Whether you’re a Stephen King fan or not, chances are you’ll be familiar with his work.
It’s pretty hard not to be. Even if you’ve never read any of the horror author’s stories, you’ll almost certainly have stumbled across some of them on screen, particularly considering there are so damn many of them (somewhere around a hundred when you lump in movies, sequels, and TV shows together).
For this list, we’ve focused solely on ranking every Stephen King movie adaptation, and specifically originals and remakes (no sequels, because frankly the Children of the Corn franchise alone is long enough for its own list).
Some of these films are terrible, some are masterpieces. Some you’ll have seen before, some you won’t. Some you’ll know straight away are Stephen King movies (hello, The Shining), some you may never even have realised were adapted from the author’s work.
From forgettable ’80s b-movies to films that have left a permanent mark on movie history, here’s every single Stephen King film adaptation ever made, from the very worst to the very best.
48. Creepshow 2 (1987)
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Several horror anthology movies have been made from King’s work. Yet despite an adapted screenplay by zombie-horror legend George A. Romero, this one sits at the bottom of the barrel. Three King short stories (“Old Chief Wood’nhead,” “The Raft,” and “The Hitchhiker”) are transformed into grisly vignettes by Tales from the Darkside TV director Michael Gornick.
They’re garishly gory, which could have made for schlocky fun. Except these stories are more crass than creepy, relishing in racist depictions of indigenous Americans and gleeful misogyny that leers at women’s bared breasts before ripping them to shreds. Simply put, this one’s a gross stain on both King and Romero’s filmographies. — Kristy Puchko, Deputy Entertainment Editor
47. Thinner (1996)
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Based on King’s 1984 novel of the same name, Thinner follows Billy Halleck (Robert John Burke), a pompous and plump lawyer whose wish to lose weight becomes an actual curse.
This movie has aged incredibly poorly. Beyond the fat-shaming premise, the cursed plotline plays into racist “gypsy” stereotypes, which paint the Romani people as vicious, vengeful, and deceptive. On top of all that, there’s a decadent slathering of misogyny, which portrays women as sinister seductresses and hideous crones. Trust us, this one is better off left forgotten. — K.P.
46. Children of the Corn (1984)
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King has spawned plenty of “creepy kids” stories, but none have been quite as prolific as Children of the Corn. Despite being based on a short story, this Fritz Kiersch-directed horror film has yielded nine sequels and a straight to DVD remake in 2009.
The first film centers on a city-slicker couple that stumble into a rural town overrun by murderous children, who worship a vengeful god that stalks the cornfields. While John Franklin is memorable as the glowering child-prophet Isaac, Children of the Corn pales in comparison to its King siblings, like Carrie, Firestarter, and Pet Sematary (both versions). Over the decades, its slow-burn feels more stale and boring, despite splashes of blood and religious horror. — K.P.
45. Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990)
Credit: Paramount Pictures
Though a better anthology than Creepshow 2, this one is less of a Stephen King movie. Born from the success of George A. Romero’s Tales from the Darkside TV series (1983-1988), the film features horror shorts from various writers, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. King’s entry, an adaptation of the short story “Cat from Hell,” is unnerving fun, focusing on a hitman (David Johansen) hired to kill a vengeful cat. However, the most thrilling segment was penned by Beetlejuice writer Michael McDowell. “Lover’s Vow” taps into Japanese folklore for an entry as spooky as it is seductive.
Among the most star-studded of King anthologies, Tales from the Darkside boasts appearances by Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, Rae Dawn Chong, Christian Slater, and Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry. —K.P.
44. Dolan’s Cadillac (2009)
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Not even the presence of a big name like Christian Slater is enough to save this one. Adapted from a short story and very much feeling like an idea stretched awkwardly into a full length movie, Jeff Beesley’s screen version of Dolan’s Cadillac follows a man intent on revenge after his wife is killed by a human trafficker. The method of vengeance is creative enough to add some originality, but the characters are flat and the tension never really gets there. — Sam Haysom, Deputy UK Editor
43. Mercy (2014)
Anyone who’s read King’s short story “Gramma” will know that it’s an incredibly creepy and effective tale which may well be up there among the author’s scariest works. Peter Cornwall’s Mercy adaptation, however, is a bloated mess.
There’s nothing wrong with the direction itself and screenwriter Matt Greenberg has made a valiant effort of expanding the story for the big screen, but unfortunately the whole thing just feels too stretched. The end result loses the creepy immediacy of the original tale, and replaces it with a fairly long-winded (and not particularly scary) movie about a little boy who’s grandmother may be possessed. Just watch Hereditary instead. — S.H.
