Which Comes First: Book or Movie?


By J. U. Scribe

As I alluded to in an earlier post, 2014  is the year of YA books being adapted into the big screen such as the latest one to hit theaters, “The Fault in our Stars,” a tear-jerker romance by John Green. Specifically, I noticed dystopian YA novels being made into movies, such as Divergent which was  released earlier this year and more to come such as the Maze RunnerThe Giver, and Catching Fire: Part 1. I’ll admit I’m excited to see most of them, yet considering they’re all based on books, I contemplated picking up the book and reading it. However with my tendency to become passionate about books I really love I wondered if it was wise if I should read them before the movie.


Is it Wiser to Read the Books First?

With that said I decided to raise the following question to some friends. Which is better to do first: read the book or watch the movie? What do you think was the common response? Well you might have guessed it but most said to read the book first because it contains more details and are generally better than the actual movie. I can’t argue with those sentiments considering it’s 99% true. There is more time for the book to divulge valuable (or not so valuable) details that help setup the plot or enlighten us on a character’s thinking.

So the decision should be easy then; just read the book first. The problem is once I read the book (and if it’s a book I really like), I have heightened expectations and preconceived ideas of how things are supposed to be. And when the movie alters the details or goes left field altogether I’m more likely to become more critical and pick out the discrepancies versus passively enjoying the movie for what it is. Most of these books being adapted I have not read, so when others say “That didn’t happen in the book,” it wouldn’t matter to me.

For instance with Hunger Games, I remember hearing several people make similar comments about certain scenes that were added or didn’t happen in the movie. When I watched the movie myself I really enjoyed the movie and fell in love with the resilient and feisty main character, Katniss Everdeen. It was only till recently that I read the book, which I had a greater appreciation for and was not disappointed one bit! However I wonder: would I have enjoyed the movie as much if I read the book first?

It’s hard to say for certain because even though I did notice some things were left out including some characters, I still like the movie regardless. Which worries me is the book I have read already that is coming to the theater: The Giver. When I watched the first trailer, I felt slightly disappointed. Thankfully though the newest trailer looks like it will be faithful about the whole B&W to color concept from the book (much to my delight).

Yet I can tell they changed a lot of things from the book. My thoughts mirror another blogger’s take on The Giver, because I too would need to detach my emotional attachment with the book in order for me to enjoy this movie.

What are your views? Is it better to read the book or watch the movie first? Are there examples where the movie adaption was as good as the book? I’d like to weigh in more thoughts on this topic.




Guest post contributed by J.U. Scribe. J.U. is the author of Before the Legend and enjoys outlets such as blogging, drawing, painting, and graphic design.

20 thoughts on “Which Comes First: Book or Movie?

  1. Book first. Definitely. Some people learned that the hard way when LOTR and The Hobbit trilogies came out. Some filmmakers (not all) can ruin a book (and I’ve lived in Hollywood and did the whole acting thing and then some). Tech crews oftentimes complain in secret about having to alter books in filmmaking. It’s a largely subjective leaning somewhat toward objective topic of discussion in the shadows of the Hollywood sign.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Interesting question. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer, I guess it depends on your preferences. I’m often pretty good at separating mediums, I can look at a book and a movie as two separate things, and judge them accordingly. Like the Brett Easton Ellis novel American Psycho. The book (which I’d read first) is a serious brutally violent work, while the film with Christian Bale is more of dark comedy. If you judge the film as a straight adaptation of the book, you may consider it a failure, but as it’s own entity I love both. But if you know you’re the type to see the movie strictly through the eyes of how it sticks to the source material, or not, maybe it is best for you to wait for the film first.

    I can tell you that when I first saw a trailer for the Bradly Cooper film Limitless, I thought it look great, so i looked it up and saw that it was based on book. I then immediately bought the book and read that first. And I loved it. Then when the film came out I saw it, and I noticed that it also made significant changes to the book (again, the book was much darker with a bleaker ending than the film turned out to be), but I was still able to enjoy the film for what it was.


    1. It can be hard to separate the two mediums especially if you’re emotionally invested with the story and already have a vivid image of the world and the characters that the author crafted. But I do agree with your approach to separate two mediums. When you judge them on their own merit, you can still enjoy both even if the movie deviated from the source material.


  3. It depends. Generally, I say book first because of the points above. However, I’ve been stunned when the movie skips, evades, drops entire subplots and scenes in favor of the filmmaker’s vision. The depends comes in when a wonderful film is made that uses the book as a springboard to create its own story. Sorry, can’t think of any examples right now, but I know that I’ve experienced this.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I love movies, so I usually watch the movie first. If the movie is good, I’ll seek out the book. If the book is part of a series, I’ll then read the rest of the series. When I read the book first I’m almost always disappointed with the movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree with your comment. Many times I learned about a book after watching the movie adaption and several of them I still enjoy reading to this day. Generally if I watched the movie first I came to the theater with lower expectations. The disappointment happens when I come with preconceived ideas of how things were supposed to happen only for the director to deviate from the source material.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. While I usually try to read the book first, I get the point you are trying to make. Due to budget and time constraints, it is usually impossible to include all aspects of a book, but does that make the movie bad? Not necessarily. You can enjoy a movie, even if it drifts from the original book. And if you cannot help but be critical of a film once reading a book, then wouldn’t it make sense to watch the movie without the extra expectations? (I personally liked the LOTR movies and watched them before reading the books. Shh, don’t tell).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You make some great points in your comment. Not all changes are bad. Some changes to the plot make the movie more palatable to the audience or even enhance the story. Thank you for that insightful perspective.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. If you want to enjoy a movie wo being critical i think it’s best to watch it before reading the book. I guess the bad thing about it is that if you don’t like the movie, you won’t want to read the book. but if you read the book first, you might not like the movie o(-( tough choice to make!


  7. I like reading the book first. Like you said, it has more details. But I do prepare myself mentally that a film will never be as good as a book. So unless they fail completely, I will still enjoy the movie.


  8. It depends. I love Divergent and The Hunger Games in movie form, but I’m not a fan of the books. I love The Lord of the Rings in both movie and book forms, even though they are vastly different, but I love them as they are. Meanwhile, I love The Chronicles of Narnia books, but hate the Disney movies. I think it really depends on whether or not the resulting story is good, and what kind of connection you have to it personally.


  9. I do lean towards reading the book first, though I can see the point to watching the movie first in an attempt to not be disappointed. If I know the book is to be made into a movie, I do like to see who they cast as the characters- then I don’t envision someone different in my head. For instance, I read the Hunger Games before there was word of a movie and the male leads are much different in the book vs the movie. That threw me at first .
    Great questions!


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