Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Best & Worst Film Adaptations

In which Sam rants and raves about five of the worst and five of the best film adaptations of YA/NA novels, including (1) a quick synopsis, (2) whether the book is worth the read, and (3) whether the movie is worth the watch!

Without further ado, we here at Mad But Magic are very excited to share our Top Ten Tuesday list of Best & Worst Movie Adaptations – original feature, as always, courtesy of The Broke and Bookish :)


#5 S.E. Hinton’s novel The Outsiders and the 1983 film adaptation, The Outsiders

Synopsis: Young men on the edge – of sanity, of society, of adulthood – stalk the night streets in leather jackets and linger on in your heart.

Is the book worth the read? YES! One hundred times, yes. The Outsiders was written by a woman who wandered the streets getting to know young men just like her protagonists – who, by the way, have some of the best names you’ll ever encounter in fiction – Ponyboy and Sodapop are my favorites. True to publishing industry fashion when it comes to female authors like J.K. Rowling, S.E. Hinton is really Susan Eloise Hinton – and she wrote the book while still in high school!

Is the movie worth the watch? Absolutely – it’s old but it’s fun, and it’s a bit of a tearjerker, too. Also, it’s a delight to look for today’s well-known stars in some early roles, like Diane Lane, Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, Patrick Swayze, Ralph Maccio, Rob Lowe, and Tom Cruise!

In sum: Do it forJohnny.

#4 Stephen King’s novel Carrie and the 1976 film adaptation, Carrie

Synopsis: Blood and terrors and teenagers with telekinetic powers.

Is the book worth the read? Definitely – it’s Stephen King’s debut novel, and in my opinion one of his best. It’s written as a series of newspaper announcements, personal accounts, and similar snippets from everyday life – not like any of his other works that I’ve read. He gives a really gripping account of the inspiration for Carrie in his nonfiction work On Writing, too.

Is the movie worth the watch? Yes – it’s a horror classic! It’s the 1970s all over the place, there are some great jump scares, and Sissy Spacek does an amazing job of capturing the odd, sympathetic Carrie; watch it now and then catch the remake in the fall. I’m curious about Chloe Grace-Moretz’s take on the role!

In sum: Also, now there’s a musical?

#3 Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice and the 1995 miniseries adaptation, Pride and Prejudice

Synopsis: Five unmarried sisters and their Regency-period romantic hijinks.

Is the book worth the read? Of course – if nothing else because it is an enduring story with a delightful array of adaptations, and you will enjoy them all the more having read the classic. (In fact, you may be surprised how modern the story really is.)

Is the movie worth the watch? There is a great deal of debate about this, but I personally think the BBC miniseries is closest to the original Pride & Prejudice. I’m 100% sure that Colin Firth is Mr. Darcy. Jennifer Ehle is perfectly luminous as Lizzie, full of the spirit and wit we’ve all come to associate with the character. This is not to say there aren’t many other adaptations worth your time. Some personal favorites are the 2005 Keira Knightley remake; the 2004 Bollywood remake, Bride & Prejudice; and the 2012-13 Internet video series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. There’s also the 1940 Laurence Olivier version and the (very) loose modern retelling of Bridget Jones’s Diary – I’m sure I’m forgetting several more.

#2 J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and the 2001 film adaptation, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Synopsis: A hobbit undergoes the dangerous business of stepping out his front door. Adventures ensue.

Is the book worth the read? Yes…because it’s a classic, and it’s a richly rendered world, and it can be absorbing, it just takes some time…and okay, okay, it took me a LONG time, and I still haven’t made it through The Two Towers and The Return of the King yet, but I will eventually! I promise!

Is the movie worth the watch? Yes – it’s gorgeous, epic, magical, and you will wonder at the sounds, sights, and sensory impact of Peter Jackson’s lush rendition of Middle-earth. It is easily one of my favorite movies, seared in my memory as the best of the trilogy because it was the first I saw, and uniquely situated to our YA jurisdiction as the very beginning of young Frodo’s journey.


#1 Stephen King’s novella The Body and the 1986 film adaptation, Stand By Me

Synopsis: Four boys set out to see a dead body.

Is the book worth the read? Yes. You’ll notice this is the second King piece on my list; I think he is unmatched for descriptive detail, and The Body is no different. You are immersed in the boys’ world, and when you step away from the pages you’ll be surprised you don’t have scabbed knees and a sunburn.

