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Top 15 Movies Based on Stephen King Stories
There are literally dozens and dozens of movies based on Stephen King short stories, novellas, and novels. Among these many films there are some major league clunkers, but there are also some absolute gems. If you include sequels and TV movies, the list goes well over fifty, and that’s not even including many limited release short films. Out of all those choices, here is my list of the fifteen best movies based on Stephen King works.
This work was also one of Stephen King’s finest horror novels. There is a haunted pet cemetery, spelled cutely with an ‘S,’ where everything buried comes back from the dead, but comes back twisted and evil. This is a great film where the tragic loss of a child proves too much temptation, and what comes back is terrifying and evil beyond belief. The ending of this film is absolutely fantastic, and one of the best endings of a King movie.
Buy the DVD at Amazon: Pet Sematary (Special Collector’s Edition)
Storm of the century started as a two part mini-series and has since been released to DVD. This is an excellent story, which Stephen King wrote the script to, about a stranger appearing just as the worst winter storm in history hits a small isolated Maine island. This stranger has the power to force others to do as he wants, and he demands a child to raise as his own or else. This is a chilling and incredible story.
Buy the DVD at Amazon: Stephen King’s Storm of the Century
This movie with actors John Cusak and Samuel L. Jackson, is based around a Stephen King short story about a haunted hotel room that has an incredibly long and tragic history. This evil room draws so much energy that it is only mildly cleaned once a week, and briefly, and is never rented out. An author who doesn’t believe in the supernatural checks in, only to find himself in an amazing repeating hell that is bent on devouring his very soul, and refuses to let him go.
Buy the DVD at Amazon: 1408 (Widescreen Edition)
Children of the Corn was based on a short story by Stephen King (and all six of the terrible sequels were based on movie studios trying to stretch it for a cheap buck). “Outlander! Outlander! We have your woman!” This classic line and scene helps define the movie, where a child prophet has convinced every child to murder all the adults in town, as they worship “He who walks behind the rows.” Talk about the wrong town to break down in! This is a very solid horror flick, with some really genuinely creepy moments.
Buy the DVD at Amazon: Children of the Corn
This three hour and change movie is a two part movie, with Pennywise the Clown perhaps one of the most disturbing horror villains in movie history. I personally point to him (and watching this movie at the age of ten) as explaining my life long fear/hatred of clowns. This movie is often judged as the first half being excellent and the second half mediocre, in part because of a changed ending. In fairness, the book’s ending would be next to impossible to fully convert into a movie format, but all in all, this movie is still a great view, and the first half is excellent. You might want to skip this one if you have a phobia of clowns.
Buy the DVD at Amazon: Stephen King’s It
A four part mini-series turned into DVD, “Rose Red” is a little over four hours and is a great modern version of the classic haunted mansion ghost story. A professor who has been fired for her paranormal studies takes a bunch of psychics into a haunted manor, secretly hoping that their powers will “jump start” the manor like a jump to a dead car battery and give her the evidence she needs to make her career… or she could be going insane and hoping for immortality. It’s not completely clear on this point, which makes the movie all the more interesting. This movie has good characters, some really scary scenes, and ties together very well at the end. Even better, it’s usually in the cheap DVD rack, so this movie is definitely a steal at a $10 or less buy.
Buy the DVD at Amazon: Rose Red
This is based off a Stephen King novella and stars Johnny Depp and John Turturro. This is one of my personal favorite King movies, and if you’re a writer or a would be writer, this movie will have an added bonus. Johnny Depp’s character, Mort Rainey, is a successful writer struggling with a divorce, when a sociopathic stranger, John Shooter, shows up claiming that Rainey stole his story. Shooter demands credit, and has no issue killing anyone in his way until he gets everything he wants. This story has a fantastic surprise ending, great acting, and a creepiness that is hard to match.
