When book lovers see that their favorite stories are being turned into movies, there is often excitement mixed with a bit of panic. It seems more often than not, movie studios take a lot of creative liberty when transitioning the story from print to screen. Often times, beloved characters never make it to the movie, or if they do, they are minor roles that barely get any screen time. Sometimes movie execs just completely change the entire ending because they think it wasn’t dramatic enough on the page.
Anyone who read the Harry Potter series knows that there were some major omissions in the films around movie three and four, which then went on to impact movies seven and eight immensely. But HP is not the only movie that took some SERIOUS creative freedom in their book-to-movie adaptations… check out these 16 movies that are very different than the books on which they’re based.
1. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
It seems like Cassandra Clare‘s The Mortal Instruments cannot make the jump from page to screen without being completely butchered, TBH. In fact, the TV show Shadowhunters exists because the movie was so poorly conceived – and Shadowhunters doesn’t even really adhere to the source material any better than the film did.
But focusing on the movie and ignoring the Freeform version, one of the first major changes (after a ton of alterations in the beginning of the story itself) is how Simon was turned into a vampire. In the book’s version of events, he was turned into a rat at Magnus’s party and bit a vampire by accident. But in the movie, he was kidnapped as bait to lure Clary and the shadowhunters to Hotel Durmont. The events were sped up as well: Simon turned into a vampire in the first movie, even though he didn’t become one until the second book of the series. Another item worth mentioning because of how significantly it alters the plot, is that Clary’s rune abilities are really revved up in the movie. This was actually a welcome change because it definitely helped add some complexities to Clary’s character. But an unwelcome change was how the entire ending of this movie essentially disregarded the book series in its entirety and seemed to be completely redone – which became a necessity because of all the liberties there had been already in the script.
2. Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park doesn’t totally vary from the book it’s based on, but the ending is so drastically different that it had to be included. The change to this ending spawned four sequels, with a fifth one set to release this year. It’s safe to say the writers are happy they made the ending different to pave the way to becoming a massive franchise.
In the Jurassic Park book, the T-Rex is killed when the Costa Rican military swoops in to save the day and bombs Site A on Isla Nublar. But the movie’s director Steven Spielberg felt that audiences would despise him if he killed off the T-Rex. Instead, he gave her a heroic ending and she has since gone on to thrive in the subsequent sequels. Along with the death of the T-Rex in the books, John Hammond also died, and it was implied that Ian Malcolm died, too. Complete carnage! But Ian (Jeff Goldblum) is the star of the second movie, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and will return to the franchise for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, so we’re sure he’s happy Spielberg decided to play around with the book’s events.
3. My Sister’s Keeper
My Sister’s Keeper, the movie, had a massive ending change that altered the movie in its entirety. Both the book and the movie dealt with a wildly difficult subject – a child is dying of cancer and her sister, who was pretty much conceived to save her, has the power to keep her alive. While we don’t want to give away the ending of the written version, let’s just say MANY a tear were shed as readers closed the book. On the other hand, the film had a much more uplifting ending, even if it doesn’t include death and still spurs a fair amount of tears.
4. Fight Club
Like a few other movies on this list, Fight Club seemed to be following the plot of Chuck Palahniuk‘s novel closely – up until the ending. The movie ends with the narrator watching as his alter-ego sets off a series of explosions. But in the novel, he wakes up in recovery after being shot. At first, he thinks that he is in heaven – before it’s revealed that he is actually in a mental institution. He hasn’t gotten rid of Tyler Durden at all, and numerous nurses and staff members ask him if he’s going to start Project Mayhem soon. The director, David Fincher, wanted the audience to love Tyler, but he wanted them to be okay with him being vanquished, as well.
5. The Last Song
This is a movie that was given a Disney makeover, and to do that, some changes needed to be made when going from book to movie. There are small stylistic changes, like the fact that Ronnie’s purple hair was written out of the movie. But her relationship with her father Steve isn’t nearly as volatile in the movie as it initially is in the book. One massive change we see on-screen is that Blaze, a troubled girl that Ronnie makes friends with when she first moves to town, isn’t set on fire. In the movie, she is badly burned, but in the book, her abusive boyfriend lights her on fire… in public. We can understand how that may have been a little too much to display graphically. Furthermore, Ronnie and Will do not reunite in North Carolina on the beach in the book. Instead, they reunite in New York while Ronnie’s at school after her dad dies.
