‘The Lord of the Rings’ and other favorite book-to-movie adaptations, according to WPR listeners

'Central Time' listeners also share a few films that disappointed, such as 'The Da Vinci Code'

Peter Jackson stands in front of a poster for the first "The Lord of the Rings" movie
New Zealand director, writer and producer Peter Jackson arrives at the premiere of his film “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles on Dec. 16, 2001. The Library of Congress announced last year that the film is among the 25 movies to be inducted into the National Film Registry. Lucy Nicholson/AP Photo

Winter in Wisconsin may be the perfect time to curl up inside with a classic book or wrap yourself in a blanket and watch a favorite movie.

Among the more timeless debates around literature and cinema is whether book-to-movie adaptations live up to expectations. Does a film capture the essence of characters right? Does the scenery match readers’ imaginations? Does a movie ruin the book?

Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Central Time” recently asked listeners to call in with their favorite adaptations. Listeners also described which films fell short.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Here are a few highlights:

Moviegoers crowd outside a movie theater showing the film
“To Kill a Mockingbird” screened at the Million Dollar Theatre by the Los Angeles Conservancy. Photo courtesy Flickr

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

Harper Lee’s 1960 novel is one of the best books in the world, said one listener from Delafield. The 1962 movie starring Gregory Peck is great, too.

‘Atlas Shrugged’

The 1957 Ayn Rand novel became a trilogy. But one listener from Green Bay said the movies are pretty bad.

“The characters were stale,” the listener said. “It was a very poor adaptation.”

‘Where the Crawdads Sing’

A Madison listener said it’s common for people to think the books are 100 times better than the accompanying movies. However, the listener said they thought this year’s movie was made perfectly and featured the right actors.

“I really think the film did it justice,” the listener said. “I just loved it.”

Four books written by J.R.R. Tolkien, including
Copies of “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Hobbit” and other works from author J.R.R. Tolkien. Photo courtesy Flickr

‘The Lord of the Ring’

One De Pere listener talked about being “really impressed” by how “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy — that Peter Jackson directed in the early 2000s — captures the spirit of the books authored by J.R.R. Tolkien.

They are disappointed, however, with more recent works. “The Hobbit” film trilogy felt as if the creators unnecessarily stretched one book into three films to make more money, the listener said. This year’s Amazon’s series “The Rings of Power” fell flat, too.

“They’re really missing the central theme that we usually see in the original works,” the listener said.

‘The Lathe of Heaven’

The Ursula Le Guin science fiction novel made for a fantastic film with wonderful acting and a great soundtrack, one Madison listener said. The movie came out in 1980 through a project under New York City’s PBS affiliate, according to Space.com.

‘The Count of Monte Cristo’

A Baraboo listener said the 2002 film is “one of my absolute favorite movies.” Years later, they went and read the book and learned the book is “so much better than the movie.”

“It definitely deserves a remake into a miniseries,” the listener said.

Actor Tom Hanks waves with actor Paul Betteny in the background
US actor Tom Hanks, waves to the media with British actor Paul Betteny following the naming of a Eurostar train ‘The Da Vinci Code’ at Waterloo Station in London on May 16, 2006. Tom Hanks and other principals in the movie of “The Da Vinci Code” set off from London on a specially named train in pursuit of a world record for the longest non-stop international train journey. The high-speed Eurostar train, named The Da Vinci Code, traveled to the Cannes Film Festival in southern France for the film’s world premiere. Alastair Grant/AP Photo

‘The Da Vinci Code’

A listener from Appleton said they were about halfway through the 2003 novel by Dan Brown when the 2006 movie came out. The listener said they were loving all the twists and turns in the book. The movie, however, “totally shattered” how they envisioned the characters. Still, they went on to finish the book.

“Even though the movie was totally entertaining, I felt like I was robbed,” the listener said. “I could not enjoy it.”

‘The Book Thief’

A West Bend listener loved this 2005 book by Markus Zusak and said they were afraid to see the 2013 movie on the chance it could ruin the book. But the listener enjoyed the movie so much they saw it twice.

“I might just see it again sometime,” the listener said. “They brought to life the characters (and) that gave a different dimension.”


Sometimes, it’s the book that disappoints.

A listener from Lake Delton loved the 1956 movie “Giant” with Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean, first seeing the movie as a teenager. The listener loved the movie so much that they got the accompanying book by Edna Ferber, who herself lived in Appleton early in her life.

“I couldn’t imagine how that woman had ever gotten a Pulitzer Prize from her writing,” the listener said, referencing Ferber’s 1925 award for another work. “There was just nothing that the book added to the movie whatsoever. I was bitterly disappointed.”

Related Stories