Game of Thrones has come to its conclusion on television. You’re likely pretty pissed about how it all panned out.
To be fair, Game of Thrones ceased being an adaptation years ago when the television show caught up to the perpetually delayed sixth book in George R.R. Martin’s series. That said, television showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss were reportedly treated to an outline of key points in future novels, and ran with what they could piece together on their own.
If you’re like more than 44 million people who turned into the series’ finale last night, you probably weren’t too impressed with the end result. So rather than petitioning HBO to rework the final season, but with “competent writers,” maybe you’re better off moving on to an adaptation of a contemporary novel that won’t make your blood boil. Yeah, the book’s almost always better – but that doesn’t mean the movie tanks, particularly with these favorite adaptations that succeed where the Game of Thrones finale tanked, or even resort to decades-old chestnuts like Gone with the Wind or The 39 Steps.
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
About as faithful to the original novel as you can get, High Fidelity goes so far as to let John Cusack supply the voice-over for beleaguered record-store clerk Rob Gordon to fill in for much of Hornby’s prose. Sure, there’s some modifications, like moving it setting from London to Chicago (this is an adaptation, after all), and the end is, uh, a little different than the gigantic downer in the book, but the film captures the essence of the original amazingly. Cusack’s Rob is a little more lovable than Hornby’s original, though, despite softening the blow, it’s still the best of the many adaptations of Nick Hornby’s books.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Although the adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go opens with title cards that lay out the story’s central premise from the beginning rather than letting audiences get around to discovering it on their own, it’s still a harrowing look at a near-future sci-fi world. Part of that is, of course, due to spot-on performances by Kiera Knightley and Andrew Garfield, but director Mark Romanek knew that sticking to Ishiguro’s slow-burn was critical to driving the impact of the tale. Losing some of the circuitous nonlinear narrative that’s Ishiguro’s calling card, Never Let Me Go is still among the best, if not the best, adaptation of literary sci-fi to hit the screen.
Brokeback Mountain by Anne Proulx
Perhaps because it started as a short story rather than a novel, Brokeback Mountain made it to the big screen with very few pieces sacrificed in the adaptation. That worked out great for director Ang Lee, whose tale of heartbreak turned heads for its then somewhat taboo treatment of gay romance. Even after the strides in gay rights in the last decade and a half, the story beyond the controversy holds up remarkably well: Anne Proulx’s tale of romance between Jack and Ennis is still a fundamentally wrenching tale without all the baggage of the culture wars attached.
No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy’s The Road was adapted into a pretty bang-up film, but No Country for Old Men edges it out, largely because The Road’s prose was so unsettling it doesn’t quite translate to the silver screen. Directors Ethan and Joel Coen cast Javier Bardem as kiler Chigurh, an inspired decision. A stark, tension-filled look into evil that’s somehow still darkly funny, the film parallels McCarthy’s reinvention of the western, both through the southwestern desert setting and the amorality that rides at the edges of all of his work. It was good enough to pick up the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2007, while keeping the literature nerds mostly happy. What more could you want?