The 10 best Stephen King movies

7 September 2019, 21:00 | Updated: 7 September 2019, 21:01

Reggie Nalder as Barlow in Salem's Lot (1979)
Reggie Nalder as Barlow in Salem's Lot (1979). Picture: Moviestore Collection/​Shutterstock

With the release of IT: Chapter Two due in cinemas this weekend, which other Stephen King novels have made the transition to the screen with effective results?

The first instalment of IT was one of top 10 highest grossing films in the US on its release in 2017 and IT: Chapter Two looks set to follow in its footsteps. People can’t get enough of the feverish imagination of master storyteller Stephen King - but his novels haven’t always made the transition to the screen particularly well.

Here are ten exceptions to the rule: films that took the source material and made something compelling, watchable and on occasions terrifying.

  1. IT (2017)

    King’s mammoth 1986 novel was turned into a four-part TV miniseries in 1990, but despite a star turn by Tim Curry as Pennywise the evil, shape-shifting clown, the constraints of television meant some of the bite of the original story was lost. In 2017, Andy Muschietti helmed the first part of a pair of big screen adaptations of the novel, with Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise.

    Chapter One features the story of kids struggling with the timeless evil in the mid 1980s (transplanted from the 1950s in the book), while the second episode will feature the Losers Club as adults. Playing fast and loose with the original novel, the big budget version has some shockingly memorable moments.

  2. The Shining (1980)

    Jack Nicholson has a career-defining role as Jack Torrance, the recovering alcoholic who takes a job care-taking a huge, isolated hotel for the winter. Trouble is, it’s only haunted and his son Danny has psychic powers that allow him to see the ghosts that stalk the vast building.

    King didn’t like what Stanley Kubrick did with his story and preferred the 1997 TV miniseries.

    The fool! It’s one of the best horror movies ever made with so many memorable moments, such as revelation that Torrance hasn’t been working on his play for weeks after all… A film of the sequel, Doctor Sleep - featuring Ewan McGregor as an adult Danny Torrance - is released later this year…

  3. Misery (1990)

    James Caan is the writer of pulp romance novels who is involved in a car crash, Kathy Bates is brilliant as Annie Wilkes, the nurse who finds him. Trouble is, she’s his “biggest fan” and hasn’t read his latest novel where he kills off the heroine. When she does, she keeps the writer hostage until he pens a nicer version of the story.

    A tense psychological drama ensues, featuring a shocking scene where Bates “hobbles” Caan to stop him from getting away... which will have you wincing for years to come.

  4. Carrie (1976)

    It’s been remade twice since, but Brian DePalma’s original version put King’s name on the map and is still a great movie. Like a dark version of Grease (it even features John Travolta), it’s a horrifying look at the American school system in the 70s. Sissy Spacek is striking as the title character, struggling with a religious fanatic mother, her own pubescence and emerging psychic powers. Has one of the greatest endings of any horror movie, EVER.

  5. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

    King published this prison drama as Rita Hayworth And Shawshank Redemption in his 1982 collection of novellas, Different Seasons. Tim Robbins plays a convicted murderer who pleads his innocence, while Morgan Freeman is memorable as fellow prisoner Red, and the result is a tale of struggle, violence and hope.

  6. Dolores Claiborne (1995)

    After her Oscar-winning performance in Misery, Kathy Bates returned as the titular character from Stephen King’s 1992 novel. A story about an abusive marriage, it’s a controversial but compelling drama that climaxes with a visually striking confrontation during a solar eclipse.

  7. The Dead Zone (1983)

    Christopher Walken is suitably offbeat as a man who awakes from a coma with the power to see into the future. Unfortunately, he sees the ultimate destruction of the human race by a Presidential candidate and has to do something about it…. Made by Canadian horror legend David Cronenberg (The Fly, Dead Ringers), this film is as tragic is as it is horrific.

  8. The Green Mile (1999)

    Another prison drama from King, this time containing some spooky moments as death row warden Tom Hanks encounters an inmate (Michael Clarke Duncan) with supernatural powers. At over three hours long, it’s an epic movie that spans decades in time…

  9. Salem’s Lot (1979)

    Writer Ben Mears discovers that the small town he’s just moved into is the location of a heinous group of vampires, led by the vile Mr Barlow. David Soul (Hutch in the huge TV cop show Starsky & Hutch) is the hero, the brilliant James Mason is Richard Straker, the man who brings Barlow to the town and Reggie Nalder is unforgettable as the ghoul. They remade this one with Rob Lowe in 2004 and a big screen version is expected soon.

  10. Stand By Me (1986)

    Based on the novella The Body from the Different Seasons collection (which also spawned The Shawshank Redemption and Apt Pupil), this is a coming of age tale about four boys who take a trip to see the body of a kid that was killed by a train. Along the way they encounter a number of hazards, almost get beaten up by bullies and almost get hit by a train themselves. This tale helped break King out of being typecast as a horror writer and even gave Ben E. King a UK number 1 when the title song was reissued.


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