Movies and Shows based on books have often ruled box office. The one important reason that I can think of behind their immense success is the fact that book-based movies are often made out of bestselling novels. Pick any good novel, comic book or short story, you may always find a movie in there somewhere. We have witnessed how ‘The Lord of the Rings’ or ‘Game of Thrones’ have fared commercially, let alone how anticipated their upcoming sequels/seasons are.
Stephen King is an American literary icon. He has worked in an eclectic variety of genres including horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy. For every ’Carrie’ there was a ‘Stand By Me’; For every ‘Shining’ there was a ‘Shawshank Redemption’. He has touched myriad genres in his works. Despite his versatility, he is famously known as the master of the ghoulish and the macabre. For the last four decades, filmmakers have explored his works to churn out some of the most memorable films of recent times. Stephen King is also one of those authors whose movies have been made and remade a lot of times. For example, ‘Carrie’, ‘It’, Children of the Corn’ were made more times than we could possibly think of. Here is the list of all movies based on Stephen King books. You can watch several of these Stephen King movies on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime. Please keep in mind that there are several upcoming Stephen King movies that are still in works. We will update this list as soon as they release.
37. Cell (2016)
Clay Riddell is looking for his estranged wife and son amid a zombie apocalypse which has killed the lot around her. Apparently, an electronic signal is broadcast across the mobile networks, thus turning the people who have been using their mobiles into zombies. Afterwards, the film gets slow and boring and it is more like a zombie-friendly movie than an apocalypse. ‘Cell’ need not be watched even once, for nothing else happens in it other than what’s mentioned.
36. Graveyard Shift (1990)
Jason Reed works in the reopened textile mill that is riled with rat infestations. In an attempt to eradicate the rat menace, Jason and his team climb below the stairs and lead into the basement, where they shall maintain the operations for rat extermination. He also discovers a secret vault door which leads to a vicious, protected and ancient creature. The weirdness is piling on each other and the film derails eventually, leaving us either dead or injured.
35. Mercy (2014)
An old lady has some mystical powers. George, Buddy and Rebecca have headed to their grandmother’s, to take good care of her. Turns out, she’s the lady with the mystical powers and in a flashback of events, it is shown how the kids’ grandpa died and how the grandma Mercy got to know of her super-human abilities. ‘Mercy’ doesn’t have a sort of script, mostly it has a screenplay on its own, to say the least. The lesser you think about it, the better.
34. The Dark Tower (2017)
A vicious Man in Black vows to destroy the Dark Tower and bring the universe down. Roland is the last gunslinger who has vowed to put Walter, a.k.a. the Man in Black, behind the bars and serve justice. Only Ronald has the abilities to defend the dark tower from Walter and there begins a decisive battle of the good versus the evil. Watch it for the performances of Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey and nothing else.
33. A Good Marriage (2014)
Darcy and Bob have been married for 27 years. While Bob is away on business, Darcy finds the ID cards of Marjorie Duvall, one of the victims of a serial killer. Turns out, her husband has always been nearby whenever and wherever a crime was committed. After Bob pleads guilty feigning ignorance, a few days later on a trip, Darcy plans on killing her husband. A story without a direction, ‘A Good Marriage’ would have been better if it were a bad marriage.
32. Maximum Overdrive (1986)
Directed by Stephen King, this is the first and last directorial of the author who himself called it a moron movie and vowed never to direct ever again. The story follows a comet which when passes from near to the earth’s orbit, causes inanimate machines etc. to come to life and start killing people randomly. The rest of the story revolves around a group of individuals who’re hiding from a group of trucks that are trying to kill them. Easily, ‘Maximum Overdrive’ is the worst movie on this list. Unarguably.
31. Dreamcatcher (2003)
To save the world from impending doom, four friends must team up for the one last time. Jonesy, Beaver, Pete and Henry spend a few days every year and trek into the Maine woods to find some solace. In the current year, a blizzard plays spoilsport and the four find a man who’s been roaming around. He is also carrying a set of pathogenic yet powerful aliens who are to be killed to save the planet. ‘Dreamcatcher’ received negative reviews for its overly imaginative story and lack of direction.
