I am actually pretty careful about seeing movie versions of books that I've read. In some cases, I don't want a vision of the story that doesn't match the one in my head, sometimes I'm satisfied enough with the book, that I don't need to see the movie, and sometimes I'm first in line at the movie theater.
In my experience, the book is almost always better than the movie. Almost always. There have been times when I felt the movie was more entertaining than the movie, or told the story better, or whatever. Granted this is the exception to the rule for me, but here are a few that fall into that category. (In no particular order...I mean it this time!)
Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
Honestly, I couldn't stand this book. I'm that rare bird who does not think that Pride and Prejudice is the end all, be all of literature and I've been sick of "retellings" of it since that became the thing to do in the 90s. I did read this book...and hated it. But then my mother wanted to see the movie and, good daughter that I am, I went with her. Granted, I almost walked out when, during the opening credits when Bridget Jones is drunk, crying, and singing along to "All By Myself" and my mother leaned over to me and said, "I bet you relate to this!"
But, the truth is that this movie is, well, not my favorite...but I found it far more entertaining than the book. I attribute that to Hugh Grant who, despite having rather ridiculous hair here, steals every scene. I also get perverse pleasure from watching British men try to fight each other, and the "fight" between Hugh Grant and Colin Firth is the best!
About a Boy (2002)
This is a case where I did enjoy the book--I just liked the movie better. I remember reading the book shortly after it was published and thinking, "This would be a great Hugh Grant movie!"...and then it was! We're talking perfect casting here. And Hugh Grant has some magnificent hair here. Yeah, that is a weird thing to notice, but he's had some very bad hair movies (ahem, Bridget Jones's Diary). But, in all honesty, I think this is the best of all his roles.
The other think that I think made the movie more enjoyable was the book had a very boring subplot of a secondary character mourning Kurt Cobain which, thankfully, was cut from the movie. I'll gladly take a well-coifed Hugh Grant (or even a sloppily-coifed Hugh Grant) over teenage angst any day.
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Again, I didn't hate the book--it was fine. Nothing special, but pleasantly entertaining (unlike the sequel, which was horrendous). The movie, however, turned out to be far more impressive than I expected. Why? Well, Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci make everything better. And they moved the focus of the movie to Miranda Priestly's character--and made it more complex--and away from Andy's. Nothing against Anne Hathaway, who is quite good here, but Andy Sachs was never that interesting.
Julie and Julia (2009)
This is going to sound almost exactly like what I wrote for The Devil Wears Prada....
I read this book when it came out and was sort "meh" over it. And then I read Julie Powell's original blog and found her to be whiny and narcissistic (and then I read her second book, Cleaving, and realized that whiny and narcissistic where just the tip of the iceberg. I thought I had reviewed that book here but it must have been before I started book blogging. But, you can click over to Amazon to see that I was not alone in my opinion).
Honestly, if Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci were not in this movie, I would never have seen it. But I am so glad that I did. Amy Adams does the best she can, but it is hard to make Julie Powell likable. Fortunately, like The Devil Wears Prada, the focus moved away from the book's main character to Meryl Streep's character...and it made this movie a world above the book.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
I feel like a heretic posting this here and, honestly, I'm not even sure I would say that the movie is "better" than the book. Instead, I would say that the movie makes the story more accessible than the book does. I'm currently listening to the book with my kids and I'm reminded how angsty Harry was in this installment. That turned me off the first time I read the book and it still irritates me when I re-read or listen to it. The movie, however, greatly toned all that down, and for that I am grateful.
The movie also has 2 other things going for it. Imelda Staunton is the perfect Dolores Umbridge--which I never would have predicted. She is nothing like what I pictured when I read the book and, in this case, that is okay! Also, the scene where George and Fred leave Hogwarts is underwhelming in the book, but a highlight in the movie.
What about you? Are there movie adaptations that you feel improved on the book?