10 Best Stephen King Movie Adaptations | TheReviewGeek Recommends

Somewhere in Stephen King’s world, a man is foolishly burying his dead cat in the local pet cemetery. A young boy is reaching out into a drain to rescue his paper boat. A teenage girl is preparing herself for prom. And a writer is receiving less than hospitable care from a nurse that has rescued him from a car wreck.

If you’re a fan of the author’s works, these moments will be all too familiar. Not every movie adaptation of his books has been a good one but if you’re looking for something that is well worth a watch, we recommend the following to you.

Pet Sematary (1989)

If one of your pets ever dies, be sure not to bury your deceased animal at your local pet cemetery if it is located on the site of an ancient Indian burial ground. Louis Creed, the protagonist of this disturbing horror tale, should have thought twice before burying his cat Church, as it later came back to life after he placed it under a sacred plot of land.

He learnt to his cost the meaning of his neighbour Jud Crandall’s words “Sometimes dead is better” when both his cat and later his dead child wreaked havoc on his life after being resurrected from their graves.

King once said that the novel that this was based on was the only one that truly scared him. And it’s easy to understand why if you watch this movie retelling of his work. Mary Lambert’s film is a very effective chiller and far more disturbing than the 2019 adaptation that altered the original story to give us a twist that ultimately undermined the shock factor of King’s narrative.

The Shining (1980)

Stephen King hated Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his 1977 horror novel as the director deviated from the author’s story for the purposes of his own artistic vision. If you want to learn more about his feelings, King goes into further detail here.

But while Kubrick’s take on King’s ghost story is noticeably different in some areas, it still holds true to the spirit of the original work of fiction. It’s also a good horror movie in its own right and for many, this is one of the director’s best films.

As you will know already, Jack Nicholson plays Jack Torrance, the husband to Wendy (a permanently panicked Shelley Duvall) and father to Danny (Daniel Lloyd), who eventually loses the plot (literally in one famous scene) and starts to go after his family with an axe. Nicholson’s performance is a little over the top but he still manages to scare when he bursts through the bathroom door with that famous line “Here’s Johnny”.

Doctor Sleep (2019)

Thankfully, this sequel to The Shining met with the author’s approval, even if it deviates from the book occasionally within its long runtime. As in the original novel, the film focuses on a now grownup Danny (Ewan McGregor) who, having come to terms with his psychic abilities, acts as the protector of a young girl who shares similar powers when she is threatened by a sinister group known as the ‘True Knot.’

Mike Flanagan, who also directed Gerald’s Game, another Stephen King adaptation, impressed audiences with this one. It’s as scary and powerful as the novel was, not only because of his expert direction but because Rebecca Ferguson, who plays Rose The Hat, gives an utterly terrifying performance as the woman who literally feeds off the powers of others.

The Mist (2007)

Supermarkets are depressing places at the best of times. Not only do you have to deal with the rising food prices but you also have to contend with the other shoppers who always seem to get in the way when you’re trying to navigate each aisle with your wonky shopping trolley. Thankfully, we can make a quick exit after rushing through the store but the characters in this film are not so lucky.

After their town becomes immersed in a deadly mist, these shoppers are forced to stay together, a situation made worse because of the local crackpot who burdens them with her religious fanaticism.

She is the least of their troubles, however, as the creatures within the mist tear apart anybody who tries to venture outside. Eventually, David Drayton (Thomas Jane) tries to escape with his family but when he loses hope of finding safety, he takes drastic measures to save his loved ones from the monsters. The ending is one of the bleakest of all Stephen King adaptations and is one that will haunt you for a very long time.

It: Chapter One (2017)

Stephen King’s epic work of horror was too large for just one movie so Mama director Andy Muschietti wisely decided to split it into two. We could have included both in this list as Chapter 2 is equally worthy of mention but the first part is arguably a little scarier because of the young age of our teen protagonists and the greater sense of jeopardy.

The younger members of the cast, including Jaeden Martell and Stranger Things actor Finn Wolfhard, are all terrific, but it’s the performance of Bill Skarsgård that has been given the most attention. He is truly terrifying as Pennywise, the demonic clown, and during production, he had the ability to look convincingly evil without the use of the CGI that was later added in.

This wasn’t the first adaption of King’s classic novel – the TV miniseries with Tim Curry is still fondly remembered – but this is arguably better, even though it skips out on some of the more disturbing aspects of the author’s original work.

Stand By Me (1986)

Stephen King might be a modern master of horror but not all of his books (or the adaptations) are bone-chillingly scary. Stand By Me (based on King’s novella The Body) is a case in point, as while the premise is suitably dark – a group of young boys venture into the woods to search for a dead body – this is more of a coming of age story than a terror tale.

