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.
- 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.
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- Actors: Tom Hanks, Sally Field, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Brendan Shanahan
- Released: 1994
- Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
- 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.
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- Actors: Rachel McAdams, Ryan Gosling, James Garner, James Marsden, Joan Allen
- Released: 2004
- Directed by: Nick Cassavetes
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.
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- Actors: Scarlett Johansson, David Bowie, Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine
- Released: 2006
- Directed by: Christopher Nolan
- 4Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
How the book ended: The book jumps from "the Losers" characters as children to the same characters in adulthood. But the childhood portion ends with a Bill-versus-It sewer showdown with the help of an ancient tortoise named Maturin. After defeating It, the Losers have a casual orgy and make a blood oath to return to Derry if It should ever return.
How the movie ended: The Losers venture into the sewers to save Beverly, who has been captured by It. It attempts to lure in Bill by appearing as his deceased brother Georgie, and then attempts to turn the group against Bill, offering to take only him and go into hibernation. Ultimately, the friends all face their fears to defeat It, and they swear to return to Derry if It comes back.
First of all, the book's version of events is way too complicated for the film version. The more otherworldly and fantastical elements that are added to the final battle, the less terrifying and important It seems. By simplifying the film's ending into the characters all battling their own fears, the audience can better understand what It is and what It wants, making It a more satisfying monster. And thankfully, the movie decided to do away with the child group sex scene.
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- Actors: Tim Curry, Seth Green, John Ritter, Annette O'Toole, Jonathan Brandis
- Released: 1990
- Directed by: Tommy Lee Wallace