5 book endings which were changed for film

End scene of Fight Club
Category: Reading

Whether hard-hitting becomes happily ever after or the other way around, many filmmakers have decided to change the endings of books. Beware – spoilers abound!

The movie adaptation of Gone Girl is coming to a cinema near you soon, and a big deal is being made of the fact that the ending has been changed. Oh, goody. I loved that book, including its ending, so to see these smug declarations used as a selling point cuts like a knife.

It seems that anything goes when you’re adapting a novel for the big screen. Scriptwriters often have no qualms re-writing someone’s work. They sometimes have the cheek to alter real life too; for some serious suspension of disbelief, check out this cinematic gem.

So here are 5 endings where Hollywood chose to meddle with the endings of books, sometimes for the better...

The Witches

This is the ending I would have written, since I’m a big softie.

Roald Dahl didn’t shy away from an uncompromising ending in his writing for older readers, and The Witches was one of his children’s books where things didn’t work out entirely to plan. Not so in the film, where the mice are neatly transformed back into humans.

If I’m honest, this is the ending I would have written, since I’m a big softie. A Few Good Men is the maximum level of bittersweet I can handle. So it’s just as well I don’t work in Hollywood, really.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Giving Quasimodo the power to save Esmerelda rather than cradling her corpse until he dies of starvation is fair enough: adults would be traumatised by this, never mind sensitive young souls. However, unlike the novel, the film Quasimodo is accepted warmly into the bosom of Parisian society and joins in all the reindeer games.

Again, is this fair enough? Would it be too much for young children to entertain the idea that people actually sometimes don’t mend their ways and others continue to suffer their intolerance?

Jurassic Park

On a small island terrorised by a cranky T-Rex and plagued by tropical storms, it’s not like you’ll be stuck for possible mishaps.

I had no idea this movie was even based on a book. For shame! Look, I won’t spoil this one for you. It’ll probably provide you and your friends with endless opportunities to speculate: after all, on a small island terrorised by a cranky T-Rex and plagued by tropical storms, it’s not like you’ll be stuck for possible mishaps.

Planet of the Apes

A lot of people are advocates of this one. In the book, Charlton Heston’s character (named Ulysse here) marries Nova, his human compatriot on the ape-infested planet. They escape and travel to Earth, but find that their home is also overrun by apes, whereupon they leave and seek pastures new. The ending to the film is much more memorable.

Fight Club

I don’t want to spoil this one either, because I reckon there are a lot of folk out there who have seen the film and want to read the book. All I’ll say, and this won’t really spoil the ending, is that in both cases there is a strong suggestion that the anti-capitalist Project Mayhem continues beyond the end of the book. However, the pathways to this are very different, and leave the main character in situations which will satisfy some readers and leave others not so happy.

Writers often have surprising perspectives on adaptation. Kazuo Ishiguro said that he learned a lot about Never Let Me Go when he saw how the actors interpreted his characters. Ishiguro acknowledged that once a novel is adapted, it isn’t the author’s right to criticise any reinterpretations, as characters appear differently to different readers. Since it was a good movie, it’s maybe easier for him to feel like this. Louis de Bernieres felt a little differently about the film of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. I haven’t seen it, so feel free to defend it in the comments.

So which books and films would you recommend for some heated discussions about the endings? Let us know in the comments. For some inspiration, try 5 Ways to End A Novel and Start A Fight, and our helpful suggestions for spoiler-free ways GRR Martin could wrap up Game of Thrones.