Last Updated on August 18, 2023 by Louisa
Books and movies are two of the most popular forms of entertainment, but which is better? This age-old debate of books vs movies has been causing a stir for decades, so I’ve decided it’s time to settle the score once and for all.
While both offer unique ways to experience stories, there are pros and cons for each. When determining which is better, reading books or watching movies, the answer really is determined by a number of factors.
If you ask any reader, they will of course tell you all the reasons why books are better than movies, but if you ask a movie buff, you will receive a strong counter-argument for why movies are better.
In this guide, I’ve listed the reasons why you would want to choose a book over a movie, or a movie over a book, and in doing so, settle the debate once and for all.
To be clear, in this guide, we are concentrating on books that have been adapted into movies.
Books vs Movies Pros and Cons
If you need a quick summary of whether reading books or watching movies is better, then check out the below table which summarizes the points in this article.
Keep reading for a detailed analysis of reading books vs watching movies.
Pros of reading books over movies
- There is more depth to a book, scenes are described in more detail, and have more plot-setting scenes.
- A book allows the reader to use their imagination.
- Readers follow the plot as it was intended by the author.
Cons of reading books over movies
- Books take a long time to read, sometimes several days.
- Some books can drag in the middle.
- Dialogues can sometimes be unrealistic in books but come to life on the big screen.
Pros of watching movies over reading books
- Movies are quicker than books.
- You can watch a movie with a friend, but you can’t read a book with someone else.
- You don’t have to concentrate on a movie and there is less need for your own imagination.
- Acting is an art form.
Cons of watching movies over reading books
- Scenes are often adapted or deleted based on what looks better visually.
- Viewers are often left asking questions because scenes from the book not being included.
- Characters can often be drastically changed.
Why books are better than movies?
If you’re a book enthusiast looking for arguments for books over movies, these are some of the reasons why books are better than movies.
#1. Books nurture the reader’s imagination
When it comes to reading books, readers have an unparalleled level of control in terms of how they visualize the story. When I first read The Hobbit, I pictured a very different-looking Bilbo Baggins to that seen on screen.
Readers can also move through a story at their own pace and use their imagination to create vivid scenes in their mind’s eye. Sometimes even filling in the blanks where there are questions that need answering.
Not only this, but you also get to experience the book in the way the author intended. When directors make a movie adaptation, they have to decide what scenes are the most action-packed and therefore keep the audience engaged.
This often means that some scenes are cut out from the plot that may seem important to the overall storyline.
The biggest example of this is how characters are described in books. Often characters in books look different in movies.
Frankenstein’s monster comes to mind here. In the book, he is described as:
“He is so gentle, yet so wise; his mind is so cultivated; and when heFrankenstein, Victor Hugo, Letter 4
speaks, although his words are culled with the choicest art, yet they flow
with rapidity and unparalleled eloquence.”
The monster was intended to be gentle. Frankenstein wanted to create a friend, not the brutish monster that we see in the movies.
#2. Books have more depth than movies
But the biggest argument as to why books might be better than movies is that books often have more depth than films due to the additional time they spend on character development and intricate plot points.
When I talk about depth, I am referring to descriptions. The reader gets more insight into how words are said, how characters look, and how scenes are created.
The small details in a book, such as short scenes or little descriptions, are the parts of a book that help readers ask the right questions, start to piece parts of the story together, and even predict what will happen next.
There are usually some key depth features that are missing in movies.
#3. Movie adaptations miss out on key points
If you think about the number of hours you spend reading a book compared to watching a movie, then you get an idea as to how much is missing.
Films tend to lack some of the detail and nuance found in books due to time constraints. This usually leads to unanswered questions after watching the movie.
One of the biggest examples of this is in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
In the movie, there is a scene in which Harry sees a patronus charm of a doe, which leads him to a pond covered in ice where he discovers the sword of Griffindor beneath the surface.
If you watch the movie without reading the book, this scene would be somewhat confusing.
While we do later learn that Severus Snape’s patronus is a doe, and therefore alludes to him placing the sword for Harry to find, the movie never answers the question: how does Snape find Harry?
We also don’t learn how Snape has the sword in the first instance and why it never fell into the ministry’s hands.
