10 Worst Book-to-Movie Adaptations

Sadly, these film adaptations just couldn't live up to the bestselling books they were based on. Check out the list below for the worst book-to-movie adaptations, counting down from the best- to the worst-reviewed films.


10. Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Directed by Tim Burton | Based on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Rotten Tomatoes: 52% positive reviews | Metacritic rating: 53

Lewis Carroll's magical tale, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, has captivated readers for decades, but according to critics, the film adaptation isn't nearly so enchanting. Some have accused the 3D effects of being dull and uninspired, and the plot of following a generic and stale formula, interspersed with random moments of discordant bizarreness.

Owen Gleiberman writes for The Guardian that '[i]n the film's rather humdrum 3-D, the place doesn't dazzle - it droops'. Similarly, giving the film 2/5 stars, Kimberley Jones writes for The Austin Chronicle that '[t]he first act is very nearly unbearable, leaden and doomy and generically plotted', and that '[e]very stellar moment within is met with five more clunkers'.


9. The Great Gatsby (2013)

Directed by Baz Luhrmann | Based on The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Rotten Tomatoes: 48% positive reviews | Metacritic rating: 55

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is set in 1920s New York and follows Nick, who moves in next to the mysterious millionaire, Jay Gatsby. Gatsby holds extravagant parties which he never attends, all for the sake of impressing his (now married) former sweetheart, Daisy. Drama and tragedy inevitably unfold in this gripping novel, which features themes of materialistic excess, social upheaval, love and jealousy.

Critics agree that the film adaptation employs an overly-chaotic style and special effects that are excessively showy. The film loses the sense of romance that is central to the novel, and becomes a cluttered sequence of frenetic scenes. Rex Reed writes for the Observer: 'with every inflated expense aimed at your eyeballs in awkward, totally unnecessary and stomach-churning 3-D, this is one of the most maddening examples of wasted money ever dumped on the screen.' Steven Rea of The Philadelphia Inquirer asserts that 'at the crux of things, the problem is that it's impossible to care'; the characters aren't fleshed-out enough to elicit any sort of sympathy or compassion from viewers. The film becomes a mere muddle of garish and 'choppy' scenes, rather than an evocative story of love and loss.


8. The Lorax (2012)

Directed by Chris Renaud & Kyle Balda | Based on The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

Rotten Tomatoes: 53% positive reviews | Metacritic rating: 46

Dr. Seuss is renowned for his zany illustrations, quirky characters and lively verse. In The Lorax, a man named the Once-ler starts to chop down valuable Truffula trees in order to build his business making knitted 'Thneeds'. He stubbornly ignores the warnings of the Lorax, who explains that the trees are important to the nearby wildlife and that the Once-ler's factory is polluting the air. Every single tree is nonetheless demolished. In his old age, the remorseful Once-ler tells this story to a boy and gives him the very last Truffula seed, urging the boy to grow a forest from it.

The film adaptation has been accused of making this poignant tale painfully loud and silly. It has also been criticised for straying too far from the original story, adding unnecessary characters and plot features that make it overly-complicated and un-Seussian. A. O. Scott of The New York Times deems the film 'a noisy, useless piece of junk', and contends that 'the movie's silliness, like its preachiness, is loud and hysterical'. Similarly, Stephanie Zacharek of Movieline considers the film 'so cluttered - with extra narrative, extra characters, extra everything - that its famously mossy and bossy central figure barely figures into the plot'.


7. The Golden Compass (2007)

Directed by Chris Weitz | Based on Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

Rotten Tomatoes: 43% positive reviews | Metacritic rating: 51

Northern Lights, the first book of Philip Pullman's engrossing His Dark Materials fantasy trilogy, follows a young girl named Lyra, who - alongside her 'daemon', the animal embodiment of her inner self - embarks on a thrilling quest from Oxford to the North Pole to rescue her kidnapped friend, Roger. The trilogy's huge following of fans must have been either delighted or daunted to hear that Northern Lights was to be adapted into a film - and the daunted kind were right to be apprehensive.

Fans and critics have accused the film of failing to create the ambience of the rich, epic and magical world that Pullman evokes in the book. Olly Richards writes for Empire: 'The movie's greatest disappointment is the total lack of atmosphere or scale.' Viewers have also accused the film of being inaccessible and muddled as it fails to convey the mood, messages and lore of the book. Todd McCarthy writes for Variety that 'the prevailing tone is cold, which has nothing to do with the frigid settings of the second half'. Dana Stevens writes for Slate that the film is 'a near-impenetrable murk, a blur of CGI beasties, shimmering dust clouds, and vaguely mystical blather'.


6. Eat Pray Love (2010)

Directed by Ryan Murphy | Based on Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Rotten Tomatoes: 36% positive reviews | Metacritic rating: 50

Elizabeth Gilbert's bestselling memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, touched the hearts of millions of readers with its themes of self-care, spirituality, love and adventure. It follows a woman in her thirties who leaves her husband and young lover and embarks on a journey of self-discovery, visiting three countries: Italy (Eat), India (Pray) and Bali, Indonesia (Love).