Buy the DVD at Amazon: Secret Window
One of the seemingly great secrets about Stephen King is he’s not just a horror author. Some of the best literary fiction of the past 50 years has been penned by King, and the movie “Hearts in Atlantis” is based on one of those novellas, down playing the supernatural and playing up the amazing story line and lives of the characters involved. The book “Hearts” has four novellas, and this film is only based on one of them, but it is a faithful and quality adaptation with great acting, great direction, and a film that individuals who don’t like King will even enjoy. This movie is a modern classic, in the same vein as “Stand by Me.”
Buy the DVD at Amazon: Hearts in Atlantis
Some will argue this movie should be rated higher, and they may have a point, but the fact that there are enough great movies based on Stephen King works that a film this good (rated on the top 250 movies ever on IMDB) could arguably not be in the top five just shows that there are some gems out there. Not only is Tom Hanks great in this film, but this touching movie (a not heavily hidden allegory of the Jesus story) follows the film and is a fantastic watch that generally follows the books very carefully.
Buy the DVD at Amazon: The Green Mile (Single Disc Edition)
While I think the Stanley Kubrik version is a good movie, King didn’t like it on the basis that it didn’t follow his story, so if the author doesn’t like it, it doesn’t make the list. King’s version, appearing first as a mini-series, is an exceptional horror film that really brings the book to life and delivers a terrifying film that is worth the watch every time.
Buy the DVD at Amazon: Stephen King’s The Shining (Two Disc Special Edition)
Based on a long short story (or short novella, depending on how you look at it), this story has long been popular with Stephen King fans. This movie was extremely well done, capturing the terror of what happens when an unexplainable mist moves in, bringing a variety of mutated insects, huge tentacles, and all kinds of terrifying beasts into a town. Locked in a super market, not only do they have to worry about the other worldly terrors outside, but by a religious fanatic creating a child sacrifice cult that splits the survivors inside. This film has an ending that you will never forget… perhaps one of the most memorable in all of movie history.
Buy the DVD at Amazon: The Mist
This epic mini-series is based on the epic novel about a post apocalyptic Earth where most the world was killed by a Super Flu. The good flock to Grandma Moses, while the evil flock to Randall Flagg, setting up an ultimate conflict between good and evil even after most of the world’s population is dead. This was one of King’s greatest works, and the movie did a good job staying close to the storyline considering the massive amount of material it had to ingest into the plot.
Buy the DVD at Amazon: The Stand
This film is also on IMDB’s list of the top 250 movies of all time, and is a fantastic coming of age story about a group of four strange mismatched friends from junior high who try to track down a missing boy, presumed dead, by following some train tracks. Meanwhile they learn about each other and themselves, and end up all changing forever because of that several day journey. This is a very touching film with some sadness, and shows that Stephen King is not “just a horror writer.” This movie is based on the King novella “The Body.”
Buy the DVD at Amazon: Stand By Me (Deluxe Edition)
This was one of the best horror novels written by Stephen King, and the best movie based on a horror work. Annie Wilkes, the number one fan, is the worst nightmare of every celebrity, or every individual who has ever been stalked. An author gets in an accident, but is “rescued” by an obsessive fan, who ends up killing anyone who snoops around and creates the word “hobbling.” Anyone who saw the movie just winced at the mention of that word. Kathy Bates is exceptional as Annie Wilkes, and one of the most convincing movie psychopaths of all time.
Buy the DVD at Amazon: Misery
This movie is one of only three from the IMDB website that has a rating of over 9.0 (out of 10), and is rated as the second best movie of all time on that website, and for very good reason. This amazing movie is based on the equally amazing novella about a banker who is wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife and is sent to a sadistic prison where the guards and warden are both corrupt. The acting is incredible, the storyline is amazing, and everything about this movie works. Not only is this the best movie ever adapted from a Stephen King work, but many cinema fans agree that it was one of the better movies ever made.
Buy the DVD at Amazon: The Shawshank Redemption (Single Disc Edition)