Sometimes, a movie can veer away from the plot of the book it's based on, and it's still an amazing movie ("Blade Runner" and "The Shining" come to mind, although Stephen King was so unhappy with "The Shining" adaptation that he decided to go off and make his own version, and it was horrible).
Other times, filmmakers make changes when adapting books that make the films even bigger stinkers than they would have been had they stuck to the plot in front of them. There are also some examples where the movie on the whole isn't bad, but the filmmakers throw in some random new content that often leaves me wondering, What were they thinking by adding that?! They had a perfectly good story without it.
Here are some of the changes made in the book-to-movie making process that I find absolutely unforgivable. THESE CONTAIN SPOILERS but then you wouldn't want to see most of these movies anyway.
Which book-to-film changes do YOU find unforgivable? Let me know in the comments!
"The Scarlet Letter" (1995): Ugh. Where do I even begin? Besides just being horrible (Gary Oldman couldn't even save this movie), the film added a scene where Hester Prynne is about to be hanged, but is then saved by her lover and a happenstance Native American attack on the town. This does not happen in the book, and kind of distracts from the whole point of the original narrative. The town doesn't want this woman to die - they want her to silently publicly suffer forever.
"The Lorax"(2012): Sure, plenty of kid's movies completely change the books they're based on because the original story is too gory or scary. I get it. But why change The Lorax? The book is entirely kid-friendly. Added plot points made this film both confusing and boring.
Tim Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (2005): My main problem with this film is the interpretation of Willy Wonka. While I admit that I also actually just have a strong distaste for Johnny Depp, he is also just entirely wrong for this role. What Gene Wilder captured in the original (WHY REMAKE A CLASSIC?), Depp fails to display. Wonka is a subtly creepy man, not an obviously creepy man. As a child, I didn't think twice about all the weird stuff that was going on in that book. And I read it three or four times.
Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow" (1999): This movie bears little resemblance to the Washington Irving story on which it's based. Essentially, the only thing the two share is that they kept character names the same. I don't think that Johnny Depp was a bad choice for Ichabod Crane, although he's a lot more handsome than Irving's awkward character. The plot change that irked me most had to have been that the headless horseman WAS an actual ghost, controlled by Katrina's witch stepmother. This only detracted from the story. Better stick with the Disney cartoon version of this short tale. It might be the only Disney film that is actually pretty close to the book original.
"Life of Pi" (2012): While this movie isn't horrible, I don't think the book translated very well onto film. Obviously, one has to leave a lot of things out. But the film misses all of Yann Martel's entirely clever add-ins that tip a reader off as to what is real and what is not real. Martel writes quite a bit about how animal-like humans can be, and how we are all essentially animals. This really sinks in when the reader gets to the chilling end of the book, making it even more uncomfortable. Also, the book describes what happens in much more gruesome detail than the film, to greater effect. I had been so excited to see how Ang Lee would make these aspects of the book work, but instead he chose to leave them out entirely. BAD choice, Ang.
"Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961): Don't get me wrong: this movie is great. I went through a phase where I'd watch it every single night. However, I am still not happy that they completely Hollywood-ified the ending to the novella. The male character in the story is gay, and Holly Golightly disappears at the end and never returns. Not a particularly happy ending, but it would have been ballsy for filmmakers to have stuck to the plot. I admit that if they had, it would have been a very different film, and perhaps not the classic it is today. But to make a gay man straight to work in a romance narrative?! Unforgivable!
"Fast Food Nation" (2006): Why, oh why, would you try to make fiction out of a non-fiction book about the food industry? Why would you try to make fiction out of a non-fiction book in general?
"What To Expect When You're Expecting" (2012): See above.
"My Sister's Keeper" (2009): The director changed the ending of the film, AGAINST Jodi Picoult's explicit wishes. In the book, Anna dies after being left brain dead from a car accident, and her kidney ends up being donated to Kate, who then goes into remission; in the film, Kate dies peacefully and Anna doesn't donate any organs. This was such a big deal, that the film's Wikipedia page even has a section dubbed "Changes from book."
Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby" (2013): I actually mostly liked this film. I thought that Leonardo DiCaprio made Gatsby a much more sympathetic character than he was in Fitzgerald's classic, and I thought the visuals were astounding. What I didn't like, however, were the added in sanatorium scenes. Though it is certainly possibly that Nick Carraway is in a sanatorium while penning the story (he is an unreliable narrator, after all), there are certainly no scenes of this taking place. I found these add-ons to be extremely corny and over the top.
Stand By Me (1986): This adaptation of Stephen King's The Body is still a really great movie. But it's another example of where the filmmakers completely Hollywood-ify the ending. In King's novella, all of Gordie's friends end up dying during young adulthood. Gordie goes on to be a bestselling author. In the movie, only one of Gordie's friends dies (Chris is stabbed while attempting to intervene during a fight at a fast food restaurant...this is consistent with the book); the others survive.