Why We Need to Stop Comparing Books & Movies

“The book is better.”

Sound familiar?

I’ve heard it many-a-time (Mostly from that girl in the mirror. Seriously, what’s her deal?)

It’s understandable that adaptations get compared, but have you noticed that this happens even when they’re not two versions of the same story?

Common arguments you might hear are: Books are intimate and have more well-rounded characters, which is why when a book is adapted to film, the book remains strong in the hearts of fans. To many people, books are art. We’re forever talking about how important they are. On the other hand, a lot of books are downright boring. Movies are much more accessible, take up less time, and offer an experience of music and emotion and spectacle that simply can’t be matched.

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 I guarantee kids won’t enjoy the original tale to Sleeping Beauty. 

We all have our opinions.

All that aside…  

Books and Movies Aren’t Really That Similar.

Comparing movies and books is like comparing apples to pineapples. Sure, they’re both fruit and they both have the word apple in it, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Pineapples are sweet and tart, and thanks to a nifty little enzyme called Bromelain, they eat you back. Same can hardly be said for apples. These differences aren’t superficial.

Likewise, the differences between a book and a film aren’t something to be sniffed at. They set up our expectations. You’d hardly approach them with the same mindset. And that is key. 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.


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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