10 Worst Stephen King Movie Adaptations | TheReviewGeek Does Not Recommend

Carrie, Misery, The Mist, and Doctor Sleep are some of the best movie adaptations of Stephen King’s works. But it’s sad to say that the quality of those movies does not pass over to the titles we have listed in this article. 

The following movies are scarily bad, which is no fault of the source material which had the power to give us nightmares. These terrible King adaptations are undeserving of the author’s name, as we’re sure you’ll agree if you have ever had the misfortune to sit through any of them.

Do you agree with this list? Are there other movies we could have mentioned here? Let us know in the comments below.

The Lawnmower Man (1992)

Stephen King’s original short story is about a man who makes the startling discovery that the guy he has hired to cut his lawn is a grass-eating killer. 

The film is about a simple man who is turned into a genius through the application of computer science. 

Can you spot the similarities? Nope, us neither.

While visually impressive at times, Brett Leonard’s The Lawnmower Man is yet another Stephen King adaptation that bears little resemblance to the original work of fiction.

This isn’t the worst movie that capitalized on the VR craze in the 1990s, but it’s deserving of a place on this list for strimming away all of the plot points from King’s classic story. 

The Mangler (1995)

Demons don’t only possess people. Not according to this film (and King’s original story) that is. It would appear that demons can also possess objects, including the titular laundry press that develops legs and starts eating people. 

It’s a bonkers premise that was capitalized on in King’s short tale. But the film is a mangled adaptation of the source material, with shoddy special effects, a lack of any scares, and sloppy direction from the usually reliable Tobe Hooper that left his actors out to dry. 

The Mangler is one of the worst horror movies of the 90s. You’ll have more fun sitting in front of your washing machine and watching the laundry spin around for the duration of this movie’s runtime!

Graveyard Shift (1990)

In a very old textile mill, the overnight workers keep getting killed but nobody can understand why. Could there be a man-eating laundry press running rampant on the shop floor? Not this time around! 

In Graveyard Shift, the killer is a mutated giant bat/rat hybrid that is the result of toxins which have been released into the local river. 

There have been plenty of decent creature features released over the years but Graveyard Shift isn’t one of them. Bad creature effects, clunky writing, and cheap shock tactics are just some of the reasons why this adaptation is universally hated by fans of Stephen King.

The Dark Tower (2017)

For some reason, the people behind this adaptation of The Dark Tower decided to truncate all 7 books of King’s epic fantasy saga into one 95-minute movie. Fans of the book series were understandably disappointed by the result.

There are elements of King’s fiction here, such as the book series’ badass protagonist, the Gunslinger (played by Idris Elba), and the villainous Man in Black (Matthew McConaughy). The titular tower also looms over the narrative as it approaches the climax. 

But as for King’s incredible world-building…well, there’s little of that here! Thankfully, Mike Flanagan (Gerald’s Game), is bringing a televised adaptation of The Dark Tower to Prime Video. With a longer running time and a director well known for his excellent King adaptations, the series should be better than the underwhelming movie. 

The Running Man (1987)

Fans of the movie’s leading man will enjoy this more than Stephen King fans. As an action flick, it’s certainly a decent vehicle for Arnie’s usual brand of brainless mayhem.

But as an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel? Well, it has almost no similarity at all. The core story – a man attempts to survive a future reality game show – is present and correct. But the way it plays out, with a continual barrage of bizarre bad guys for Arnie to face off against, is quite unlike King’s dystopian tale. 

So, if you’re wanting a mindless thrill ride, you’ll get what you’re looking for here. But if you’re hoping for something that replicates the cleverness of the source material…well, you’d better keep running, man!

Firestarter (2022)

The 1984 adaptation of Firestarter was bad enough but it sparked to life occasionally, unlike this more recent movie that fails to ignite the creepy vibe that ran throughout King’s novel. 

Still, at least the movie has some decent special effects, right? Erm…no! While CGI fire is obviously safer than using real fire, it comes across as completely unconvincing during the movie’s fierier moments. The real fire effects in the 1984 movie were one of its few high points so they really should have been utilized in this second adaptation. 

A dull plot, bad acting, and a lack of faithfulness to King’s novel are some of the other reasons why this movie is bad. But at least we have John Carpenter’s excellent music score to distract us from the routine plot that flickers out on screen. 

Dreamcatcher (2003)

This adaptation is not the stuff that dreams are made of. However, some critics have ‘hilariously’ described it as the stuff that poop is made of and not only because of the movie’s monsters, which are parasitic creatures that emerge from people’s behinds!

The original novel is one of King’s grossest pieces of fiction and the same can be said of this movie. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a movie that capitalizes on gross-out special effects. 80s gorehounds will testify to that!

But Dreamcatcher is nightmarishly bad, wasting some very capable actors (including Thomas Jane and Morgan Freeman) in a jumbled film that fails to capture the psychological horrors of Stephen King’s source material. Flush this one down the loo and watch a better King adaptation instead. 

Sleepwalkers (1992)

Directed by Mick Garris (who has turned out several disappointing King adaptations), this movie revolves around an incestuous mother-son due who turn out to be vampiric cat people!

The movie isn’t based on one of King’s books but he is the writer of the screenplay. So, as the movie is essentially a telling of his scripted story, you can (hopefully) forgive us for including it as an adaptation here. 

What’s less forgiving is the poor special effects that may have you hissing at the screen. Critics certainly had their claws out when they reviewed the movie as they slammed both the trashy script and the terrible dialogue spat out from the superficial cast of characters. 

Thinner (1996)

After running over a gypsy woman, an overweight lawyer is cursed by her father to rapidly lose weight. We suppose the premise of this King adaptation might be attractive to those whose attempts at dieting haven’t worked. But anybody looking for a decent horror flick will be disappointed by the thin script and unconvincing special effects.

In the right hands – think David Cronenberg – this could have been a decent stab at body horror. But director Tom Holland (Fright Night) mishandles the ghoulish premise and gives us a second-rate adaptation that, ironically, needed more flesh on its bones to add depth to the story. 

Cell (2016)

Cell phones are bad. They’re turning us all into mindless zombies. Don’t believe us? Look out of your window now and gaze at all the people wandering around aimlessly while looking at their tiny screens.

King’s novel highlighted phone addiction with its tale of a world overrun by people who have been turned into murderous monsters by the signal on their phones.

The movie follows the same premise but despite a good cast, including John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson, this is never as interesting as it could have been. This is partly because King’s original message is a bit old hat now so the movie’s satirical elements come across as heavy-handed.

However, the movie has other faults too, not least the baffling script that fails in the way of characterizations, scares, and decent plot development. In short, you might want to hang up on this one!


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How many of these movies have you seen? Which is your least favourite? Let us know in the comments below.

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