This Friday sees the release of The Girl On The Train, a tense psychological drama based on the best-selling novel by Paula Hawkins. Rachel (Emily Blunt), still traumatized by her recent divorce, becomes obsessed with a couple she sees when her train passes by their house every day – until the day she sees something she doesn’t expect.
The big struggle when it comes to movies based on novels is whether you should read the book beforehand or not. While we can’t make that decision for you when it comes to The Girl On The Train, here are 11 movies based on books that you should definitely read first.
Both the Gillian Flynn novel and the David Fincher film are filled with twists and turns surrounding the disappearance of the beautiful and charismatic Amy Dunne. While there aren’t a ton of differences between the film and the novel, the novel is a much richer and more well-rounded depiction of who Amy is and why her disappearance occurred. You won’t be able to put the book down, and then you’ll need to watch the film immediately after.
The Devil Wears Prada
If you watch the film first, you may think to yourself, “Why are Andy’s friends such jerks when she’s just trying to work hard?” The novel does a much better job of explaining about how Andy’s high-pressure fashion job has turned her into a worse person, and how she begins to reject friends in need in favour of success at work. Of course, the novel doesn’t have Meryl Streep, but you can’t win everything.
We cheered to see Mae Whitman star in her own romantic comedy, about a girl who discovers that she’s considered her clique’s Duff – the “designated ugly fat friend.” But the film differs wildly from the novel, as the book sees the protagonist struggle with her dad’s alcoholism, and her struggling friendships following her discovery. It even includes — gasp! — teenagers having sex, which apparently the film found too scandalous to include.
World War Z
The Brad Pitt zombie action film was a hit in theatres, but fans of the book were startled to see that it barely followed the form of the novel at all. Max Brooks’s acclaimed book reads more like dozens of short stories surrounding the zombie apocalypse, and how the undead takeover affected everyone in all corners of the world. It’s definitely worth a read whether you watch the film or not.
The Fault In Our Stars
If you don’t want to embarrass yourself by sobbing while watching the film, get the crying over with by reading John Greene’s acclaimed YA novel first. You’ll get a much deeper understanding of cancer patient Hazel Grace as she falls in love with Gus, himself a cancer survivor who is determined to make their relationship work. Keep the tissues handy.
If you’re a science nerd, then you’ll love Michael Crichton’s prose about bringing dinosaurs back to life (whether or not you actually agree with his science is another question). There are some pretty big differences in the novel (spoiler: a lot more people die) and some slight character differences, but when you’re done, you then get to watch the best action movie ever made. Clever girl.
The Will Smith sci-fi actioner took the very basic framework of Isaac Asimov’s novel and went in a completely new direction, so you won’t be spoiling yourself by reading the novel. Asimov invented the three laws of robotics, and then wrote several engrossing stories about how those rules could possibly be circumvented. If it sounds dull, it’s not; there’s a reason he’s one of the best sci-fi authors in history.
Stephen King is a master of suspense, and Misery is no different, as we follow a popular author held captive by his No. 1 fan. While the film version is nearly as tense as the novel, the book goes just a bit further than the movie is willing to. If you scare easily, getting through the novel first may help you sit through the film without covering your eyes.
Another Stephen King installment, The Mist (a novella included in Skeleton Crew) is worth reading before you watch the film, simply because the movie provides a very different ending that even King himself says he prefers. This way, you get to see how he initially thought the film should end, and then you can be shocked by what the film does instead.
OK, yes, the odds that you haven’t seen the film are slim-to-none — and, to be honest, the movie is way better than the book. But the book version of Forrest Gump is worth it simply because everyone who reads it has the same reaction: “Wait, Forrest becomes an astronaut? Wait, Forrest gets a pet monkey?! Wait, FORREST ALMOST GETS EATEN BY CANNIBALS?!”
The Entire Harry Potter Series
I mean, duh. If you somehow go into the Harry Potter movie franchise without reading any of the novels, you are robbing yourself of one of the best and most brilliant book series ever written. There’s a lot of detail that the films had to excise, and while in a few cases this was a good thing (cough, Deathly Hallows, cough), for the most part the books give you even more to love. Now, how long until Fantastic Beasts comes out?!