30. Carrie (2002)
‘Carrie’ was King’s first novel to be published, and was also his first film adaptation. It was the beginning of an era; it was the first of one of the hundred plus works of Stephen King to be adapted for film or television. ‘Carrie’ had Stephen King written all over it. Like most of his Signature work, it was grim, horrifying and reached extreme psychological depths. Sissy Spacek, played eponymous schoolgirl with supernatural powers. Her performance was both heartbreaking and vulnerable and earned her a well deserved Oscar nomination. The film deals with pertinent issues such as high school bullying, teenage anxiety and physicality of girls becoming women. The film has in store one last unexpected shock for the very end.
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29. Children of the Corn (1984)
A film with multiple sequels, ‘Children of the Corn’ is set in Gatlin, Nebraska and is the narrative of a town with corn fields which are empty except for the Church which follows Biblical times. The children of the town assemble under the leadership of Isaac and Isaac begins a religious cult which compels its followers to commit murders, starting from their parents. Tagged as an “adult nightmare”, ‘Children of the Corn’ will give you chills while you’re watching it.
28. Thinner (1996)
One needs to appreciate Stephen King at the fore to bring such unique stories and premises which would intrigue and pique viewers’ interest beyond our imaginations. ‘Thinner’ begins with a fat attorney Billy Halleck who is living a sedentary life with his wife and daughter. After a gipsy curses him, Billy begins to grow thinner by the day. Aghast, he calls some of his underworld friends to help him out and find the gipsy – the only one who can lift the dreaded curse.
27. Carrie (2013)
Same old, same old. Perhaps the 2013 adaptation of Carrie was criticised the most, yet I watched it because of Chloe Grace Moretz in the lead. It is the age-old story of a girl who undergoes her first menstrual period, discovers her abilities of telekinesis and then takes down her opponents, one at a time.
26. The Dark Half (1993)
As a successful author who has a penchant for writing murder mysteries, Thad Beaumont has nothing to lose apart from a tumour that was removed from his brain years ago. Turns out, it wasn’t a tumour but another fraternal twin who had remained underdeveloped and was eventually removed. Aghast with the choice of removing his twin, Thad stages a public burial to remember the unborn child. Later, in a strange turn of events, supernatural things start happening to Thad, much to his fears.
25. Cujo (1983)
The titular ‘Cujo’ is a family dog, a laid-back St. Bernard who gets bitten by a bat on its nose. Vic, his wife Donna and son Tad, take their car to the rural home where they meet Cujo. Donna is having an affair with her ex, and Vic’s career is on a decline. Cujo slowly goes insane and starts killing people systematically. When Donna and Tad are returning from the repair shop, and when the car goes bust, they’re locked inside the car amid heat and sun while a desperate Cujo is ready to pounce on them the moment they exit the car. ‘Cujo’ is a slow horror and was often criticized for being flimsy and its lack of fervour.
24. Firestarter (1984)
Featuring a young Drew Barrymore in a leading role, ‘Firestarter’ is a chilling narrative of Charlie McGee, who has acquired the ability of pyrokinesis, i.e. starting fires by simply thinking about them. In an attempt to weaponize this ability, the US government agents follow her relentlessly, while she keeps in hiding for more than a year, all the while trying to go public and reveal her truth. Andy, Charlie’s father and Vicky, her mother too had some abilities they had acquired by the usage of mild hallucinogens that were experimental drugs. The whole movie is a narrative of how they evade their capture.
23. Needful Things (1990)
The movie opens with Sherrif Alan who is looking for a quieter place to stay in the town of Castle Rock in Maine, where he is hopeful of leading a peaceful life. He is visibly perturbed by Leland Gaunt, a man who opens the store of Needful Things in town, apparently, he has figured a way to know what each dweller of the town deeply desires. In exchange for the things, he asks for small favour which the dwellers happily oblige. Soon, riots, murders and killings start taking place in town under Alan’s watch.
