Worst Book-to-Film?  C'mon, worst lists are always more fun than best lists.... Every time a book is adapted to film, there will be critics. Of course, the film maker cannot bring everything to the screen that fills the novel, but some books translate better than others.  Some should probably never be attempted. Who is your nominee for worst book-to-film adaptation?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How about Possession by A. S. Byatt? The film version completely robbed the original of its intellectual depth and fascination. I also agree that The Scarlet Letter was a definite flop. I did actually quite like the Twilight film though!

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Reaching back into the past, I would have to nominate The Great Gatsby with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. Fitzgerald's work doesn't film well anyway, since his prose is so poetic and so much of the action is internal, but Gatsby the Movie was awful! The dialog sounded so artificial and stilted, Robert Redford looked confused throughout, and I kept expecting Mia Farrow's wig to fall off. The only way to enjoy watching this movie would be to turn off the sound and look at the pictures.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As a Twilight fan, I must say the movie did the book no justice. Certain things were left out that I think shouldn't have. For example, the incident with the blood testing in science class. Harry Potter also. The director of the first film did his best to stay very true to the novel. But each film after that has strayed further and further away.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

At #25, I think all of Zeffirelli's Shakespeare films are painfully bad and dull. Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet (with Mel Gibson!!) and the interminable camp, trite, faux-Italian but still very repressed-English Romeo and Juliet. For my money, burn them all- I reckon they've put more kids off Shakespeare than anything else!

I don't think either adaptation of "Lolita" works particularly well as a version of the book. But Kubrick's is brilliant as a film in its own right - the Jeremy Irons version isn't.

I think that the Al Pacino version of "The Merchant of Venice" takes the award for me though. Passionless, self-indulgent, slooooo-oooooow speaking, and a film that makes the idea of spending three hours painting a wall and watching it dry seem attractive. Spare us.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Beowulf is at the top of my list. My students know that just mentioning the movie will elicit at least a ten minute rant. I wasn't a big fan of The Golden Compass either. The changes made for the movie seemed to me to remove all the suspense. I felt the movie was very anti-climatic.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

To #25--no, the Zefirelli film was well cast. I'm thinking of the 1936 version, starring 43 year old Leslie Howard as Romeo, playing off of Norma Shearer's 34 year old Juliet.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I would have to agree with # 6 that Beowulf was one of  the worst book to film creations that there ever was.  As a medievalist, I was appalled.  As a science fiction fan, I would have to say that both Dune and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy were dismal failures as well.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The World According to Garp....really, any Irving novel that has become a movie....there is so much complexity to all of his novels that a movie can't do them justice.

No, not Garp--Hotel New Hampshire. Are they really bad movies, or are the books overrated too?

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Any of the early versions of Romeo and Juliet--the actors were about 20 years too old.

Kid books sometimes don't translate very well--anyone see Pippi Longstocking?

And yes, that Scarlet Letter was AWFUL.

Hopefully you don't mean the 1968 Zeffirelli. The main actors were both in their teens - Olivia Hussey (Juliet) was 16 or 17, and Leonard Whiting (Romeo) was 18 or 19.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Scarlet Letter with Demi Moore.  Talk about creative license!  UGH! 

Another one is Beowulf with Angelina Jolie.  Half the stuff never even happened, and "Grendel's" gold costume is a little too much.

 

I agree about the Scarlet Letter!

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Call of the Wild has to be my pick. The story doesn't translate well from the dog's mind to man's. We see the whole Jack London story from the eyes of Buck, and then the movie turns it around and ruins the perspective. It's like they tried, they just couldn't pull it off.

Call of the Wild may not have been any good, but Into the Wild was great!

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Call of the Wild has to be my pick. The story doesn't translate well from the dog's mind to man's. We see the whole Jack London story from the eyes of Buck, and then the movie turns it around and ruins the perspective. It's like they tried, they just couldn't pull it off.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
Worst Book-to-Film?

C'mon, worst lists are always more fun than best lists....

Every time a book is adapted to film, there will be critics. Of course, the film maker cannot bring everything to the screen that fills the novel, but some books translate better than others.  Some should probably never be attempted.

Who is your nominee for worst book-to-film adaptation?