42. The Dark Half (1993)
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Not all Stephen King stories are created equal, and The Dark Half is, in my opinion at least, not one of the horror master’s best. So it’s perhaps not such a surprise that the movie adaptation falls so far down in this ranking. Following a writer who kills off his pseudonym only to find it coming to life to exact revenge, George A. Romero’s The Dark Half has an entertainingly gruesome start before going sharply downhill. You’ll find better King adaptations about troubled writers further down this list. — S.H.
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41. The Mangler (1995)
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Let’s be honest: Making a good film about a possessed laundry machine was never going to be easy and, sure enough, Tobe Hooper’s adaptation of this silly King short story is about as terrible as you’d expect.
Making a good film about a possessed laundry machine was never going to be easy…
The Mangler sees officer John Hunton (Ted Levine) investigating the strange goings-on in an industrial laundry, following the death of an elderly worker after she gets pulled into the titular machine and crushed. The story is incredibly dumb, the special effects are ropey and dated, and there’s a scene in which Hunton shoots through his own coat in order to free himself from the clutches of the Mangler after it almost gets hold of him, which should go some way to giving you a sense of just how ridiculous this one is. — S.H.
40. Needful Things (1993)
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Needful Things is a long, sprawling novel with multiple characters and a complicated series of inter-locking connections and relationships. It was always going to be difficult to turn into a movie. W.D. Richter’s screenplay, in fairness, does a decent job of streamlining the bulky story, which is all about mysterious character Leland Gaunt (played by an undeniably charismatic Max von Sydow), who arrives in a small town and opens up a store that offers people their heart’s desire — for a price. It’s an intriguing premise, but there’s too much going on here with too many underdeveloped characters that are difficult to care about. — S.H.
39. The Night Flier (1997)
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There are plenty of Stephen King ideas that, when condensed into a single sentence, sound nothing short of ridiculous. The Mangler is one, and The Night Flier — a tale about an ancient vampire that flies about in a tiny plane killing people — slots comfortably into the same category.
Writer/director Mark Pavia has done a decent enough job expanding the original short story into a feature length film, but unfortunately his starting point is so silly there’s only really so much he can do. The Night Flier is the kind of movie that you could probably enjoy with a group of friends if you’re not taking it too seriously, but otherwise it’s one to skip. — S.H.
38. Maximum Overdrive (1986)
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The first and only movie King directed himself (!) is, somewhat predictably, not all that great. But it’s maybe not quite as terrible as the 15 percent Rotten Tomatoes score would suggest, either. Based on the author’s short story, Trucks, about people who get trapped in a gas station during a machine-themed apocalypse, Maximum Overdrive sees Emilio Estevez and Laura Harrington attempting to escape a parking lot full of murderous 18-wheelers while an AC/DC-heavy soundtrack thrashes in the background. The movie is predictable, hammy, and dated, but the story doesn’t take itself too seriously and there are more than a few fun moments. — S.H.
37. Riding the Bullet (2004)
Somewhere in Riding the Bullet, buried not too far below the surface, is a poignant story about grief and coming to terms with the death of a parent. The problem is it gets lost in all the other stuff.
Based on a King short story of the same name, Mick Garris’ adaptation follows troubled college student Alan (Jonathan Jackson) as he hitch-hikes home to visit his sick mother (Barbara Hershey) in hospital. David Arquette has a cameo as George Staub, the strange man who picks him up and gives him a disturbing ultimatum. There are some moving moments in the movie, and the final five minutes are particularly powerful, but unfortunately it’s not enough to rescue the drawn-out (and not at all scary) plot. — S.H.
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36. Firestarter (2022)
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Based on King’s 1980 novel, Firestarter follows a father-daughter duo on the run because of their extraordinary abilities. He (Zac Efron) has the power to bend people’s will with his mind; she (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) can set fires telekinetically. So, naturally, they’re viewed as unchecked weapons by a sinister organization.
In short, this tale of coming-of-age carnage has no spark.
Admittedly, the 1984 adaptation, which starred a young Drew Barrymore in the title role, wasn’t all that great to begin with, so a remake shouldn’t have been such a bad idea. Regrettably, screenwriter Scott Teems and director Keith Thomas don’t bring anything explosively new or all that thrilling to their spin on King. In my review for Mashable, I called it “more pointless than perturbing.” In short, this tale of coming-of-age carnage has no spark. —K.P.
