When you hear about a movie adaptation of a book you loved, do you instinctively think, “Noooo, they’ll ruin it!”? Well, you’re not alone. “The book was better than movie” is a fair criticism of most big-screen translations simply because a film rarely captures the introspection and subtle complexities of a beautifully written book. There are, however, a few cases where the movie is actually better than the work on which it’s based thanks to an actor’s performance, a more streamlined screenplay or a change in the plot. Here are four examples of movies that improved upon the books.

The Devil Wears Prada

By Laura Weisberger

A first-time novelist, Weisberger burst onto the literary scene with a dishy novel based on her experience working as the assistant to notorious Vogue editrix Anna Wintour. While the book offers some juicy insights into the world of fashion magazines—and possibly the worst boss in the world—it falls apart in the end with its superfluous storylines. The movie, on the other hand, trimmed away the excess fat and really focused the plot. And while Anne Hathaway made Andy a more likable character {i.e. less whiney), Meryl Streep was perfectly terrifying as the icy Miranda Priestly.

In Her Shoes

By Jennifer Weiner

A best-selling author several times over, Weiner knows a thing or two about writing a successful story. Her second novel follows two sisters, career-driven, pudgy Rose and beautiful and wild Maggie, their relationship torn apart and their lives thrown into turmoil by Maggie’s selfish betrayal of her sister. While the movie stays pretty true to the book, what elevates the adaptation is the acting, with strong performances from Toni Collette as Rose and Shirley MacLaine as Ella, both of whom make their characters more compelling in the screen version.

The Notebook

By Nicholas Sparks

I’ll admit it: I could not get through The Notebook—halfway through the sappy, emotionally manipulative novel, I gave up. So I was a little reluctant to watch the film adaptation when I stumbled on it on TV one lazy Saturday afternoon. I was hooked.  I credit the tangible electric chemistry of Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling for sucking me in: The kiss in the rain. The palpable sexual tension. James Garner and Gena Rowlands spooning in bed. I was a sobbing mess by the end of the movie.

Julie & Julia

When it comes to making a movie adaptation more successful than the book, the secret ingredient could be Meryl Streep. Written and directed by Nora Ephron, Julie & Julia draws from two different books: chef Julia Childs’ autobiography My Life in France and Julie Powell’s memoir, based on her blog chronicling her yearlong attempt to cook every recipe in Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Child wasn’t a fan of Powell’s blog, and some of us (ahem) were not a fan of her memoir. But with Ephron’s magical touch (and Streep’s magical portrayal of Child), the movie seamlessly weaves together the beloved chef’s early days at the Cordon Bleu where she learned the art of French cooking, and Powell’s attempt to find a sense of meaning in her life through her online cooking experiment.

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