Welcome to the Movie Book Cagematch!


by William Pennington

One of my favorite things in life is to fall in love with a movie, and then realize that there is a novel it is based on, and go read that. Psycho, Jaws, Rambo, and Deliverance all fall into this category, for instance. When seeing the covers of some of these books, I would notice that some of them would say “best seller,” which surprised me a little. While some books are written better than others, there is kinda an unofficial hierarchy of award-winning books turned into award-winning movies. A good example is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a bestseller still read in colleges and high schools, and also is an Oscar winning film. It also has Jack Nicholson, which is a major plus. The Grapes of Wrath and Gone With the Wind both won Pulitzers, and their film counterparts won many Oscars, but that doesn’t mean they are the most interesting combination or the most exciting choice. Actually, they might be.

When I began to read more and more of these movie books (is there a better term for them?), I often thought of which movie/book combination is the “best” or most interesting. While some consider classic books like Moby Dick and Count of Monte Cristo as some of the best books ever written, their film adaptations can never seem to live up to the book. Other movie books, like Cool Hand Luke, or the Color of Money aren’t that well written, in my opinion, but their movies were very popular. Still other times a weird little book like Willard, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, or The Fly are just as weird on film. Books that I feel are important (Roots or The Help), also have made into decent award winning films.

Then I had a thought: How can we determine which movie/book combination is best? With a no holds barred cage match, of course! I decided to mock the college basketball bracket, and create our very own Movie Book Cage Match.

It was very hard to create this list, and I wanted to get it right AND have fun. I try to stay clear of recent bestsellers made into popular films. You wont see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or Cloud Atlas on this list. They may be on this list in the future, but so far they haven’t stood the test of time to be considered a classic or even a cult classic. I also wanted to sample award-winning children’s books, like Shrek or The Little Prince, and even comic books like the Watchmen, Batman, and Superman. This list is subjective, so that means it is MY list. Your list would probably look completely different. Also, I didn’t include any novelizations…books written AFTER the movie came out. Sorry, E.T.

While we all have our favorites, this list will include many award-winning books and movies—not just bestsellers and ticket sales. And by awards I mean the Pulitzer, National Book Awards, Caldecott and Newberry winners, Oscar and Emmy winners (i.e. The Watchmen has been on Time’s 100 Best Novels List). But I also wanted to include a lot of “fun” books, like Jaws and Willard and Logan’s Run…movies and books that are just fun to watch, not necessarily best sellers OR award winners. I also took into account how the book/movie changed society, and its impact on our culture. I don’t want to find out the BEST movie book combination in this cage match, I want to find out what the MOST INTERESTING and/or FUN one there is. There were many factors for each choice, and I apologize in advance if your favorite movie/book combination isn’t listed.

I wanted this list to appeal to everyone, and I did not want this list to be all about me and too many of my favorites, so I consulted many friends, coworkers, bestseller lists, Oscars.org, IMDB…I even emailed both the UW Literature Dept and the Cinema Studies Dept. for their input—but they haven’t responded. Also, a good source has been the Literature Room right here at Scarecrow. My list of honorable mentions is below.

Every three or so a new round will be completed, and then you can vote again. I will send a memo.

You may notice that the pairings of the movies are kinda random, but also might have some sort of theme to them. For instance: The Shining vs Shawshank Redemption is clearly a Stephen King matchup. Psycho vs American Psycho is obvious, but The Color Purple vs The Green Mile was picked simply because they have colors in their name. Midnight Cowboy and Deliverance both have Jon Voigt in them. Ran and Scotland, PA are both adaptations of Shakespeare tragedies. Cuckoo’s Nest and Willard feature protagonists who go off the deep end a little, not helping their own cause. Lawrence of Arabia and Malcolm X were based on autobiographies. Other matchups make little sense whatsoever, so please bear in mind that it is very hard to match any movie up with another, let alone these (you try it!). So, I did the best I could to have fun with it, which is the point of this entire exercise. If I would make another bracket tomorrow, it would probably look different. And then the next day it would be different from that. And so on. I had to stop somewhere, unless I wanted a 128 team bracket, which is entirely too long for everyone. But it could be done.

If all goes well with this bracket, I have an infinite supply of ideas for future voting brackets.  So please, take your time, think about your love of each movie/book combination, and tell your friends!

Without further ado, the bracket.


William Pennington

PS – I want to thank the great old ladies at Park Avenue Books in Tacoma, and their movie book section they have in their store. Please visit that shop while it’s still in business. It’s right across the street from a Seinfeld themed restaurant called Little Jerry’s. True.

Honorable mentions: Hondo, Fletch, Tales from the Crypt, The Running Man, Children of the Corn, Stand by Me, True Grit, Jumanji, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the Chronicles of Narnia, Polar Express, Mosquito Coast, Awakenings, Tora Tora Tora, The Great Gatsby (sorry, the movies don’t do it for me), BFF, Dead Man Walking, Escape from Alcatraz, those two weird ET books, Tortilla Flat (also a ghost town in Arizona!) The French Connection, Adaptation, Walk the Line, American Splendor (sniff), Twilight, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Forest Gump, Mystic River, Die Hard, Requiem for a Dream, the Wanderers, Cool Hand Luke, Benjamin Button, James Bond, Sophie’s Choice, Trainspotting, Cold Mountain, Memoirs of a Geisha, Secret Life of Bees, Night Watch, Rosemary’s Baby, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf, East of Eden, Cabaret, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Know of a movie/book title that I missed, or want to yell at me for one I did’t include? Email me at william.pennington22@gmail.com.

William Pennington was born and has wondered who he is ever since. Writing has helped him understand life a little, and volunteering at Scarecrow fulfills his requirements of the court.

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