6. The Notebook
The Notebook is easily Nicholas Sparks‘ most successful book-to-movie adaptation. The author is pretty involved in the process of bringing his work to the screen, so apparently, he was okay with them totally changing the ending to this classic. The movie ending is a bit more final and a lot more dramatic. Throughout the film, there are minor differences right from the start. In the movie, it starts out in 1940, whereas the book started in 1932. We see Allie as a 15-year-old when Noah’s 17 in the book, but the film makes Allie 17 and opts not to mention Noah’s age at all. And perhaps one of the most memorable changes made to the movie version is that Noah wrote Allie every. single. day. for a year. Many have pointed out that this detail toes the line into stalker territory. But, boy, is it dramatic! Well, skeptics can rest assured that in the book, he just writes her once a month. That’s definitely a bit more acceptable.
Even the famous Ferris wheel scene where Noah jumps on to ask Allie out was written just for the movie. But the biggest change is the fate of Noah and Allie at the end of their story. At the end of the movie, Noah and Allie have a happy moment together where Allie remembers Noah and their life together, and then they die in each other’s arms. In the book, they do have this moment of clarity and go to sleep together, but they don’t actually die.
7. The Divergent Series: Insurgent
One of the first standout differences from book to movie in Insurgent is the fact that Tris has no problem using guns. It may seem like a small deet, but it’s actually HUGE when you think about the storyline. In the book, after Tris had to kill her friend Will in Divergent, she is haunted by the use of guns. She can barely even stomach looking at a firearm, let alone using one. Like some other films on this list, it seems that studio executives wanted to pump up the action in Insurgent and guns = action, we guess.
In the book, the Fractionless turn on the Dauntless and steal all of their guns, but in the movie, this doesn’t happen. Instead, the movie ends with the leader of the Fractionless (Four’s mother Evelyn) meeting with Jeanine in secret. Another big change is how in the written version, Jeanine is murdered by Tori and Tris is labeled a traitor for infiltrating the Erudite facility. When you watch this Divergent installment on-screen, Tris is credited as a hero for opening the box and revealing the history of their city. Guess they just couldn’t fathom Shailene Woodley’s character getting too much hate.
8. Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children
Before this movie even was released, Tim Burton came under fire for the lack of diversity in the casting. The cast was predominantly white, and Samuel L. Jackson was the only notable actor of color in the film. But the biggest change in the story from book-to-screen was the decision to change the powers of two of the peculiar children. In the book, Emma Bloom can create fire in her hands as a pyrokinetic, while Olive Abroholos Elephanta’s power is levitation. But in the movie, Emma and Olive’s powers are swapped, and Emma’s levitation is a huge focus in her relationship with the main character, Jake.
In the book, the Hollowgasts are portrayed as very scary creatures that literally eat the eyeballs of the peculiars. Once a Hollowgast eats enough peculiars, they become a Wight. In the movie, Samuel L. Jackson played the head of the Wights. Instead of being terrifying like his character in the book, Sam played Barron sarcastically and gave comedic tone to his character. It defiitely makes the film a bit more child-friendly!
9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Parts 1 & 2
Now, we previously mentioned that the changes in the Harry Potter series came long before the end, but we see the culmination of all these tweaks in the finale of the franchise. For starters, in the books, Harry knows what almost all of the Horcruxes are because he worked with Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to determine what objects Voldemort chose to host a part of his soul inside of. However, those scenes did not make it into the sixth film. Which means that the awkward moment where Harry is *feeling* for a Horcrux with his senses in Bellatrix’s vault in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 was created just for the movie.
The death of Peter Pettigrew was also altered when it came to bringing this movie to the screen – in that it questionably doesn’t happen to the movie character. In the book, Peter is strangled by his own after betraying Voldemort and helping Harry. This might have been too hard to explain in the movie, as they never went into detail of how Pettigrew owed Harry a debt. So the movie execs opted to kind of just make Wormtail disappear for the rest of the series, with no explanation about what happened to him.
Another huge change from book-to-screen is the scene in Part 2 where Snape and Harry have a showdown in the Great Hall – that actually never happened in the book. Both movies also heavily cut out the Dumbledore family drama, which is such a critical plot point for Albus Dumbledore’s motives throughout the entire series. The death of Dumbledore’s sister, Ariana, is discussed in great detail in the book, but it’s barely given any screen time in either movie.
10. I Am Legend
The first change to I Am Legend was the casting of the lead character. Obviously, after seeing this, Will Smith was the best man to play Dr. Robert Neville. No one could carry the film like Will did. But in the book, Dr. Neville was a blonde, German man. That change we’re okay with, but some of the other ones? Definitely not the case. In the movie, infected humans are zombie-like creatures who huddle in dark rooms during the day and seem to have no brain function. In the book, they’re vampires, not zombies, and they seem to maintain most human-like function.