Future stars-to-be River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman and Jerry O’Connell play the boys in question and they all excel in their roles. Phoenix arguably gave the strongest performance as troubled teen Chris Chambers, especially during the scene when he breaks down in tears after a bonding moment with Gordie, and it’s a massive shame that he tragically died only a few years later. His death makes the film’s ending all the more upsetting as we learn his character also died in a tragic manner after he became an adult.

Rob Reiner’s film is a wonderful period piece (it’s set in the summer of 1959) and it has the power to make us all feel wistful about our own childhoods. But if you’re worried that this might not be as gross-out as certain other Stephen King films, fear not, as the pie-eating scene might just make you vomit!

Misery (1990)

Rob Reiner’s second Stephen King film was far more horrifying than his first. Whereas that was a tender tale of childhood friendships, this was a full-on scare tale about a terrifying rural nurse (Kathy Bates) who holds her favourite novelist captive when she learns he has killed off the main character of his bestselling novels.

As Annie Wilkes, the number one fan of Caan’s Paul Sheldon, Bates gave one of the best performances of her career, being sweet and charitable one moment and loony tunes crazy the next. She deservedly won an Oscar for her chilling turn and it’s a good job that she did. The voters were probably scared into thinking she might come after them with a sledgehammer if they didn’t reward her, as that knee-hobbling scene in Misery is still one of the most disturbing horror moments ever put on screen.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

This big-screen adaptation of King’s novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption isn’t only one of the best takes on his work but it’s often considered to be one of the greatest movies of all time! It can often be found near the top of ‘best movie’ lists when critics compile their rankings and if you have seen this prison classic yourself, you might well agree with them.

Tim Robbins stars as Andy Dufresne, the innocent man who is convicted of murder and sent to the infamous Shawshank prison. Morgan Freeman co-stars as Red, the kind-hearted inmate who becomes Andy’s friend and it’s their bond that gives this movie its heart. While disturbing in parts, this is also an uplifting tale about courage, perseverance, and finding hope, and the ending is one of the most joyful in all of movie history.

The Green Mile (1999)

The Green Mile is a stunning tour de force in both acting and storytelling. In a way the movie has a few similarities to Shawshank Redemption, but the plot beats are very, very different.

With an inspired Tom Hanks in the driver’s seat, the story centers on the lives of guards on Death row and how they’re affected by one of their charges. A black man accused on child murder and rape shows up; a towering, intimidating individual. Only, there’s more than meets the eye with this guy, which is explored across the run-time.

This one’s an absolute classic and well worth a watch.

Carrie (1976)

For most kids, prom night sucks. You have to find a date, for starters, and if you don’t find anybody to go to prom night with, you then have to turn up alone and stand around hoping that a hot chick (or a hot guy) will notice you. You also have to drink from a punch bowl which has probably been drooled in by others, and you have to prove your worth on the dance floor, even though your teenage body is probably as uncoordinated as a marionette puppet that has become tangled up in string.

Still, no matter what your experience of prom was like, it probably wasn’t as bad as it was for Carrie White, who was tricked into becoming the prom queen. No sooner does she take the throne than the wicked high school bullies empty a bucket of pig’s blood over her head.

This isn’t the first time she is covered in blood in the film – an earlier shower scene is just as traumatic – but this time, Carrie has had enough of the bullies and teachers who have made her life a misery. Hell hath no fury than a psychic teenager scorned as the unfortunate prom members discovered when she took violent vengeance upon all of them.

Brian DePalma’s film is far better than the Carrie adaptations that followed, partly because of Sissy Spacek’s terrific performance as the tormented teen, and partly because of the final jump scare moment that nobody was expecting at the time!

And there we have it, our picks for our 10 favourite Stephen King adaptations!

What do you think of our list? Have we included your favourites? Or have we missed any must-watch movies (or TV shows)? We love to hear from you so do feel free to let us know in the comments below!

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4 thoughts on “10 Best Stephen King Movie Adaptations | TheReviewGeek Recommends”

  1. The ending to the Mist was terrible. The ending to Shawshank was terrible. Both stories were written with ambiguous endings that basically left things up to the reader. But American audiences cannot abide this, so they have to manufacture something.

  2. Needful Things is great. There are so many movies based on his books that it was hard to pick 10. I’m looking forward to The Talisman TV series which is being helmed by the Duffer brothers (Stranger Things). That is possibly my favourite book of his so I’m hoping they do justice to his work.

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