An Argument For Watching The Movie First

Carina Pereira

Staff Writer

Carina Pereira, born in ‘87, in Portugal. Moved to Belgium in 2011, and to Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in 2019. Avid reader, changing interests as the mods strikes. Whiles away the time by improvising stand-up routines she’ll never get to perform. Books are a life-long affair, audiobooks a life-changing discovery of adulthood. Selling books by day, writer by night. Contact

I know. There is a big chance you have read the title, rolled your eyes, and clicked on this post to see what this nonsense about watching the movie first is about. I get it, and if presented with this concept myself a few years ago, I would probably have shouted a resounding no at whoever thought it was a good idea to even suggest it. 

Like most readers, I too used to fiercely defend always reading the book first, and as someone who usually prefers this order of things, I still mostly hold on to it.  This is because I expect movie adaptations to fall short in comparison to the book, so I prefer to enjoy the original medium first, the one with more information — and the canon perspective — before I dive into the movie, even if this means the movie might disappoint me.

Across the years, however, I’ve encountered a few instances in which watching the movie first and reading the book later was the right move, so please give me a few minutes of your time to convince you why a movie-first approach may actually be a better idea than starting with the book.

To Prevent Disappointment

Disappointment is probably the fear most readers face when there is talk of an adaptation. Our beloved book may be absolutely ruined by the creators of the movie, people who do not understand the sanctity of the work they are adapting, and have no emotional attachment to it.

But when you are about to watch an adaptation that you haven’t read the book for, there is less at stake. So why not grab the movie first to understand if the themes and characters strike you as interesting?

Of course, the experience of watching a movie and reading a book are pretty different, and by watching the movie first you may be saving yourself the time and commitment a book requires which, let’s face it, is usually higher than that of a movie.

Lack Of Time

With so many books on our TBRs, watching a movie adaptation when available may just be the way to go.

While watching a movie is not a replacement for reading a book, it can be a way to satiate your curiosity when you know you won’t be getting to the book anytime soon.

I had this happen with Little Women, for example. I was curious about the story and the new 2020 adaptation looked really nice; I went to watch the movie first and fell in love with it, which in turn made me want to read the book, despite my previous reticence towards picking it up.

The Book Might Just Not Be For You

I have a strange relationship with classics: on the one hand, I am very curious about what makes them so beloved. On the other, most classics I’ve read make me believe I am not a classics girl.

And yet, I enjoy being knowledgeable about popular culture, which means I am always eager to be in on pop-culture references and take part in sharing memes.

I’ve been able to do that with Pride And Prejudice by watching the 2005 adaptation, not by reading the book.

And no, of course I am not all the wise when it comes to the original work, but the movie is pretty good and has allowed me to learn enough to understand the memes and be able to talk about it with other book lovers.

I do want to get to the book at some point, but I also know there are other classics with adaptations I have enjoyed that I will simply not read.

To Understand The Story Better 

This was the reason that compelled me to write this post, and the one that leads me the most in watching any adaptation before reading the book.

I must reiterate once more that I do have a preference for reading the book first, but knowing myself, I know the exceptions in which watching the movie first will work in my favour.

I love fictional dystopian worlds but, when in written form, my brain has trouble making sense of a lot of things popular in science fiction and fantasy. For these, watching an adaptation allows the plot to become more clear in my mind, so when I finally pick up the book, it is easier to figure it all and dive into the book without questioning the basics, merely enjoying what I am reading and getting to know the characters and the story in this new form.

So in these particular instances, and because I know myself and what works and doesn’t work for me, it is wiser to watch the movie first and then pick up the book. This is also the case when I seem to be struggling with world-building: I know it is time to grab the film adaptation before giving up on the book altogether. Then I can give it another try.

This said, I have written for Book Riot before about how it is important to watch a book adaptation for what it is. You may want to take a look at that before diving into an adaptation of your favourite book.

Next time you are debating if you should watch the movie first or wait until you’ve read the book, I hope this guide helps bring some clarity.