22. 1922 (2017)
One of the latest movies on the list, ‘1922’ is set in a Nebraskan home during 1922, when a farmer Wilf is living with his wife Ariette and son Henry in a countryside home. While Ariette and Wilf fight a lot, Ariette wants to sell off the property that she inherited and settle in Omaha, where she plans to commence a dress shop. Wilf and Henry team up to kill Ariette, a plan that succeeds but being unable to dispose of her body, Wilf dumbs her body into a well where it is feasted upon by rats. Soon, Wilf starts experiencing supernatural phenomena which Wilf must fight out alone. Soon, his house becomes infested with rates and he sees apparitions from his wife. Wilf is later executed by a dead Henry. ‘1922’ might not have been pathbreaking, still managed to do average business at the box office.
21. Silver Bullet (1985)
Based on Cycle of the Werewolf, a Stephen King’s novella, ‘Silver Bullet’ is the story set in Tarker’s Mills, a small town of Maine. Marty Coslaw is a young, paraplegic kid who notices the serial murders happening in the town, which has otherwise been peaceful. In an attempt to investigate the murders and to resolve his strenuous relationship with his parents, Marty sets out single-handedly to bring the criminals to book. Turns out, the murders are being committed by a werewolf. Marty then sets out to find the man who becomes the werewolf before the killings. ‘Silver Bullet’ is an enjoyable affair and makes for an outstanding horror film.
20. Pet Sematary (1989)
As the title suggests, the film is the narrative of a Pet Sematary and revolves around the Creed family – husband Louis, wife Rachel, daughter Ellie and their three-year-old infant Gage, which has moved into a new house and befriends an elderly neighbour named Jud. After their daughter’s pet cat dies, on Jud’s insistence, Louis buries it in a sematary nearby without informing Ellie about it. The very next day, the cat reappears, but is stinking and is showing aggressive behaviour with Louis. After Gage is killed in a similar accident that took their cat, Louis attempts the “ritual” again and Gage comes back, but at a very heavy cost. ‘Pet Sematary’ is scary and sickening, yet makes for one of the best movies on this list.
19. Gerald’s Game (2017)
Gerald and Jessie are a middle-aged couple who seek thrill and excitement in their otherwise sedentary lives. They temporarily go to a lake house in Alabama with a hope to rekindle their sex life. After Gerald consumes the viagra to add to his performance, Jessie feels uncomfortable with the poses and enactment of sex and thinks Gerald is asking a lot. During an argument, Gerald dies of heart attack while Jessie is tied onto the bed. Soon, at the turn of the night, Jessie starts seeing visions of a tall, deformed apparition and Gerald waking from his death and speaking to him. Jessie later peels the skin off her hand and escapes, only to hit a tree while driving. ‘Gerald’s Game’ is a suspenseful, nail-biting thriller that you shouldn’t miss.
18. Apt Pupil (1998)
Directed by Bryan Singer, ‘Apt Pupil’ is the story of a high school student Todd from California in the ’80s who has come to know of the whereabouts of a Nazi war criminal Kurt Dussander, who has adopted a pseudo name Arthur to further his hiding tenure in the US. In spite of his threats to Dussander to turn him to the police, Todd likes to hear stories about the atrocities committed during the Holocaust by the Nazis. Their relationship goes through all warmth and bitterness and eventually, Dussander is arrested and deported to Israel to answer for his crimes against the Jews. Todd continues his feisty life afterwards, while Dussander commits suicide after knowing his identity has been compromised.
17. Christine (1983)
And now to a popular story which has been adopted by many filmmakers for movies, short stories and television shows, ‘Christine’ is the story of a possessed car of the same name, which is a Plymouth Fury owned by Arnie Cunnigham. After Arnie buys the Plymouth and names it Christine, weird things start happening and soon, as it turns out, we come to know that the car has been possessed by a spirit who would avenge the wrongdoings that might come in the way of itself or its owner (Arnie). Although the movie received negative reviews from the critics, it has somewhat of a cult following in many parts of the world.
