Top 10 Most Unforgivable Book to Movie Changes
VOICE OVER: Sophia Franklin
WRITTEN BY: Catherine Neal
These changes from books to movie are beyond unforgivable. For this list, we'll be looking at book adaptations that made some terrible choices when bringing our favorites to the big screen. Watch out for spoilers from the outset. Our countdown includes "The Shining," "Harry Potter," "The Hobbit," and more!
Top 10 Most Unforgivable Changes from Books to Movie
Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Unforgivable Changes From Books to Movie.
For this list, we’ll be looking at book adaptations that made some terrible choices when bringing our favorites to the big screen. Watch out for spoilers from the outset.
Which movie adaptations butchered your favorite books? Let us know in the comments.
#10: Tris’ Sacrifice
“The Divergent Series: Allegiant” (2016)
Fans were divided over the ending of Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” trilogy. In the books, the main character, Tris Prior, is shot dead in the final chapters, after making a heroic sacrifice. Killing off your protagonist is a bold move. Yet surely, dramatically changing the ending of a beloved book series is even riskier? The filmmakers made the controversial decision to split “Allegiant,” the final book in the trilogy, into two movies. This tactic worked for “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” but it made no sense here. The “Allegiant” movie became bloated and meandering and Tris never made her final sacrifice. How could she, when a fourth film was planned? The final installment never actually materialized, but the damage was already done.
#9: Hester Shaw’s Face
“Mortal Engines” (2018)
We understand that people in the movies are better looking than ordinary people. But when a character is meant to be hideously disfigured, it can be jarring when they look like a model. Hester Shaw is the main female character in Philip Reeve’ children’s novel, “Mortal Engines.” She is rarely seen without a scarf that hides the bottom half of her face. As a child, her parents were killed and Hester was caught in the crossfire. Her face was slashed with a sword, leaving her with a missing eye, a twisted scar, and a wrenched mouth. Hester’s appearance has supposedly been crucial to the forming of her character. But in the movie, you wonder why she even bothers with the scarf.
#8: The Bad Guy Becomes a Hero
“I Am Legend” (2007)
Richard Matheson’s novel “I Am Legend” has been filmed more than once. Most notably as “The Omega Man” in 1971 and later, as a sci-fi blockbuster, starring Will Smith. Both movies took a sharp u-turn away from the source material, especially when it came to the ending. Matheson’s book ends with the hero’s realization that he - not his undead enemies - is the real monster. After all, he has been capturing and experimenting on the creatures. He feels he is destined to become ‘a legend’ or a terrifying creature of myth. The 2007 movie played with a similar alternative ending, but eventually defaulted back to ‘man blows up zombies and saves the world.’ Kinda seems like they took the easy option.
#7: Moving the Focus from Bilbo
“The Hobbit” franchise (2012-14)
The “Lord of the Rings” movies were successful and beloved, it’s true. But that doesn’t mean that Tolkien fans can’t appreciate a different kind of story. “The Hobbit” was written as an adventure for children, not an epic adult fantasy. But Peter Jackson just couldn’t help himself. He took a relatively short book and stretched it out into three, unnecessarily long films. Bilbo Baggins, the titular hobbit and hero of the story, was sidelined in favor of Gandalf, Fili, Bard, and extraneous characters that weren’t even in the book. Did we ask for multiple scenes involving Radagast or “The White Orc?” No. The moments from the book were great, but they got lost in a sea of time fillers and nostalgia. As did poor Bilbo.
#6: Fanny Price’s Personality
“Mansfield Park” (1999)
Not every Jane Austen heroine can be an Elizabeth Bennet. But that doesn’t stop the screenwriters from trying. “Mansfield Park” is probably the least beloved of Austen’s novels. Its heroine, Fanny Price, is an introverted observer, not a lively wit. She’s eighteen, put-upon and a little bit serious. She doesn’t have Elizabeth’s confidence, although she’s just as strong, in her own quiet way. But there’s yet to be a movie adaptation that lets Fanny Price be Fanny Price. In the 2007 version, she’s Billie Piper - wild-haired and childlike. The nineties film is even worse. In that, the heroine is a carbon copy of her love rival, Mary Crawford - which basically defeats the whole point of the book. Maybe it’s time for a new adaptation?
#5: Charlie Breaks the Rules
“Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” (1971)
When you compare “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” to the fever-dream weirdness of the Johnny Depp version, it stands up quite well. But Roald Dahl hated the movie and you can’t deny there is one huge plot hole. Mr. Wonka is looking for a suitable protegee to take over his factory. One by one, the children with the Golden Tickets prove to him that they’re no good. When they break the rules, take things they shouldn’t, or disobey direct orders, they’re punished for it. But where’s Charlie’s comeuppance for taking a Fizzy Lifting Drink? That scene isn’t in the book and it makes no sense of the rest of the movie. Didn’t Charlie make the exact same mistake as the other children?
“Harry Potter” franchise (2001-11)
We could nit-pick a hundred things that were different or better in the books. But when it comes down to it, the “Harry Potter” movies were good adaptations. There was one fly in the potion bottle, however, and unfortunately, that was Ginny Weasley. Not to throw shade on Bonnie Wright, who did her best with what she was given. But it wasn’t much, was it? In “Half-Blood Prince,” she’s suddenly Harry’s love interest. By this point, ‘book Ginny’ has blossomed into a fierce, funny, star of the Quidditch pitch. In the films, she feeds him mince pies and ties his shoelace. But they don’t have an ounce of the chemistry Harry shares with Hermione - or even Luna. It’s a real shame.
#3: Faramir Tries to Take the Ring
“The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” (2002)
Another great adaptation, with one unforgivable alteration. (And no, we don’t mean Tom Bombadil.) In the book, when Faramir of Gondor bumps into Frodo and Sam, he takes them captive and attempts to find out what they’re up to. But crucially, when he discovers the existence of the Ring, he does not try to take it from them. This highlights the difference between Faramir and Boromir: whatever their father thinks, Faramir is the stronger character. He passes the test where his brother failed. The movie wanted to add a bit of drama, but it wasn’t needed. There’s enough going on in the finale with Helm’s Deep and the Ents at Isengard. No-one cares about Osgiliath and it messes with Faramir’s character arc.
#2: Dick Hallorann’s Death
“The Shining” (1980)
Both Stephen King’s novel and the Stanley Kubrick movie are considered classics in their respective fields. But the author wasn’t a fan of the adaptation. Aside from the character assassinations of Jack and Wendy Torrance, the most shocking diversion from the original comes during the film’s finale. In the novel, Danny manages to communicate telepathically with Dick Hallorann, an old guy with ‘a bit of a shine’ who works at the Overlook Hotel during the summer months. Hallorann answers Danny’s call for help and rocks up in time to save the day. But, presumably, because this is an 80’s horror movie, they opted instead for a more traditional route - killing off the only character of color in an unnecessary shock death scene.
#1: The Ending
“My Sister’s Keeper” (2009)
“My Sister’s Keeper” is the story of Anna, a ‘savior sister’ conceived as a donor match for Kate, who has acute leukemia. The story hinges on Anna’s decision to sue her parents for medical emancipation, encouraged by Kate, who wishes to die. Both the film and the book delve into a messy ethical world, where nothing is black and white. But the ending of Jodi Picoult’s novel was pretty clear cut. Despite winning her case, Anna is killed in a car crash and Kate gets her kidney anyway. But the movie leaves out the crash altogether. Kate dies and Anna gets her life back. Picoult was unhappy with the change, as it meant that the story’s message - that life is fragile and unpredictable - was lost.