Film Adaptations That Disappointed Book Fans The Most

Film Adaptations That Disappointed Book Fans The Most

Published 12th March 2021
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For many of us, books are a form of escape from reality that allows our imaginations to run wild. The positive effects of reading are many, including its potential impact on our mental health – in fact, studies have shown that reading a book can lower stress levels just as much as yoga or a good laugh! 

However, when the richly-constructed world and vivid characters of a book are adapted for film, bookworms can sometimes be left feeling disappointed by the end result. Hence, the age-old debate that “the book is always better than the film.”

With this in mind, the team here at OnBuy were curious to discover which popular novels failed to set the world of cinema alight. We combined the reviews of best-selling books on Goodreads with the reviews of its movie counterpart on IMDb to reveal the film adaptations that left book fans most disappointed.

The 10 worst film adaptations that disappointed book fans the most

10 worst film adaptations that disappointed book fans the most

1. Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

fifty shades of grey

Fifty Shades of Grey has the unenviable honour of coming first place as the worst book-to-film adaptation. Whilst the movie is one of the sexiest of all time, it was considered 36% worse than E. L. James’ 2011 book of the same name. It seems it wasn’t only the fans of the novel that considered it disappointing, as the film was also the most awarded at the 36th Golden Raspberry Awards! For those of you who don’t know what the Golden Raspberry Awards are, think the Oscars in reverse. Instead of hailing the achievements of a film, it honours the worse of cinematic under-achievements... Apparently having Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan playing the erotic leads wasn’t enough to turn on the book fans.

2. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015)

the hunger games

The fourth and final film adaptation in The Hunger Games series, Mockingjay - Part 2, comes in second place. Despite winning the Fan Choice Awards’ nomination for Best Book-Adapted Movie and being chosen by Brits as one of their favourite books of all time, the film adaptation was considered 20% worse than Suzanne Collins’ last book in the trilogy.

3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) and The Girl on the Train (2016)

harry potter and girl on a train

In joint third place comes the final instalment of the Harry Potter film franchise, matched only in disappointment by the page-turning sensation that was The Girl on the Train. Both movies came in at a rating of 17% worse than their respective books. 

Fans of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows felt the film failed to discover the book’s magic formula, with reviews on IMDb describing the feature as “devastatingly disappointing”. The same can be seen with the film adaptation of Paula Hawkins' popular 2015 debut novel The Girl on the Train, with many fans feeling let down by the story’s setting being incomprehensibly moved from the United Kingdom to the United States.

4. The Da Vinci Code (2006)

da vinci code

It seems that book fans weren’t as happy to watch Professor Robert Langdon’s (Tom Hanks) adventures on the screen as they were when reading it. The film adaptation of The Da Vinci Code was considered 15% worse than the book. However, the next film in the series (Angels & Demons) managed to impress critics and secure a better ranking than its predecessor.

5. Me Before You (2016) and The Book Thief (2013)

me before you, the book thief

Tied in fifth place is Me Before You (2016) and The Book Thief (2013), with both being considered 13% worse than their original books.

Just as in Jojo Moyes’ best-selling book, the film adaptation of Me Before You follows the unfolding love story of Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke) and Will Traynor (Sam Claflin). However, some disgruntled fans of the novel didn’t hold back with their commentary on IMDb, describing it as “shallow” and “the worst book to movie adaptation”... ouch.

While the film adaptation of The Book Thief was acclaimed by critics, receiving Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations, it didn’t measure up to the high expectations of those who first enjoyed the story in book form.

6. The Lovely Bones (2009) and The Kite Runner (2007)

lovely bones, kite runner

Coming in joint sixth place is The Lovely Bones and The Kite Runner, which were both considered 12% worse than their best-selling books. 

In a 2005 interview, the director of The Lovely Bones, Peter Jackson, assured fans of the novel that he didn’t “want the tone or the mood to be different or lost in the film.” But it seems that Jackson’s efforts of choosing an ensemble cast and investing in high-quality visual effects wasn’t quite as lovely as the original written instalment! The Kite Runner suffered a similar fate. While its screen adaptation was widely acclaimed, it still falls short of the ratings fans lavished on Khaled Hosseini’s book.

7. The Help (2011)

the help

In seventh place is the period drama, The Help, based on Kathryn Stockett's 2009 novel of the same name. Like the book, the film presents the story of the young white journalist Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan (Emma Stone) and her relationship with two black maids Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) and Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer), during the Civil Rights Movement in 1963. The adaptation was praised by critics but, in comparison to the original book’s ranking, still comes in at 10% worse.

8. The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

the fault in our stars

Regarded as one of the best books for young adults, The Fault in Our Stars comes in eighth place. Starring Shailene Woodley as “Hazel Grace” and Ansel Elgort as Augustus "Gus”, the film won 18 of the 27 nominations it received. Yet fans of John Green’s 2012 novel were left disappointed with the screen adaptation, as it was considered 18% worse than the book.

9. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

girl with the dragon tattoo

Coming in ninth place is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009). The 2009 film is the first of the Millenium series adapted from the book of the same name by Stieg Larsson. Despite receiving many awards, including a BAFTA for Best Film Not in the English Language, it seems that fans would rather stick to the book as the film was considered 6% worse than the novel.

10. Gone Girl (2014)

gone girl

Making the top 10 is Gone Girl, based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name. Considered only 3% worse than the book, the film has left fans quite satisfied with the book’s adaptation on the silver screen. The movie also has a satisfactory rating on IMDb (8.1 stars) and it was widely acclaimed by critics, receiving nominations at the BAFTAs and Golden Globes (including Adapted Screenplay).


movie adaptations
  • selected the top best-selling books in the past years that have a film adaptation from Wikipedia.
  • Next, we analysed the number of ratings and the average rating for each book on Goodreads.
  • Using IMDb, we found the average user review score and metacritic score for each film version.
  • The difference between the book and film review was calculated as an absolute value and in percentage terms.
  • The greater the difference, the worse the adaptation is assumed to be. For films adapted from the best-seller book series, selected the ones with higher negative scores.

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