16. The Running Man (1987)
In a rare occurrence for Stephen King’s stories, ‘The Running Man’ is set in a dystopian future (2019 for that matter) when a television show titled ‘The Running Man’ is on air which features a bunch of convicts fighting for their lives, in a gladiator style after a totalitarian regime in the US had banned all other content on television. The movie surrounds a rebel helicopter pilot accused and later convicted for a massacre Ben Richards, who joins the resistance against the said regime. ‘The Running Man’ was and has been often praised for its accurate depiction of 2019, many of which have turned out to be true.
15. 1408 (2007)
Yet another psychological horror with its own kind of story, ‘1408’ begins with a myth buster Mike Enslin who is an author writing books refuting supernatural happenstances. More often than not, he stumbles upon places which people claim are haunted but proves them wrong. He takes up the challenge of entering room no. 1408 at Dolphin Hotel, even though an anonymous postcard and the hotel manager suggest otherwise. The room has witnessed 56 deaths or suicides thus far, per the claims made by hotel manager Olin. After he enters the room, he begins seeing supernatural things, one of the first being the clock set to 60 minutes timer. Eventually, after putting in a lot of effort, Mike is rescued by fire workers which makes him believe in the authenticity of the room. ‘1408’ exemplifies haunted house horror in a very different way, without depicting any single apparition or ghosts for that matter.
14. Salem’s Lot (1979)
Benjamin Mears is a successful writer who has returned to the town of Salem’s Lot in Maine, wanting to write a novel on the Marsten House. Apparently, he thinks that the said house is haunted and wants to get to the bottom of it. Richard Straker and Kurt Barlow are business partners who have rented the house and deal in antiques’ business. Soon, many people of the town start disappearing because of never-heard-before causes, furthering Ben’s suspicions about the house. Out of the dead people, many were anaemic when they died, thus Ben concludes that there could be vampires at work. ‘Salem’s Lot’ received critical acclaim for being one of the scariest ventures undertaken from King’s works and boy, are they right.
13. It (1990)
Tim Curry is IT a.k.a. Pennywise – the Dancing Clown, the ominous-faced clown who is a child murderer. Basically, he is a shapeshifter who assumes the form of his victim’s phobias, normally that of a clown. The Lucky Seven is a group of kids who resolve to find Pennywise and kill him. The series is made in two instalments – one when they confront Pennywise as kids in the ’60s followed by 30 years later when they confront him as adults and tackle him at last. Though ‘It (1990) faced criticism for its slow pace, it was praised for powerful performances even for an ensemble cast.
12. Hearts in Atlantis (2001)
The film begins with Bobby, a man in his 40’s who is recollecting a course of events when he was eleven years old. He recounts his experiences with his friends Carol and Sully, especially meeting with an old man named Ted. Bobby doesn’t have a healthy relationship with his widowed mother who shares a sexual relationship with her boss against favours. Ted turns out to possess telekinetic powers, much to Bobby’s astonishment and is constantly looking for “Low Men” in the town. Harry is a bully who is chased away by Ted, thanks to his mind-reading abilities. When Bobby’s mother confronts Ted for being a child molester and the latter is taken away, Bobby retains his good memories that wouldn’t have been possible if he hadn’t met Ted. ‘Hearts in Atlantis’ is an elegant, defining drama which would make you feel good yet sullen in the end.
11. The Mist (2007)
[SPOILERS] ‘The Mist’ has one of the most heartbreaking endings in the history of cinema. Whenever I hear the film’s mention, my mind is subsumed by the vivid imagery of the film’s climax. I always wondered how a little tweak in the ending could have elevated the film into something symbolic of the human will. How wonderful it would have been if the mist subsided before the protagonist shoots his son. But all these thoughts are extremely childish and counter-intuitive to the creator’s visions and catharsis, which we ought to respect. On the whole, ‘The Mist’ is an extremely underrated thriller which offers enough thrills to keep you glued to your seats. The only qualm I have is that the special effects could have been better than what they were.
