My cable tv is sufficiently low-rent that the only cable channels I get are TBS and Spike tv. Thinking they might eventually release it on video like they have a number of their other tv-movies, I've been keeping my eye on the reviews for the Sci-Fi channel's version of Ursula K. Leguin's Earthsea Trilogy. In my search I found Leguin's own reactions.
If you haven't read the books, they are relatively straight sword and sorcery type fantasy, but the strength of the characters and the symbolic nature of the story lifts it well above most other fantasy books. It's considered a classic, and for good reason. Going by Leguin's reaction, very little of the movie has anything to do with what she regards as the core of the books. In mild defense of the Sci-Fi channel, fantasy seems to be really hard to pull off in film or television. We have a recent example of a good one with Lord of the Rings, but you have to go back pretty far to find another.
So I'm wondering what, if any, movies are really good adaptations of novels or short stories. And on the flip side, which ones are so nightmarishly bad they're good, or even unwatchable as Earthsea seems to be.
For a good adaptation I nominate Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove. While there are some differences from the original novel, they are pretty small and Kubrick really captures the spirit of the book. For a bad adaptation, I nominate The Scarlet Letter, the 1995 version starring Demi Moore. Not only is a trumped up excuse to show off Moore's breast enhancements, Moore herself said it was ok to make the ending happy because no one's ever actually read the book. It walks that fine line between ridiculous and unwatchable.