Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Best of Stephen King on Film

The works of Stephen King, the literary master of horror, have been made into some pretty great films. Of course, there are some adaptations that were better left unmade, but the adaptations that worked, worked really well. The page-to-screen successes were helmed by directors up to the material, like Kubrick, Carpenter and Cronenberg, featuring formidable actors like Jack Nicholson, Sissy Spacek, Christopher Walken and Kathy Bates, and adapted from brilliant original works. The gems aren’t gems simply because they’re faithful to the works they’re adapted from because that alone doesn’t a gem make. Rather, they’re films that succeed on the basis of their own merits.

The total number of adapted works is pretty astounding at well over fifty adaptations if you include TV movies and sequels. With such a vast number of film adaptations spanning Stephen King’s long career, it’s no surprise that there’s a lot of drivel in the bunch. Sometimes the source material isn’t that good to begin with. Love him or loathe him, it cannot be denied that he’s a master storyteller who’s dreamt up concepts touched by greatness, and that his fertile imagination has given Hollywood some fun, fascinating and superb films.

Without further ado, here are my favourite Stephen King film adaptations.

10. It

9. Pet Sematary

8. The Running Man

7. Dead Zone

6. Carrie

5. Misery

4. The Green Mile

3. The Shining

2. Stand By Me

1. Shawshank Redemption

What are your favourite Stephen King film adaptations? Let us know in the comments section.


  1. Definitely Shawshank and Green Mile, I'd have Pet Sematary higher and maybe The Stand in there.

  2. I'd put The Shinning and Carrie in my top two spots.

    By the way, I think I'm the only person who doesn't consider a Shawshank a masterpiece. I think it's a pretty decent movie; I've just never understood the adulation it's gotten over the years.

  3. I'd get rid of Pet Semetary and include the 1970s version of 'Salem's Lot, which was tremendous. In fact, I'd rank that in my top-5.

  4. I forgot that Stand By Me was based on a King story.

  5. @Pete - You know, it's been a long time since I've seen Pet Sematary. I've seen a few of my top picks more recently, so they're fresher in my mind. It would interesting to see if my placement of Pet Sematary would go up after seeing it again.

    For this list, I focused only on theatrical releases and not TV movies, so that's why The Stand miniseries was left off the list. I read that a new feature length adaptation is in the works and set for release in 2013.

    @Dave Enkosky - That's certainly a valid top two. You're not the only person. I know others who also don't understand the massive appeal of Shawshank. I saw it again about a month ago and I enjoyed it just as much as the first time.

    @SJHoneywell - 'Salem;s Lot' is one adaptation I've never seen. I'll have to check it out. 'Pet Sematary' is being remade. It will be interesting to see the updated version.

    @Ricky - I read about Stephen King movie adaptations as I was writing this post, and I was surprised by some of the films that I didn't realize were based on his works, like 'Maximum Overdrive.'

  6. It seems the salad days of King adaptations are behind us. For awhile it seemed like three or four of his books were in development to be released as films at the same time.

    I like your list, but I'd probably bump off It for The Stand but keep the positioning. It only appeals to me when Tim Curry is onscreen and is just too cheesy and cheap otherwise. The same thing could be said about The Stand, but I respond better to the kind of dripping and strangely optimistic schmaltz that oozes through that adaptation.

    As far as including The Stand as it didn't get a theatrical release, a lot of the best fictions we call films here in the states were TV mini-series elsewhere (Fanny and Alexander, The Decalogue, The Kingdom, etc.) So I understand your reasoning, but still think it deserves consideration.

    The Mist also got a little too much flack. It was a great "defend the stronghold" flick that descended into darkness a little too readily, but the post-9/11 religious poisoning story was effective (if a bit heavy handed).

    Thanks again for the list.

  7. Anonymous4:15 pm

    Don't forget "Dolores Claiborne". Didn't love the book but the film was great.

  8. Seconded. 'Dolores' was vastly underrated.

    Funny you should post this; I just saw 'Carrie' last night on the big screen. It seems campier than I remember it, and I had forgotten about the scene where a teacher actually hits a student and gets away with it! Spacek's performance still holds up though.

  9. Shawshank and Green Mile at the top are basically no-brainers. I liked Stand By Me but it would probably 3 for me. I haven't seen The Shining though. Glad you mention It ahah but it goes downhill pretty fast after the initial "pee your pants from seeing that clown" moments.

  10. @Cantstopdrew - Thanks for the great comment. I agree – we don’t hear about Stephen King adaptations as often as we used to, although I did check out Stephen King on IMDB while working on this post and noted that several films based on his works are currently in pre-production or in development, among them reboots of ‘Pet Sematary’ (2013), ‘The Stand’ (2013) and ‘Carrie’ (2013), so we’ll be hearing and seeing a lot of his works next year.

    I agree that ‘It’ is cheap and cheesy, but for me, that’s part of its appeal. Tim Curry is always captivating in films for some reason.

    As for adding ‘The Stand’ – fair enough. If added, I’d probably have it share the number 7 slot with ‘The Dead Zone.’

    I don’t have fond memories of ‘The Mist,’ but it has been awhile since I’ve seen it. I’ll have to watch it again as I’m interested to see how another viewing might alter my opinion, if at all.

    @Anonymous - ‘Dolores Claiborne’ is among the better adaptations, but I didn’t like it as much as the other films on my list. Thanks for the mention.

    @Rich - Two ‘Dolores’ plugs. Like with ‘The Mist,’ it’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen the film – it would be interesting to see how I feel about it after seeing it again. I may just do that.

    I don’t remember the scene where a teacher hits a student! Spacek’s performance was outstanding, and it will be interesting to see who is cast as Carrie in the remake that’s slated to be released next year. I did some searching around, but couldn’t find a definitive cast list for the new film.

    @Castor – I saw all three films recently on TV – Shawshank, Green Mile and Stand by Me – and I enjoyed all three immensely even though I’ve seen them numerous times before. I had to put them near the top because they still hold up and I think that’s the mark of a good film.

    ‘It’ is campy and cheesy, and it does get more silly as it goes along, but I have fond memories of watching that film, and the initial clown scene is one I’ll never forget.

  11. I remember liking the series The Dead Zone for a few seasons, but then it sort of disappeared.

  12. You can add a third mention of Dolores Claiborne. I'd definitely have it in my Top 5.

  13. @Andrew: Encore Entertainment - you're right. I remember it being on for awhile, and it starred Anthony Michael Hall, if I recall. Then it kind of just disappeared.

    @Chip Lary - after 3 mentions, I'll definitely make a point of watching that film again, and maybe blog about it.

  14. Great piece! I like your picks - there's a lot of King's work that is to be admired.

    I did a post on this very same subject not too long ago. Between your post and the comments here, it looks like you've touched on all of the good ones.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.