Stephen King one of the most popular and successful horror writers of all time. You’d think Hollywood wouldn’t have such a hard time translating his many novels and short stories to film and TV, but they do. Here are best King adaptations of all-time, on both the small and big screens that actually live up (if not surpass) the original works’ greatness.
11. ‘It’ (1990)
One of King’s longest and most iconic novels (as well as one of his most important, in terms of how it fits into the larger Dark Tower-verse), “It” became fodder for one of the better King TV movies in 1990. This film will always have a place in the horror pantheon simply for Tim Curry’s frightening portrayal of the sewer-dwelling killer clown known as Pennywise. If you don’t have a clown phobia before watching this movie, you definitely will afterwards.
10. '1408' (2008)
Taken from the short story of the same name (that began as a writing example at the end of “On Writing”), “1408” is a great little ghost story. John Cusack, in one of his last star roles, plays a skeptical supernatural writer who books a night in a horrific haunted hotel room. He doesn’t believe … until he does. Throw in a supporting role from Samuel L. Jackson as the hotel’s ghoulish manager and it’s a devilish good time.
9. 'The Mist' (2007)
Based on the popular novella/short story, Frank Darabont's adaptation is a slow-burn as fear and terror spread among a small town's populace almost as quickly as the mist surrounding it. And yes, this mist is home to the things of nightmare, as all that separates small-town artist Thomas Jane and his people from monsters are the windows and walls of a supermarket. Darabont's "Lord of the Flies"-take on the short leads to one hell of a twist ending that is as tragic as it gets.
8. '1922' (2017)
“1922,” based on the King novella from “Full Dark, No Stars,” is bleak. Thomas Jane, already a King legend thanks to his role in “The Mist,” plays a man in 1922 who murders his wife when she threatens to sell it. This isn’t an outwardly scary movie but an unsettling one, full of anguish, regret, and self-loathing.
7. ‘Carrie’ (1976)
“Carrie” was King's first published novel and the first of his stories to be turned into a movie. It remains one of the best, thanks in large part to Brian De Palma and stars Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie. Hollywood has tried both the sequel and remake route with this property, but none of them can touch the original.
6. 'Gerald's Game' (2017)
One of last year’s breakout Netflix movies, “Gerald’s Game” seemed like an un-filmable novel, considering it concerns a woman tied up in a bed for virtually the entire length of the 1992 novel. But writer-director Mike Flanagan did the impossible, turning the novel into a compelling, utterly theatrical scare show, anchored by a fine performance by Carla Gugino and some incredibly disturbing set pieces, topped off by the unforgettable “de-gloving” sequence, every bit as impactful as “Misery’s” “hobbling” moment.
5. 'IT' (2017)
The highest-grossing King adaptation set many a box office record upon its October 2017 release, while also terrifying genre fans with Pennywise's trip to the big screen. It's as jump scary as it is emotional, with an exceptional ensemble cast of children that have effortless chemistry. Most big screen King adaptations are more miss than hit, whereas "It" proved to be the exception to that rule, finding a "Stranger Things"-level of success no other movie from the horror master has achieved.
4. 'Misery' (1990)
Whether in novel or film form, “Misery” is one of King’s most simple and effective horror/suspense tales. James Caan stars as a writer who had the misfortune of crashing his car right outside the house of his most obsessive fan (Kathy Bates). Bates delivered a career-defining (and Oscar-winning) performance as the sadistic and possessive Annie Wilkes, helping the film achieve Hitchcockian levels of suspense.
3. 'The Dead Zone' (1983)
One of the more underrated of the classic King adaptations, “The Dead Zone” is beautifully directed by David Cronenberg (weirdly his old stab at King) and featuring Christopher Walken in what might be his all-time greatest performance as a man plagued by psychic visions following a catastrophic car accident. What makes it even more fun now is watching Martin Sheen, beloved liberal icon thanks to the “West Wing,” playing a hawkish, psychotic politician.
2. ‘The Shining’ (1980)
King’s disapproval with director Stanley Kubrick’s take on “The Shining” is legendary, but that doesn't change the fact that it's easily one of the best King movies ever filmed. Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of a handyman/struggling writer driven mad by the ghosts of a remote mountain resort remains one of his best. And Kubrick's elaborate, purposeful camera work gives the film a haunting quality all its own. All work and no play, well, you know the rest…