2022 has been rife with book-to-movie adaptations, so far, with more to come, including the big-screen adaptation of Where The Crawdads Sing set to release on Netflix in July 2022 and a new Percy Jackson adaptation on the way. And as long as there have been movies based on books, there have been people to remind everyone that the book was better. Not every movie does, but there have been quite a few adaptations that have rivaled their source material.
In some special cases, movies have even managed to surpass their books, either entirely or for one single great scene. This is not to say that these scenes in the book were bad, but in these cases, the movie managed to outdo them.
Rorschach’s Iconic Line: Watchmen
Watchmen is easily one of the best and most iconic graphic novels ever written. The Zach Snyder adaptation was fairly faithful to the source material but received a mixed reception. There is one scene that actually manages to outshine its comic panel though, and that is Rorschach’s immortal “I’m not locked up in here with you, you’re locked up in here with me” line.
Surprisingly enough, in the graphic novel, Rorschach is never shown saying the line. It is instead quoted by his psychiatrist later in a conversation with his wife. In the movie, however, Jackie Earl Haley is able to deliver the line on camera with all of the force that it is worth.
The Final Battle: The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe
Compared to many fantasy novels, CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia books are much shorter and more succinct. The books are much more focused on Christian allegory than massive world-building, so many specific details are left to the reader’s imagination.
This includes the final battle of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, which, in the book, lasts little more than a few sentences as opposed to the huge scale war from the film. Both work in context and the book’s more subtle approach may fit better for some, but it is always cool to see a bunch of fantasy creatures battle for freedom on the big screen.
The Torture Scene: Casino Royale
The James Bond films have mostly left the original novels behind, but 2006’s Casino Royale was actually based on the first-ever Bond novel. In both the book and the film, Bond is captured by the villain and tortured via a bottomless chair and a blunt instrument.
The film’s scene is fairly faithful to the book, but the moment feels even more visceral being able to see and hear each whack into Bond’s nether regions. Daniel Craig also manages to add Bond’s trademark wit into the scene as well, keeping his good humor through the excruciating pain. The scene in the book is already leg-crossingly uncomfortable, but the film manages to take it even further.
The Ending: The Mist
It is not often that an ending changed for the movie is powerful enough to make the author of the original book say that he wished he had thought of it. Yet this is the case with Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist. The novel ends on an ambiguous note, with the lead character’s fates up in the air.
Everyone knows the devastating ending of the movie, however. Trapped in a car with no chance of escape, the lead character shoots his family and the others in the car, only to find that there are no bullets left for him. He wanders into the Mist to meet his fate, before being almost immediately rescued by the army. It is an absolute gut-punch of an ending, but fitting for a Stephen King adaptation.
Harry Gets His Wand: Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone
Both the Harry Potter books and movies are beloved among fans, and while the movies do a great job of bringing the story to life, it is hard to say definitively specific moments that are better in the Harry Potter movies. But the moment in Sorcerer’s Stone when Harry first gets his wand is even more whimsical on-screen.
Both the book and movie have Harry try out a number of wands while Mr. Olivander judges whether they are right for him or not, but the movie adds in small, amusing mishaps with each failed wand that add more action to the scene. Couple this with the pure excitement on Daniel Radcliffe’s face and the scene is delightfully magical.
Tears In The Rain: Blade Runner
Sci-fi classic Blade Runner is very loosely based on Phillip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? The premise is the same, with detective Deckard hunting down rogue replicas, but the book and movie explore different underlying themes.
Roy Batty is the primary villain in the book and film – the leader of the replicants who is trying to extend his rapidly ending lifespan. In the book, Roy is simply gunned down by Deckard at the end. In the film, however, Roy is given a famously poignant sendoff. After saving Deckard’s life, Batty delivers an amazing monologue on the fleeting nature of life before willingly succumbing to his age. It is a beautifully acted moment that has gone down in sci-fi history.
Jan Edgecomb’s Death: The Green Mile
The film The Green Mile is about as spot on the book as movie adaptations get. The characters are perfectly cast and most of the story beats are brought to life in fantastic detail. One of the few differences from the source material is how the film deals with the death of lead character Paul Edgecomb’s wife, Jan.
Paul is cursed to an unnaturally long life after being healed by John Coffey, and in the film, he describes how difficult it was to outlive Jan. The book however adds on a closing scene in which Jan is killed in a horrific bus crash. The disturbingly graphic description would be fitting in any other Stephen King work, but in a more emotional story like The Green Mile, It seems just a bit too much.
The Entire Third Act: Children Of Men
Alfonso Cuarón’s masterpiece Children of Men is very loosely based on a book called The Children of Men by P.D. James. While several characters and the general plot are the same, many of the story beats are very different. In particular, the entire third act differs from the book.
The book concludes with a personal but small-scale shootout, while the film’s final act is a massive set-piece that shows off everything that cinema can achieve. The climax follows the two leads through a city-wide battle captured entirely in one shot before both warring sides temporarily cease-fire as they hear the cry of the first baby in 18 years. It is a powerful and beautiful moment in an otherwise bleak film.
The Shower Scene: Psycho
Just to be clear, the shower murder from Robert Bloch’s original Psycho novel is still pretty unsettling. Unfortunately, the scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s infamous movie is one of the most recognizable scenes in movie history.
While the moment is very brief in the book, the violence of the murder was actually toned down for the movie. Despite this, the scene was a landmark in on-screen violence. The combination of Hitchcock’s direction, the score, the imagery, and the shocking nature of the scene managed to almost completely outshine the book.
Brooks Was Here: The Shawshank Redemption
Give Frank Darabont a Stephen King story and great things happen. His best adaptation of a Stephen King work comes in the legendary The Shawshank Redemption. The movie is based on a short novella and was able to expand on characters and events much more. most notably with the kindly librarian, Brooks Hatlen.
In the novella, Brooks is a very minor character who is paroled and lives a lonely life before dying of old age. In the movie, Brooks’ journey after prison is shown in a devastating montage where he realizes that the world he knew when he went to prison no longer exists, and he eventually takes his own life. Brooks’ story is a demonstration of the dangers of institutionalization that is even more affecting than in the book.
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