The Worst Book to Film Adaptations of All Time

When a best-selling book touches the hearts of millions, it’s inevitable that producers will jump at the chance to make that story into a film. However, not all films based on books are created equal. In fact, there are many works of fiction that were just not meant for the big screen…or the director made some terrible choices leaving fans of the book lamenting how great the film could have been with someone else at the helm.

In dedication of these missed opportunities, here are some of the worst book to film adaptations that disappointed book fans:

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is considered a classic piece of American literature that you may remember from your high school English lessons. Set in 1920s New York, it follows Nick, who moves next door to the allusive millionaire Jay Gatsby. The novel follows Gatsby’s quest to impress and capture the heart of his young sweetheart, Daisy, but instead, only drama and tragedy ensues.

The film starred Leonardo Dicaprio as Gatsby and has a very average rating. Critics agreed that this film employed an overly chaotic style and that it lost the sense of romance that is central to the novel; the film instead became a cluttered sequence of frenetic scenes. It deviated from the book and the use of modern music bothered viewers as it didn’t help set the 1920s feel, not to mention the comparisons made to that of a music video style of filming.


Eragon is the first book in a fantasy series about a teenage boy discovering a dragon egg and is then thrust upon a magical adventure – making it sound like the perfect plot for an epic fantasy film. However, filmgoers were left disappointed by the adaptation, as it was accused of copying too many elements from the successful fantasy film series The Lord of the Rings and feeling unoriginal.

It’s mere one hour and thirty-minute runtime of this 500-page novel meant that numerous plot points and characters were left out, turning the film into a clichéd hero’s journey with nothing new to the formula. Sequels of the novel have since been released, but no film sequels have been made.

The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass was the first of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials fantasy trilogy. It follows a young girl and her daemon – the animal embodiment of inner self – embarking on a thrilling quest to rescue her kidnapped friend.

The film was criticised for failing to create the rich magical world that is evoked in the book and for not touching on the philosophical themes, oversimplifying it for a broader audience.

But perhaps the biggest frustration for fans came from the fact that the filmmakers did nothing to set up the next story. They destroyed the order of the books, taking away the dramatic ending and not allowing for a sequel to be made.

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland is a beloved, magical story by Lewis Carroll that has captivated readers for decades, but the live-action film released in 2010 left a lot to be desired.

The 3D effects were accused of being dull and uninspired, and the plot was especially attacked for following a generic and stale formula, that, instead of working in the wonderful magical moments of the book, just interspersed the film with random moments of bizarreness that didn’t fit into the narrative.

The Hobbit

People had high expectations for the long-awaited Hobbit film, given the success of The Lord of the Rings, but the franchise’s predecessor couldn’t live up to the hype. This should have been expected when it was announced that this 300-page book would somehow be stretched into three films.

Whilst visually impressive, the films were long-winded and not much fun. It wasn’t faithful to the book and felt like a shameless cash grab aimed at fans of the LOTR trilogy.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children follows the story of Jacob Portman as he delves into his deceased grandfather’s past and travels to an orphanage his grandfather lived in with other children with extraordinary abilities. He discovers that not only are the children still alive, but they are hiding from monsters that hunt them.

One of the most significant gripes viewers had was with the way the film switched around some of the characters and their abilities to better aid romantic subplots. Many elements of the story were also changed, or parts were removed.

The Cat in the Hat

After the first Dr Seuss live-action film – How the Grinch Stole Christmas – wasn’t received especially well, a second attempt was made with one of Seuss’s most beloved stories: The Cat in the Hat. This proved to be considered even worse than The Grinch and left fans of the tale fuming.

The film is generally considered lacking in funny moments, with the wacky story being touted as over the top and annoying. The set was considered to be so bright and colourful to the point of it being nauseating. The film was also criticised for having far too many adult jokes for a children’s film and too much toilet humour. It was received so poorly that Dr Seuss’s widow even announced that she would no longer be allowing any further live-action adaptations of Seuss’s works to be produced.

So, there we have it. How many of these book-to-film adaptations have you seen? Can you think of any that are even worse? And crucially, if you have any home movies of you own on VHS, whether they’re masterpieces or…not so great, then make sure you get them converted onto a DVD so you can preserve that footage. At Video2DVD, we can do a VHS to DVD conversion so you can keep your film footage preserved on a more reliable format so your futures generations can enjoy that film for years to come.