Top 20 Stephen King Movie Adaptations

The last few years have been great for adaptions of Stephen King’s work. With plenty of new releases and plenty more in the works. So now seems like a good time to revisit (or just visit I guess, for the newer ones) the long list – over 60 at time of writing of films based on Stephen King’s work. Because there are so many adaptations of Stephen King’s work – movies, mini-series, short films, TV shows and comics, I’m keeping this list to film adaptations. Because honestly, life’s too short!

See below for my picks of the 20 best movie adaptations based on Stephen King’s work.

*Warning minor spoilers ahead

Carrie (1976)

Carrie stars Sissy Spacek as Carrie White, an unpopular and bullied high school girl. Her situation is no better at home where she lives with her unstable and vindictive mother (Piper Laurie), who psychologically and physically abuses Carrie. When Carrie develops telekinetic powers… well, shit happens.

The Shining (1980)

The Shining is the story of Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), an author and recovering alcoholic who takes a position as the off-season caretaker of the isolated Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies, bringing his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and their five-year-old son Danny with him. Trapped by a winter storm Jack’s sanity slowly begins to crumble as he succumbs to the supernatural forces inhabiting the hotel.

It: Chapter One (2017)

Excellent adaptation (that, let’s face it could have been a disaster) of one of Stephen Kings most terrifying novels. It: Chapter One was a box office smash, updating the much loved but sadly outdated mini-series (the one with that show-stealing performance by Tim Curry).

Set in the summer of 1989 the “Losers Club” a group of bullied kids band together to destroy a shape-shifting monster, which preys on the children of Derry, their small Maine town by transforming itself into its prey’s worst fears.

Misery (1990)

Paul Sheldon, best-selling author of a series of Regency romance novels featuring heroine Misery Chastain is driving home from his remote Colorado lodge after completing his latest book when he loses control and crashes his car during a freak blizzard. (Un)luckily for him, he is rescued and brought home by Annie Wilkes a nurse and his “number one fan”. Paul soon begins to realise that his injuries from the car crash are the least of his worries!

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The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Based on the 1982 novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, The Shawshank Redemption tells the story of banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), who is sentenced to life in the brutal Shawshank State Penitentiary for the murder of his wife and her lover, despite claiming his innocence.

The Shawshank Redemption often tops the poll as viewers favourite film. 

Stand by Me (1986)

A coming-of-age classic based on King’s novella The Body about four small-town boys, who go on a hike to find the dead body of a missing boy.

This bittersweet coming of age drama directed by Rob Reiner and starring lots of names you might recognise – Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell, was a favourite of mine growing up.

Geralds Game (2017)

An adaptation of the novel that was long thought to be unfilmable until Mike Flanagan came in and smashed it! Without giving too much away the film is about Jessie (an amazing performance from Carla Gugino) and Gerald, a married couple staying in their isolated lake house and a sex game that goes horribly, horribly wrong.

The Mist (2007)

Members of a small town in Maine are trapped in a supermarket after an unnatural mist rolls in enveloping the town. Lurking in the Mist, some extremely nasty, Lovecraftian surprises wait to greet them!

Personally, I’m still not sure about “that ending” which is different to the Novella’s ending but which King likes. It definitely packs a punch I guess, but no spoilers from me. I’ll leave you to make up your own minds!

The Green Mile (1999)

Told in a flashback format, the Green Mile tells the story of Paul Edgecomb’s life as a death row corrections officer, and the supernatural events he witnessed when John Coffey, a black man sentenced to death for the murder of two white children turns out to be more than he seems. 

The Dead Zone (1983)

A perfectly ordinary schoolteacher Johnny Smith (played by Christopher Walken) is involved in a terrible car accident after a night out with his girlfriend. He wakes from a coma years later to find he has developed psychic powers. He can touch people’s hands and get a glimpse of what will happen in their future. When he discovers he can change this future, he finds himself in a terrible moral dilemma.

Delores Claiborne (1995)

Dolores Claiborne works as a housekeeper for a demanding, elderly and very wealthy woman named Vera Donovan in a small, remote island off the coast of Maine. When Dolores is found standing over Vera’s body, heavy rolling pin raised(!) and the house in disarray she becomes the prime suspect in Vera’s murder. When she hears about Vera, Dolores’ estranged daughter Selena returns from New York, where she works as a successful reporter.

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1922 (1917)

Based on King’s dark short story, 1922 follows Wilf a farmer living in Nebraska with his wife, Arlette and their 14-year-old son Henry. Tensions between the family over the sale of the land slowly simmer, resulting in a dreadful crime. And rats. Lots of rats. 

Christine (1982)

Cult Classic, directed by John Carpenter about a possessed 1985 Plymouth Fury named Christine – out to even the score with anyone who wrongs the car – or its owner (obvs!)

Pet Sematary (1989)

When Louis Creed and his family move from Chicago to the small town of Ludlow a family tragedy causes him to make a big, big mistake!

King has gone on record stating that of all the novels he has written, Pet Sematary (a take on the “The Monkey’s Paw”) is the one which genuinely scared him the most, so much so that he originally considered not publishing it.

The critics are pretty mixed on this one. Personally, if you want a really good scare I’d go with the book. But although flawed and a bit dated the film is still an effective chiller. The recent remake? Nah, not so much.

Apt Pupil (1998)

In the 1980s in southern California, high school student Todd Bowden discovers a fugitive Nazi war criminal has been quietly living in his neighbourhood under an assumed name. Bowden, obsessed with Nazism blackmails the old man into sharing his stories, and their relationship soon spirals out of control, producing terrifying results.

1408 (2007)

Based on King’s short story of the same name, 1408 follows Mike Enslin, an author who investigates allegedly haunted houses. When he rents room 1408 – a room in a New York City hotel where supposedly no one can last more than an hour, he experiences a series of bizarre and terrifying events.

Firestarter (1984)

Drew Barrymore plays Charlie McGee, a young girl who develops pyrokinesis – the ability to set fires at will. This power attracts the attention of The Shop, a shady government agency who years earlier had conducted top-secret experiments on her parents. With the shop closing in, Charlie and her father are forced to go on the run.

Cujo (1983)

The film follows a mother and her young son who have become trapped in their car by a huge, rabid St. Bernard. Isolated, and without food and water they must fight to survive. Not one for Dog-aphobes.

The Running Man (1987)

Pretty loosely based on the 1982 novel of the same name, published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. Set in a dystopian United States The Running Man is a television show, where convicted criminal “runners” must escape death at the hands of professional killers.

The Dark Half (1993)

Directed by George A. Romero, The Dark Half follows author of highbrow literary novels, Thad Beaumont. Thad is better known for the thrillers he writes under the pen name George Stark. When Thad tries to retire the Stark name, Stark becomes a malevolent physical entity.

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