Many films are adapted from books, particularly in the fantasy genre. Films have the opportunity to bring fantasy's visual spectacle, magic, and breathtaking creatures to life. With many fantasy books part of a larger series and boasting a dedicated fandom, the right adaptation can spark a wildly popular and successful film franchise.
Despite these benefits, many fantasy books have been poorly adapted to the big screen. The general assumption is that the book is always superior to the movie. While that is generally true, it is not always the case. Every once in a while, the movie actually enhances the original book and ends up being even better.
10 Better: The Hobbit
The Hobbit is a charming tale of adventure and the perfect entry point into the intricate world of Middle-Earth. When adapted into a film trilogy, the novel was overstretched, even with the addition of storylines and characters who didn't appear in the book. In doing so, the films lost a great deal of the charm that made the book such a hit in the first place.
The Battle of the Five Armies did the most injustice as it traded heart for prolonged battle sequences. The essence of Bilbo's journey was lost amidst all the CGI and unnecessary subplots.
9 Worse: The Lord Of The Rings
The fantasy genre owes a great deal to J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, particularly when it comes to conventions of the genre like world-building. While the books are an undeniable masterpiece--and it feels blasphemous to say this next part--there are chunks of the books that feel slow and dry. The movie trilogy trimmed those parts and focused on bringing the best parts of the books to life, from the breathtaking and complex world that is Middle-Earth, to the epic battles and rich character interactions.
The Two Towers and The Return of the King books are essentially split into two parts, one being Frodo and Sam's journey to Mordor, and the other part following the story of Aragorn and all the other characters in the West. By interweaving these storylines together instead of telling them separately, there is more natural pacing and connectivity between the different storylines in the films.
8 Better: Eragon
Drawing many parallels from The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars in order to create the original and fascinating world of Alagaësia, Eragon became a hit with many audiences. Unfortunately, the film adaptation rushed through the rich source material from the book, and outside of Jeremy Irons as Brom, none of the actors' performances are particularly convincing.
To make matters worse, the film kills off practically every character and plot thread that could've set up a film adaptation of Eragon's sequel Eldest. The Ra'zac are killed even though they're integral to making Roran a major character in the books, and at the end of the film Murtagh is happily reunited with Eragon at the Varden, a decision that destroys Murtagh's future arc as a dragon rider and tortured agent of King Galbatorix. Poor decisions regarding the the Ra'zac, Murtagh, and other elements made a faithful sequel impossible, leaving fans with a disappointing product and no hope of a better sequel film.
7 Worse: The Wizard Of Oz
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a quality novel, but it feels a bit bland compared to the movie and many other stories of Oz. One of the main reasons for this is that the Wicked Witch of the West isn't seen that much in the book, and mostly relies on her creatures to do the dirty work for her. Without much direct confrontation of Dorothy and her friends, the Wicked Witch feels less threatening. The depiction of her character in the 1939 film created an archetype for countless witch characters in the future, not to mention Gregory Maguire's Wicked Years book series and the hit musical that would follow. Beyond the Wicked Witch, the groundbreaking use of color and beloved songs places the film on a level that the book can never reach at this point.
6 Better: The Golden Compass
From daemons to parallel universes, The Golden Compass is a masterful novel full of world-building, posing thought-provoking questions within the fantasy genre. Lyra's spunky, fierce, and lovable nature makes her the perfect protagonist to ground this story. The film utterly fails to capture any of these wonderful elements, though, largely due to the rushed nature of everything.
Lyra moves from Jordan College, to London with Mrs. Coulter, to the Gyptians on their boats, and so on without giving the audience any time to understand anything about these places or the people there. Beyond poor pacing and development, the acting feels forced as well. Hopefully the upcoming HBO series will do The Golden Compass justice and make up for this disappointing film.
5 Worse: The Princess Bride
The Princess Bride is a charming, witty, epic tale of fantasy adventure both on the page and on the screen. The book and the movie are similar in terms of quality, but what sets them apart is the iconic nature of the film. It remains one of the most quotable movies of all time, with fans delivering the words in a way that is forever immortalized by the brilliant performances of the immensely talented cast. The film stayed rather faithful to the excellent source material, and then imbued it with cinematic perfection that elevates it above the book.
4 Better: The Lightning Thief
The Lightning Thief immersed readers in a world of Greek mythology in a hilarious, epic tale featuring relatable characters. Most of these elements failed to be translated to the screen, largely because the writing lacks author Rick Riordan's humor and his ability to make the characters feel real. There's no chemistry between Percy, Annabeth, and Grover, and they feel as though they're teenagers who could've been lifted from any other teenage adventure film. Nothing from the books with Ares is included either, meaning the movie fails to properly set the stage for the rise of Kronos in future films.
3 Worse: Stardust
Neil Gaiman is one of the best authors out there, with Stardust among his impressive collection. Some adaptations of his work have not been done well, but Stardust is the rare exception. The film elevates the story's humor, largely thanks to the comedic timing of Robert De Niro as Captain Shakespeare, along with the rest of the talented cast. The sense of adventure is enhanced as well, with a thrilling soundtrack that rivals the music of the best fantasy films, and with cleverly choreographed fight scenes that prove to be a visual treat to watch.
2 Better: Inkheart
The novel Inkheart resonated with many audiences because of its creative story and the quirky nature of the characters. The movie instead relies on common cliches, abandoning everything that made the novel such a hit in the first place. Even the quirkiest characters like Dustfinger are reduced to a character who could've been in any other fantasy story, lacking the fun that made these characters so fun to follow in the novel. The pacing and world-building are also poorly executed in the film, leaving viewers confused about the creative concepts that were so engaging and understandable in the novel.
1 Worse: Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
Originally published in 2001 as a guide book covering many of the magical creatures in the Potterverse, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was a clever and informative supplement to the Harry Potter book series. While it was a fun read for Potterheads, it couldn't compare to the magic of an actual story featuring these creatures. The 2016 film took many of the creatures described in the book and made them part of a compelling story centered on the book's author Newt Scamander and his adventures in 1920's New York City. The new cast of characters exhibited wonderful chemistry while the story further developed the magical world many years before Harry was even born. The surprise reveal and connectivity to Gellert Grindelwald cemented the film's status as not only a fun addition the Potterverse, but an essential addition as well.