Comparing Book Covers with the Posters of Their Film Adaptations


Earlier this week, we spotted the first poster for the upcoming (and much anticipated, at least by us) film adaptation of David Mitchell’s stupendous novel Cloud Atlas, and it seemed very familiar — sort of like a combination of the book’s US and UK covers, all glossed over in sepia. Curious, we spent a little time comparing other book covers with the posters of their film adaptations to see which movies maintained the mood of the book’s original cover, which twisted it around completely, and which became more iconic than the original covers. Click through to read through our findings, and let us know if you have any insights of your own on this topic in the comments.

Cloud Atlas

As we pointed out above, this poster — while beautiful — looks like it took its bottom half from the UK cover (inverted, obviously), its top half from the first panel of the US cover, and added a figure in the middle to remind us that Tom Hanks is in this movie. That said, we actually think that the film poster reflects the mood of the novel better than either cover alone — the story is an elegant mash-up job, so why shouldn’t the poster follow suit?

The Great Gatsby

The original cover of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is definitely one of the most iconic book covers of all time, but it’s also a little enigmatic and ethereal — much more so than the poster with Carey Mulligan’s face front and center, though we love the way it references those eyes and lips while still being a thoroughly modern and alluring poster. The other prominent Gatsby poster seems to take its cues directly from Coralie Bickford-Smith’s recent inspired redesign of the entire Fitzgerald catalogue — though it matches up a little better with Flappers and Philosophers than it does with The Great Gatsby.

On the Road

As far as we can tell, Kerouac’s classic never had a definitive cover in the cultural collective consciousness — the one above is from the first edition — but we know his editors would never have gone for anything as cheesy as the film poster. Even though it highlights all those pretty actors. We’ll withhold judgement until we see the film, but from the trailer, we can tell that they’ve truncated “burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars” to “burn, burn, burn like roman candles across the night.” So it’s not looking good — but at least the poster is looking more appropriate.

A Clockwork Orange

It’s tough to say which is more iconic: the starkly colorful book cover of Burgess’ classic or Kubrick’s terrifying film poster of the same. Very different, we think they both successfully represent the story: its slow horror, epic violence and sly sense of humor. Well done all around.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

We love that the poster for the film adaptation of Fear and Loathing managed to maintain the feel of Ralph Steadman’s iconic illustrations — that spindly, sloppy insanity — with a highly distorted photo and a few ragged bats, while also taking it up a notch, shifting the mood from a wicked, druggy road trip to a flat-out trip down the rabbit hole.


As you may have heard us say in this space before, we think there are very few successful Lolita book covers, which is probably part of the reason there have been so many. In fact, we think Kubrick’s 1962 vision has had more to do with the ensuing book covers than any of the original covers had to do with the film, which in this case is a very good thing.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Here’s another case of a classic novel whose film poster has become much more iconic than the original book cover. Though Paul Bacon’s colorful vision is wonderful — we’ve always read it as an expression of internal tumult — its Jack Nicholson’s playful smirk that’s destined to go down in history in all of our imaginations.


We like this pairing a lot, because even though the book cover and poster are wildly different (and sort of equally wonderful), they both get across the same message: precocious teenage boy, low-grade angst, more quirk than you can shake a stick at. And what do you know? They’re both right.

True Grit

On the first edition cover of Charles Portis’ classic Western, it’s all Mattie Ross, looking like she’s about to take down whatever’s hiding in those bushes with a flip of her pigtail. But, as much as we love the poster for the 2010 adaptation for its satisfying cowboy-ness, she predictably gets shunted to the side in favor of the more famous (and more male) actors. And just what is Josh Brolin doing on this poster? Being good-looking? Oh, right.

Fight Club

Though it’s hard to imagine that David Fincher’s strong vision for Fight Club was born from a book cover (no matter how great), that embossed bar of soap made it from the first edition of Palahniuk’s modern classic to the movie poster and everywhere in between. We guess Fincher’s smart enough to know that when you see an awesome idea, you don’t let it go.