It’s a fact of life that books tend to leave a bigger (and better) impression on us than any adaptations that follow. We could tell you all about adaptations that disappointed us, that were no more than cheap imitations of our favorite novels, or that completely changed the story, just to fall flat on their faces. Instead, we’ll tell you about the ones that were different, that rose above the rubbish and straight into our hearts. Maybe you’ll get a new film to enjoy out of this—or maybe you’ll just nod eagerly to our praise for these works of art. Either works.
The Princess Bride (1987)
Maria Oum, Editorial
The Princess Bride by William Goldman has to be one of the most perfect fantasy novels ever written, and the 1987 adaptation is just as perfect. With the screenplay written by the author himself, the film is a feast of high fantasy and comedy. Set in an ambiguous medieval setting, the plot is framed through a bedtime story a grandfather tells his sick grandson. The story itself tells the marvelous tale of Buttercup, a beautiful young woman who is set to marry the prince. However, unknown to her, Buttercup’s one true love, Westley, is still alive and comes back to win her hand free from the villainous Prince Humperdinck. From there, the tale is decked with high medieval fantasy tropes of chivalry, sword fights, medieval medicine in the form of magic, and a hero’s escape into the sunset. The cult classic is one of the best adaptations of any book ever made that never fails to charm or make me laugh.
Lexi Dockery, Editorial
Ever since I was in high school, Emma has been my favorite Jane Austen novel. The book was funny, and I enjoyed having a protagonist that I could criticize and see myself in. I loved Clueless’ take on the story, and it’s still one of my favorite films. However, my favorite adaptation of Emma is the 2020 film starring Anya Taylor-Joy. It captured the book’s humor so well, and the characterization was spot-on, even for the supporting cast. But what really makes this adaptation superior is the dance scene between Mr. Knightley and Emma. I could write volumes about it (and I have, to my friends!). I highly recommend this film, especially if you’re a fan of the novel!
Joanne Chung, Editorial
Speak made a deep impression on me growing up, and I still have an attachment to the original story. Reading the graphic novel was a way of revisiting one of the most impactful books in my life in a new form. I was pleased to see how faithful it remained to Laurie Halse Anderson’s work while also enhancing it in some aspects. Emily Carroll’s depiction of Melinda’s internal and external struggles was better than my own imagination, raw and unembellished—it truly felt like I was experiencing Speak anew.
Gracie Lambright, Editorial
One of my favorite cry books and movies. I remember reading the book for the first time and not being able to put it down. I recommended it to my sister (who doesn’t read at all), and she loved it too! I don’t know what John Green put into this book, but it definitely had me hooked. I first read it when it came out back in 2012 and have read it every few years since. The overall narration by Hazel Grace and her relationship with Augustus drew me into the story. And now that the movie has come out with its own soundtrack, the set is complete. It’s pretty much a guarantee that you’ll find me hunched in a corner with mascara tracks on my cheeks from crying at least once a year.
The Haunting of Hill House (2018)
Griffyn Tijamo, Graphics
Adapted from the novel of the same name by gothic horror queen Shirley Jackson, Mike Flanagan’s Netflix miniseries puts a modern twist on the 1959 story. Rather than following a group of strangers who live in a haunted house for a summer, the adaptation follows a family in their past and present who have to deal with the trauma of having lived in such a horrifying and gravitational place such as Hill House. Not only did the miniseries have great jumpscares and scenes that still make my skin crawl, but it also introduced a set of flawed and intriguing characters that I am fond of to this day.
Celeste Shelton, Graphics
I read the book because of the movie. When I was a child, The Golden Compass film filled me with such a sense of allure and wonder! The colors and the concept were beautiful. I was so disappointed when I saw that there wasn’t going to be a sequel to the film, so I decided to read the novels, and they did not disappoint. I still watch the movie from time to time. It’s something that stays and lives with me as I grow as an adult.
Maybe you agree with us on these adaptations, or maybe you think we have horrible taste. Either is reasonable. After all, we each bring our own experiences into whatever we read, watch, or listen to—such as whether we read the source material first. Let this be a reminder that just as you have a right to hate an adaptation, you also have the right to love it for any reason, whether it be the writing, the nostalgia, the pretty colors, or all three.
If you enjoyed reading up on our bookish preferences, take a look here, where we talk about books we’d love to read again for the first time.