Why We Need to Stop Comparing Books & Movies

“The book is better.” I’ve heard that many-a-time (Mostly from that girl in the mirror. Seriously, what’s her deal?) While its understandable that adaptations get compared, have you noticed that books and movies get compared even if they’re not two versions of the same story?

Books are considered art by some and, adaptation-wise, are nearly always considered better. Then again, some people think books are boring and movies are more accessible, not to mention they take up less time.

The entertainment value and the artistic value are pitted against each other, but when you think about it, it really doesn’t make sense to. Or does it?

Why Do We Compare Them?

  • They’re common.

Like sport, everyone has read a book and seen a movie and if you know it, talk about it. The whole ‘Which do you like best?’ will inevitably crop up.

  • We’re emotionally invested. 

No one compares textbooks and documentaries. That’s boring. But we’re invested in stories, in characters, and emotion drives discussion.

  • They do the same thing.

On the surface, movies and books are money-making products that tell a narrative in order to entertain those of us who have a few hours to kill.

…Yes, that’s a very crude way of putting it but it’s true.

  • A lot of stories are adapted or inspired by each other.

There isn’t a story that exists that wasn’t somehow influenced by another existing story, intentional or not. The Lion King was inspired by Hamlet, The Chronicles of Narina was influenced by Christian mythology, and many stories have common threads and themes. This makes them ripe for comparison.

What’s the best version of Christmas Carol? (For me, Muppets.) Do you watch other versions? Comic book movies or comics?

Harry Potter. Hunger Games. Lord of the Rings. Books or Movies?

Is the original always better? What about Disney? Nearly every movie they’ve ever made is an adaptation, but kids won’t enjoy the original Sleeping Beauty. 

We all have our opinions, but all that aside…  

Books and Movies Aren’t Really That Similar.

Comparing movies and books is like comparing apples to pineapples. They offer completely different experiences and this difference sets up our expectations. It boils down to our relationship with the media we like.

Movies are very distant from their audiences. Unlike theatre, video games, and books, there’s no participation involved, but movies make up for this with visual spectacle. They often taking advantage of culturally relevant images and ideas to impart an emotion to the audience.

the lion king uses nazi imagery to convey villiany
The Lion King uses Nazi imagery to convey villainy.

This is called short-hand and is often so connected to a culture that the movie doesn’t really work outside of that culture. So while movies can be more accessible, it depends on what audience it was intended for.

Pictures can say a thousand words, and a movie is filled with thousands of pictures. Armed with sound and editing, each picture is made to tell a story, to convey an emotion, without using words.

Quite the opposite to a book.

With the exception of picture books and comic books, fiction books don’t utilise this kind of imagery. Books are limited to words, which can make them more difficult for some people to “get into.”

On the other hand, books involve reader participation and can offer an intimate, rewarding experience. The reader creates the story, its characters, its world, from the words provided.

Movies are fantastic for quick, fun, social experiences that can have a profound impact on us and the rest of the world. Books are perfect for quiet evenings, intimate, and sometimes world-changing stories. They shouldn’t be compared as if they are held to the same standards, because they’re not. One does not have more artistic value than the other, they are different art forms.

Published by

Writer In A Hat

Writes speculative fiction, is a lover of science fiction and fantasy, and wanders aimlessly in circles when brain storming ideas. Family and friends are very concerned about that last part.

6 thoughts on “Why We Need to Stop Comparing Books & Movies

      1. Sorry couldn’t help but make a cross media comparison joke. But books are always read by your mind in an idealised fashion it’s hard to compete but that just makes it all themore special when the film version is better. Like thelurk mermaid which is too depressing in the book or Peter Pan which fills me with existential dead. Basically be like Disney. You can’t make a one to one copy so don’t do that focus on the strengths of themedium the visual details which tell storey beats with zero exposition the visual spectacle that puts the awe in us all be bigger than life.

        ECHO ECHO

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Keep the jokes coming. This whole post is ironic ‘Let me tell you why you shouldn’t compare books and movies by comparing books and movies.’


  1. I’ve noticed this a lot more as I get older! I recently read and watched the Bird Box and went to write a comparison post (which I still did) but my whole point of it was that they were so drastically different that I couldn’t really compare them. What works really well in a book doesn’t necessarily work well on camera and vice versa.

    I enjoyed Perks of Being a Wallflower the book because the writing style in it changes as the character reads all of these books and writes essays whereas when I watch the movie it’s because it’s a good movie.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. With adaptations, it can be hard not to compare. I tend to stick to one version of a story for that reason, except for comics but I guess there are exceptions to every rule 😀


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