Is the movie worth the watch? Again, one of my favorites – a young River Phoenix shines as Chris Chambers, but like The Outsiders there are plenty more actor appearances to look out for, Kiefer Sutherland, Will Wheaton, Jerry O’Connell, John Cusack, and Corey Feldman among them. Some of the best music, the most believable acting, and the most honest and genuine moments I’ve ever experienced in a movie.


#5 Emily Giffin’s novel Something Borrowed and the 2011 film adaptation, Something Borrowed

Synopsis: The story of best friends Rachel and Darcy starts for readers after Rachel sleeps with Darcy’s fiancĂ©.

Is the book worth the read? Yes – I enjoy Giffin’s novels because they take very ordinary things, like affairs, childbirth, and regret, and turn them into full-length novels. You can sit awash in the emotions that the characters experience. The books are very cathartic, and though they lack the usual adventures I like in a novel, they are a sort of emotional escapism (and voyeurism, too).

Is the movie worth the watch? NO! Not at all. Instead of focusing on the complicated dynamic between Rachel and Darcy that is at the story’s core, the movie stutters and sputters about the love triangle, gives the actors very little to work with, picks a relative unknown for the handsome Dex, and throws John Krasinski at the resulting mess hoping it will turn out all right. Poor John. I love him – and Ginnifer Goodwin, too – but this movie does no justice to anyone.

In sum: Not even so-bad-it’s-good. Nearly impossible to watch.

#4 Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl’s novel Beautiful Creatures and the 2013 film adaptation, Beautiful Creatures

Synopsis: Boy meets girl meets destiny. Girl casts spells. Drama follows.

Is the book worth the read? Ehh…it was interesting to have a girl with powers rather than a guy, for once, but much of the book still struck the same, moody tone of why-can’t-we-just-be-together. Certainly makes for guilty pleasure reading, but the problem was I just didn’t like Lena, the main character. The Civil War flashbacks and the Southern setting were the best part of the book.

Is the movie worth the watch? Unfortunately the film was little improvement over the novel. The plot took some strange, confusing twists that definitely weren’t in the book, and Lena’s behavior was even more inexplicable. Sadly, Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson, and Viola Davis could not save this movie. Ethan’s gorgeous Southern drawl and the beautiful scenery were perhaps the best parts of the movie.

#3 Christopher Paolini’s novel Eragon and the 2006 film adaptation, Eragon

Synopsis: A boy and his dragon, magic, swords, and adventure!

Is the book worth the read? If you like Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings then you will either think Eragon is (a) derivative or (b) a commendable homage. (A subtle but important distinction.) Because basically, it is the classic plot of Star Wars – the hero’s story arc – set in a Lord of the Rings-style world. Plus dragons. Obviously, you knew I was in.

Is the movie worth the watch? Sadly, no. I don’t want to blame Jeremy Irons, but I’m just saying it’s beginning to look like he’s the common denominator here . . . kidding! Kidding. The movie just did not pack thrills, nor was it in any way as beautiful as the world Paolini created in readers’ imaginations. The portrayal of Eragon felt flat and no one seemed too excited to be in Alagaesia.

In sum: Hey, guess what else Jeremy Irons was in? . . .  I despise guessing games.

#2 Rick Riordan’s novel The Lightening Thief and the 2010 film adaptation, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightening Thief

Synopsis: Harry Potter, except instead of wizards, Greek gods.

Is the book worth the read? Definitely. It’s fun, fast-paced, there’s a big universe of Greek mythology (and in books that came later, Roman and Egyptian mythology), with very silly humor. As a big fan of puns, jokes, colorful characters and lots of adventures, I felt at home immediately in Percy’s world.

Is the movie worth the watch? Nope. The age changes, especially Annabel’s shift from skinny blonde preteen to sexualized brunette supermodel, and the uncomfortable, racist stereotypes that the film shoves Grover into, are the worst offenses. For an excellent breakdown of these issues, check out this piece by Caroline Heldman.

In sum: Get ready for the sequel.

#1 Gail Carson Levine’s novel Ella Enchanted and the 2004 film adaptation, Ella Enchanted

Synopsis: Ella is cursed with obedience. Any order given, she must follow. She remains awesome, and goes on adventures.

