Five Worst Book to Film Adaptations

by Kelly O’Brien

Though The Hunger Games was a huge box office success, Hollywood hasn’t always gotten it right when dealing with book to film adaptations. Here’s a quick list films that didn’t do justice to their paperback counterparts. If you have a chance, buy the book… but stay well away from these titles in the DVD section.

The Beach

This book topped the bestseller charts when published back in 1996. Six years later, heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio signed up to play the lead character in the film version of Alex Garland’s debut novel. Fresh from the success of DiCaprio in major motion picture Titanic, the movie was highly anticipated by critics and fans alike. Unfortunately, but for a handful of adolescent girls drooling over DiCaprio in sun, sea and swimwear, The Beach proved to be a huge disappointment.

Fans of the book were scornful of the adaptation overall and DiCaprio’s performance was so awful that it was nominated for a Razzie award. Lucky for Leo, 2000 was a bad year for movies and eventually lost the Razzie to John Travolta’s terrible performance in Battlefield Earth.

Despite having a beautiful and captivating lead actor, an excellent novel to work off and the experience of well-known director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog), The Beach fails to deliver and leaves the audience with a butchered ending and a sour aftertaste.


The Golden Compass

Based on Phillip Pullman’s controversial His Dark Materials saga, 2007’s film version of the first book, The Golden Compass, was met with raised eyebrows from critics and fans alike. While praised for its performances and family entertainment value, the book devotees were largely unimpressed with the ending, which differed dramatically from the source material and rendered all hope for a successful sequel moot. The ideas that anchored the book, Pullman himself admitting, “My books are about killing God”, were glossed over for the more fantastical elements, like giant polar bears and Nicole Kidman in sparkly dresses.

Topping Entertainment Weekly’s 2008 poll of Hollywood’s worst adaptations, The Golden Compass fluffs its lines at almost every turn, ditching all of Pullman’s guile in favour of a series of lacklustre action sequences. Ultimately, the film tanked at the domestic box office and no sequel was ordered.



I’ll admit, although Twilight wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever read, it wasn’t the worst. The movie however, I can say with complete certainty was bad. Obviously, the studio didn’t know what kind of powerhouse Twilight would go on to become because the budget made it seem like it shouldn’t have even made it to theatres. The “special effects” were cringe-worthy and except for one or two scenes where the sun is shining, absolutely everything is tinted blue or grey. And to top it all off, Kristen Stewart seems to have developed some sort of twitch since the last time I saw her in a movie.


The Time Traveller’s Wife

Unashamedly slushy throughout, Audrey Niffenegger’s high-concept rom-com somehow manages to pull off the idea of a grown man visiting the six-year-old version of his lover without the whole thing seeming a bit dodgy. And even if Niffenegger’s grab for your heartstrings is fairly brazen, it’s an undeniably moving tale of thwarted love.

In the film version, Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams do their best, but sadly, the sentimentality that is just about palatable on the page congeals into a saccharine mess on the screen. Trying to cram a fairly epic novel into a sub-2 hour runtime is a bridge too far for director Robert Schwentke, who relegates his supporting cast to virtual observers of the Bana-McAdams weep-off.  Clumsy at best.

The Lovely Bones

Alice Seebold’s riveting novel about the story of a teenage girl who is raped and murdered by her serial killer neighbour is an absolutely gripping read. It is a thought provoking and horrifying story told in an exceptionally unique way. But while it deals with heavy issues, it maintains a lightness that makes it all the more powerful at its close. The film of the same name has a remarkable cast but falls flat everywhere else. Critics gave the film mixed reviews, although they were primarily negative, and the lack of poignancy made it feel stale.

While those listed above are the most notable and recent book to screen faux pas, they were not the first, the last or the sum total. A nod also has to go to Eragon, The Da Vinci Code and The Scarlet Letter, all fantastic books yet sub-par films.


4 thoughts on “Five Worst Book to Film Adaptations

  1. Pingback: Adaptation : Experience and Script Yorkshire Workshop | Adventures in Backstory

  2. Pingback: Books that Should Become Movies… ASAP! |

  3. I’m actually afraid to watch The Time Traveller’s wife because I love the book so much and know they’re going to ruin it:) And such a pity Philip Pullman’s trilogy wasn’t handled better, we could have had a really interesting set of films

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