All 59 Stephen King Movies Ranked From Worst to Best

48. BAG OF BONES

Based On: The novel Bag of Bones, published in 1998.

Mick Garris is a director who will pop up on this list several times, since he loves adapting Stephen King stories. He’s a really nice guy, but kind of lackluster director, and this is probably the worst of the bunch of his King adaptations. Pierce Brosnan is a novelist haunted by the death of his wife, as well as some other stuff. It’s not very exciting, but there is a part where a ghost says “Lie still, bag of bones!”, so that’s something, I guess.

How faithful to the source material is it? Mostly faithful, yet even at 162 minutes this adaptation still cuts out a good portion of King’s novel.

Does Stephen King Have a cameo? No.

47. DOLAN’S CADILLAC

Based On: The short story “Dolan’s Cadillac” published in 1993 and featured in the collection Nightmares and Dreamscapes.

King’s Edgar Allen Poe-inspired tale of vengeance was reduced to a completely forgettable direct-to-video thriller that pits Wes Bentley against Christian Slater. Bentley is a school teacher who wants to kill the gangster (Slater) who murdered his wife by burying him alive. Early in the film’s development, Sylvester Stallone was rumored to play the part eventually played by Slater. That probably would’ve made the film slightly more interesting.

How faithful to the source material is it? King’s story is much more psychological than the film.

Does Stephen King Have a cameo? No.

46. THE MANGLER

Based On: The short story “The Mangler,” published in 1978 and featured in the collection Night Shift.

Stephen King loves to turn the mundane into the terrifying, but not even he could make a story about a murderous demonic laundry press that convincing. The late Tobe Hooper helmed this adaptation, which isn’t very good but has hell of a lot of style. It also stars wonderful character Ted Levine in a rare leading-man role, playing a cop investigating the evil laundry machine.

How faithful to the source material is it? The film adds a lot more to the story, none of it very good.

Does Stephen King Have a cameo? Yes, he plays the laundry machine. No, I’m kidding, he’s not in it at all.

45. SLEEPWALKERS

Based On: Nothing; King wrote this as an original screenplay.

Sleepwalkers was the first screenplay King wrote directly for the screen instead of adapting one of his previous novels. That seemed like something exciting at the time…and then the film was released. Mick Garris once again is behind the camera, filming this really gross story about an incestuous mother-son team of murderers who are also cat people. It’s not good! But it does feature a scene where someone is stabbed to death with a corn cob, thus keeping it from being too far down in the ranking.

How faithful to the source material is it? N/A

Does Stephen King Have a cameo? Yes! He plays a grumpy cemetery caretaker.

44. THE TOMMYKNOCKERS

Based On: The novel The Tommyknockers, published in 1987.

Early in his career, King developed a pretty serious cocaine and alcohol addiction. His struggles with this come through in many of his works, including The Tommyknockers, which substitutes alien powers for the rush of cocaine. King doesn’t care for the book that much, though. “The Tommyknockers is an awful book,” he told Rolling Stone. “That was the last one I wrote before I cleaned up my act. And I’ve thought about it a lot lately and said to myself, ‘There’s really a good book in here, underneath all the sort of spurious energy that cocaine provides, and I ought to go back.’ The book is about 700 pages long, and I’m thinking, ‘There’s probably a good 350-page novel in there.’” If King himself thinks this, it should come as no surprise that TV miniseries adaptation isn’t much to look at it, either. A few eerie moments aside, this is a wash.

How faithful to the source material is it? Pretty faithful, although the book is a bit more mean-spirited.  

Does Stephen King Have a cameo? Nope.

43. STORM OF THE CENTURY

Based On: Nothing; King wrote this as original screenplay.

Storm of the Century was a big deal when it aired in 1999 – a miniseries event that King had written directly for the small screen rather than something adapted from one of his books. Yet as the series unfolded over three nights for a numbing 256 minute total runtime, it became apparent that maybe King could’ve cut this beast down to 2 hours and told a much more effective story. A blizzard hits a small island town and brings with it a mysterious, malevolent man (Colm Feore). Cut down to a more manageable length, this could’ve been something good. In its final, ungodly lengthy form, however, it’s a total bust.

How faithful to the source material is it? N/A

Does Stephen King Have a cameo? Yep, as a lawyer on a TV ad.

42. DESPERATION

Based On: The novel Desperation, published in 1996.

Our old friend Mick Garris is back, this time filming King’s novel about a cursed Nevada mining town. While Desperation features a typically memorable performance from Ron Perlman, here playing a demonic town sheriff, the film lacks energy and, worst of all, isn’t the least bit scary or suspenseful.

How faithful to the source material is it? King adapted his own novel for the film, but he still removes a ton of extra material from the hefty 704-page book.

Does Stephen King Have a cameo? No.

41. MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE

Based on: The short story “Trucks” published in 1978 and featured in the collection Night Shift.

Maximum Overdrive is fairly infamous: it’s the only film Stephen King ever directed, and it’s terrible. But it’s the fun kind of terrible – goofy to the extreme and sort of oblivious to how dumb it is. Emilio Estevez and a cast of people who can’t stop yelling get stuck at a truck stop after trucks, and other machines, become sentient – and deadly. All while AC/DC tunes blast over the soundtrack.

How faithful to the source material is it? Well, there’s no AC/DC in the story.

Does Stephen King Have a cameo? He does: he plays a man who has an altercation with a foul-mouthed ATM.

40. ROSE RED

Based On: King wrote this as original screenplay, but it’s really an unofficial adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House.

In the early 1990s, Steven Spielberg approached Stephen King to write a big budget remake of The Haunting, adapted from Shirley Jackson’s novel The Haunting of Hill House. The project eventually fell through, and Spielberg’s DreamWorks eventually released a terrible Haunting remake helmed by Jan de Bont. As for King, he took the work that he had done and recrafted it into Rose Red, a 255 minute miniseries that aired on ABC. While Rose Red may not be credited as a Haunting adaptation, the storyline is virtually the same: a team of ghost hunters take up residence in a sprawling house with a dark history. There’s plenty to like about Rose Red – the stuff that goes into the house’s backstory is captivating and the always wonderful Melanie Lynskey has a fairly large part. But like most miniseries’ penned by King, this thing is too damn long. There’s no reason for this thing to be almost five hours in length.

How faithful to the source material is it? N/A

Does Stephen King Have a cameo? You better believe it. He appears here as the world’s oldest pizza delivery boy.

39. DREAMCATCHER

Based On: The novel Dreamcatcher, published in 2001.

Dreamcatcher has two immensely talented people working behind the scenes – Lawrence Kasdan directing and renowned screenwriter William Goldman co-writing the script – and yet it’s pretty darn bad. Probably because the source material isn’t anything to sing about; King wrote the book doped up on painkillers while recovering from a near-fatal car accident, so that might have something to do with it. A group of childhood friends reunite as adults for guy getaway, only to have their fun spoiled by an alien invasion. How dumb is this movie? Well, the aliens are nicknamed “shit weasels,” so that should give you a pretty good idea. Not even Morgan Freeman hamming it up as an evil army general can elevate this movie.

How faithful to the source material is it? It starts off pretty faithful, then forges its own uniquely stupid path.

Does Stephen King Have a cameo? No.

38. CARRIE (2002)

Based On: The novel Carrie, published in 1974.

King’s first novel Carrie has not one but three film adaptations. We’ll get to the other two later, but first up is this 2002 TV movie adaptation. The film sticks pretty closely to the book, although updates it for a more modern setting, and features Angela Bettis, who was excellent in the underrated horror film May, as the doomed telepath Carrie White, and Patricia Clarkson as her bible-thumping mother. For the most part, this adaptation isn’t bad, and benefits from a script courtesy of Hannibal mastermind Bryan Fuller. Then the ending comes and Carrie makes a startling left turn. It seems this film was intended to be a backdoor pilot to a Carrie TV series, and as a result, Carrie survives the film’s destruction-filled ending and heads out on the road, like The Incredible Hulk. It’s really stupid.

How faithful to the source material is it? Very faithful…until the end.

Does Stephen King Have a cameo? Sadly, no. Would it have killed them to cast him as the high school janitor or something? Come on.

37. THE SHINING (1997 miniseries)

Based On: The novel The Shining, published in 1977. Also based on Stephen King’s incessant complaints.

King is mostly neutral when it comes to adaptations of his work. If the film doesn’t turn out exactly like the novel, he usually shrugs it off. Usually. And then there’s The Shining. While critics and audiences may agree that Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation is a horror classic, King hates it. The author has a long list of reasons he dislikes Kubrick’s adaptation, but it all basically boils down to the fact that King thinks Kubrick removed the heart of the novel and strayed too far from the source material. So what better way to retaliate than to pen a lengthy TV miniseries? Our old buddy Mick Garris is back in the director’s chair once again filming this painfully long saga. This adaptation certainly sticks closer to the novel, yet – surprise, surprise – it’s got nothing on Kubrick’s film. It doesn’t help that the ghosts that show up have their faces painted day-glo blue as if they were characters in an episode of the Goosebumps TV series. Also not helping: Courtland Mead, who plays Danny, the young boy with the shining, is terrible.

How faithful to the source material is it? Extremely faithful! Yet it isn’t good! Go figure.

Does Stephen King Have a cameo? You bet your ass he does. He plays a ghostly band leader dancing around on a stage with a ghost orchestra.

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