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10. The Dead Zone (1983)
‘The Dead Zone’ was another taut supernatural thriller from the master King. Bolstered by the solid direction of David Cronenberg and a vivid performance by Christopher Waken, the film tells a sympathetic story of a High School teacher, who is bestowed with psychic abilities after waking up from a 5-year coma. Despite brimming with supernatural undertones, the film scores maximum points for its extremely believable premise of real people whose life gets affected after Walken is introduced with his extra-sensory gifts. Walken can touch people and know their future.
The main drama of the film exudes from Walken when he uses his powers to prevent ominous things from occurring to people and the “Cassandra’s Complex” he encounters while convincing them how he knew it. The film’s sheer believability and realism notch up its scare quotient by a mile. This element of realism in characters and situations is ubiquitous in King’s work and is extremely scarce in modern supernatural thrillers. The only recent achievement that matches it is the 2016 Television series ‘Stranger Things’, which unsurprisingly is the homage to Stephen King himself.
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9. No Smoking (2007)
Based on King’s novel titled Quitters, Inc., ‘No Smoking’ is a Bollywood film directed by Anurag Kashyap and is often considered among one of his many greats, albeit underrated. The movie revolves around a narcissistic chain smoker known as “K” who has resolved to quit smoking in front of his wife but fails at it constantly. After his wife leaves him, he enrols for a “Prayogshaala” aka a laboratory or a rehab facility at the behest of his friends. While K finds the building like a confusing labyrinth, he later comes to know that the cure involves a state of constant fear and a state of hallucination. After signing a contract, each person has to go through a series of vices to help them quit, one that involves the killing of their loved ones. The ending is equally confusing, a typical feature of Anurag Kashyap’s films. Although ‘No Smoking’ received negative reviews from critics and audiences, but still is held in high regards by many.
8. It (2017)
Stephen King, the undisputed king of horror fiction, wrote “It” several years ago, which narrates the story of an ancient trans-dimensional, malevolent being, who awakened from hibernation every twenty-seven years to feast on the flesh of children, whose primal fears manifest in many terrifying forms, eventually making them tastier. Appearing through the sewers, the dancing clown Pennywise, who takes on monstrous forms, became the focus of Andy Muschietti’s 2017 film ‘It’. Bill Skarsgard became the eponymous character and the monster-clown or clown-monster (scary in any way!) sure gave us some sleepless nights!
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7. Carrie (1976)
The movie ‘Carrie’ marked one of the first movies depicting telekinesis as a superpower. It all begins with a timid Carrie who is bullied in the school and after experiencing her first period, the bullying increases, thus piling on her angst. She soon starts demonstrating her powers by moving things without touching them and learns to control her abilities. After a bloody prank at the prom where she has been crowned as the prom queen, Carrie brings the entire building down using her superpowers and later crucifies her own mother. Out of guilt, she kills herself in the same house, only to be reborn again. ‘Carrie’ received universal critical acclaim and was considered one of the best movies at the time.
6. Dolores Claiborne (1995)
Perhaps Kathy Bates is the choice to play Stephen King’s eccentric characters. This time, she plays the titular ‘Dolores Claiborne’ who works as a servant for her incapacitated employer Vera Donovan. One day, Vera falls down the stairs and dies and to the eyewitnesses, it appears as if Dolores has murdered Vera. Notwithstanding the allegations, Dolores puts up a fight against all the harassment she has to face for not committing the murder. Apparently, Dolores was also accused of murdering her own husband Joe several years ago, leading to discord between herself and her daughter Selena. Turns out, Vera murdered her husband too but made it appear like an accident. Dolores did the same with her abusive, drunkard husband. Dolores walks free in the end, thanks to Selena. ‘Dolores Claiborne’ was one of the many commercial successes for films based out on Stephen King’s novel.
