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13 beloved classic movies inspired by books

Copywriter by day, blogger by night, I'm a reserved thinker and lover of language with a perpetual passion for Old Hollywood.

Which was better – the classic books or the movies they inspired?

The age-old debate: what’s better, the book or the movie? Most of the time, the book gets the vote, but that’s not always the case. Here are 13 of the most iconic films of all time that bring the story from page to screen. Which ones do it better? Find out.

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1. The Wizard of Oz (1939): Novel by L. Frank Baum

My vote: the film

Who doesn’t love to skip down the yellow brick road with Dorothy and her friends? Judy Garland’s majestic rendition of “Over the Rainbow” makes the film utterly unforgettable.

2. Gone With the Wind (1939): Novel by Margaret Mitchell

My vote: the book

Just as sweeping as the novel, the film does an incredible job at chronicling the epic story, but ultimately loses Mitchell’s essence of eloquence that makes her 1,000-page masterpiece all but impossible to put down.

3. Little Women (1949): Novel by Louisa May Alcott

My vote: the book

I admit that I love this version of the film the most, but it leaves out some of the pivotal lessons the four sisters learned in the novel that shaped them into the women they become.

4. A Place in the Sun (1951): Novel by Theodore Dreiser (An American Tragedy)

My vote: the film

Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor’s deep dynamic tells the story of a tortured soul with a sweetness and sorrow that simmers within you even after the credits role — something the book lacks.

5. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961): Novella by Truman Capote

My vote: it's a tie!

Audrey Hepburn captures Holly Golightly’s wit and charm as well as Capote penned it to the page. Each of them created an iconic style that’s become an everlasting piece of culture.

6. Splendor in the Grass (1961): Novel by William Inge

My vote: the film

Natalie Wood gives a poetic and powerful performance that outshines the script conveying the loss of innocence with an emotional depth that touches you to tears.

7. The Birds (1963): Short story by Daphne du Maurier

My vote: the film

Alfred Hitchcock turned an unknown short story into a sensation, creating a thriller with suspense that transcends the screen. Even over 60 years later, you’ll never look at birds the same way once you see the film.

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8. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962): Novel by Harper Lee

My vote: it’s a tie!

Although there are some crucial differences, the film impeccably captures the characters’ depths of humanity. Harper Lee even gave it her stamp of approval, declaring she was “one happy author, it was a beautiful and moving picture.”

9. The Graduate (1967): Novel by Charles Webb

My vote: the film

Dustin Hoffman confronting Anne Bancroft with, “Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me,” is one of the most memorable scenes in movie history, one even the most passionate prose can’t compete with.

10. The Way We Were (1973): Novel by Arthur Laurents

My vote: the film

Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford take your breath away with an electric onscreen chemistry emotionally enhanced by an Oscar-winning score married to an extraordinary story that stays true to the novel.

11. The Great Gatsby (1974): Novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald

My vote: the book

The film doesn’t do justice to Fitzgerald’s palette for prose and lacks the comprehensive characterization that makes the mystique of Gatsby so interesting.

12. All the President’s Men (1974): Biography by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward

My vote: the film

Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford immediately lock you in as Washington Post journalists trying to blow the lid on the Watergate scandal, whereas the book can become weighed down by political jargon, interrupting the flow of the story.

13. Out of Africa (1985): Memoir by Isak Dinesen/Karen Blixen

My vote: it’s a tie!

Meryl Streep wholeheartedly embodies Isak Dinesen’s years of running a coffee plantation in Kenya with grace and precision, surrounded by stunning scenery, while telling a tale that stays absolutely true to the spirit of Dinesen’s memoir.

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