35. The Dark Tower (2017)
Credit: Columbia Pictures
So much wasted potential. The Dark Tower obviously isn’t the worst King adaptation out there, but — particularly for anyone familiar with the books — it may be the most frustrating. The thing is, the author’s Dark Tower series is his self-proclaimed magnum opus. It makes The Stand look like a short story. The series is eight books and one novella long, telling the tale of a sprawling battle between good and evil that takes place across multiple worlds, with a huge cast of awesome characters, one of the best endings King has ever written, and the mysterious Dark Tower at the very centre of it all.
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Nikolaj Arcel’s movie dips its toe into this world, but that’s about all it does. The story feels rushed, and not even the acting might of Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, and a strong turn from young star Tom Taylor can rescue it. The key problem is The Dark Tower tries to work in its own right as a standalone movie. But, like the multiverse at the heart of the novels, it’s far too vast for that. — S.H.
34. Graveyard Shift (1990)
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For the most part, adapted short stories get a hard time of it on this list. Graveyard Shift is no exception, with John Esposito’s screenplay taking a brilliantly gory King tale about workers clearing the basement of a rat-infested textile mill and stretching it awkwardly into a full-length movie. But the film is not without its gruesome charm, and although the set-up feels a tad cluttered and the character development isn’t great, the action builds to an impressively unpleasant crescendo as the core group goes exploring in the mill’s hidden sub-basement (extra points for a fight that takes place in a literal bone pit, and the awesomely grotesque monster itself). — S.H.
33. Dreamcatcher (2003)
On paper, this one has all the ingredients of a good King adaptation. Co-written and directed by Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back writer Lawrence Kasdan and starring Morgan Freeman and Damian Lewis, Dreamcatcher is an IT-style story that sees childhood friends reuniting as adults after something strange happened to them in the past. Only this time instead of killer clowns, we have an alien parasite. It should be fun, but somehow the story isn’t particularly memorable and the characters all feel a little underdeveloped. — S.H.
32. In the Tall Grass (2019)
King co-wrote In the Tall Grass with his son, writer Joe Hill, and it’s easy to see why Cube director Vincenzo Natali was keen to work on the adaptation: Set almost entirely in a seemingly endless field of grass that traps passers-by, In the Tall Grass is a fun idea that was presumably relatively easy (and cheap) to shoot. The problem is, a fun idea is about as far as this one goes. Once you get beyond the claustrophobic concept, the movie is a little repetitive. Although there are some creepy and disturbing moments, the ending isn’t satisfying enough to excuse the film’s other issues. — S.H.
Set in – you guessed it – 1922, Zak Hilditch’s adaptation of King’s novella of the same name follows a Nebraskan farmer who convinces his own son to help him murder his wife, with the aim being to stop her selling the farm and moving the family away to the city. Yep, it’s a cheerful one. The adaptation captures the same bleakness as the source material, but unfortunately it downplays the creeping presence of rats, one of the story’s more disturbing — and intriguing — elements. What’s left is a dark, gory tale where the characters are all as difficult to like as they are to care about. — S.H.
30. Cell (2016)
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OK, so Cell doesn’t quite qualify for “hidden gem” status, but you could certainly make a case for it at least being a bit overlooked. Despite its A-list cast (Samuel L. Jackson and John Cusack star) the film has been largely forgotten, most likely due to the wildly bad reception it received from both critics and the public.
But does it really deserve such an awful Rotten Tomatoes score? I would argue no. It’s not a great film but it’s certainly not terrible by any means, taking the fun idea of a cell phone-induced apocalypse and creating more than a few tense sequences as our main characters struggle to survive the plague’s rabid victims. The characters are a little underdeveloped, sure, and the film loses its way in the third act, but for a casual weekend watch you could do far worse. — S.H.
29. The Lawnmower Man (1992)
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There are probably many things people say to Pierce Brosnan when they spot him in the street and ask for a selfie, but “I loved you in the 1992 classic The Lawnmower Man” is most likely not one of them.
Even calling The Lawnmower Man a King adaptation feels like a bit of stretch, because the movie is so far removed from the original short story it barely even feels like they bothered using the source material (King actually won a lawsuit against New Line Cinema to have his name removed from the movie’s advertising, arguing it bore little resemblance to his original short story). The thing is, though, despite the author wanting little to do with it, the movie isn’t actually as terrible as its reviews might suggest, telling an entertaining enough Frankenstein-style sci-fi story about a scientist who uses virtual reality to expand his subject’s intelligence. — S.H.
28. Firestarter (1984)
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In this incendiary escapade, Baby Drew Barrymore is basically Eleven from Stranger Things way before the Netflix show landed. For the 100 percent fine 1984 adaptation of King’s Firestarter, she plays eight-year-old Charlie McGee, whose pyrokinetic abilities come from her parents (David Keith and Heather Locklear) — they, in turn, developed their own nosebleed-inducing telepathic abilities after saying yes to a hallucinogenic trial. Of course, a government agency called The Shop gets wind of Charlie’s fiery powers and wants to use them for their own gain. Like Carrie, Charlie just wants to be treated nicely by society, but it seems the world only sees her as a monster.
