movie its raw edge, to the point where you really understand what Shakespeare was trying to impart. This is truly what a master adaptation is like. Plus, it’s got a killer soundtrack.
Emma (2009 BBC mini-series)
Now, I don’t want anyone to think that I dislike Austen’s novel, Emma. I really don’t. In fact it’s possibly my favourite of all her novels (some days I do love Pride and Prejudice more). But this is my favourite Austen adaptation of all time.
Can I just say that the BBC absolutely nail these every single time. I honestly could not care how long they go for – I have watched the 6.5 hour long P&P so many times it’s not funny. But this four hour long mini-series adaptation nails basically every scene in the book, because it has the time to explore every scene as well. It’s genuinely a masterpiece. The gravity it gives to the character development on-screen in fantastic.
And as much as I love Colin Firth as Darcy, Jonny Lee Miller as Knightley (he’s also Edmund in Mansfield Park) is my fave. He’s just perfect. Not only that, but Romola Garai is also the best Emma I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch. I would take her over Gwyneth and Anya any day. Although I’d take almost anything over that 2020 adaptation.
The Hobbit (2012, 2013, 2014 films)
I need to preface this by saying that I had to put The Hobbit here over The Lord of the Rings for two reasons. Firstly, I despise Elijah Wood. It’s true, and I’m not even sorry. The only film I’ve ever enjoyed watching him in is Flipper (yes, the 1996 film with Paul Hogan). Which really means that I only like watching the Aragorn and Legolas scenes in the films. Secondly, I never finished reading Lord of the Rings. So it kind of ruled itself out.
I could very happily watch The Hobbit all day though. It’s got all the epic adventure of first trilogy, with even better special effects. Plus, I never felt like the story dragged with this one. There was no endless journey to Mordor to off-balance the pace of the film.
Admittedly, the movies do add more to the story than the book does. I can’t quite be sure because it has been an actual age since I’ve read the book. But I’m sure there’s a couple of added extra bits in the film!! I mean, with almost 9 hours of movie, and how descriptive Tolkien can be, it’s likely Jackson took some creative licence to make a few more bucks…
A Knight’s Tale (2001 film)
I’m going to be honest, this is probably the longest bow to draw (or lance to joust) of my list today. And it’s more because Chaucer’s poem The Knight’s Tale, from The Canterbury Tales, loosely inspires this movie, as opposed to being a genuine adaptation.
In The Knight’s Tale, Arcite and Palamon are cousins who are imprisoned together. The both fall in love with Emelye who they see through a window one morning. The long story short is that they end up fighting in a duel for her hand in marriage. However, Emelye prays to the goddess Diana that she marries the one who truly loves her. Arcite, prays to Mars that he will win the duel, then wins, but is later injured and dies. And Palamon, who prays to Venus that he will marry Emelye, loses, but ends up marrying her by default. So technically everyone wins.
This is very much not how the movie goes, but also it kind of is. The film does have this same love triangle between William, Adhemar and Jocelyn. It just plays out very differently. On top of this, the film also delves into what it means to be a knight – someone who is worthy of nobility. In a time when your birth determined your status, length of life, level of education and financial gain, it’s an interesting conversation to have. Impersonating nobility, as the film tells us, means that William should have been hung. But the film takes some poetic licence and shows how believing in yourself can change your fortune, and give hope.
I also want to briefly mention that one of the reasons I love this “adaptation” so much is the addition of Chaucer to the cast of characters. Of course, the film “Chaucer” was not even remotely based on the real Chaucer except that they were both writers. The real Chaucer was a member of Parliament and a diplomat as well as being a writer. But the fictionalised version is pretty captivating too, and a nod to the inspiration of the film.
Shadow and Bone (2021 tv series)
Yes, this is making my list, BUT I have provisos for it. You see, as soon as I finished watching season 1, I knew it had to go on here. Many years ago I read Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, and absolutely loved them (more so than my reviews would actually lead you to believe). A couple of years after that I finally made it through Shadow and Bone. And then I tried reading Siege and Storm. I did, I swear. I just… didn’t care about Alina, Mal, the Darkling, or their little love triangle, so I stopped. No less than five times.
In fact, I had planned to read the rest of the Grisha trilogy before watching the tv series, but then the series was here, and I was still no closer to reading it. So I decided to watch it first. Technically I only needed to have read Shadow and Bone anyway, so I figured it was fine. And it was so much better than I thought it would be.
Where I felt like Alina, Mal and the Darkling were all a bit wooden and personality free in the books, the cast and the acting genuinely brought their characters to life. I liked it so much, that I actually picked up Siege and Storm and read the whole book. And then I read Ruin and Rising too (and loved it). And that’s how I know this is a brilliant adaptation.
Please don’t forget to link to one of my posts (not my homepage or a category, as I won’t get the pingback), or comment your link below, and I will link back to all of your posts as soon as I can!!
Reading At Teatime
Jillian the Bookish Butterfly
The Punk Theory
Wings and Fables
DB’s Guide to the Galaxy
Sidequests and Stories
What are your top 5 adaptations you liked better than the book?
