SparkNotes Blog

5 MORE Movie Adaptations That DIDN’T Follow the Book But Were Great

After we wrote about movie adaptations that didn’t follow the book but were fantastic, we began to realize that there are a lot of movies that butchered their books but still turned out great. Here are five more!

Film: I, Robot (2004)

Book: I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov (1950)

What They Changed: Basically everything, taking a few character names and some inspiration from the book, as well as some basic laws that govern the author’s universe, and made up their own plot.

Why They Changed: It’s kind of hard to adapt a book of short stories into one movie.

Why It’s Great: The ideas behind the plot stay fairly true to Asimov’s writings, especially when it comes to his Three Laws of Robotics. Plus, it has Will Smith punching things, and he’s pretty good at that.

Film: Les Miserables (1998)

Book: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1862)

What They Changed: About halfway through the movie, very few things continued following the book.

Why They Changed: The book is 1400 pages. It’d be impossible to adapt it well in anything less than a miniseries.

Why It’s Great: The film fails in some respects (especially where the revolutionaries are involved), but when it comes to examining the relationship between Javert and Jean Valjean, nobody yet has done it better than Geoffrey Rush and Liam Neeson. But we’re excited to see how Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe do!

Film: How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

Book: How to Train Your Dragon, by Cressida Cowell (2003)

What They Changed: Basically the whole plot, along with what type of dragon Toothless is.

Why They Changed: Co-directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, the directors of Disney’s Lilo and Stitch, thought the book was written to a much younger audience than the one they wanted to reach.

Film: Coraline (2009)

Book: Coraline by Neil Gaiman (2002)

What They Changed: Large amounts of the plot, as well as adding the character Wybie.

Why They Changed: Director Henry Selick added Wybie so that Coraline would have someone to talk to, instead of talking to herself.

Why It’s Great: The filmmakers managed to make a pretty creepy kid’s movie that still has great suspense and doesn’t fall prey to many of the problems of YA novel adaptations.

Film: The Iron Giant (1999)

Book: The Iron Man by Ted Hughes (1968)

What They Changed: Everything. The only similarities between the “modern fairytale” that was the book and the classic film is that there’s a big iron alien robot, and he befriends a boy named Hogarth. In the movie, they go on to save their town from a nuclear warhead; in the book, the Iron Man has to defend the Earth from a “Space-Bat-Angel-Dragon.”

Why They Changed: Director Brad Bird wanted to explore themes of paranoia during the ’50s.

Why It’s Great: The movie is deep and moving and has since become a classic, despite box office failure.