It’s an utterly OK narrative helped by clever fire and fan-heavy special effects and a solid cast including tiny Barrymore setting cinder blocks and agents ablaze, Martin Sheen in his second King film after The Dead Zone as the head of The Shop, Shaft’s Moses Gunn as Dr. Pynchot, Starsky and Hutch star Antonio Fargas as the taxi driver (!), and George C. Scott as diabolical assassin John Rainbird. If nothing else, it’s all about that synth-fuelled Tangerine Dream score. — Shannon Connellan, Mashable UK Editor
27. Cujo (1983)
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Given the fact dogs in Hollywood usually come in the form of happy, waggy-tailed companions that may or may not eventually break your heart (looking at you, Turner and Hooch), you’d think a murderously rabid St. Bernard might have been something of a tough sell.
You’d think a murderously rabid St. Bernard might have been something of a tough sell.
But in Cujo, it works. Or at least, it does up to a point. Centred around Donna (Dee Wallace) and her son Tad (Danny Pintauro), who become trapped in a sweltering hot car while said murder-hound stalks outside it, Cujo the movie borrows from the claustrophobia and tension that made King’s novel such a classic. The problem is it doesn’t borrow quite enough of it, and the dog – no matter how good a job makeup may have done – just isn’t quite as scary onscreen (the movie is almost 40 years old, of course, so it’s bound to look a little dated nowadays). Still pretty fun, though. — S.H.
26. Silver Bullet (1985)
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He may be an excellent prose writer, but it’s probably fair to say that King’s screenwriting record is somewhat patchier (hello, Maximum Overdrive). For a werewolf flick that gives off strong b-movie vibes, though, Silver Bullet (based on King’s novella Cycle of the Werewolf) is actually pretty entertaining.
The story follows a brother and sister (Corey Haim and Megan Follows) on the trail of a small town monster wreaking havoc through the local community. Gary Busey plays their quirky uncle Red, Everett McGill and Terry O’Quinn have cameos, and despite the not-so-great-by-2020s-standard special effects, you might have a decent time sitting down to watch this one on a Friday night. — S.H.
25. Cat’s Eye (1985)
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Fun fact: Cat’s Eye marks King’s first credit as a screenwriter. Tying together the short stories Quitters, Inc., The Ledge, and General, this is one of the better horror anthologies in his filmography, in part because it’s darkly bonkers.
Named for a framing device that follows a stray cat through three twisted stories, Cat’s Eye begins with James Woods playing a family man who tries to quit smoking through the mafia and their notorious tactics. (Bad news for his unsuspecting wife!) Embracing the very corniest of ’80s-era visuals, his internal struggle with addiction is a terrifically nightmarish ride, conducted by a madcap Alan King as a grinning mob boss. The other two stories boast vengeance, more violence, a creepy critter, and Drew Barrymore in her second King role, following 1984’s Firestarter. Funky and frightening, this one’s a weird, good time. Plus, it’s sprinkled with Easter Eggs from the King films that precede it. — K.P.
24. A Good Marriage (2014)
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Before working on this list I thought that the vast majority of King movie adaptations could be easily grouped into the great or the terrible. But it isn’t that binary, and films like A Good Marriage are proof.
Based on one of the author’s more unpleasant novellas of the same name, Peter Askin’s adaptation follows Darcy (Joan Allen), a wife and mother who one day discovers her husband is hiding a horrible secret. The direction, acting, and script are all solid, but A Good Marriage lacks some of its source material’s tension as we don’t burrow quite as deep into Darcy’s fears and anxieties as the book takes us. There are also other movies out there, like The Clovehitch Killer, that arguably do a better job of telling a similar story. — S.H.
23. IT Chapter Two (2019)
Credit: Warner Bros.
The second part of Andy Muschietti’s IT revival (more on the first part later) is also the slightly weaker movie, at least in my personal opinion. It may well be subjective though, because the sections of the novel I always enjoyed the most were those set in the past, during the main characters’ childhoods, and the two movies split these sections up entirely, with IT Chapter Two focussing solely on what happens to the Losers’ Club as adults.
This tale of friends reuniting to combat an old evil is still a lot of fun, though, with some excellent performances from James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, and Bill Hader, another disturbing turn from Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise, and an almost show-stealingly grouchy cameo from Stephen King himself. — S.H.
