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10 Movies That Don’t Take Their Source Material Seriously


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Summary

  • Not all movie adaptations stay true to their source material, sometimes choosing to go in a completely different direction.
  • Changes made in movie adaptations can range from subtle but significant to completely unrecognizable.
  • Successful adaptations can take inspiration from books or novels to create incredible movies, like Stephen King’s work and Harry Potter.

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Movies inspired by other sources are always going to have discrepancies, but some movies choose to go in a completely different direction from their source material. Pulling an idea from an original novel or show is often a great way to create incredible movies. For example, the work of Stephen King has been adapted countless times and created some of the best horror films of all time. Likewise, coming-of-age stories set in a fantastical reality, such as Harry Potter, were inspired by books and mostly tried to deliver the story as it was written.

However, not all adaptations are created equally. Any adapted work needs to change from the source so that it better fits the new medium, but some filmmakers decided to completely alter the work until it’s almost completely unrecognizable. For projects like Adaptation, this is made abundantly clear in the meta themes of the film, but for others, like The Jungle Book, the changes are subtle but significant.

10 Casino Royale (1967)

Parody Spy Film

James Bond Looks Alarmed While Standing in front of a Building in Casino Royale

Before Daniel Craig made his debut as James Bond, the original novel by Ian Fleming that launched the entire franchise was adapted in 1967. Casino Royale was the debut novel by the author and introduced the world to James Bond in 1953. While his later work started to receive adaptations in 1962 with Sean Connery in the leading role, the first book struggled to have its adaptation fully realized. When it was finally made, it was decided to create a spoof of the original Bond story. The result is an outrageous comedy starring David Niven as Bond and several popular comic actors of the time.

9 Die Hard (1988)

Based On A Sequel Novel

Die Hard is one of the most popular action movies of all time, but it was actually inspired by a fairly unheard-of 1979 novel, titled Nothing Lasts Forever. The novel is also a sequel to an earlier book, The Detective, from 1966 that was also adapted into a film starring Frank Sinatra in 1968. While the core concepts of the book, a lone detective thwarting a terrorist takeover in a skyscraper on Christmas Eve all remain the same, many of the core elements of the story change, and the movie is considerably lighter than its source.

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The name was changed to John McClane, and instead of meeting with his daughter as it plays out in the novel, John is hoping to rekindle a relationship with his estranged wife. The primary antagonist is altered from Anton “Little Tony the Red” Gruber to simply Hans Gruber and the novel features many more deaths on the side of the good guys, as well as McClane’s impressive kill count. The changes may have been made to separate this story from the earlier adaptation, and it certainly worked as it spawned a further franchise with many sequels.

8 The Jungle Book (1967)

A Brighter, Happier Adaptation

Mowgli reaching up for a banana on a tree while Baloo holds it for him

Disney has been known to alter dark and gruesome fairytales to create happy, upbeat films in many of their earliest works. The Jungle Book followed this same principle when adapting the collection of stories by Rudyard Kipling in 1894’s The Jungle Book. The stories featured in Kipling’s work were often full of depth and layered meaning as they revealed human characteristics through animal behaviors and drew parallels between the two.

7 Airplane! (1980)

Parody Disaster Film

Leslie Nielsen and Robert Hays with the autopilot in Airplane!

Airplane! is a parody of the entire disaster genre of movies, but particularly inspired by the 1957 drama movie, Zero Hour!. The film employs surreal, slapstick, and other forms of visual humor in order to create a hysterical interpretation of its source material which refuses to take anything seriously. The movie may share the character names and plot points of the original film, but it is largely an unfamiliar story with entirely different intentions.

6 Adaptation (2002)

A Meta Critique On Writer’s Block

Nic Cage and Nic Cage in Adaptation

Charlie Kaufman was tasked with adapting and creating a screenplay for Susan Orlean’s 1998 novel, The Orchid Thief, and as a result, Adaptation starring Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep was made. The movie bears some connections to the source material, but it largely enters into a metafictional world that explores Kaufman’s own struggle with writer’s block. A fictional and more successful brother is introduced, also played by Cage, and Streep takes on the role of Orlean as she meets with Kaufman to help adapt the material.

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Although it is often said the original is always better, but certain films actually manage to end up much better than their source material.

5 21 Jump Street (2012)

Cops Go Back To School

The original 21 Jump Street aired from 1987 to 1991, and the series followed several youthful-looking police officers as they went on undercover missions to schools. The series was a serious crime procedural that followed the team through challenging circumstances, but when it was retooled as a film in 2012, the creatives took a different approach. Leaning into the ludicrous concept of real cops trying to pass as teenagers, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum go undercover in the least convincing way possible to bust drug operations.

4 Young Frankenstein (1974)

Comedy Horror Picture

Dr Frankenstein with his monster in Young Frankenstein

Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder teamed up to create a more comical take on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. While the film has its roots in the novel, the parody it creates is more closely related to 1930s adaptations with the stylistic choices made reflecting that era. The film was shot in black and white despite that having become a rarity by 1974. It employed fades, wipes, and iris outs, which were again more common in the earlier decades, and it used many of the same props that were used in the 1931 film. It follows a descendant of Frankenstein, resuming his work and finding himself in a series of comical circumstances.

3 Lawnmower Man (1992)

Nothing Like The Stephen King Novel

Pierce Brosnan and Jeff Fahey in The Lawnmower Man

Considering so many of Stephen King’s books have been adapted into film, it makes sense that some fail to follow the story as intended. However, Stephen King was so displeased with this interpretation that he successfully sued to have his name removed from the project. The original short story follows a man who initially appears harmless but eventually becomes a menace to the local people when he strips naked and eats the grass of their lawns while manifesting mystical powers. The movie follows a gardener who has his brain chemically altered to evolve to an extreme state capable of interfacing with technology.

2 The Brady Bunch Movie (1995)

Parody Of A Parody

The kids in The Brady Bunch Movie 1995

The Brady Bunch Movie continues the story of the Brady family who were a TV sitcom staple in the late 60s and early 70s. The original series focused on an all-American family that was quirky and odd, but very decent and kind to the point of being naive. The 90s satirical comedy took this same stereotypical family and placed them into a much more cynical 1995, and it worked as a comedy hit.

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1 Fever Pitch (2005)

An Entirely Different Game

Fever Pitch was originally a British novel about European football. Nick Hornby, the author of the autobiographical novel of the same title wrote about games he attended and how they connected to his life. This story was then adapted into a 1997 movie by the author which focused on the romantic side of the story and then, in 2005, it was adapted again for American audiences, swapping out football for baseball. The movie stars Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore as two people who fall in love and, as a result, need to navigate their differing priorities.

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