Is the book worth the read? Yes! Yes! Yes! One of my absolute favorite takes on the Cinderella story, perhaps one of my favorite YA books of all time – here is a character that you really get to know. You never wonder why other characters help her or fall in love with her, because you already have – Ella is whip-smart, hilarious, perceptive, talented, and kind. Every one of these traits comes out as she navigates her world, trying not to let her curse get the best of her. PLUS there are some really amazing outfits and creatures and food and of course, magic.

Is the movie worth the watch? This adaptation was so deeply upsetting to me, so unlike the book, and so weird to watch – the strange way the film depicted Ella’s obedience, in particular, since in the book she fights it every step of the way, whereas in the film she automatically complies with commands.  Ella is much older, and there is so much unnecessary nonsense thrown in a pile on top of the book's solid, engaging plot – it’s just too distressing to go on, really. It’s evident enough from the trailer, which you can check out here.

In sum: After sitting through ninety minutes of sheer awfulness, one of my best friends turned to me to say, in a voice of utter despair, “But why are there ninjas?

Why, indeed.



  1. Carrie! One of my all time favorite movies and the only SK novel I've ever read. Excellent pick.

    1. If you only read one, it's a great pick ;) Thanks for stopping by our TTT!

  2. What a fantastic list - both sides. I'll admit I haven't read Ella Enchanted (so I thought the movie was cute), but after your glowing description I might just check it out!

    Sadly, Stephen King is just too scary for me. :( I can't get through his horror stories no matter how much I try; they freak me out. Same with the movies. But Stand By Me is a wonderful pick!

    Erin @ YA Book Crush

    1. Thanks, Erin! We hope you check out Ella Enchanted - it really is a delight.

      And if you like Stand by Me, SK has plenty of non-horror novellas + short stories that are fantastic. Shawshank Redemption is another great one :)

      Thank you for visiting our TTT!

  3. Awesome list. It's such a shame they ruined the Eragon movie. I love that book. Thanks for dropping by my TTt

    Teresa @ Readers Live A Thousand Lives

    1. I know, right?! Sigh...at least they stopped after hte first one.

      And no problem - thanks for dropping by ours :)

  4. Oh God...watching Ella Enchanted was one of the most horrifying things I've ever had to sit through. It was actually offensive to me (dude what was up with the singing elves?!) and I've been surprised seeing that not everyone hated it! I guess if I'd seen it before I read it (like you it might be my favourite YA novel ever) maybe it wouldn't have been nearly as bad.

    I've managed to miss seeing all the other terrible movies so yay me! For a split second I considered watching Beautiful Creatures, but I didn't like the book, so that seemed like a silly thing to do.

    Other than Fellowship of the Ring I haven't read and seen any of the rest! I've seen bits and pieces of Carrie, but never read the book. I read Misery and then couldn't sleep with the lights out haha so I'm not sure if I will do much Stephen King adventuring. And of course Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite novels, but I've never been able to see the Colin Firth version (and I so want to. So, so, so want to)

    P.s. I loved your youtube clips haha!

    1. Ugh, I know right!?!? So many things wrong with Ella Enchanted - and I agree, it definitely might have been that we read the book before, everyone else just found the movie silly as opposed to HIDEOUSLY offensive ;)

      Misery is definitely one of the most terrifying SK works - props to you, I haven't read it yet! Glad you enjoyed the lists + videos, love your thoughtful comments! Thanks for stopping by :) :)

  5. Love the way you did this list! I loved Ella Enchanted (book) and was so disappointed by the movie. I haven't seen the Percy Jackson movie, but loved the books so much that I'm very hesitant. Great job!

    1. Thanks, Jennifer! I do have friends who liked Percy Jackson, so maybe give the first one a whirl - since the sequel is coming to theaters, the original will probably be in Redbox for a buck ;)

      We're so happy you stopped by!

  6. Your synopsis of the Percy Jackson books is spot on! haha I saw Eragon in theatres, but honestly don't remember any of it, which says a lot about how it turned out.

    Random, but I love your blog header!

    1. Thanks! Meg @ Mad But Magic is behind our designs :) And agreed, Eragon was a real snooze.

      Thanks for dropping in! :)

  7. I need to watch most of these but gosh, as much as I love to read fiction, I'm never the one to watch it. I get scared easily. LOL

    1. Haha if that's true then definitely don't start with the Stephen King adaptations ;) But you'd love all of the Pride & Prejudice adaptations, I promise!

      Thanks for stopping by our TTT! :)


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