The novels of Stephen King have permeated popular culture since 1974 and have been a part of the cinematic landscape since Brian DePalma's adaptation of 'Carrie' in 1976.
Since then, a total of 63 movie have been made from his novellas, short stories and novels. Whilst some have been outright classics, others have been less so. Here's our pick of the nine best adaptations of Stephen King.
Far less well-known than anything on this list, 'Gerald's Game' arrived in King's bibliography wedged between the tail-end of his run in the '90s of 'Misery', 'Needful Things' and the next phase of his writing that dealt with more "human" horror. As a book, it's a real deep dive into a depraved situation wherein a woman hallucinates after she's handcuffed to a bedpost by her husband during an attempt to spice up their bedroom antics. In reading the novel, you have to wonder how it could possibly be adapted to screen without it being unreasonably camp and ridiculous.
What Gerald Flanagan does so well is that he's neither dismissive of the source material or slavishly bound to it. The movie, instead, takes what works in the book, discards what doesn't, and what's left is a tautly-wound thriller with a gripping central performance from Carla Gugino. Yes, the ending is a bit out there, but it wouldn't be Stephen King without it.
9. 'The Mist'
Although many would associate Frank Darabont with 'The Shawshank Redemption' or 'The Green Mile', he also made a cracking adaptation of 'The Mist'. The small novella was published in 1980 and went largely overlooked by all except hardened King fans. More than any other director, Darabont was able to cut to the core of what King was talking about his novels and none more incisive than 'The Mist'. While the horrifying creatures that surround the supermarket were the draw of the movie, the real monsters were inside the supermarket. 'The Mist' works beautifully as an allegory for Bush's America and the divides in the nation. It's witty, intelligent and deeply scary.
8. 'The Dead Zone'
While some might dismiss 'The Dead Zone' as David Cronenberg honing his craft before he'd go on to the likes of 'The Fly' or 'Naked Lunch', they overlook what is probably one of his most skillfully directed movie. 'The Dead Zone' wisely underplays everything - from Christopher Walken's powers to the nature of what it can do - and, instead, allows an eeriness to creep over the entire story. Martin Sheen is electric as the raucous, gibbering maniac Greg Stillson and the flash-forward scene is a powerful one; Sheen's deranged delivery and Bible-thumping antics were pertinent in 1983 and are just as frightening in today's political climate.
Although the sequel didn't live up to the promise of the first one, it's by far the strongest Stephen King adaptation we've seen in quite some time - next to, ay 'Gerald's Game' - and will most likely stay that way for quite some time. Funnily enough, 'It' owes a certain debt to Rob Reiner and 'Stand By Me' as the non-horror moments in the movie are definitely cribbed from that.
The movie that started it all for Stephen King. Brian DePalma's love of blood and gore was well-documented, having directed the excellent 'Sisters' in 1973. With Carrie, DePalma's direction focused correctly on Sissy Spacek's incredible performance in the title role. Here, teen angst, high school cruelty, the frightening changes in puberty, and religious orthodoxy were the real components for horror. Nancy Allen is also excellent as the bullying classmate whilst Piper Laurie is utterly frightening as the zealot mother.
5. 'The Green Mile'
Like 'The Shawshank Redemption', 'The Green Mile' was a lesser-known work by King that gained a second life thanks to an excellent adaptation by Frank Darabont. Again, Darabont's innate understanding of King's sensibilities is on show here and the spot-on casting of Tom Hanks, David Morse and the sadly departed Michael Clarke Duncan made the film what it was. Darabont infuses the story with mythic qualities, turning a squalid prison into a sort of make-believe kingdom of odd characters and strange happenings. King's work was always about the extraordinary in the ordinary and was never more pointed than here.
As of writing, 'Misery' is the only Stephen King adaptation to win a major Academy Award and that's because of Kathy Bates. Easily her most recognisable role, Bates' performance as Annie Wilkes made 'Misery' what it was. Her larger-than-life delivery, the screaming eyes and the casual violence enveloped the entire movie, to the point where you'd almost forget that James Caan was acting next to her, Rob Reiner was directing it all, or that William Goldman wrote the screenplay. The hobbling scene will go down as one of the most horrifying scenes in movie history, made all the more brutal by the excellent sound design.
3. 'Stand By Me'
Rob Reiner's eye for casting has always served him well. You only need to look at 'When Harry Met Sally' and the instant chemistry between Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal to know that Reiner has a mind for choosing the right actors for the right roles. The same is true of 'Stand By Me'. As Wil Wheaton himself said in a 2011 interview:
"I was awkward and nerdy and shy and uncomfortable in my own skin and really, really sensitive, and River was cool and really smart and passionate and even at that age kind of like a father figure to some of us, Jerry was one of the funniest people I had ever seen in my life, either before or since, and Corey was unbelievably angry and in an incredible amount of pain and had an absolutely terrible relationship with his parents."
Reiner skillfully directed them into a beautifully told coming-of-age drama.
2. 'The Shining'
The stories surrounding Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick's involvement in 'The Shining' is legendary. King himself has said it is the only adaptation of his work that he hated. His disapproval of the movie does appear to have dulled over time. But the fact remains that 'The Shining' is the pinnacle of the horror genre. Why Kubrick decided to adapt the novel is something of a mystery. Speculations go all the way into the realm of truly outlandish conspiracy theories involving a faked moon landing and beyond. The excellent documentary, 'Room 237', expounds on a number of these and really is worth checking out as a companion piece to the movie. As it stands, 'The Shining' is - in our opinion - the greatest horror movie ever made.
1. 'The Shawshank Redemption'
What can be said about 'The Shawshank Redemption' that hasn't already been said? It has topped IMDb's user-generated poll of the Top 250 Films since 2008. Roger Ebert cited it as one of the greatest movies ever made. It has broken countless records for TV airings. Plus the actors associated with it - Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins - are still to this day associated with the movie. For Stephen King, however, he admits that he was surprised anything came of it. There has rarely been a movie like 'The Shawshank Redemption' that so accurately shows the birth and survival of hope in a truly hopeless place. Many people recount how it changed their lives upon viewing. To this day, the movie still resonates with audiences through its message of integrity, hope, balance and life.