Unfortunately, Elizabeth's spiritual journey doesn't come off so well on the big screen, according to critics. Some critics argue that Elizabeth's alleged aim of rejecting her comfortable, materialistic lifestyle in order to find inner peace conflicts with her seemingly self-obsessed character, continued spending and apparent unawareness of her own privilege. Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter comments that the film 'never ventures, even once, into a situation that does not reek of comfy familiarity'. Andrea Gronvall of the Chicago Reader agrees, contending that the film 'posits "me-first" consumerism as the road to happiness' - the very idea it purports to refute. Gronvall calls the script 'painfully preachy' regardless, and deems the film to be 'navel-gazing tripe'.


5. The Time Machine (2002)

Directed by Simon Wells | Based on The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

Rotten Tomatoes: 29% positive reviews | Metacritic rating: 42

H. G. Wells's science-fiction classic, The Time Machine, follows a scientist known as the Time Traveller, who invents a time machine and travels to the year 802,701 AD. There, he encounters a society of elegant but frail adults called the Eloi, rescues an Eloi woman named Weena and must fight to get his time machine back from the aggressive, ape-like Morlocks, who feed on the Eloi.

Despite the widespread acclaim and popularity enjoyed by the book, reviews for the film have been mainly negative. It has been accused of being dull, lacking the excitement and awe-inspiring nature of the novel's adventure, and of implausibility. Giving the film just 1.5/5 stars, Roger Ebert contends that the film loses the 'wonderment' of the book. Frank Lovece writes for TV Guide that 'the fun stops the minute our hero debarks in the year A.D. 802,701'. Lovece accuses Guy Pearce, who plays the Time Traveller (named Alexander in the film), of showing 'all the emotional range of a rock', which makes it 'all the harder to buy the moment in which his wispy prof charges unarmed after inhumanly strong beast-men rather than coming up with a superior-minded plan'.


4. A Walk to Remember (2002)

Directed by Adam Shankman | Based on A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks

Rotten Tomatoes: 27% positive reviews | Metacritic rating: 35

Nicholas Sparks's heartrending romance novel, A Walk to Remember, follows young misfit Landon Carter and the shy and sensible Jamie Sullivan, a young woman who carries a Bible wherever she goes. Despite their differences, the two somehow end up falling in love, but tragedy strikes when Jamie falls ill with cancer.

The film adaptation has received poor reviews, which criticise the acting ability of the female lead (Mandy Moore) and accuse the film style of being mawkish and unoriginal. Michael Dequina of Film Threat calls the film '[a] monstrosity of a movie that I am all too eager to forget', and A. O. Scott of The New York Times writes that the film 'proves that a movie about goodness is not the same thing as a good movie'.


3. Eragon (2006)

Directed by Stefen Fangmeier | Based on Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Rotten Tomatoes: 16% positive reviews | Metacritic rating: 38

Christopher Paolini's Eragon is the first book in a fantasy series about a teenage boy who discovers a dragon egg and is thrust into a magical and perilous adventure. It sounds like the perfect material for an incredible fantasy film, but unfortunately, viewers were left hugely disappointed by this film adaptation. It has been accused of ripping off too many elements from the fantasy trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, and of feeling cheaply-made and unoriginal. Giving the film just 1/5 stars, Chris Hewitt of Empire writes that 'Eragon is a derivative and damp re-spin of all those old fantasy epics', that '[p]lot holes abound' and that 'it's moribund visually', a film 'that mistakes industrial light for magic'.

William Arnold of Seattle P-I writes that the film 'certainly gets no points for originality. It's such a clone of The Lord of the Rings, it probably could lose a plagiarism suit'. Jeanette Catsoulis of The New York Times concludes that 'if some of the characters won't be returning for the sequel, no matter. In all likelihood, neither will the audience'.


2. Gulliver's Travels (2010)

Directed by Rob Letterman | Based on Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

Rotten Tomatoes: 20% positive reviews | Metacritic rating: 33

Gulliver's Travels, a thrilling adventure novel by Jonathan Swift, follows the exploits of Lemuel Gulliver, who finds himself shipwrecked on a strange island filled with curious creatures and bizarre lands. The film, according to critics, is not so riveting. It has been accused of being boring and sloppy, its 3D effects tacky and unnecessary. Marjorie Baumgarten concludes her scathing review for The Austin Chronicle: 'This Gulliver's Travels is listless, dull, and totally lacking in spectacle: marooned with no way home, just like its title character.' David Germain writes for The Times-Picayune that 'the movie sullies a piece of literature that has endured for nearly 300 years for the sake of a cheap kiddie flick that'll be forgotten in a month', and Peter Travers writes for Rolling Stone that the '3D effects are beyond cheesy when they exist at all'.


1. The Cat in the Hat (2003)

Directed by Bo Welch | Based on The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

Rotten Tomatoes: 10% positive reviews | Metacritic rating: 19

The children's picture book The Cat in the Hat is a wonderfully fun and entertaining tale about a playful cat and his mischievous minions, who take over the house of two small children and cause havoc - as well as a terrible mess! Just before the children's mother arrives home, the cat returns with an incredible machine that quickly tidies away the clutter, leaving the mother completely unaware of the chaos that has just ensued.