22. Christine (1983)
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If the car in Titane had a less lusty, more murderous origin story, it would probably be Christine. King’s 1983 automobile horror novel saw a John Carpenter-directed film version out the same year, and sees a possessed 1958 Plymouth Fury wreaking all sorts of homicidal havoc on its unsuspecting passengers.
The famous “show me” scene in which Christine repairs herself is exceptional, weirdly lascivious, and frankly terrifying screen magic.
The legendary Halloween director’s ability to weave tension and fear from seemingly standard car functions — the radio turning on, the headlights blaring, the engine revving — is characteristically outstanding, taking King’s wild high-concept premise and scaring the wheels off you. The famous “show me” scene in which Christine repairs herself is exceptional, weirdly lascivious, and frankly terrifying screen magic. — S.C.
21. The Running Man (1987)
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This one is an odd fit among the rest of King’s screen adaptations. It’s based on a novel the author didn’t even publish under his own name, and just about the only thing the movie has in common with the book is that it’s about a guy named Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger) trying to escape from a dystopian murder game show.
I don’t really care about the movie’s accuracy to the source material and neither should you. Instead, you have to appreciate it for its defiance of traditional standards, as almost everyone in the cast is famous for something other than acting, including NFL legend Jim Brown, a bunch of pro wrestlers, and ’70s game show host Richard Dawson. Every single one of them kills it, thanks to the kind of campy, absurd action filmmaking Schwarzenegger was the face of in the late ’80s. Dawson deserves extra credit for turning on his Family Feud energy to schmooze with old women in the audience while being an abusive nightmare to his crew backstage.
The Running Man may not be a cinematic standard-bearer, but it’s still a whole lot of fun to watch Arnold choke a sadistic hockey player out with razor wire before remarking that he was a “pain in the neck.” — Alex Perry, Tech Reporter
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20. Hearts in Atlantis (2001)
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OK, we’re going to go out there and say this one qualifies for “hidden gem” status. It’s a long way from being the best King movie adaptation, sure, but Scott Hick’s coming-of-age mystery still packs a heavy punch of nostalgia and features some great acting turns from Anthony Hopkins, Hope Davis, and a young Anton Yelchin. The story follows a lonely 11-year-old boy, Bobby (Yelchin), who befriends a man (Hopkins) who moves into the apartment above him — only to learn he has unusual abilities and appears to be on the run from some shadowy figures.
A side note if you were wondering about the title: The filmmakers presumably went with Hearts in Atlantis because it’s the title of the book, but the book itself is actually a collection of five linked stories, the second of which is titled Hearts in Atlantis and is all about college students addicted to the card game Hearts. The movie, on the other hand, is a straight adaptation of the first story in the book, which features absolutely no mention of either Hearts or Atlantis whatsoever. Confusing titles aside, though, this one is worth a watch. — S.H.
19. Secret Window (2004)
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Featuring an impressively dead-eyed turn from John Turturro as the villain, Secret Window sees writer Mort Rainey (yeah we know, Johnny Depp is in this) attempting to find solace from his recent divorce in a remote lake house — only for a stranger to show up on his doorstep accusing him of plagiarism. What follows is an unpleasant, escalating cat-and-mouse game which is equal parts horror and psychological thriller, with writer/director David Koepp keeping the tension and dread mounting until the movie’s twisty conclusion. — S.H.
18. Apt Pupil (1998)
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It’s difficult to separate Apt Pupil from its own disturbing legacy. The movie was directed by Bryan Singer, who has since faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct including the allegation that he sexually assaulted 13-year-old extra Victor Valdovinos on the film’s set in 1997.
As hard as it is to do, I’ve tried to assess Apt Pupil here solely on the movie’s own merits. The film sees high school student Todd Bowden (Brad Renfro) discovering the real identity of an elderly man in his neighborhood, Arthur Denker (Ian McKellen), a Nazi war criminal in hiding, before proceeding to blackmail him with demands to hear his firsthand accounts of the concentration camps. Like the novella it’s based on the film is disturbing, and its characters dark and complex, but the central performances from Renfro and McKellen alone make it worth watching, as does the way the tension builds and builds and builds. — S.H.
17. Carrie (2013)
Credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment
Carrie is a King novel so enthralling that it’s been adapted repeatedly. Director Kimberly Peirce translated King’s ’70s-set tale of a tormented telekinetic teen to the 2010s, adding cyberbullying to the high school horrors that Carrie endures before her bloody breakdown at prom. Chloë Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore bring gravitas to the lead roles of the terrifying mother-daughter duo. Advancements in visual effects allow for a third act filled with carnage, gore, and fire. However, while solidly scary, Peirce’s remake still can’t hold a candle (much less a flaming gas station) to Brian De Palma’s Academy Award-nominated 1976 version. — K.P.
