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ET3D: Like some others I'd say Lord of the Rings. Also what I've read of Harry Potter. The first book was enjoyable even if not all that well written, but the second book was boring and I stopped reading half way through and I haven't read any more, so the movies saved the franchise for me.
The second book is by far the weakest in the whole Harry Potter series. It was my least favorite by a long shot, followed by the fourth one. If you ever feel like giving it another try, skip two and read three, Prisoner of Azkaban. That one sets the darker tone for the rest of the series and is really very good. The movies are all pretty good and follow the books fairly closely, but I enjoyed the books more in every case.
Thanks. I'll keep that in mind if I ever want to read Harry Potter again. The reason I managed to read LotR the second time was that people suggested that I skip the first chapter. That and the movies got me to finish it.

Another place where I felt that the movie was better was Starship Troopers. The book was too naive and too serious, which was just too much for me. The movie was light and silly, but it was better IMO because of that, because I feel that a satirical look at the world Heinlein created is better than a serious one. Still, I prefer the animated series to both, since it takes some of the good things from the book, couples it with good action while still not taking itself entirely seriously (but not going overboard like the movie).
Post edited February 12, 2013 by ET3D
I'm also going to go with Zoe Heller's What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal and Ron Hansen's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Both are excellent novels; in the former Heller's deliciously acidic observational prose glimmers like a black diamond and the later is just a brilliantly moody and lyrical piece of southern gothic writing.

But the film adaptations are even better. In Scandal Judi Dench has such presence as our calculating, judgmental old harpy at the heart of the story, masterfully playing the emotional mosquito to Cate Blanchett's ethically jumbled and conflicted girl-woman teacher.

And in the case of Assassination....Jesse James, it's just one of my favorite American films of all time. The pacing, mood, lighting, acting, casting choices, locations, psychological undertones....Andrew Dominik learned his lessons well from Terrance Mallick on this one (too bad Killing Me Softly was such crap though). Even the extensive V.O. narration, often a hackneyed and obvious device in most films, is stellar here, doubtless because large swatches of dialog are lifted verbatim from the source novel and the poetry in the prose is evident.

Good examples of the potential of film as an original adaptive force, to retain the spirit of the source material whilst remaking it through its particular audio-visual lens.