In the hopes of making a lot of money and acquiring a wide audience, Hollywood studios will adapt books, comics, television shows and plays into films. If audiences recognize a story or a title they’re more likely to view the film, more so than if it’s something new and original.
Sometimes filmmakers do a good job staying true to the source material, think the Harry Potter series, but most of the time their adaptations stray a little too far from the original story. Occasionally it pays off and the film wins Best Picture, other times the movie irritates the writer of the original material, if he or she is still alive.
These 15 movies change so much in the process of adapting the story to the big screen that it’s tough to consider them adaptations at all. When a filmmaker takes a few too many liberties, they can completely alter a storyline, which leaves audiences that are familiar with the original source material confused and disappointed.
Take a look at these 15 movies that are nothing like the source material and see which ones benefited from the upgrade or suffered from it. You may not have even known some of these films were based off of other stories!
16 World War Z
2013’s film World War Z, starring Brad Pitt, differs greatly from the 2006 novel it was supposedly adapted from. The book, written by author Max Brooks, centers around a United Nations employee who is interviewing survivors of the zombie apocalypse. The movie portrays a United Nations employee who takes it upon himself to stop the zombie apocalypse by traveling around the world in search of a solution. Brooks' novel was a very intelligent look at how humanity would deal with a disaster, through looking at the experiences of the people left behind, meanwhile the film takes massive liberties with the storyline in order to make it more horror than science-fiction. Brooks gave anyway any authority he had when he signed the book over to Pitt’s production company, which is the case for a lot of authors involved in novel to film adaptations.
15 Fever Pitch
The 2005 film Fever Pitch, starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore, depicts a guy who is obsessed with the Boston Red Sox to the point where it comes between him and his girlfriend. The source material is Nick Hornby’s 1992 novel Fever Pitch: A Fan’s Life, an autobiographical book that recounts the ups and downs that the author experiences in his life, and how they coincide with the wins and losses of his favorite British soccer club, Arsenal. The novel was made into a movie in 1997 as well, but both films seemed to have failed in understanding the basic idea of the book and how it wasn’t meant to be a romantic comedy.
14 Men In Black
Men in Black are government agents who hassle and intimidate people who claim to have experienced a UFO sighting, making them stay quiet about what they have apparently seen. In the film Men In Black, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones play these infamous agents, but there’s a major difference between them and the agents portrayed in the comic book series of the same name. The difference is that Smith and Jones are actually likeable, and the aliens they’re getting rid of are mostly evil. But the comic books portray the men in black as the bad guys, who use mind control to get people to kill themselves. The aliens, on the other hand, are not harmful to humans, they’re just visiting Earth on an interstellar scavenger hunt.
The 1979 James Bond film Moonraker, took a few too many liberties when it was adapted from the book of the same name. Instead of taking on a multimillionaire who is threatening him with a nuclear missile, he’s fighting a multimillionaire who is intimidating him with lasers and a rocket ship. The romantic storyline is played up in the movie as well. In the book, James Bond teams up with Gala Brand, a special agent, but she’s already engaged to someone else and turns Bond down. In the film he teams up with Holly Goodhead, an astronaut, who is not engaged and does not turn him down. The book takes place in England, while the film takes place in space. It seems like the story was updated in order to create a more visually entertaining film.
12 Gulliver’s Travels
Jonathan Swift’s 18th-century novel Gulliver’s Travels is a classic, so it was sure to be made into a film at some point or another. What’s surprising is that in 2010, it was remade with Jack Black as Gulliver. The film completely missed the point of the book. The novel ends with Gulliver realizing how inferior human beings are to other species, and he stops interacting with humans altogether. The movie, on the other hand, ends with a completely different realization from the main character, as Gulliver learns that size doesn’t matter as long as you have a big heart. The whole general idea of the story is completely different, not to mention the fact that Gulliver is portrayed as an intelligent explorer in the novel and as a goofy nerd in the film.
11 Star Trek
When Gene Roddenberry first created the Star Trek series, he wanted to paint a picture of a utopian future society where the world has evolved into a place without hate. Years later, after the show gained popularity, Star Trek was made into a series of films, and with Roddenberry long dead, it was rebooted again in 2009 starring Chris Pine, and the whole premise of the source material started to change drastically. Captain Kirk and Spock are now trying to protect the people of Earth from the constant and ongoing tragedies happening in space; Roddenberry was trying to portray a world that didn’t need protecting. It’s a television series and movie franchise that grows and changes to fit the needs and wants of society, the more devastation audiences ask for, the more they’ll get.
10 The Scarlet Letter
The 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter is a story about affairs, jealousy, rumors, pregnancy, shame, and guilt. The book was made into several films, the most recent one being 1995’s The Scarlet Letter, starring Demi Moore. The movie creates lesbian storylines and sex scenes that were not at all present in the novel. The ending differs greatly as well, with a happy ending instead of the tragic one portrayed in the book. 2010’s Easy A starring Emma Stone was also loosely based on the novel, but has very few things in common with it, other than the main character wearing the letter A on her clothing.