16. Pet Sematary (2019)
Credit: Paramount Pictures
Coming out a full 30 years after the first adaption of Pet Sematary (more on that one in a moment), Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer’s version of King’s early creepfest stars Jason Clarke and Amy Seimetz as Louis and Rachel, a couple who’ve just made the terrible mistake of relocating to rural Maine only to discover there’s something deeply odd about the forest behind their house. If you’re looking to be scared and disturbed this one’s a good choice, as what it occasionally lacks in character development it more than makes up for in jump-scares and suspense. — S.H.
15. Dolores Claiborne (1995)
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Not Kathy Bates’ finest outing in a King adaptation (you’ll see why shortly), but a fine outing nonetheless. Steering more into psychological thriller territory than horror, Dolores Claiborne follows a widow who’s been accused of murdering the elderly woman she was caring for, and her tense relationship with her estranged daughter, Selena (Jennifer Jason Leigh), that’s played out via flashbacks.
It’s a well-told, well-acted story, but be warned — it’s also a dark and disturbing one with monsters that are all too human. — S.H.
14. Pet Sematary (1989)
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When we talk Classic King, this is what we’re talking about: a quiet small town in Maine, the kind of place that should be peaceful, yet its community end up being ripped asunder by creeping supernatural forces.
When we talk Classic King, this is what we’re talking about.
In this case, the Creed family move away from the big city to watch their children grow up happy and healthy. When that dream is shattered, a grief-stricken father (Dale Midkiff) takes to a burial ground steeped in local legend, searching for solace. The results are gutting, sometimes literally. With a creeping camera and nightmarish practical effects, director Mary Lambert brought King’s creepy prose to grisly life (and even directed the decently disturbing sequel, Pet Sematary Two). Thanks to her, a generation of King fans clung to this creepy cautionary tale that warns, “Sometimes, dead is better.” —K.P.
13. Creepshow (1982)
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What do you get when you take a collection of King’s short stories and hand them over to the godfather of the modern zombie, George A. Romero, to direct for the big screen? The all-time classic horror anthology, Creepshow.
Horror is made for anthology films and this one is the standard bearer. The five shorts written by King, in what is also his screenwriting debut, are brilliantly woven together throughout the film via animated scenes portraying a comic book that carry the tales on its pages.
Even if you haven’t seen Creepshow, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with iconic scenes from the film: Leslie Nielsen — yes, the Leslie Nielsen of Naked Gun and Airplane! fame — neck deep in sand awaiting his death in Something to Tide You Over. An undead Jon Lormer rises from the grave and surprises his (remaining) family members with a severed head dressed up with candles and presented like a cake as he exclaims “Happy Father’s Day!” And, of course, King himself stars as a dull farm boy who sees his farm and eventually his own body overtaken by an alien mosslike lifeform in The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill. — Matt Binder, Tech Reporter
12. Doctor Sleep (2019)
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King famously loathed Stanley Kubrick’s movie adaptation of The Shining. So, modern horror auteur Mike Flanagan (Hush, The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor) had a lot to prove with a sequel that would integrate the 1980 psycho-thriller and the 1977 novel’s follow-up, titled Doctor Sleep. Some fans have bristled at the changes from the book, but others have cheered how Flanagan translated the mood of King — if not the exact story — into an ambitious, bloody, and deeply unnerving next chapter.
‘Doctor Sleep’ isn’t ‘The Shining’ and that’s the highest compliment
Ewan McGregor stars as the grown-up but still haunted Danny Torrance. However, the real stars of this film are Kyliegh Curran, as a brave young girl with “the shining,” and Rebecca Ferguson as the evil, sexy, and enviably stylish child-killer, Rose the Hat. — K.P.
11. 1408 (2007)
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Yes, we know there’s another, way more famous haunted hotel movie on King’s lineup, but don’t forget to pack your bag for the Dolphin Hotel too. You actually can’t check in any time you like to the titular room number 1408, but if, like haunted hotel reviewer and book author Mike Enslin (a superbly cynical and slowly unhinged John Cusack), you force your way in despite the manager’s warnings (an effortlessly foreboding Samuel L. Jackson), you can never leave.
Director Mikael Håfström does some truly scary things with special effects in this adaptation of King’s short story, and they even shot three different endings, all different to the author’s original. But the real winner of this film is Cusack, whose performance mostly contained to the hotel room itself is unrelentingly compelling. — S.C.
