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10 Books That Should Never Be Made Into Movies

Jun 04, 2014
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What links Choke (2008), The Shipping News (2001), Chocolat (2000), The House of Mirth (2000), and The Cider House Rules (1999)? That’s right. You guessed it. They’re all movies that credit the casting director Suzanne Smith-Crowley. A second thing they have in common is that they are all movies that were based on books. If there’s anything contemporary Hollywood loves more than avoiding dreaming up original ideas, it’s discouraging, dampening, and destroying those individuals who do love to dream up original ideas. That’s why television is the place you go to these days for original and innovative content, while Hollywood churns out its uninspiring remakes, reboots, “reinventions,” adaptations, dodgy sequels, dodgier prequels, and every five minutes announcing who will be the next (probably British) actor to play Spiderman, Superman, or Howard the Duck. Books are precious things. They can be repugnant things too. Hitler wrote a book. Piers Morgan’s written several. Some books are too brilliant, complicated, strange, or just plain bad to ever be transferred successfully to film. With that in mind, we present our top 10 books that Tinsel Town would be wise to leave well alone. By JR Moores


Herman Melville

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale

It’s too long. It covers too much ground (or sea). There is a depth to it that no movie could ever hope to approach. It is the Great American Novel. It is not the Great American Movie (that’s The Godfather Part II or Citizen Kane or Point Break). It is a big, fat, elusive leviathan of a book and the movie would have to be about 72 hours long just to swim anywhere close to its power, profundity, and ambiguity. And if Hollywood tried to tackle it again, they’d only go and cast Mark Wahlberg as Ahab, Shia LaBeouf as Ishmael, and Johnny Depp as bloody Queequeg. It’s better if you just settle for making something influenced by Moby-Dick, like The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou or Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan or Point Break.


David Foster Wallace

Infinite Jest

For this vast postmodern tome to be made into a film, somebody in the world would have to finish reading it. I mean, some people say they’ve finished reading it. But they haven’t really.[1]

[1] b/t/w, it would be somewhat difficult to successfully transfer from page to screen Wallace’s signature playful style w/r/t his copious use of endnotes and footnotes.

See also, Obstinate Dust by Ralph Warden Meeker.*

* For more on which, see Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem.


Bret Easton Ellis

American Psycho

Christian Bale did an admirable job as Ellis’s maniacal yuppie anti-hero but there’s an inevitable problem with trying to adapt this pitch-black satire. If your movie’s not as stomach-churningly graphic as the book it’s going to feel like it’s pulling its punches and will fail to achieve the same impact, and if it is as nauseatingly graphic as the text it’s not going to get past the censors and it will be too vile for anybody to stomach watching anyway. It’s a real catch-22. Speaking of which…


Joseph Heller

Something Happened

Heller’s relatively little-read second novel is another masterpiece, albeit in a very different way from Catch-22. This long, rambling, misanthropic, bleak, and digressive monologue would be tricky to adjust to screen. It’s so lacking in action that Heller might as well have called it Nothing Happens. Oh, and Mad Men already kinda nailed that whole post-WW2 unhappily affluent vibe anyway.




Just imagine it. Daniel Day-Lewis spends six years on a surprisingly bloating vegan diet in preparation for the role of a lifetime. Day-Lewis greases his hair into a thick quiff, wanders around clasping a bunch of withering gladioli and occasionally says something a little bit racist. The first half is a self-pitying monochrome Mancunian take on Kes. The second half is three hours of courtroom drama re-enacting in mind-numbingly meticulous detail Mozza’s memories of The Smiths’ royalties dispute. “The horror, the horror,” to quote Conrad’s Kurtz.


Richard Dawkins

The God Delusion

Harryhausen-esque fantasy feature film visualizing the epic battle between a well-spoken writer of popular science books and every deity that mankind ever worshipped. This film should never be made because, as revealed by his Twitter account, it turns out that Professor Dawkins is quite the prize arsehole.


Thomas Bernhard


Invited to a dinner party he’d rather not have attended, a cantankerous grouch sits in a chair with a glass of champagne thinking about how much he despises his pretentious bourgeois hosts who are feverishly awaiting their guest of honour, a celebrated stage actor. A brilliant novel, but its dramatisation would probably work better in the theatre (if at all).


Mötley Crüe

The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band

A wretched excuse for a band with not a single good song to their name who should’ve been permanently buried six feet under along with the rest of the ludicrous hair metal scene when Kurt Cobain turned up in his moth-eaten cardigan to expose them all as dandified, sexist, and homophobic corporate rock whores. Along with that blasted Tommy Lee/Pamela Anderson holiday sex video, this dumb catalogue of the band’s hedonistic exploits gave the Crüe a new lease of popularity, securing them some kind of shallow legacy. It is a titillating glimpse into the world of rock ‘n’ roll excess and a DIY manual for young musicians who aspire to be rich and famous talentless pigs who unashamedly exploit and degrade women, beat their wives, kill fellow musicians by drunk driving (and then release a compilation album with a title trivializing the accident), and are unable to justify their reprehensible actions with anything more soul-searchingly reflective than Beavis & Butthead-style sniggering. A movie adaptation would only serve to further elevate the fame and fortune of this sorry brigade of odious creeps. Sadly, this project is actually happening, with Jackass’ Jeff Tremaine directing. Lord, spare us.


Thomas Pynchon

The Crying of Lot 49

A tedious, deeply unsatisfying, self-consciously postmodern wild goose chase. If you struggled to make it to the end of the book, imagine how intolerable the movie version would be. It’d probably have a screenplay by Charlie Kaufman, be directed by Michel Gondry, and star Ellen Page or Emma Watson or Juno Temple or that actress from New Girl (who would also compose the insipid theme tune on her bloody ukulele). That’s how insufferably hipster it would be.


Laurence Sterne

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

Gargantuan and verbose, with countless mischievously multi-layered digressions, innumerable obscure references that only scholars of Georgian ecclesiastical history can even begin to understand, blank, marble, and squiggly pages, a protagonist who isn’t even born until Volume III (or is it IV?), an author’s preface that appears halfway through that third volume… Basically, it’s just too hard, innit?


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Banners Broker
June 25th 2014

Moby Dick actually made it to the movies. It’s actually a pretty nice movie.

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October 14th 2018

I think the same…

June 9th 2019


June 10th 2019

This one is good, Thomas Pynchon The Crying of Lot 49