Stephen King, the undisputed master of horror, has penned over 65 novels and 200 short stories, many of which have been adapted into films and TV series. His stories, often set in his home state of Maine, are known for their chilling narratives and complex characters. This article will explore 10 of the best movies based on Stephen King books. This list is not in any particular order and contains movies which have multiple versions due to their popularity and recent remakes.
1. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Based on King's novella "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption", it tells the story of Andy Dufresne, a banker wrongfully convicted of murder. The film, directed by Frank Darabont, is a poignant exploration of hope, friendship, and redemption, with Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman delivering stellar performances. Often cited as the favourite movie of film buffs around the world, this is a masterpiece of storytelling, from an author who is more commonly associated with the horror genre.
2. The Shining (1980)
Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of "The Shining" is arguably one of the most iconic horror films of all time. Jack Nicholson's portrayal of Jack Torrance, a writer spiraling into madness in an isolated hotel, is unforgettable. Despite King's well-known reservations about the adaptation, the film's eerie atmosphere and chilling narrative have made it a classic. Some films stay with you long after the credits roll, this is one of the films, if you haven't seen it then do so, immediately.
3. Carrie (1976) and (2013)
"Carrie," King's debut novel, was the first of his works to be adapted for the big screen. Directed by Brian De Palma, the film follows Carrie White, a shy high school girl with telekinetic powers. Sissy Spacek's haunting performance and the film's shocking climax have cemented "Carrie" as a horror classic. Remade in 2013 and starring Chloe Grace Moretz in the lead role, both versions are excellent, but for us the original will always stand out as the superior film.
4. Misery (1990)
"Misery" is a chilling tale of obsession, featuring a novelist held captive by his number one fan. Kathy Bates won an Academy Award for her terrifying portrayal of Annie Wilkes. The film's suspense and psychological horror make it one of the most successful King adaptations.
5. Stand By Me (1986)
Another non-horror entry, "Stand By Me," is based on King's novella "The Body." It's a coming-of-age tale about four boys who set out to find a dead body in their small town. The film, featuring a young River Phoenix, is a touching exploration of friendship and the loss of innocence. There are some films that can be watched time and time again and never lose their charm, this will always be a favourite of ours.
6. It (1990) and (2017)
"It," based on King's sprawling novel, was a box office hit. The film follows a group of children, known as the Losers' Club, as they face off against Pennywise, a shape-shifting entity that feeds on fear. With its blend of horror and nostalgia, "It" is a standout King adaptation. The original 1990 TV Mini Series was shown in two parts and caused millions of children around the world to have sleepless nights for years. The modern version is an excellent remake and both versions are equally worth watching. Modern audiences may struggle with some of the outdated CGI from the original version, but make no mistake, it is a masterpiece of horror cinema. Mixing the coming-of-age elements of "Stand By Me" with the more conventional horror tropes seen in "A Nightmare on Elm Street". Watch both versions and judge for yourself.
7. The Green Mile (1999)
Another collaboration between King and Darabont, "The Green Mile," is a supernatural drama set in a 1930s prison. Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan deliver powerful performances in this tale of miracles and the human spirit. It is a testament to the storytelling ability of Stephen King that yet another prison based drama often tops any "Films to see before you die" movie lists. An absolute must see movie.
8. Pet Sematary (1989) and (2019)
"Pet Sematary" explores the chilling consequences of messing with the natural order of life and death. The film, featuring a cursed burial ground that brings the dead back to life, is a haunting adaptation of one of King's most terrifying novels. The original movie terrified audiences when it was first released and traumatised many younger viewers who watched it. The recent adaptation was decent, but not nearly as good as the original in our opinion.
9. The Dead Zone (1983)
"The Dead Zone" is a gripping thriller about a man who awakens from a coma with psychic abilities. Christopher Walken's performance and the film's exploration of fate and free will make it a compelling King adaptation. It's definitely one of our favourite Stephen King adaptations and in our opinion is Cronenberg at his best.
10. Dolores Claiborne (1995)
"Dolores Claiborne" is a psychological drama about a woman accused of murdering the woman she worked for as a housekeeper. Kathy Bates delivers another stellar performance in this film, which explores themes of abuse and repressed memories. This movie took the wise choice of sticking close to the original source material which in the world of Stephen King adaptations is sadly not often the case. A fantastic book has been turned into a incredible movie and one that must be seen by all King fans.
Stephen King's stories have provided rich material for filmmakers over the years. From tales of supernatural horror to poignant dramas, these ten films represent some of the best adaptations of his work. Whether you're a fan of King's books or a movie enthusiast, these films offer a glimpse into the diverse worlds created by one of the most prolific authors of our time.