10. IT: Chapter One (2017)
Credit: Warner Bros.
The IT remake seemed to come at the perfect time, riding high on the coattails of Stranger Things-induced ’80s horror nostalgia (Finn Wolfhard even stars) and tapping into the nightmarish memories of a generation who grew up terrified by both the old TV series and the book. As a big fan of the latter I remember being nervous going into this one, but was pleasantly surprised by how Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of this tale of small-town evil turned out.
Muschietti’s film taps into the awkward highs and lows of adolescence that King’s book expertly portrayed.
The scares are there, yes (helped along by Bill Skarsgård’s theatrically creepy take on Pennywise the Clown), but Muschietti’s film also taps into the awkward highs and lows of adolescence that King’s book expertly portrayed. — S.H.
9. Gerald’s Game (2017)
How do you turn a story that’s set almost entirely in a single room into a watchable film? Well for a long time, with Gerald’s Game at least, you didn’t.
The novel came out in 1992, and it was only a full 25 years later that Mike Flanagan’s adaptation finally made it to Netflix. King himself previously admitted he thought the book was “unfilmable” when he first read it in college, and it’s easy to see why: The story follows Jessie (Carla Gugino), who gets trapped in a remote lake house handcuffed to a bed after her husband unexpectedly dies of a heart attack. Much of the story takes place in her head, but Flanagan’s direction — which makes use of flashbacks and imaginary conversations — brings Jessie’s internal nightmare effortlessly to life. — S.H.
8. The Mist (2007)
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While two of writer/director Frank Darabont’s King adaptations have risen to the lofty heights of all-time greatest film lists (more on them later), The Mist has flown largely under the radar. It has a decent enough Rotten Tomatoes audience rating, and positive enough reviews, but it appears to have been mostly lost in the shadow of Darabont’s earlier work. It’s an ill-deserved legacy.
Following a father and son who get trapped in a gas station store with a group of strangers as a weird fog envelops their town, The Mist takes an intriguing premise and spins out a tense popcorn-muncher of a film that’s equal parts fun, jumpy and harrowing. It’s not a perfect movie – some of the special effects look a little dated here and there – but it’s still leagues ahead of most monster movies, and comes complete with a chilling human antagonist and a convincing analogy of the dangers of fundamental religion. — S.H.
7. The Dead Zone (1983)
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It’s hard to imagine that either Stephen King or David Cronenberg would have known how unsettlingly timely The Dead Zone would feel in 2022. The 1983 adaptation of the author’s 1979 novel introduces us to Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) — a provincial school teacher about to marry his sweetheart. After a car accident that almost kills him, Johnny wakes up with the psychic ability to see people’s past and future. It will take him a while to understand that his powers are not just about seeing the future, but about being able to change it. The psychological thriller becomes political when a Trump-like figure is introduced halfway through the film. Add some nuclear anxiety and seen today, The Dead Zone seems here to tell us that we still haven’t learnt our lessons.
This 1979 Stephen King novel is a chilling prediction of Donald Trump’s rise
But there’s much to be enjoyed about the film outside its political relevance. Starting with the award-worthy performances by Christopher Walken and Michael Sheen, and adding Mark Irwin’s stunning cinematography, Cronenberg’s adaptation is a cinematic feast. To experience The Dead Zone in all its glory, look for the film’s digital restoration. — Teodosia Dobriyanova, Video Producer
6. The Shining (1980)
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Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining occupies a strange place in movie history. The film has long enjoyed praise from critics, it sits comfortably in the IMDb top 250 movies of all time, and it’s probably one of the most famous horror movies ever made. On the other hand, King himself isn’t a fan. Yep, really. The author hasn’t been shy with his opinions of the movie over the years, describing it as “cold” and calling Shelley Duvall’s character Wendy “one of the most misogynistic characters ever put on film.”
…the twins in the hallway, the river of blood, “Herrrreeeee’s, Johnny!”…
So, does he have a point? Well, you could certainly argue that the characters in Kubrick’s adaptation are nowhere near as three dimensional as King’s; Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) doesn’t unravel like he does in the book (he’s already unravelled to begin with), while Duvall’s character comes across as far more helpless on screen. But despite this, The Shining remains undeniably quintessential cinema — it’s disturbing, genuinely scary, and features imagery (the twins in the hallway; the river of blood; “Herrrreeeee’s, Johnny!”) that will burn themselves forever into your brain. — S.H.
5. Carrie (1976)
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The word “iconic” gets thrown around cavalierly, but Brian De Palma’s Carrie truly earns this distinguished adjective. Those who shudder at the very idea of watching a scary movie may not have seen Carrie, but they know the image of a girl in a pretty prom dress, draped in pig’s blood. They recognize the howl of Margaret White: “They’re all gonna laugh at you!”