Kaya @ afictionalbookworm
how did i not know that leonardo dicaprio played romeo in an adaptation directed by the director of moulin rouge…? i need to watch this now! great post?
OMG KAYA!! You really do. It’s the most brilliant film.
Reading At Teatime
Great list! I also love The Hobbit films! Here’s my post: https://readingatteatime.wordpress.com/2021/05/18/top-5-tuesday-adaptions-you-liked-better-than-the-book/
Yes, the Hobbit is an excellent one!! I’ll be coming to visit soon!! ??
I loved Shadow and Bone too! I am actually writing my thoughts about the Netflix show and why it’s better than the books for my next post ? I felt like Mal was absolutely downright toxic in the books, but the actor made him so much more likeable. The whole cast was amazing!
YES!! I really disliked Mal in the books, but he was so good in the show!! Can’t wait to see who they cast for Nikolai!! ??
Lurhmann’s (oh it’s 2 n’s, I need to edit my post because I have Great Gatsby on mine ?) Romeo + Juliet is so great and I think it should be shown if you need to read the play ☺ Like I LOVE how odd it is but I also LOVE all the little things and how they made it modern (or as modern as they could at that time ?) while still keeping all the Shakespearian terms in.
You despise Elijah Wood? ??
I actually do like the Shadow and Bone series over the books… Six of Crows duology are great books, but I’m really glad they added them in now and not have us wait until the next season
I actually really loved how they changed the S&B story to include the SoC characters, but also wove in their backstories. It was done so well!!
And yes… I think I just dislike every character he’s ever played (let’s be honest, Samwise was the real hero of Lord of the Rings, and he never got the credit he deserved), and then he plays a bad person in Sin City… there were other things he’s been in too. But he also reminds me of Tobey Maguire and I dislike him too. Worst Spider-Man ever. ??
Same! I was scared that they would lose the magic of SoC and they didn’t!
I mean I’m totally fine with admitting that Sam is the real hero! Totally all good with that!
I’ve never see Sin City so maybe that’s why I like Elijah Wood ?
I… also liked Tobey’s Spider-Man ??
I liked both the movies and the book for The Hobbit. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the Shadow and Bone adaptation! I personally didn’t care for the first two books but I’m hoping I’ll enjoy the show.
I’m a bit late to the party but here’s my post for this week
I loved the show much better than the books!! Ruin and Rising is by far the best book of the trilogy, but the show is actually amazing!!
Ah yeah the Romeo and Juliet film is good. Only watched one as a child and would have preferred it not all to be Shakespearan language. Think there are some good Shakespearen stories but the language can be updated.
Yeah I was thinking about modern adaptations of Shakespeare plays when I was writing this. I might make a whole other post on it!!
Seen some Shakespeare theatre but think only film is the Romeo and Juliet one. So added that to my lust which wrote today. https://wonderwall360blog.wordpress.com/2021/05/03/top-5-tuesday-on-a-thursday-adaption-better-than-book/
Next April around Shakespeare’s birthday could be themed weeks… 5 modern adaptions of Shakespeare plays, 5 fav plays, 5 fav Shakespearen phrases / quotes, top 5 songs for Shakespeare themed playlist.
Ooh!! I like that!! Thanks for the ideas!!
Can be off putting I mean not updated!
wren @ wingsandfables
Romeo and Juliet made it to my list too but a different version since I’ve never seen the 1996 one. I may have to reconcile this soon I think. ?
I can highly recommend it!! ?
tasya @ the literary huntress
I’ve watch all of them but I’ve only read Grishaverse books so I can only comment on that one, and I agree that adaptation was amazing! I love how it blends what happened in Ravka and made the crows involved. I’m looking forward to see what happened in the second season!
Same!! Can’t wait for season 2, and looking forward to seeing who they cast for Nikolai and Wylan!! ?
An absolutely legendary move of Shadow and Bone (2021) to convince people to like the books.
All jokes aside, wonderful list! I also happen to have a fondness for the Hobbit films (though I’m 100% a fan of the book as well), and they never fail to lift me up when I have a bad day. Excellent character dynamics, beautiful vision, and a thoroughly lively adventure. You’re right in guessing at there being additions (though a lot of that is just showing in depth what transpires over quicker description in the book, like the Battle of Five Armies), but Middle Earth is just such a wonderful place to be! Can we really blame Peter Jackson for wanting to stay awhile :)?
Absolutely not!! If I could get a boarding pass to Hobbiton I’d go tomorrow!!
I looooove Romeo + Juliet. Shadwo and Bone was super well-made and I can’t wait to see more. And finally, A Knight’s Tale is dear to my heart and you can never go wrong with anything that has Heath Ledger in it. 😀
Agreed with Heath Ledger!! ??
A lot of Shakespeare 😀
The Three Musketeers from 1973
V for Vendetta
I’ve heard weird things about the Princess Bride book, and how different it is from the movie. But what a great list!!