While I absolutely loved the movies, I can honestly say I loved it more because I had read the book prior to watching and was able to fill in the blanks.
My partner has never read the books (yes I know, a book blogger is dating someone who has not read Harry Potter. Dumpable offense? Let me know in the comments) and he was constantly badgering me with questions to which I always responded with “in the book, this happens”
#4. Reading has other benefits
There is more to reading books than just following a story. Reading helps to grow your knowledge, expand your creative horizons, and even helps improve your mood.
According to Healthline, reading books can help strengthen your brain, both cognitively and in terms of your mental health.
So you see, there are many reasons why reading is important, not just for something fun to do!
#5. Books allow the reader to think more deeply
Books often have an underlying theme or moral tone that allows the reader to think deeply about certain topics or situations.
The storylines can help you to empathize with certain characters, and reflect on how situations would be handled in our own world.
In classic literature books such as 1984, for example, there are a lot of areas in which the reader can think about how political influences shape society, but in the movie, you do get a sense of this but it is less developed than in the book.
Why are movies better than books?
If you’re looking for arguments for movies being better than books, here are some reasons why you may prefer a film vs a book.
#1. Movies help bring hard-to-visualize scenes to life
Movies offer a unique cinematic experience that allows viewers to sit back and enjoy a story without having to actively think about it.
This is great for those who don’t have a vivid imagination or struggle to see a clear picture of what an author is describing in their mind.
Movies provide visuals that can often be breathtakingly beautiful or incredibly intense, sometimes more so than written in a book.
One great example of this is in The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies.
In the book, Bilbo is hit on the head and knocked out for the whole battle. Only when he awakes does Gandalf fill him in on what happens, but it’s short and to the point.
When you watch the movie, you see all these incredible stunts and action-packed scenes.
Yes, it does feature some gravity-defying performances from Legolas who does not appear in the books, which is something Peter Jackson decided to add to the storyline to make the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit franchise more connected.
But in the book, you don’t get any of that.
#2. Acting is an art form
Something that readers may not appreciate about movie adaptations is the acting.
Acting is an art form, and by watching movies, audiences can appreciate acting performances as well as special effects such as CGI or stunts that would be much more difficult to experience in a book.
#3. Movies are quicker than books
Reading often requires more time and effort than watching a movie. Reading a book from start to finish usually takes a few days with breaks in between.
If you do sit down to read from start to finish, you can take several hours to get through the entire story.
One reason why you wouldn’t want to do this is that you will instantly forget what happens or you won’t appreciate the detail enough.
Reading should be savored like a fine wine, allowing you to digest information and ponder on the themes, morals, and messages.
If you don’t have time on your side, then movies are your saving grace.
#4. Social interactions are more relatable in movies
Often times when I am reading the dialogue in a book, I feel it’s too staged, or unnatural.
When dialogue is spoken in a movie, it can feel more authentic, as often actors will improvise the script and make it feel more real.
#5. You can watch a film with friends
While you can always go to a book club to talk about a book you love, this is really an activity that hardcore readers enjoy more.
When you go to the cinema, it becomes a larger social outing that can bring together people with all different hobbies and interests.
Should Books Be Made Into Movies?
So while you can now see there are many pros and cons to books and movies, the question remains; should books be made into movies?
While we can all agree that there is less detail in a movie than in a book, I personally feel that when a book I love has been made well on the big screen, I love the book more.
The best example of this is Lord of the Rings. It doesn’t matter how many times I watch the movies or read the books, I fall in love with the story and characters all over again.
I also find that when I’m not in the mood to read, watching a movie brings back fond memories of the book and helps me get out of a reading slump and inspired to read again.
And it’s not just me that thinks this. According to a study by SuperSummary, 82% of people agree that movie adaptations bring a book to life.
Books vs Movies: The Verdict
Ultimately, which form is better comes down to personal preference as both offer unique experiences that shouldn’t be compared side by side.
While books allow you to use your imagination to its fullest, movies allow the viewer to follow a story without concentrating.
You get more depth to a plot from a book, but you spend less time watching a movie.
Whichever way you choose, whether it’s curling up with a good book or settling into your couch for some movie night fun, there can be no doubt that both will result in an enjoyable escape from reality.
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