9 Die Hard
The film Die Hard is based on Roderick Thorp’s 1979 book Nothing Lasts Forever. Starring Bruce Willis, the movie changes the major plot points of the novel. Nothing Lasts Forever is the story of an elderly detective who is trying to save his daughter from terrorists who have invaded her office building. The film’s storyline is of a middle-aged detective who is trying to save his ex-wife from terrorists who have invaded her office building. The movie changed it up to have somewhat of a romantic element present, but by changing the character’s ages and names, it makes it seem like a completely different story all together.
8 My Fair Lady
The 1964 musical film starring Audrey Hepburn is about a man, a linguistics professor, trying to teach a low-class girl how to be classier in her speech in order to fit into London’s high society. The movie was originally a play by George Bernard Shaw called Pygmalion. The movie misses the whole point of the play by completely changing the ending. Henry Higgins was never supposed to end up with Eliza Doolittle. He’s a grumpy and cruel man that was supposed to end up alone, and Doolittle was intended to be a strong and independent female character. The film goes against Shaw’s whole point of the story by turning it into a romantic film. Romance sells in Hollywood. Even the name was changed in order to attract a female audience. Even so, My Fair Lady won the Oscar for Best Picture.
7 The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Disney is famous for taking some pretty dark stories and turning them into animated, child-friendly fairy-tales. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is no exception. The book is about Quasimodo, a hunchback who lives up in a tower by himself with no family or friends. He falls in love with a gypsy, Esmeralda, but she ends up being killed. Quasimodo, broken hearted, stops eating and hides out in Esmeralda’s grave, holding on to her skeleton until he himself dies. In Disney’s version, Quasimodo saves Esmeralda from being executed, and everyone loves him for it, he’s adored by the public and comes out of hiding up in the tower. Not to mention the fact that he has three gargoyle friends who crack jokes and sing.
6 The Shining
Stephen King was very open about the fact that he was not a fan of The Shining, directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on King’s novel of the same name. Starring Jack Nicholson, the film depicts a psycho husband and father, possessed by supernatural forces, who tries to kill his family. King’s novel depicts a more sympathetic portrait of the main character, showing his struggle with depression and alcohol. King himself was struggling with those same issues while writing the novel, so the film version struck a chord with him, he felt like his deeply sad character was turned into a monster. He famously stated that The Shining was the only adaptation of his novels that he can remember hating.
5 Less Than Zero
Bret Easton Ellis’ 1985 novel Less Than Zero was adapted into a movie in 1987 starring Robert Downey Jr. Not unlike King, Ellis was very vocal about his initial dislike for the movie. He stated that it bears no resemblance to the book and he’s not wrong. The novel is a story of a bisexual, drug-addicted young man and his best friend, a gay prostitute. He winds up alone at the end of the book. In the film the young man is not addicted to drugs, nor is he bisexual. His girlfriend and his best friend are both abusing drugs, and he helps his girlfriend recover, but can’t help his best friend. Years later, Ellis said that he warmed up to the film and that he can finally watch it, even though it’s nothing like his novel.
4 There Will Be Blood
In the 1927 novel Oil! author Upton Sinclair depicts the life of a cruel and thriving oilman’s son and his struggle to accept the life his father set out for him, it’s a look on the battle between capitalism and socialism. The film based on the novel, 2007’s There Will Be Blood, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, won many awards and accolades, but it differs greatly from the book. The movie looks at the life of a rich oilman who’s harsh and abrasive, fights a preacher, is obsessed with making money, and is generally an evil dude. The movie was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, so diverting from the source material paid off for the filmmakers in this instance.
3 Jurassic Park
Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel Jurassic Park was the basis of the 1993 film we all know and love. The movie rights were being fought over before the book was even published, and once Spielberg acquired them, he didn’t stick too much to the storyline presented in the novel. Mainly, the characters are very different. The brother is the older sibling in the novel. Dr. Grant and Dr. Sattler have a mentor/student relationship the book, but in the movie they’re involved romantically. Dr. Grant loves children in the book, but dislikes them in the film. The movie also abandoned the entire subplot of the novel that saw the dinosaurs flee from the island.
2 How To Train Your Dragon
The 2010 family film How To Train Your Dragon was based on a book of the same name. But the filmmakers changed up the storyline in order to create a more interesting movie for audiences. The Vikings are not at war with the dragons in the novel, like they are in the film. In the novel they have to train a dragon to be recognized as a member of the tribe. The main character Hiccup has a love interest in the movie, but not in the book. Astrid is a new character introduced in the film, she doesn’t appear anywhere in the novel. Hiccup’s dragon is also entirely different, in the novel he’s toothless, small, and green, but in the movie he has retractable teeth, he’s big, and is black.
1 The Bourne Identity
The Bourne Identity is a 1980 novel by Robert Ludlum. After a couple failed adaptations, it was made into a film starring Matt Damon in 2002. The movie sticks to some of the book’s plot points, but completely misses the mark on others. For instance, cutting a major character from the storyline, Carlos The Jackal, who the film kills off immediately. The novel proves Jason Bourne’s innocence throughout, you never doubt him, but the movie seems to allude to the fact that he’s not innocent, because he acts like an assassin. The romantic interest is given less of a role in the film than in the book. She helps Bourne a lot more in the novel, instead of being someone he’s dragging along. She’s also a French-Canadian in the book, and is very well off, being a government economist. In the film she’s German, and has no money.
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