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October 16th, 2018

Top 10 Stephen King Movie Adaptations

While not all of his numerous literary works refer to horror genre, Stephen King is widely known as the King of Horror. What’s true, however, is that he’s one of the most prolific popular writers of his time. Moreover, King beat many a record as a writer with the biggest number of works adapted for the screen.

Over 30 of his novels, novellas and short stories were made into films, and that not including TV-series and various shorts. As for quality, it’s quite a different story. Some of those flicks are complete disasters, others are rather average and only a limited number is actually worthwhile.  So here it comes – my top 10 of King’s best adaptations – ranging from simply good to greatest movies of the 20th century.

10. “The Mist” (2007)

One of King’s own favorite adaptations of his works and his third collaboration with Frank Darabont, “The Mist” is a truly scary and unnerving tale of a small town getting quickly flooded by thick mist filled with unspeakable monsters – apparently coming through a hole into another dimension caused by a recent storm.

A group of shoppers stuck in a local supermarket, including David and his little son, can do nothing but wait, suspecting that their loved ones at home are already dead. What slightly spoils the picture for me, however, is the ending. In his apocalyptic stories, including this one – King makes sure to leave at list a flicker of hope. The film offers none whatsoever for its despaired characters.

9. “Dead Zone” (1983)

In David Cronenberg’s “Dead Zone,” Christopher Walken plays Johnny Smith, who is enjoying his life, his teaching job and his lovely fiancée, when a car accident puts him into a coma for many years to come.

He finally awakens in the world where many things have changed and his girl is married to another. In addition to his troubles, he also appears to have developed psychic abilities and his visions won’t let him rest easy. Still, as honest man, Smith tries to put his gift to good use until, with nothing left to lose, he makes a final sacrifice to save the future.

8. “The Running Man” (1987)

In some not-so-distant future, society consumed by thirst for violent entertainment (we’re getting there I think), criminals convicted to death are no longer executed. Instead, they are brought on the show “The Running Man” where they are put into a labyrinth, hunted down and brutally murdered by gladiators armed with incredible futuristic weapons – to the cheers and applause of the crowd.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Ben Richards, unjustly convicted of murdering many innocent people during a military operation, tries to run but is captured and handed over to “Running Man’s” vile host to play with. Paul Michael Glazer turned the literary base into a dazzling cyberpunk packed with action in the same time offering a great insight into the bloodthirsty future of consumerism society.

7. “Dolores Claiborne” (1995)

One of the two SK adaptations starring Kathy Bates, this one directed by Taylor Hackford is a strong family drama haunted by the dark secrets of the past. A smalltown maid Dolores Claiborne gets arrested on suspicion of murder of an old woman she has been working for.

The accusation is powered by the fact that the locals believe her to have murdered her husband many years ago. When her own grownup daughter, a big city reporter, comes back home to help her, Dolores begins her true painful story that has in it murder, child abuse and selflessness of a loving mother.

6.  “Misery” (1990)

Now in Rob Reiner’s “Misery,” we see a completely different Kathy Bates – her character Annie is cheerful and benevolent on the surface, and a real psycho maniac inside. Writer Paul Sheldon (James Caan) believes he’s lucky to have her as a fan when she rescues him from a car crash and lovingly nurses him back to health at her home.

Little does he know  that she has no plans to let him go, and once he shares with her that he decided to kill off the main heroine of his books, Misery, in his latest novel, Annie makes his life hell. Admittedly, she’s the worst nightmare of every famous writer, including King himself.

5. “The Green Mile” (1999)

Another superb collaboration of SK and writer-director Frank Darabont. The movie stays quite true to the original even if it does so at the expense of the screen time – it’s over 3 hours long. But those patient enough to watch the slow progression of the story will be rewarded in full. Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) works as a prison guard dealing with convicts sentenced to death.

Paul is content with his job, considering the hard times – The Great Depression – until a big black man named John Coffee arrived into his block, sentenced to death for the murder of two little girls. The “monster” proves to be a humble and calm though very sad man, who soon reveals to have incredible healing powers.

Watching him perform several miracles, Edgecomb and his friends realize he’s no ordinary man and probably innocent too, but are unable to save him. Quite symbolically, John Coffee’s initials match those of Jesus Christ.



  1. Good article, but I thought the ending of The Mist was fantastic. Best thing about the film IMHO.

  2. Dwulf

    Pet Cemetary instead of Carrie and replace Stand by Me with Christine for my list. I liked Dreamcatcher as well, but not enough to make my top ten.

  3. Anonymous

    Wonderful list. I had not known that Stand by Me , that classic, was originated by King. Carrie was fun, that prom picture sums it all, and the audience really got a jolt in the end. I hope Kathy Bates gets another role as meaty. Give her a chain-saw next time.

  4. Boni

    Pet Sematary all the way, a sin you guys didn’t put it in the list. It’s simply the most faithful and terrifying horror story by King ever adapted (he was the screenwriter).

    I don’t agree about The Dead Zone, I think it’s one of the worst adaptations ever. The movie runs faster that Vin Diesel. All the book details are ignored or modified, and the actors don’t convice, except of course, Chris Walken.

  5. kabville

    i like Creepshow over Running Man.

  6. Cjester66

    Running Man has to be the worse King adaptation ever. It was a great story played out over the whole country with all the viewers watching for the main character and trying to help capture him. The movie turned it into a Carnival like atmosphere with a very small playing field. As I recall, it didn’t do real well at the box office either.

    • Will

      Yes, one may not be able to match up the movie the Running Man with the short story The Running Man if they did not have the same names.  Very different plots.

  7. jamesS312

    Those were the best movies ever made there so AWESOME!

  8. WHAT ABOUT SALEM’S LOT AND THE SHINING!!!!! although Cronenbergs adaptation was great as well.

  9. Pfft. aside from the literal ending – IT was the best acted SK movie… absolutely terrifying performance from tim curry and great performances from the child actors right to our television favorites (John Ritter, Tim Reid, Annette O’Toole, Richard Masur and Harry anderson)… The MIST was PURE SHIT. While It’s ending was confusing because they made no mention of WHY “IT” was a spider (laying lil baby its) …the mist took everything good and SHAT on itself with that ending. Never in my life would I believe after all that fighting that the dad would kill his son like that. Complete horseshit that people mis-interpret as “dark”…

  10. kyldesty

    lol @ It. I read that longass book a few times and a pg rated tv movie could never do it justice. shawshank is superb as is green mile. carrie is great, man i love watchin her give it to those fuckers. the dead zone is underrated. walkens portrayal really gives johns character an emotional depth. i watched that movie last week and i really was sucked into it even though ive seen it half a dozen times before. HAVE YOU EVER DONE A WORST KING ADAPTION LIST? ei graveyard shift

  11. SeamusDsGirl


  12. SeamusDsGirl

    I am in LOVE with The Shining! Such a fantastic movie, so well done! Kubrick is a genious!

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