The 15 Worst Book To Film Adaptations of All Time

8. Less Than Zero (Marek Kanievska, 1987)

Less Than Zero (1987)

Most fans of author Bret Easton Ellis’s novels will loathe the film adaptation of his debut novel, Less Than Zero, because it has very little to do with the book. Ellis commented that when he first saw the movie back in 1987, he kept looking out for events and dialogue from his book, and he couldn’t find anything resembling his novel.

This film was made during Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign in the late 1980s, so the studio wanted to comply with this and make an anti-drug movie, rather than the novel’s neutral stance on drug use.

The book is about the apathy of the characters and their lifestyles, being bored and not caring about the horrible things they do, such as drug use, violence, rape and prostitution. The movie is a very tame version of the novel, although the movie does depict the grimness of Julian (Robert Downey Jr.) having to become a male prostitute to pay off his debt to his drug dealer Rip.

On the plus side, the film has great visuals and neon lighting that highlights 1980s Los Angeles and the acting is good, especially Robert Downey Jr. playing a drug addict that he more or less became in real life for a while.


7. I Am Legend (Francis Lawrence, 2007)


This is yet another case of where the main thing the book and film have in common is having the same title. There are so many differences in the story that the film could have easily been titled something else, and it probably would not have received as much negativity because it would not be associated with the classic science fiction novel.

The book takes places in mid-1970s Los Angeles, whereas the film is set in 2012 New York. Before the apocalypse happened, Neville’s (Will Smith) family die from the virus in the book, but die in a helicopter crash in the film. In the book, the monsters are vampires. In the film, they are zombies who cannot go out into the daylight. Besides Neville, all the other characters have different names and backstories.


6. The Bonfire Of The Vanities (Brian De Palma, 1990)

The Bonfire of The Vanities

The Bonfire Of The Vanities is synonymous with bad movies, but mostly because of being such a poor adaptation of its acclaimed novel rather than having poor production values. With Brian De Palma directing and starring A-list actors like Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis and Melanie Griffith, this should have been a hit. Despite these normally winning factors, audiences saw past them and witnessed a film they despised.

The film tried to make the unlikeable characters of the book likeable to audiences, which just simply did not work. There’s a book called The Devil’s Candy that details everything that went wrong in this adaptation. The fact a whole book was written about the film’s problems is testament to why it receives so much hatred.


5. The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Stephen Norrington, 2003)

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Although superhero movies are being made by the dozen these days, they were not as popular in the early 2000s, and The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen failed to connect with audiences. Adapted from the work of acclaimed graphic book writer Alan Moore, the dark, gritty characters in Alan Moore’s universe are now generic movie superheroes, and the plot and characters in the film are very different from the source material, adding insult to injury to his fans.

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen could be considered to be an early 2000s version of The Avengers that failed miserably. Perhaps this may have been more successful had it been made a decade later and with better writing. There was also too much CGI, taking any thrill out of the action scenes. Sean Connery hated making this movie so much that he retired after making it.


4. How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Ron Howard, 2000)

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

During his lifetime, author Theodore “Dr Seuss” Geisel refused to have his books licensed to become films. After How The Grinch Stole Christmas was made, it is understandable why he thought this.

The original children’s book was actually darker, but with the film being directed by Ron Howard, this of course was meant to be a “safe” family movie. Reading and hearing all the rhyming in the story are two different things, the latter being very annoying to audiences who watched this film.

While Jim Carrey gave a great, manic performance as the Grinch, and the visuals are outstanding, the story just simply did not entertain people.


3. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (Garth Jennings, 2005)


The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy is considered both one of the great comedy and science fiction books ever written, so the film of the same name had a lot to live up to. The book was published in 1979, 26 years before its eventual film adaptation was released. Perhaps too much time had passed, with the public having lost interest in the book, but the film itself is a complete dud.

The book sees its characters travel around a fictional universe and giving information on what to expect from different planets. The book was too big and detailed to put everything into a single movie. It was doomed to fail before anyone had even seen it. Worst of all though is that the jokes from the book just were not executed well and the film is ultimately not funny at all.


2. The Cat In The Hat (Bo Welch, 2003)

The Cat In The Hat

Even though How The Grinch Stole Christmas was not loved, any hatred aimed at that film is nothing compared to the wrath The Cat In The Hat received upon its release. Besides being yet another bad adaptation of a Dr Seuss book, the film is generally considered to not be funny at all, even annoying. It tried to add its own jokes on top of the already wacky story, which did not gel well at all.

The world the film is set in is over the top and too colourful to the point of being nauseating. Many say that this film was the start of the decline of Mike Myers’ career, since he only made a few films after this one. This is one of the few films ever made to get almost universal hatred surrounding it that still lingers long after the movie was made.


1. The Scarlet Letter (Roland Joffe, 1995)

The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter is considered to be a classic American novel that has been studied for many years. It examines what early life in America was like when the puritan settlers arrived and changed the whole country.

The protagonist Hester Prynne (Demi Moore) is a wife whose husband is at sea, and she and the local reverend Arthur Dimmesdale (Gary Oldman) have an extramarital affair. Once the town discovers this, the town considers the two lovers adulterers that must be punished in the name of God.

This film was universally hated by audiences and critics alike for straying so far from the book’s plot by adding an unnecessary subplot and tacking on a happy ending that screams “Hollywood”. Many filmgoers felts that Demi Moore was miscast and that the film seemed more interested in having titillating sex scenes than making a good movie that followed the novel it is based on.

Author Bio: Matt Wilson is a professional writer from Melbourne, Australia. His passion for cinema has always been a part of him and he aspires to be a screenwriter or a novelist. He particularly enjoys the films of Michael Cimino, Oliver Stone, Stanley Kubrick, Paul Verhoeven, David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino.