The Movie Was Good, but the Book Was Better (50 Manly Books Turned into Movies)

What’s the best part about going to see a movie? Being able to demonstrate how much better you are than your co-movie goers by comparing the movie to the book. Fortunately, you can do this more often that you’d think. Many of our favorite testosterone-packed movies aren’t as original as we originally think they are.  A good portion of them based on books. The best part? The books are almost always better than the movie, right?

1. The Bourne Identity
Robert Ludlum

While the Bourne movies take their name from the book trilogy, that’s where the similarities end. This gives us the benefit of a completely new story that we don’t know just from watching the movie. The movies are good, but the books are great.

2.The Count of Monte Cristo
Alexandre Dumas

Many of you have seen the movie, but have put the book off once you see the length. Big mistake. While long books aren’t always fun to try to get through, that doesn’t mean that they’re not worth it every once in a while. The Count of Monte Cristo should be at the top of your long book list. Just think of it as reading 2 (or 3) great books in a row. Again, the movie dovetails quite a bit from the book, so you won’t already know the story.

3.Fight Club
Chuck Palahniuk

While the movie is considered a box office failure, it introduced millions of people to the work of Chuck Palahniuk. Is there any book with a more stereotypical manly title than Fight Club? The title alone gives me a testosterone rush.

4.The Da Vinci Code
Dan Brown

If you can get over Tom Hank’s choice of hair in the movie, its actually fairly enjoyable. Undoubtedly the most broadly controversial book of this decade, The Da Vinci Code is a page-turner of a story, with tons of action and suspense. Whether or not you want to focus on the controversial parts or not, the book is just plain good.

5.Stand by Me (The Body)
Stephen King

“Coming of age” movies have a long history of being based on “coming of age” books, this one is a pillar of that genre. These types of books are always a good way to remind how lame my childhood was, comparatively. Based on Stephen King’s The Body, the movie changed its title solely to go along with the song for the end credits. Don’t care who you are, that song is just plain good.

6.To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird holds the rare distinction of being widely considered one of the greatest movies and books of all time. The American Film Instituted name the lead protagonist, Atticus Finch, the greatest movie hero of the 20th century. I assumed that title would go to Blade, but I guess Finch is a worthy winner.

7.Shawshank Redemption
Stephen King

Stephen King is known as a horror novelist, but that’s an unfair pigeon hole. King’s novels have become some of the most popular, inspirational movies of the last century. The Shawshank Redemption is one of the most popular choices for guys’ favorite movies. Its too bad that the same isn’t said about the novel that inspired the movie.

8.The Lord of the Rings
JRR Tolkien

A classic trilogy long before it became the fantasy powerhouse that it is in the movie world. This book trilogy is the quintessential fantasy story for men. It has every element that an epic needs: good vs. evil, huge battles, and surely dwarfs. What more could you want?

9.Schindler’s List
Thomas Keneally

Another movie widely considered among the best films of all time that’s not as original as everyone thinks. You know the saying, “behind every successful movie, is a book”.

10.Cool Hand Luke
Donn Pearce

Cool Hand Luke has inspired many copycats, but rarely one as good as this classic. Not only did it star a Paul Newman in his prime, the movie spawned one of the most memorial movie quotes of all time, “What we have here, is a failure to communicate”. I bet most of you have uttered that very line dozens of times without ever knowing where it came from. While the book’s titular character is still the star, the book originally focuses on the harsh life of prisoners.

James Dickey

Every single person, at some point in time in their life, finds themselves camping, canoeing, or out in for a hike when the familiar dueling banjo twang fills his or head and a shiver is sent down the spine. This book and movie has forever changed the campers pysche when in the middle of the woods at night.

12.No Country for Old Men
Cormac McCarthy

On of his more violent books, only Cormac McCarthy can write a book so full of action and death in such a slow meandering way. If nothing else, this movie awoke a few more eyes to the brilliance of McCarthy. An author who, amazingly, continues to fly under the radar in the general public’s eyes.

13.Flags of Our Fathers
James Bradley

Its not easy to find a way to tell a story about war from an angle that hasn’t been done before. Bradley, does just that by telling the story of the soldiers in the famous flag raising photo at Iwo Jima. Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg thought it so unique, they teamed up to make the movie version in 2006.

14.The Road to Perdition
Max Allan Collins

The movie was based on a series of graphic novels by Max Allan Collins, who turned the story into a novel after the success of the movie. Movies based on short stories, comics, and graphic novels are more prevalent than one would think. These movies have to take a little bit more artistic license than a movie based on a full novel to get a detailed enough story. Who better to bring a graphic novel to life, than Tom Hanks? The films director, Sam Mendes, did a superb job translating the graphic novels to film form by depending on imagery more than dialogue.

15. Mystic River
Dennis Lehane

A tough read emotionally and harder movie to watch, Mystic River is, nonetheless, an enthralling look into grown up childhood friends and the hardest thing a parent can endure, the death of a child. The award winning book became an Oscar winner for best picture in 2003.

16. American Psycho
Bret Easton Ellis

Described by Publishers Weekly as “a grisly, gritty gross-out (about) the cool yuppie lifestyle of Patrick Bateman, 26, whose avocation is torturing and dismembering his female victims and festooning his apartment with their body parts”. Stirring its own fair share of controversy before the book was turned into a movie, some countries would only allow the movie to be shown once dramatic cuts were taken. But that was 1991, so by now it would probably get a PG rating.

17.The Godfather
Mario Puzo

So many well made manly movies, so many well written manly books. This one very well could stand head and shoulders about the rest. Gangster movies will always have a place close to a man’s heart. Plus check out the author’s name, with a name like that you know he’s legit author of the Sicilian mafia.

Peter Benchley

A book and movie that did more to freak out swimmers than thousand of years of shark encounters could. After seeing this movie as a little kid, I still can’t swim in the deep end of a pool at night without wondering if the grate at the bottom of the pool is just a cleverly camouflaged shark biding its time. Its a guarantee that without Jaws, Shark Week could not exist.

19.Starship Troopers
Robert A Heinlein

The movie sucks, the book has won awards. While this happens frequently, this is the first movie on our list that fell waaaaay below the bar set by the book. Though, you can see why soldiers fighting giant alien bugs is best left to the imagination, as opposed to trying to bring that to life in a believable way with CGI.

20. A Beautiful Mind
Sylvia Nasar

A Beautiful Mind is a biography based on a true story of a Nobel-winning economist. The award winning book and movie are known for depicting both genius and mental illness, and the effects they have on family and reputation.

21. Jurassic Park
Michael Crichton

Dinosaurs? Pretty cool. Genetically made dinosaurs that turn on their captors? Captors that have no possibility of defeating the dinosaurs and instead just turn tail and run? Super awesome. Crichton’s signature novel.

22. The Outsiders
SE Hinton

Another coming of age novel that was written when the author was still coming of age. Hinton finished this when she was 16. A junior in high school!  Get driver’s license?  Check.  Take algebra pop quiz?  Check.  Write one of the most famous and talked about books of the 1900s?  Check.  Makes you realize just how worthless you were in high school.

23.The Firm
John Grisham

I know that most people get mad when a movie doesn’t stay true to the book, I love it. You get two totally different stories for the price of one. While sticking fairly similar most of the way, the endings are wildly different. The Firm is the book that thrust Grisham into the general public’s spotlight. With this book, what would millions of men read while traveling and while vacationing?

24. The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Douglas Adams

One of the biggest novel franchises ever, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is responsible for score of men getting their first taste of science fiction. It takes an unusual book and unusual author to take the destruction of earth and make it a funny, but that’s exactly what Adams did.

25. I, Robot
Isaac Asimov

Its a testament to Asimov’s originality that a movie that seems so fresh and new, is actually based on 9 short stories published in 1950. The movie takes some elements from each short story. The major change was to have Will Smith be the lead character instead of a women scientist, as Asimov did in a majority of the stories.

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About zach

Staring out across the hazy mountain range on his latest summitting of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Zach saw with a clearness he had not yet seen. "People should tremble at the very sound of my name", he thought. And it was so. "I should master the manly arts of the world, such as barehanded hunting and blacksmithing". And it was so. "People should call me Z$". And it was so.

Currently Reading

-The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
-The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
-Twitter for Good by Claire Diaz Ortiz


  1. I’d like to see Norman MacLean’s novella “A River Runs Through It” and Robert Redford’s cinematic version of the movie on this list.

  2. Blake Osborn says:

    Nonetheless, this is a formidable list that makes my blood tingle with a strange buoyancy, like my body is floating in my own blood. I do feel it is my duty, however, to inform you of one more thing: the Japanese writer Shusaku Endo and his classic novel “Silence” (one of my favorite novels [and authors] of all time) – which is now being made into a movie by the virile and virtuoso-esque Director Martin Scorses (sp/sic?).

    Get giddy.

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  5. The Martian was a good book, but a better movie.

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