Movie Reviews

12 Biggest Book Changes In The Maze Runner Movies


  • The Maze Runner
    movies make changes to the original books, such as removing Thomas and Teresa’s telepathic powers.
  • The portrayal of the Grievers’ attacks differs between the books and movies, with the movies showcasing more tension and urgency.
  • The movie adaptation of
    Maze Runner: Death Cure
    removes important context about WCKD’s secret motivation, leaving audiences with unanswered questions.

The Maze Runner movies adapt their story from the eponymous books by James Dashner, but they also change multiple characters and storylines. In 2014, The Maze Runner was released when teen dystopian film adaptations were at the height of their popularity. The movie series centers on a society destroyed by the Flare Virus, which causes scientists to commit heinous experiments on children in the hopes of finding a cure. One of those experiments involves dropping teenagers into complex mazes and waiting for them to escape or die.

The movies pull many of their storylines from the Maze Runner books; however, they also take creative liberties. Some of these changes are small and unimportant to the plot, like the organization name WCKD (called WICKED in the books). However, other changes from the books to the movies have a significant impact on the overall narrative and character arcs.

10 The Maze Runner Movies Cut Thomas And Teresa’s Telepathic Powers

In the Maze Runner books, Thomas and Teresa can talk to each other via telepathy. This allows them to communicate at any time, no matter where they’re located. Often, Thomas and Teresa’s inner dialogue provides context for the events occurring throughout the series. When adapting the books into films, the director decided to cut out the pair’s telepathic powers due to the difficulty of including telepathy in a movie format (via MTV).

Ultimately, by severing the psychic connection, the movies could focus on developing the characters individually. Teresa’s motivations and secrets are also not known by the audience right away since no one can get inside her head, giving the audience another mystery to unravel. This decision also made Teresa’s death more significant in the movies because the two characters built a stronger external connection.


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9 The Griever Attacks Look Different

A griever screeches at Thomas in the Maze in The Maze Runner

The Grievers are one of the monsters that appear in the franchise. They play an important role in the first Maze Runner movie and book. However, their attacks look vastly different between the two mediums.

In the books, the Grievers take characters from the Glade one by one. Their stings also don’t pose a threat to the Gladers because they have ample access to the Grief Serum. This contrasts with the movies, where the Grievers massacre numerous Gladers all at once. The Grievers kill with their teeth, as well as their stings, and the children have no access to the serum until Teresa arrives with two vials.

These changes work for the narrative because they provided more tension and urgency in the movie. The stakes and likelihood of character deaths are higher in the movies than they are of the books because of them.

8 Maze Runner: Death Cure Removes WCKD’s Secret Motives

Dylan O'Brien's Thomas looks at a screen with Patricia Clarkson's Ava Paige from WCKD in the Maze Runner movies

Maze Runner: Death Cure‘s movie ending diverges greatly from The Death Cure book in many ways, but one of the most significant is the missing epilogue. In the book’s epilogue, Chancellor Ava Paige writes a memorandum about WICKED’s secret motivation. After realizing that they couldn’t find the cure, WICKED shifted their focus from that search to saving the Immunes, allowing them to rebuild society after all they’ve been through.

This explains the phrase “WCKD Is Good,” which appeared in the Maze Runner movies. Unfortunately, the movie removed this context entirely. While the change created a better enemy for the Gladers and the Right Arm, it also left an unanswered question about the phrase’s meaning. It could have been left in as an Easter egg for book fans who knew what WCKD was doing, but that seems unlikely since the organization is left as the villain of the movies.

7 Only The First Phase Of WCKD’s Experiment Appears

An image of the Maze Runner cast standing together in front of the maze

The first Maze Runner movie centers on the first phase of WCKD’s experiment. That experiment involved putting teenagers in various groups to work out different mazes, seeing how their biochemistry changed and their brains actively worked on problems. By the time the second movie comes around, though, the characters are no longer in the experiment. Instead, the Gladers go off with the Right Arm, the resistance group fighting against WCKD.

In the books, there is a drastic timeline change. The Right Arm doesn’t appear until halfway through The Death Cure. The second phase of the experiment requires them to make it across the scorch, a task they do because they believe WICKED gave them all the Flare Virus. In the third phase, each subject faces a unique test catered to them. These ideas don’t make it into the movies, which is a strange decision because it helped to flesh out each of the characters even more.


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6 Newt’s Tragic Backstory Is Absent

One major change from the Maze Runner books to the movies is Newt’s backstory. The movie series establishes that everyone in the Maze Trial is immune to the Flare Virus. In Maze Runner: Death Cure, Newt gets infected. The only explanation given for this change is that WCKD needed a control subject for the experiment. Unfortunately, this creates more questions in the Maze Runner movies than it answers.

The books provide a tragic backstory that better explains Newt’s presence and involves his family. WICKED wants to take his sister, Lizzy, for their experiments, and murders their parents when they refuse. They put Newt in the experiment as a control subject, knowing he’ll eventually become a crank.

The movie never explains any of this, which is why it’s such a shock when Newt is the only one of the group who isn’t immune to the virus. It’s possible the backstory was simply cut to save time in the final narrative, but it would have gone a long way into explaining just how cruel those behind the experiments could be, despite their desire to save the rest of humanity.

