Everyone knows that the book is always better. It always supremely annoys our non-reading friends to be informed how much greater the book was.  However, there are a few movies I’ve found that upturn the usual rule and outclass their literary counterparts. It’s a short list because these movies are a rare breed, and if you can think of any more please leave a comment below.

Stardust, Neil Gaiman:

Stardust is the story of Tristan Dunstan who promises to catch a falling star in return for his love’s hand in marriage. However the star has landed over the wall, which houses the magical realm Stormhold. To complicate things further within the land of Stormhold stars aren’t celestial bits of rock but take human form.  Tristan has to persuade his star, Yvaine to accompany him back to the wall, while dealing with witches, pirates, and princes who are after the star as well.

I actually watched the movie first and fell in love with it, so I was expected the book to really knock my socks off. The book was an average piece of fantasy. It was interesting and funny, but not something I would return to over and over again like I’ve done with the movie. I actually quite enjoyed the ending of the book even though it was substantially different from the movie’s dramatic climax. Overall however I thought the movie was more exciting, more romantic, and simply more fun.

The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexander Dumas:

Another book where I loved the movie first and expected to be bowled over by the book. The story follows Edmond Dantes who is wrongfully imprisoned in the alkatraz-like Chateau D’If. Eventually Edmond escapes, but not after learning about a fabulous treasure horde from one of his fellow inmates, and returns to civilization like a vengeful ghost intent on systematically destroying everyone who had a hand in putting him away for all those years.

I read Dumas’s unabridged addition and maybe that was my problem. It was simply too long. The movie had rapid action within a well-constructed plot. Basically it took all of the best elements of Dumas’s classic and wove them seamlessly together. I also felt unsatisfied by the book’s ending, especially after I toiled through all of those pages. Maybe I’ve been infected by Hollywood, but I prefered the guy-wins-his-true-love-back ending instead of guy-drops-his-true-love-and-leaves-with-the-Greek-slave-he-freed.

Twilight, Stephanie Meyers:

 I only had to endure it for two hours instead of the time it took me to finish the book.

Honorable mention: Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien

I do not think these movies are better than Tolkien’s epic saga. However, I thought they deserved an honorable mention because I don’t think it’s possible for a movie franchise to better capture a book’s spirit than Peter Jackson did with Lord of the Rings.  I was (and still am) incensed at the movies’ recharacterization of Faramir, but everything else was a minor complaint.  A movie simply can’t capture all of the detailed mythology that went into LOTR, but Jackson still did a terrific job.