Home Top List Thursday – Top 10 worst changes made in feature film adaptations

Top List Thursday – Top 10 worst changes made in feature film adaptations

5 min read

Inspired by World War Z‘s absolute abandonment of just about everything from its novel roots, I’ve decided to look at some adaptations today. Now I’m pretty lenient when it comes to sticking to your source. As a medium, film is a totally different animal to novels or videogames, and should be treated as such, but when filmmakers decide to beat that animal with strange changes, that’s when I take umbrage.

Here are ten films, that may actually have been good on their own, that decided to stick it to rather than stick to their sources (some SPOILERS may follow).

The Perfect Catch

Nick Hornsby’s award winning debut novel, Fever Pitch,  is a collection of essays, all about his obsession with English Premier League football club Arsenal, and how “his” team’s trials and tribulations reflected events in his personal life. When Hollywood got a hold of it, they of course had to swap football… sorry, soccer for baseball, which is a fine enough change. But then they also add in a schmaltzy love story about how Drew Barrymore gets fed up with her beau Jimmy Fallon’s obsession with the Boston Red Sox, until he declares his love for her by selling his season tick- Oh, forget it.


Great Expectations

I regularly worship at the altar of Alfonso Cuaron, but it seems even deities are fallible. Transplanting Charles Dickens’ classic tale from 19th century London to 199o’s New York City is actually not a big deal, as we’ve seen plenty of contemporary remakes of classic works of literature before. But then inexplicably changing characters’ names (Miss Havisham becomes Nora Dinsmoor) and personalities and focusing far too intensely on the film’s romantic angle? Not on, Cuaron!

Animal Farm

Cartoons are not all for kids. Nowhere was this better displayed than in George Orwell’s 1954 Animal Farm, an animated film that looks like a Disney movie at first glance but was actually a CIA-sponsored satirical piece on the Stalinist regime. Unfortunately, the film’s script hewed a bit too close to its Disneyfied appearances by changing the original biting ending to a much more uplifting, upbeat one as the animals all band together to overthrow the dictatorial Napoleon. Viva, animals! Viva!


For all its flaws, I still enjoy Constantine as an exciting, supernatural romp. There’s just one goofy faced problem. John Constantine, when he was created by writer Alan Moore in the comics “Swamp Thing” and “Hellblazer” is a trench-coat wearing, chain-smoking, foul-mouthed, sarcastic bastard of an Englishman modelled to look like the singer Sting. John Constantine in Francis Lawrence’s movie is Keanu Reeves. Not excellent.

The Time Machine

Here’s a pro-tip: Just because you’re the great-grandson of a famed author doesn’t mean you can just take one of his most celebrated novels and do what you want with it. Clearly though Simon Wells, descendant of the great H.G. Wells, never got that memo, as he took his great-grandpappy’s classic sci-fi tale about class divisions and the horrors of war, and turned into a light and fluffy action romp more concerned with showing off its CGI budget in a loud and flashy action sequences.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

You know why fans are so adamant to get a new Deadpool movie made? Because nobody who’s ever seen/read about the Fourth Wall breaking anti-hero, will die happy if the “Deadpool” presented in Gavin Hood’s Wolverine solo film is the only and thus definitive cinematic version out there. The final, muted variation of the “Merc with the Mouth” as seen in the film’s climax has absolutely nothing in common with his comic book source, except for sharing a name.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Breakfast at Tifanny‘s is considered a classic and rightfully so, but there are a couple of changes in Blake Edward’s romp-ish take on the novel that made Truman Capote’s name, that spin things off in a decidedly different direction. For one thing, one of the lead characters not only is no longer gay, but is now suddenly a romantic interest for Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly. More unforgiving though, is Mickey Rooney’s cringeworthy, very very un-PC  and embarrassing turn as a buck-toothed Japanese neighbour and the film’s decision to Hollywood it up with a saccharine happy ending.

The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s great American novel about a woman’s struggle for atonement, is a favourite of many a high school English teacher. The Scarlet Letter, Roland Joffe’s 1995 adaptation surely is not. It was like they cast Demi Moore in the role as Hester Prynne, and then realized that her previous role was in Striptease, so hey let’s have some more of those sexy times. Suddenly a tragic, sobering story about morality, was turned into a film about Moore and co-star Gary Oldman knocking boots in a barn. Oh and also women’s sexual freedoms (illustrated by Moore getting very intimate with herself in a bath). And then there’s the film’s happy ending.

The credits famously revealed that Joffe’s film was “loosely adapted” from Hawthorne’s novel, at which point anybody who still hadn’t walked out of the cinema in disgust would have looked at the screen at uttered an erudite “Duh!”

Super Mario Bros

While the casting of Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as the famed videogame plumbers wasn’t that bad a choice, if you ask me (at least they resembled their counterparts), there’s so much else wrong with this infamously bad movie (even the stars have publicly declared that they hate it) that I find it almost unbelievable that at some point in time, somebody on the set didn’t suddenly sober up and go “Guys, seriously… This is what we’re doing? The dinosaur-like King Koopa is now Dennis Hopper with a long tongue and a Dennis Rodman haircut? Really?!”


Everything. Everything is wrong.

Last Updated: July 18, 2013


  1. Sum of all fears…. apart from obvious casting errors, changing run of the mill Islamic terrorists to the oh so hated Nazi’s was as irritating as The Nanny on steroids.


  2. Trevor Davies

    July 18, 2013 at 15:17

    “And then there’s the film’s happy ending.” Is that a pun? 😀


    • Kervyn Cloete

      July 18, 2013 at 15:58

      It is now.


  3. That Super Twit

    July 18, 2013 at 15:37

    Despite my better judgement, I watched the MB trailer… it was painful.


    • Kervyn Cloete

      July 18, 2013 at 15:59

      Now imagine what it was like to watch the actual movie.


      • Andre116

        July 19, 2013 at 07:57

        I saw it in the cinema. *sobs*


        • Kervyn Cloete

          July 19, 2013 at 11:27

          You have our sympathies.


      • That Super Twit

        July 19, 2013 at 10:36

        *Shudders at the thought*


  4. James Francis

    July 19, 2013 at 16:26

    You forgot Judge Dredd. Though Dredd righted the wrongs, JD still goes down as an appalling abuse of the source material.


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