While Robert does die in both the book and the movie, he is given a more heroic death in the film, but many feel it renders the whole story useless. In the movie, Robert discovers a cure for the plague, gives it to a woman and a little boy, then sacrifices himself so they can survive and get the cure to a colony of survivors. But in the book, the vampire-creatures are the dominant race, and they imprison the doctor then later execute him for his crimes of killing the infected, who are actually benevolent creatures. ROBERT is the bad guy of the books in a twist, but that’s not the case in the films. While it would have been a more disappointing ending, the WOW-factor would’ve just been off the charts!
11. Forrest Gump
Did you know that Forrest Gump was a book before it was Tom Hanks‘ biggest movie? Well, if you read the book, you might not have recognized the movie when it came out based on all of the “creative liberties” taken. In the book, Jenny does not die and leave Forrest to raise their child alone, which is pretty huge. In fact, in the book, she lives, marries another man, and has a child with that man. The filmmakers lightened the darker edge that the book had when making the movie. They wanted to make the film more about the love story between Forrest and Jenny, instead of the crazy situations Forrest got himself into. Apparently, the author was so displeased; he wrote the book’s sequel with a poignant jab at the movie version.
12. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
This movie was given the Disney treatment, meaning it’s not nearly as dark as the source material – as per usual with Disney adaptations. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is based on the novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? In the book, Roger Rabbit hires Eddie Valiant to figure out why his boss hasn’t given him his own movie contract. While that is going on, Roger is murdered and his wife, Jessica Rabbit is framed for it. That obviously does not happen in the movie, as the film’s title suggests, Roger is the one who is framed. The film still has dark undertones as it deals with murder, infidelity, and alcoholism, but the entire plot was toned-down by Disney.
13. The Shining
When it comes to the work of Stephen King, we’re always in for something creepy. The Shining is over 400 pages, so it should come as no surprise that things were left out when it was turned into a movie. In fact, the movie was so different, Stephen King hated the adaptation. Classic. The author felt that the movie made Jack (whose name is John in the novel) the villain when it’s really supposed to be the hotel. In fact, he hated it so much that he commissioned a made-for-TV remake in the ’90s to restore his creative vision.
In the movie, Jack is portrayed as sinister from the start making him seem more culpable for his later actions, whereas in the book there is a long lead up to him turning dark as the hotel takes him over. Readers get to see Jack struggling with his past addictions to alcohol and a troubling relationship with his father, something missing from the film version. The famous “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” scene did not exist in the novel – but it’s pretty iconic, so we’ll take it. The number of the room that the family stayed in was changed, as well, per the request of the hotel where the film was made, from 217 to 237. The more you know!
14. World War Z
Author Max Brooks has said that World War Z essentially only shared a named with his novel and nothing else. The biggest difference between the book and movie is that the novel was written with multiple narratives as an “Oral History of the Zombie War.” In the film, it solely focuses on Brad Pitt‘s character and his narrative through the war. Instead of taking place after the fact and being told through multiple perspectives, as it happens in the novel, the movie takes place in the moment. What’s even wilder is that Brad’s character Gerry doesn’t really even exist in the book! There is a U.N. employee taking the histories down in the novel, and at this point, it’s assumed that this could be the character Brad played. Brooks believes that the movie and book are so different, they should be treated as two separate entities. Fair enough!
15. Maze Runner: The Death Cure
If you read The Death Cure, then saw Maze Runner: The Death Cure, you would think these are two completely different stories. Basically, the only similarities between the two are that they share the same character names and title. For example, in the book, Teresa is actually working for WICKED (WICKED in the books, WCKED in the movies). The movie has a lot more action than the book had, starting off with a very elaborate train heist. Gally’s character is made out to be more likable and thus is redeemed to the movie audience, something that never happens in the books. The gang is able to save Minho, even after WCKED experimented on him extensively, which never happened in the books and was actually changed in movie #3 because of a book-to-movie inconsistency in the second flick (more on that later). Furthermore, Teresa’s death was made to be much more dramatic and gave Thomas less closure than he received in the books.
But perhaps the biggest difference between The Death Cure on the page and on-screen is that at the end of the book, the group escapes to freedom, but there is a final note written by Ava Paige that says letting them go meant that WCKED both succeeded and failed. This doesn’t happen in the movie, as Ava DIES and the group gets to safety and it is presumed they will be okay.
16. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
As we said, many of the changes in Maze Runner: The Death Cure almost had to happen because of the changes made in Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, the second film in the Dylan O’Brien-led franchise. It was obvious that the producers involved in this adaptation wanted to amp up the action and they succeeded – it just meant taking a lot of liberties with the original material. But the main difference between the Scorch Trial book and movie is that while Teresa betrays the gladers in both versions, she helps WCKED kidnap Minho ONLY in the movie. Also in the movie, there are fewer gladers in phase two, and they’re more or less clueless about the extent of WCKED’s experiment. The existence of a second maze, with all girls and only one boy, is pretty unimportant in the movie, whereas it was a huge plot point in the book.