  Great topic.  While I agree with almost all of the posts about turkey-movies from much better books (except I thought Catch-22 wasn't all that bad) but one of the worst, all time, has got to be Possession.  They took a Booker Prize winner and put Gwyneth Paltrow in it (who might have physically resembled Maud, but that was all), and Aaron Eckart was disastrous (and innacurate) as Roland.  Not even the very good actors Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle could save it.  It was a yawn-fest, while the book was completely engrossing and delightful.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The World According to Garp....really, any Irving novel that has become a movie....there is so much complexity to all of his novels that a movie can't do them justice.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The most disappointing I have seen is Ask the Dust. It's a remarkable book by John Fante, and the movie was just horrendous. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I didn't see the Demi Moore version of The Scarlet Letter, but I recall that they even included the caveat "Loosely adapted from the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne" or something like that.

My nomination for worst book-to-film, though, is Native Son.  It was not only a poor adaptation of the story, the film was badly produced--grainy and unfocused.  The acting was over the top and stilted.  I showed it once (and we may not have even finished it) and never again.  Instead, after trying that bad version of Native Son, I paired Native Son with the fine film A Place in the Sun (based on Dreiser's An American Tragedy--both book and film can be effectively compared to the Richard Wright novel).

This is a fun topic!

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"The Da Vinci Code" annoyed me beyond all belief. How on earth did Tom Hanks manage to be so annoying?? It could just be me. However the suspence that was built up in the novel just did not come across in the film.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

While we're speaking of interior novels that flopped on-screen, let's add Twilight to the list.  Most of that novel is Bella's thought process; it is impossible to relate all of that detail on screen, especially without a more active narrator (the movie had maybe 5 lines of narration-very odd).

Oh, I agree, ghastly.  I think Meyers is a very so-so writer.  Good ideas but her plodding got very much on my nerves.  The director seems to have chosen *that* aspect to focus on.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I'll jump on the IT movie-version-bashing bandwagon too. Horrible...even for a Stephen King adaptation.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

No doubt that "It" was a joke compared to the depth of the book. The theater of the mind trumps all. I was rooting for Pennywise in the movie. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

IT by Steven King. Holy goodness that was a HORRIBLE movie while to book rocked my socks off!!

Another is the newest version of Great Expectations. Wow. I wanted to show a more updated version to my class but let's just say thank goodness I previewed it. Needless to say I busted out the old version I had...

I agree with you. I haven't read the book, but I was very disappointed with the movie. I watched the first half, waiting for the creature to be revealed as some ugly, disgusting brain eater. What did it turn out to be? A giant spider! Oh, please!

Both versions of Salem's Lot were pretty bad, too, don't you think?

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

IT by Steven King. Holy goodness that was a HORRIBLE movie while to book rocked my socks off!!

Another is the newest version of Great Expectations. Wow. I wanted to show a more updated version to my class but let's just say thank goodness I previewed it. Needless to say I busted out the old version I had...

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Any of the early versions of Romeo and Juliet--the actors were about 20 years too old.

Kid books sometimes don't translate very well--anyone see Pippi Longstocking?

And yes, that Scarlet Letter was AWFUL.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Scarlet Letter with Demi Moore.  Talk about creative license!  UGH! 

Another one is Beowulf with Angelina Jolie.  Half the stuff never even happened, and "Grendel's" gold costume is a little too much.

 

I forgot about those two. You are right!

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Scarlet Letter with Demi Moore.  Talk about creative license!  UGH! 

Another one is Beowulf with Angelina Jolie.  Half the stuff never even happened, and "Grendel's" gold costume is a little too much.

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

While we're speaking of interior novels that flopped on-screen, let's add Twilight to the list.  Most of that novel is Bella's thought process; it is impossible to relate all of that detail on screen, especially without a more active narrator (the movie had maybe 5 lines of narration-very odd).

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Beloved has to be my pick. It just went on and on and never seemed to end.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I was disappointed in Memoirs of a GeishaThe novel is so interior I doubted it could translate well to film, and I was right. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Hmmm....I tend to be fairly generous spirited with adaptations: medium-hopping is never easy and definitely never perfect. But that said, I really, really cannot stand Steven Spielberg's cloying version of The Color Purple.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team