The 10 Most Badly Bungled Classic-Book-To-Film Adaptations

The wacky, flatulent 3-D family comedy version of Gulliver’s Travels hits DVD today, and no doubt all of you Jonathan Swift fans have already picked up your copy. Sure, all of the author’s satirical elements have been unceremoniously flushed from this adaptation, but hey, this one’s got Guitar Hero and Star Wars references! And a robot battle climax! That stuff’s better anyway.

Though (as we’ve noted) the notion that “the book is always better than the movie” doesn’t always hold water, Hollywood tends to be particularly inept at adapting classic works of literature for the big screen. More often than not, some genius will decide that a timeless book needs to be “modernized” to reach today’s audiences, or that those bummer downbeat endings must be fixed up. After the jump, we’ve compiled ten of the most badly blown lit-to-film adaptations.

The Scarlet Letter

The gold standard of all bad adaptations — the reverse Godfather, if you will. Director Roland Joffé, who helmed acclaimed pictures like The Killing Fields and The Mission, would seem a logical choice to film Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 historical novel, a favorite of high school English teachers for decades. And he exhibited spot-on casting instincts when he placed Gary Oldman in the role of minister Arthur Dimmesdale. What we don’t know is who decided that Demi Moore was born to play Hester Prynne, but whoever made that call hopefully didn’t get a Christmas bonus. She was done no favors by Douglas Day Stewart’s screenplay adaptation, which threw out much of the novel’s complexity in favor of sexy bathtub scenes and a happy (or happier?) ending. The critics weren’t enthused (the film was nominated for seven Razzie awards), and audiences stayed far away. It took Hollywood a full 15 years to finally make a modern Scarlet Letter that worked: last year’s Easy A. (No, seriously, we love that movie.)