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Movie Endings That Are Better Than The Books They Were Based On 

Elle Tharp
March 24, 2020 4.1k votes 1.4k voters 73.4k views 12 items

List Rules Vote up the movie endings that are even better than the books.

Filmmakers adapting books onto the screen face an incredible challenge that they often don't meet. It's rare to find a movie that not only does a book justice, but ends up being better. Beyond the challenge of truncating a lengthy novel into a two-hour film, movies based on books tread a fine line of staying true to the source content and standing out in their own right. These films took a gamble by changing the ending of the story - sometimes drastically, sometimes minimally - and it paid off. The filmmakers took the opportunity to rewrite the narrative and actually improved it. Read on for the movie endings that are better than the books.

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Forrest Gump is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Movie Endings That Are Better Than The Books They Were Based On
Photo: Paramount Pictures

How the book ended: Forrest runs into Jenny (a very different character than in the film) after an impromptu trip to Savannah, where he is playing harmonica on the street. She is with a boy, also named Forrest, who she reveals is his son. Forrest Gump talks to the boy briefly and then they part ways. Forrest decides to set aside money for his son from his shrimping business. He briefly considers attempting to reunite with Jenny, who is married and raising Forrest Jr. with another man, but ultimately decides his son is better off without him as the father.

How the movie ended: Forrest is visiting Jenny in Savannah after receiving a letter from her. Upon seeing her, he meets his son, Forrest, and Jenny reveals that she is sick with an incurable virus (thought by many viewers to be HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C). Mother and son move back to Alabama to live with Forrest, where he and Jenny marry. She passes the following year, and Forrest is shown taking his son to the bus stop for his first day of school.

In the book version, Jenny is content raising Forrest's child with another man and never informs him of his existence until she happens to run into him on the street. Rude. The other problematic piece of the book ending is that Jenny and Forrest both seem to believe that because he is intellectually disabled he is incapable of raising a child. The ending of the book suggests that Forrest does the right thing for his son by removing himself from the picture, whereas the film ending shows Forrest as the loving and devoted father we all know his character can be.

Actors: Tom Hanks, Sally Field, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Brendan Shanahan, + more

Released: 1994

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

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The Mist is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Movie Endings That Are Better Than The Books They Were Based On
Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Dimension Films

How the book ended: David and his mist-surviving friends mostly escape the supermarket (RIP Ollie) and drive through the monster-filled mist. They eventually find an abandoned Howard Johnson's to stay the night, and David hears the word "Hartford" on the radio. He plans to make their way to Hartford in the hopes of finding refuge there.

How the movie ended: David and his mist-survivng friends are again driving, but rather than succumb to a terrifying death-by-mist, they all agree to have David off them instead. He shoots the other passengers (including his son) and surrenders himself to death. Suddenly, the military arrives on site to save the day and the mist dissipates, leaving David with the realization that he took his companions' lives for nothing.

The book ending follows a very familiar ending of the science fiction/apocalyptic genre, where the future is ambiguous but there is a thread of hope in some safe haven or future. This makes the film ending, where this is just a temporary catastrophe and the world is not, in fact, ending, all the more jaw-dropping and gut-wrenching. It emphasizes the importance of human actions and how we react to disasters and unknown phenomena over the phenomenon itself.

Actors: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Alexa Davalos, Toby Jones, + more

Released: 2007

Directed by: Frank Darabont

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The Notebook is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Movie Endings That Are Better Than The Books They Were Based On
Photo: New Line Cinema

How the book ended: Nicholas Sparks's book ends in a similar scene to the film - Noah slips into Allie's bedroom at night. The book's ending is more ambiguous: He kisses her and she starts to unbutton his shirt, and... that's it. We learn in the sequel, The Wedding, that Allie passed that night but Noah lives on.

How the movie ended: Noah sneaks into Allie's room. She has a lucid moment where she remembers him and the two pass away in each other's arms... to sobbing heard round the world. 

The movie ending is memorable and bittersweet. It provides closure to the two characters and their love story. To have them start to get freaky and then call it a wrap in the film version would've cheapened their romance to viewers, and to have only one of them pass would've been too cruel to digest. The whole point of the story (and all those tears) is that their love defies all obstacles and odds, and the movie proves that to be true with its ending.

Actors: Rachel McAdams, Ryan Gosling, James Garner, James Marsden, Joan Allen, + more

Released: 2004

Directed by: Nick Cassavetes

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The Prestige is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Movie Endings That Are Better Than The Books They Were Based On
Photo: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

How the book ended: Angier is living in two duplicated forms after Borden mistakenly saves his duplicate version backstage. The Angier duplicate attacks a Borden twin, who later perishes. Original Angier, who is terminally ill, also passes. The duplicate version tries to teleport into dead Angier's original body in the hopes of uniting as a whole again. Through Angier and Borden's great grandchildren, it's revealed that Angier, in some version, lives on. 

How the movie ended: After Borden is found backstage with a deceased Angier duplicate, he is eventually hanged for his murder. Before Borden's demise, Angier visits disguised as Lord Caldlow, with Borden's daughter as his ward. The remaining Borden twin later shoots Angier, revealing their "trick" as Angier perishes. As he leaves, Borden #2 finds the tanks of deceased Angier duplicates and realizes that Angier was effectively drowning himself night after night.

Both tellings manage to be confusing as hell. But the book and the film diverge when the book has Angier live on in two forms. While both narratives have a supernatural element chalked up to "science," the book's version becomes unnecessarily convoluted and lowers the stakes. With two versions of a main character existing, neither of them fully whole, they both feel unimportant. The book breaks its own rules and ends up feeling like a cheap trick, while the film's ending is smarter and finishes like a well-executed illusion.

Actors: Scarlett Johansson, David Bowie, Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, + more

Released: 2006

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

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