Sissy Spacek stars as the titular telekinetic teen girl, a sheepish misfit mocked for her awkwardness and her zealot mother (Piper Laurie). But an act of kindness from a popular girl (Amy Irving) could prove a turning point for Carrie — and on prom night no less! Of course, King isn’t much for happy endings. And De Palma’s adaptation delivers when it comes to chills, screams, and haunting imagery. It’s little wonder Spacek and Laurie each earned Academy Award nods for their riveting and unnerving performances, streaked with agony, ecstasy, and resentment. — K.P.
4. The Green Mile (1999)
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It’s not easy to make a three-hour movie fly by, but Frank Darabont’s prison-set thriller is so incredibly tense, emotional, harrowing, and beautiful, that it easily feels half that length.
Taking place in a death row penitentiary in 1935 Louisiana, The Green Mile sees prison guard Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) and his colleagues coming to terms with the miraculous gifts of new inmate John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), a giant of a man who has been sentenced to death for the murder of twin girls. Pretty much every character in The Green Mile is memorable in their own right: there’s Paul’s towering best friend Brutus (David Morse), their snivellingly sadistic colleague Percy Whitmore (Doug Huchison), troubled prison warden Hal Moores (James Cromwell), and nightmarish inmate “Wild” Bill Wharton (Sam Rockwell). Saying that a movie is a rollercoaster of emotions feels clichéd, but in this case it fits. The story has the ability to shock, and make you laugh, disturb, and – ultimately – bring a tear to the eye. — S.H.
3. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
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It was always going to be near the top of the list, wasn’t it? Frank Darabont’s adaptation of King’s novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption has topped so many all-time greatest movie rankings — including its famous number one spot above The Godfather on the IMDb top 250 — that it would’ve been ridiculous for us not to include it up here. Its place in movie history is well deserved, too. I enjoyed King’s novella like I do most of his work, but this is probably one of the rare instances where the film surpasses its source material.
Probably one of the rare instances where the film surpasses its source material.
Tim Robbins is perfect as Andy Dufresne, a man who suddenly finds himself behind bars for a murder he claims not to have committed, while Morgan Freeman gives a legendary performance as his prison mate-turned-friend Red. There’s some truly unpleasant supporting roles from Mark Rolston as violent inmate Bogs and Clancy Brown as brutal prison guard Captain Hadley. It’s a film that’ll be watched and studied for decades to come. — S.H.
2. Misery (1990)
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Is Annie Willkes, played with terrifying (and Oscar-winning) intensity by Kathy Bates, the greatest female movie villain of all time? Very possibly.
Telling the nail-biting tale of best-selling writer Paul Sheldon (the late James Caan), who gets rescued from a car crash by his “number one fan” only to be held hostage, Misery is a horribly tense film that’ll have you sweating every time Wilkes leaves the house and Sheldon embarks on yet another doomed escape attempt. There are truly classic moments of dialogue (“you dirty bird”) and some scenes (you know the one) that will probably never leave your head once you’ve seen them. All in all Misery is an excellent thriller, one of two powerhouse King adaptations from Rob Reiner, and one of the greatest suspense movies ever made. — S.H.
1. Stand By Me (1986)
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Although some of King’s lengthier tomes (i.e. IT) have made excellent movies, you could make a pretty convincing case that it’s his shorter novels and novellas that work best on screen. Stand By Me is the perfect example of this.
“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12…Jesus, does anyone?”
Screenwriters Raynold Gideon and Bruce A. Evans took the author’s novella The Body — a coming-of-age tale about four friends who go hunting for a dead teenager while evading the local bullies — and squeezed out every drop of the story’s poignancy and humour. It’s a tear-jerking snapshot of the anxieties, friendships, highs, and lows of childhood. The novella packed a powerful punch of nostalgia and Rob Reiner’s direction channels this in its own way, placing the boys’ friendships front and centre, then considering them through a throughful adult lens. “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12,” the grown up narrator (Richard Dreyfuss) writes at one point. “Jesus, does anyone?”
Every single Stephen King novella, ranked
Keep an eye out for a young Kiefer Sutherland as the brilliantly unpleasant Ace Merrill, Wil Wheaton as budding writer Gordie Lachance, Corey Feldman as the bold Teddy Duchamp, a young Jerry O’Connell as the sweet Vern Tessio, and of course, the exceptional River Phoenix as Gordie’s best friend Chris Chambers. Their performances, like the movie itself, have a well-deserved place in cinematic history. — S.H.