5. Misery (1990)
Paul is an eminent novelist who usually pens romance novels with a character named Misery Chastain. Apparently, in the manuscript of his latest “Misery” novel, the titular Misery dies in the end because Paul wants to focus on a better sequence of stories. He meets with an accident and finds himself bedridden, with his legs broken and shoulder dislocated, at the mercy of a woman named Annie who claims to be a fan of his works. Turns out, she is a psycho-killer who has held Paul in captivity and wants him to resurrect Misery else see himself dead. Kathy Bates won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for sporting the character of Annie Wikes in the film.
4. Stand By Me (1986)
‘Stand By Me’ is one of the best coming-of-age films I’ve ever seen. In fact, it is in my top three (the other two being ‘Dazed and Confused’ and ‘The Breakfast Club’). The film is based on King’s 1982 novella ‘The Body’ and is named after the eponymous song by Bill E King, which also plays in the credit rolling scene. It is a story of four boys who encounter a dead body during the course of their hike. The characters possessed a depth of such magnitude that we rarely see in a kid’s film. King has once confessed that ‘Stand By Me’ was the best adaptation of any of his books to date.
The book was about four boys, but the heart of the movie lies with Gordie’s story. Gordie was the observer, a kid who didn’t feel good about himself and whose father didn’t love him. And through the adventure of going to find the dead body and his camaraderie with these boys, he began to feel empowered and goes on to become a very successful writer. Not much unlike Stephen King himself.
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3. The Shining (1980)
What happens when you combine the individual greatness of the Master of Macabre King and the titan of cinema Kubrick? It becomes the recipe for monumental cinema. ‘The Shining’ is my personal favourite horror film. It stars Jack Nicholson, whose performance in it is unforgettable; the film chronicles the arc of his descent into madness. Though the film contains multiple ghoulish images (The twin girls for one) yet it is not about ghosts, it is about madness and the chain of events it sets loose in an isolated situation.
The film is packed with iconic scenes that capture the prowess of Kubrick who elevated King’s iconic work into celluloid greatness. The scene where the kid cycles around the hotel with the camera following him, the scene with Nicholson peeking from the hole of the door and saying “here’s Johnny”, the scene where Jack’s wife sees what her husband’s been typing, each scene is etched permanently in our memories and we can’t forget that King laid the foundation of all that.
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2. The Green Mile (1999)
Frank Darabont is fresh in our minds as the person who created ‘The Walking Dead’. But before he created the cult TV show, he made a career out of adapting Stephen King’s work. Darabont has adapted three of King’s most celebrated work, and each of it has made into our list today, making Darabont easily the greatest connoisseur of King’s art.
The ‘Green Mile’ packs itself with assorted acts of cruelty and one grisly, extended electrocution scene that makes the horrors of the death penalty extremely real, but at its heart, it is a very gentle film. The film has more than a few genuinely warm moments involving both Hanks and Duncan (Who plays a Jesus-ish healer in the film). Mr Darabont keeps a tight grip and steers the story of ‘The Green Mile’ on track and lets each of his actor shine in his individual role, which was very well written by King. It is a character-driven film and the drama mounts with each passing scene and ends with a tear-jerking bitter-sweet climax.
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1. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
To me, it is pleasantly ironic that a man, whose repertoire is dominated by the grotesque and the macabre, has as his top film adaptation, a movie that is about Hope and Perseverance. ’The Shawshank Redemption’ is an unforgettable film in many ways. A lot has been written about its greatness already. The fans came across it mostly through its television runs as the film fared poorly on the box office. Since, its release, the love of its fans has made the film top rated on IMDB. The most memorable scenes for me are the ones with Brooks struggle with the real world after being released from the prison and his gut-wrenching suicide. The ending of the film is so heartwarming that sometimes I wish I could erase my memory just for the sake of watching it as I did for the very first time.
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