From “It” to “The Dark Tower”: The Best and Worst Stephen King Film Adaptations

Top 10 Stephen King Movie Adaptations

“It” is one of the highlights of the Stephen King film adaptations.


10. Cujo

“I believe that reality can be even more frightening than ghosts or vampires.” Regarding “Cujo” Stephen King wasn’t that wrong. The film begins harmoniously on a warm summer’s day on an American farm. Panting, St. Bernard Cujo chases after a rabbit that is hiding in a burrow. Startled by the barking, a rabid bat bites the dog’s snout. This is the prelude to the disastrous events that are to begin a little later. The peaceful St. Bernard turns into a raging beast that quickly becomes a threat to its environment. An extremely enjoyable horror film that focuses more on the consistent description of an oppressive atmosphere and is relatively bloodless, even if it is rich in shock effects.

9. Christina

17-year-old Arnie (Keith Gordon) bought a red ’58 Chrysler Plymouth, put a lot of work into it and lovingly named it Christine. Three hooligans, who still want to settle an outstanding score with Arnie, make kindling of the car. But as if by magic, Christine repairs herself! She chases the gang with devilish malice, and the coupé jealously defends its owner even against supposed enemies… Director John Carpenter drastically reduced Stephen King’s novel and placed special emphasis on the special effects. Twelve Plymouth Furys were broken during filming.

8. Dolores

Stephen King is not only good at horror: Dolores (Kathy Bates) is said to have killed her employer. The bad news brings Dolore’s estranged daughter Selena (Jennifer Jason Leigh) back to the island, who left her after her father’s fatal accident. Can Selena still trust her mother? Taylor Hackford (“Ray”) managed one of the best King adaptations. Kathy Bates plays Dolores with concentrated suppressed anger. Not the last time we’ll see her on this list.

7. Dead Zone

Johnny (Christopher Walken) has been in a coma for five years after an accident. As soon as he wakes up, he reveals clairvoyant abilities with which he can save lives. This forces him to make a momentous decision: Johnny foresees that the presidential candidate Stillson (Martin Sheen) will soon start a war… This horror thriller begins – as is usually the case with Stephen King – harmlessly in an intact world with which the viewer immediately gets involved can identify. Mercilessly and inevitably, however, the idyll is abruptly destroyed by horror, death and the supernatural. David Cronenberg (“The Fly”) succeeds in creating a convincing film adaptation, closely based on the original, which has hardly lost any of its power even 30 years after its creation.

6. Misery

Bestselling author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) is about to deliver his new manuscript when he has a car accident. Both legs are broken. But a saving angel is approaching: the hermit Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) brings Paul to her house to nurse him. She turns out to be his biggest fan – until she finds his latest work. Infuriated that Paul lets his heroine “Misery” die, she turns the sickbed into a torture chamber… The relationship between reader and author has hardly ever been illustrated more poisonously than in this classic! It is also historical that Kathy Bates won the Oscar as the first leading actress in a horror film.

5. The condemned

The prison drama tops’s list of the highest rated films of all time. Too much credit, but one of King’s best non-horror adaptations is The Convicts. Two life sentences for double murder: Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) ends up in prison in 1947. The ex-banker endures everyday prison life with stoic calm. As a result, he wins the respect of fellow inmate Red (Morgan Freeman). Director Norton, meanwhile, uses Andy’s financial knowledge and grants him freedom in return. Director Frank Darabont not only adapted King’s short story “Pin-up” (included in: “Spring, Summer, Fall and Death”) but also “The Green Mile” and “The Mist”.

4. It

Stephen King himself considers his multi-volume fantasy saga “The Dark Tower” to be his magnum opus, but if you ask horror fans, “It” is King’s ultimate work. Anndy Muschietti’s film adaptation from 2017 actually tells a holiday story about outsiders and friendship, about growing up and fighting your own fears. It begins with horror clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) luring Bill’s little brother (Jaeden Lieberher) down a sewer. Children are disappearing all over the area, again and again. Together with his school friends from “Loser’s Club”, Bill goes in search of those who have disappeared. Adults are almost non-existent in this late ’80s America, and when they are, they’re the real monsters. Please forget the first film adaptation from 1990 quickly.

3. Stand by me

Stephen King’s elegiac, horror-free short story “The Corpse” is one of his best texts – and Rob Reiner’s adaptation is one of the best film adaptations. Like “Es”, “Stand by Me” is a melancholic summer vacation story: In a backwater town in the American provinces, a boy goes missing at the end of the 1950s. His body, it is rumored, is somewhere in the woods. The four friends Gordie, Chris, Teddy and Vern decide to solve the mystery. On their expedition, they face extreme danger and above all learn some lessons about friendship, life and growing up.

2. Shining

Stephen King hates the Stanley Kubrick film adaptation. Probably because he realized that it was more of a parody, a meta-horror film than the psychological terror of the novel. Writer Jack (Jack Nicholson) is assigned to guard a huge hotel in the mountains of Colorado. It’s empty in the winter. So the ideal job to finish your novel in peace. Also joining him are his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny. But every day Jack seems more irritated. When Wendy sees the results of his manic typing, she and Danny are in grave danger… Not for the faint of heart! With suggestive music and crazy tracking shots, Kubrick created a crazy, abysmal nightmare

1. Carrie

The very first Stephen King film adaptation is also the best. 15-year-old Carrie (Sissy Spacek) grows up under the tutelage of her religious mother (Piper Laurie). She has no idea what is going on in her body. The girl reacts horrified to her first menstrual period in the shower room. As a result, she is mercilessly mocked by her classmates. What the others don’t know: Carrie can move objects with the power of her mind. When the gray mouse is doused with a bucket of pig’s blood at the prom, she lets an inferno break out over her tormentors (including the young John Travolta)… Brian De Palma congenially delivered an effectively staged horror is an enigmatic, multi-layered game with the themes of sexuality , religion, depth psychology, madness and everyday violence.

Worst Stephen King Adaptations

Among the countless adaptations of King, alongside these jewels and solid genre films, there are also grab-and-go tableware that aren’t worth talking about, from “Children of Wrath 6: The Return of Isaac” to “Sometimes They Come Again 3”. But there are also adaptations that sounded promising but were massively disappointing:

“The Dark Tower”: To condense a saga of several thousand pages into one film? That could only go wrong. Despite the star cast (Matthew McConaughey, Idris Elba), “The Dark Tower” was the counterpart to the mega-success “It” in 2017.

“Dream Catcher”: Again, the cast is impressive, with Morgan Freeman and “Homeland” star Damian Lewis, Lawrence Kasdan’s film about aliens that nest in humans, but it’s a shit.

“The Secret Window”: Crime writer Rainy (Johnny Depp) is being terrorized by a deranged colleague (John Turturro). He is said to have stolen a story from him… Slow-moving despite the weird mimes, the completely predictable twist at the end ruins everything.

“The Mangle”: Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper is adapting a Stephen King story starring Robert “Freddy Krueger” Englund. Sounds like horror gold, but it’s just grotesque splatter trash. At least with a good atmosphere.

“The Lawnmower Man”: Attention, cheating packaging! This technically grotesquely outdated virtual reality thriller has nothing in common with Stephen King’s short story of the same name except for the title. Still, the film, starring Pierce Brosnan, shamelessly peddles the author’s name.

Leave a Comment