Children adore this quirky tale, but the film adaptation was a flop, and earns the title of the worst-reviewed film in our list. It has been accused of being too loud and too wild, comprising a jumbled mess of frenzied action that fails to engage audiences. The Cat himself - the heart of the film, played by Mike Myers - is an unappealing character, his appearance unsettling, his demeanour vulgar. Marc Savlov - giving the film just half a star out of 5 - writes for The Austin Chronicle that '[t]hey've taken a classic (the classic, I think) and they've battered it senseless and, boy, does it stink'. Maitland McDonagh of TV Guide, giving the film 1/5 stars, calls it a 'coarse, loud assault on the senses', which 'bears few traces of Dr. Seuss's tartly whimsical sensibility'. He calls the action '[f]renetic and cheerless', but says that 'the film's real problem is the Cat, who looks most unmagically like a second-string college sports-team mascot and conducts himself like a risque baggy-pants comedian'. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian also believes Mike Myers's Cat is the issue, writing: 'But it's Myers who pains me; he truly looks sad, / Humourless, frazzled, and really quite mad.'


Our conclusion on all this: nothing beats a book!

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    Jay Gatsby is the man who has everything. But one thing will always be out of his reach...Everybody who is anybody is seen at his glittering parties. Day and night his Long Island mansion buzzes with bright young things drinking, dancing and debating his mysterious character. For Gatsby - young, handsome, fabulously rich - always seems alone in the crowd, watching and waiting, though no one knows what for. Beneath the shimmering surface of his life he is hiding a secret: a silent longing that can never be fulfilled. And soon this destructive obsession will force his world to unravel.
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    When Alice follows the White Rabbit down a rabbit hole, she finds herself in an enchanted world, filled with creatures like the Mad Hatter, the disappearing Cheshire Cat, and the Queen of Hearts. Alice quickly finds out that nothing is as it seems in the wild world of Wonderland...
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    Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live half-wild and carefree among scholars of Jordan College, Oxford. The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight. Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequences far beyond her own world...
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    It's 3 a.m. and Elizabeth Gilbert is sobbing on the bathroom floor. She's in her thirties, she has a husband, a house, they're trying for a baby - and she doesn't want any of it. A bitter divorce and a turbulent love affair later, she emerges battered and bewildered and realises it is time to pursue her own journey in search of three things she has been missing: pleasure, devotion and balance. So she travels to Rome, where she learns Italian from handsome, brown-eyed identical twins and gains twenty-five pounds, an ashram in India, where she finds that enlightenment entails getting up in the middle of the night to scrub the temple floor, and Bali where a toothless medicine man of indeterminate age offers her a new path to peace: simply sit still and smile. And slowly happiness begins to creep up on her.

  • EGN2 11 years +
    11 years +
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    Overnight, the simple life of young farm boy, Eragon, is changed forever. After finding what appears to be a polished stone in the forest, a dragon is born and he is thrust into a perilous new world of destiny, magic and power.

    With only a sword and the advice of an old storyteller to guide him, Eragon and the dragon must navigate dangerous terrain and battle the dark enemies of an Empire ruled by a evil king. Can Eragon become the next legendary Dragon Rider? The fate of the Empire may rest in his hands...

    A tale of affection, adventure and ancient magic, Christopher Paolini's Eragon is a compelling and action-filled story brilliantly suited for readers aged 11 and up.
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    Dr. Seuss wrote The Cat in the Hat in response to a plea to make first reading books for young children more entertaining and appealing to read.

    The madcap illustrations and wild exuberance of The Cat in the Hat verses certainly fit the brief, and this picture book version of the rhyming classic introduces the craziness to an even younger audience from 3+.

    If your young reader loves Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, then they will relish the silly madness of The Cat in the Hat.
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    'Great shapes like big machines rose out of the dimness, and cast grotesque black shadows, in which dim spectral Morlocks sheltered from the glare'. Chilling, prophetic and hugely influential, "The Time Machine" sees a Victorian scientist propel himself into the year 802,701 AD, where he is delighted to find that suffering has been replaced by beauty and contentment in the form of the Eloi, an elfin species descended from man. But he soon realizes that they are simply remnants of a once-great culture - now weak and living in terror of the sinister Morlocks lurking in the deep tunnels, who threaten his very return home. H. G. Wells defined much of modern science fiction with this 1895 tale of time travel, which questions humanity, society, and our place on Earth. The Penguin English Library - 100 editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century and the very first novels to the beginning of the First World War.
  • TRX2 5 years +
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    Dr Seuss's The Lorax features all the zany language, eccentric characters and bouncy rhyming verses of his well-loved favourites, The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham, but it also has an important environmental message to convey.

    Even though The Lorax is 30 years old, it's a fresh and fantastic book that still resonates today. The animated film, starring Danny DeVito in the title role, brought the tale to a new generation and now they can enjoy it in its original form!
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