5 The Movies Don’t Explore WCKD’s Mind Control Abilities

Ki Hong Lee as Minho looking off to the side in Maze Runner.

The Maze Runner movies only briefly allude to the fact that WCKD can control the minds of the experiment subjects. This is seen in Maze Runner: Death Cure, when Minho starts hallucinating about the Maze Trial, something WCKD seemingly triggers to withdraw the cure from his blood. It’s never fully explained though.

WICKED controls subjects much more frequently in the book series. For example, in The Maze Runner, Gally throws a knife at Thomas due to WICKED’s mind control — an act that ultimately kills Chuck, who dives in front of his friend. This is only one instance where the Gladers act through mind compulsion. It’s likely the idea was mostly eliminated from the movies for the same reason as Thomas and Teresa’s telepathic abilities: it’s a difficult concept to make work on screen without spelling out what’s happening to the characters.

4 The Origin And Stages Of The Flare Virus Aren’t Explained

Veiny hands and a Crank screaming in The Maze Runner The Death Cure
Custom image by SR Image Editor

The Maze Runner movie franchise only briefly touches on the origins of the Flare Virus. The films state that the Post-Flare Coalition created the virus to control the population after The Flare. The movies never explain why they decided to create the virus. On top of this, the movies barely touch on the stages of the Flare Virus, simply showing Cranks in their final stage.

In the books, there are multiple stages to the Flare Virus, and actually becoming infected with it and turning into a Crank takes months and involves intense headaches, paranoia, loss of coordination and memory, before the body is fully transformed. That all happens fairly quickly in the movie without devoting a lot of time to it. The book series explores all of these things in detail, providing more lore and world-building.


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3 Maze Runner: Scorch Trials Cuts The Book’s Most Terrifying Scene

The Gladers stand together looking off into the distance in The Maze Runner

One of the most terrifying scenes in The Scorch Trials never appears in the movie adaptation. In the book, the Gladers walk down a dark tunnel, where they encounter metal balls on the ceiling. These balls, created by WICKED, fall onto the Gladers. When they latch onto a person, the metal covers their entire head, ultimately decapitating them. The metal balls can defy gravity by flying sideways too. When the Gladers realize what the metal balls do, they start screaming and run as fast as they can to escape with their lives.

It’s unfortunate that the movie left this scene out because it would’ve made a great action sequence, but it was likely removed for both budgetary and time constraints. It would have required either an expensive practical set piece to be built or for additional CGI to be employed, and it would have required many days of filming for a single sequence.

2 WCKD’s Search For The Cure Looks Different In The Books

A hand holds a vial of blue liquid with the letters WCKD written on the metal in The Maze Runner movies

In the Maze Runner movie franchise, WCKD conducts the experiment to induce the production of cure enzymes in the Immunes’ brains. By The Maze Runner: Death Cure, the organization finds a way to extract the cure from the Immunes’ blood with Teresa, in particular, doing experiments involving Thomas’ blood.

This is vastly different from the book series. Throughout the books, WICKED does brain scans on the Immunes, trying to understand why they can’t get the Flare Virus. In TheDeath Cure, WICKED reveals that there is no existing cure for the virus, meaning the Cranks will all eventually die out and those with immunity will continue to live as long as they aren’t killed by Cranks. In the epilogue, Ava Paige reveals that the organization discovered this earlier and shifted their focus to saving the Immunes.

1 Thomas Never Returns to The Maze In The Movies

An image of Dylan O'Brien as Thomas in The Maze Runner over an image of the maze
Custom image by SR Image Editor

One big difference between the movies and the books is that, in the movie, Thomas never has to return to the maze. He and all of the surviving Gladers escape through the maze in the first movie. That’s not at all what happens in the books.

In The Death Cure, Thomas must return to the Maze Trial to save the other Immunes who get stuck with the Grievers. This takes up a good chunk of the book. Once he finally gets to the Immunes, they use the teleporter — called the Flat Transportation — to reach the Safe Haven. None of this occurs in The Maze Runner: Death Cure because the plot had diverted so drastically by that point that it wouldn’t have made any sense. All the Gladers escaped the Maze Trial, and Thomas was entirely focused on taking down WCKD.

Source: MTV

The Maze Runner Franchise Poster

The Maze Runner

Conceived as a book series by author James Dashner, The Maze Runner is a sci-fi multimedia franchise that gained mainstream popularity after the release of its first of three films. The series focuses on a group of young men trapped in a maze with no knowledge of life outside their strange prison. The survivors, led by protagonist Thomas, attempt to piece together their shattered memories and find a way out of the towering maze.

Created by
James Dashner

Dylan O’Brien , Kaya Scodelario , Thomas Brodie-Sangster , will poulter , Patricia Clarkson , Giancarlo Esposito , Aidan Gillen , Ki Hong Lee , Barry Pepper , Walton Goggins , Nathalie Emmanuel

Thomas (Maze Runner) , Teresa (Maze Runner) , Newt (Maze Runner) , Minho (Maze Runner) , Frypan (Maze Runner) , Ava Paige

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