Is it actually better to watch the movie first?

watch the movie first

If you recorded everything I’ve ever said and counted it all up, you’d find there’s one phrase I’ve used throughout my life more than any other. And that sentence is: “The book was better.” Yep, I’m one of those. Books are my life—so people are rather surprised when they recommend me a book, and I respond, “I’m going to wait and watch the movie first.”

Pretty much the first rule of being a bibliophile seems to be always read the book first. I don’t think they let you in the club otherwise. So I’ve spent nearly a quarter of a century making sure I never set foot in a cinema until I’ve memorised the source material. But the thing is, books are my life, and every time I go to the cinema hoping for one of my all-time faves to be brought to glorious technicolour life, I’m disappointed.

It’s not that these movies are bad (ahem, some of them are). In fact, some of them are brilliant; I wrote a whole post about the movies that almost rival the books. But no matter how fantastic the movie is, even if it’s as high up my list as The Princess bloody Bride—it’s just not going to live up to the book.

Over the summer, I wrote an article for Read It Forward wondering ‘Is It Ever OK To Watch The Movie First?‘—and now I’m decided. It’s always OK. Because while watching the movie of a beloved book feels like falling into a well of disappointment, the same doesn’t apply the other way round. If I watch the movie first, I can actually enjoy it, without holding it up to an unfair comparison. And then when I get home, I can dive deeper into the back story and explore more of the characters that I already know I love. The book is bound to be even better, so it’s a win-win. If I love the movie, then I’ll love the book even more.

What do you think? Do you have more fun if you watch the movie first?

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  • Great post 🙂 I actually prefer to watch the movie first now for the same reason. If I’ve read a book and I loved it, I tend to complain throughout the movie because of parts they’ve changed or things they’ve missed, and it makes me not really enjoy the experience of watching the movie. If I watch a movie and really like it, I always want to read the book to find out more about the storyline or the characters. Books are mostly always so much better than the movie, but I’m all for watching the movie first 🙂

    • Totally! And I never feel like the book was ruined by watching the movie first—because the book always offers so much extra than the film anyway!

  • My husband and I have recently discussed this! He always likes to watch the movie first (mostly because he doesn’t have much time to read so it’s reserved for books he really wants to read). I’ve always been a staunch book before movie kinda person, but lately I’ve been rethinking that decision… The book IS always better, so save that for last right? 🙂

  • The only thing I don’t like about watching the movie first is that the characters are then stuck in my head when I read the book. I can’t picture them the way I want to anymore. (Can anyone imagine Harry Potter looking differently from Daniel Radcliffe?) I guess that’s why I rarely watch movies. 😉

    • That’s very true! I do hear the actor’s voices in my head — which is cool when the actor was really good, but sometimes you wonder how much better you might have imagined it yourself!

  • Katy Goodwin-Bates

    If I know what’s going to happen in a book, I think that ruins the reading experience for me more than knowing how a film is going to end, because I am much more devoted to books than films. So I always read the book first. I am also quite an annoying person so I quite enjoy mentally cataloguing all the ways in which the film deviated from the book (a memorable example: “but Bridget Jones isn’t MEANT to way that much!”). I don’t suppose this makes me a great cinema buddy.

    • That’s a fair point! And haha I would totally be right there with you in the cinema!

    • Wendy Gassaway

      OMG that always frustrated me so much. The whole POINT was that Bridget was obsessing about weight swings from 125 to 130 or something, and a) those are not weight changes worth getting worked up about and b) those are healthy weights for a slim young woman! It was showing how insecure and ridiculous she was, not how FAT she was!

  • YES! I am an anomaly in that I don’t watch movie adaptations if I’ve already read the books. (Well, if I didn’t like the book, I might because I just don’t really care.) But I have no problem doing it the other way around because that at least doesn’t lead to disappointment. If I don’t already have an image in my head, it can’t be ruined.

    And yes to The Princess Bride! Both the book and the movie. I didn’t think the book could possibly be better when the movie was so amazing, but somehow it still was!

    • Yesssss I so agree about Princess Bride! I was so nervous because I loved the movie so much, but it just went above and beyond.

      Interesting that you just avoid the adaptations entirely—probably a good idea to be honest!! Saves a lot of frustration…

  • I usually only watch the movie first if I have no intention of reading the book anyway. For me it’s not really about which one’s better. It’s just that reading books first allows me to tap more on my own imagination. Once I watch the movie, I find it next to impossible to imagine how the characters look and sound to me. Instead I keep seeing the actors, which is even more problems when they’re played by popular authors who remind me of every other character they’re portrayed on screen.

    • That’s definitely true, and I do often imagine things read out in the actor’s voices. But often even if I’ve seen the film I still imagine them totally differently in the books – funny!

  • Wendy Gassaway

    I have just recently come around to this point of view, mostly by accident. I watched Silver LInings Playbook without realizing it was based on a book. I enjoyed the movie, so I sought out the book, and I was totally okay with it being different from the movie. I enjoyed the movie as itself, and then I enjoyed the book as the source material. (I still make my kids read the book first, because I’m afraid if they watch the movie they won’t bother to read the book, or, heresy, will get confused about the source material and complain if the BOOK doesn’t match the MOVIE.)

  • Nicole Hewitt

    You make a great point here – I never thought about the fact that we might enjoy the movie more without all the comparisons – and it probably wouldn’t lessen our enjoyment of the book, so … I think you’re onto something!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    • Yay, glad you see what I mean! There are arguments for both sides of course – but I’m starting to lean towards it!

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  • BrunaAcioly

    I’ve actually been doing this with a few book-to-movie adaptations and I agree! There are certain ones that I have seen the movie first for, and that definitely increases my enjoyment of it. Sometimes I even enjoy the movie more than the book… (shh, don’t tell the rulers of the bookworm life)