All 59 Stephen King Movies Ranked From Worst to Best

12. THE MIST

Based On: The novella The Mist published in 1980 and featured in the collection Skeleton Crew.

Hey look, another Frank Darabont film! Darabont helms this glorious monster movie which strands several people in a supermarket as a mysterious monster-laden mist rolls across the town, and maybe the world. Of course, the real monsters are human beings and their fanatical nature. Darabont shot The Mist fast and cheap, but it feels much bigger. The film’s very last scene almost ruins all the good that came before it – almost. Beyond that, though, this is one hell of a modern monster movie.

How faithful to the source material is it? Pretty faithful, except for that ending.

Does Stephen King Have a cameo? Nah.

11. CHRISTINE

Based On: The novel Christine, published in 1983.

Director John Carpenter turns King’s killer car novel into this slick, moody thriller. Carpenter’s direction is so precise that he’s able to make the car at the center of the film seem like an actual living, breathing thing, and the score he composed with Alan Howarth really gets your motor going.

How faithful to the source material is it? King’s novel is much more in-depth, but Carpenter’s film is better. Sorry, Mr. King.  

Does Stephen King Have a cameo? No.

10. CREEPSHOW

Based On: Several King short stories adapted into the film by King himself.

George Romero and Stephen King teamed up for this day-glo horror show, a gleeful throwback to EC horror comics. It’s creepy, it’s gross, it’s so much fun. From Ed Harris dancing up a storm to Hal Holbrook dealing with a giant furry monster, Creepshow has it all, and it only gets better with age.

How faithful to the source material is it? This film is Stephen King.

Does Stephen King Have a cameo? Not just a cameo, but a full-blown supporting role, playing doomed hick Jordy Verrill. It’s not a nuanced performance, but King does get to utter the line “Meteor shit!”

9. PET SEMATARY

Based On: The novel Pet Sematary, published in 1983.

Pet Sematary has the distinction of being a book that scared King himself – he chucked it in the waste basket after he thought it went too far. Eventually he salvaged the book, resulting in this film adaptation from Mary Lambert. This is a downright spooky film, brimming with death and doom and featuring an award worthy performance courtesy of Fred Gwynne. Pet Sematary also features one of the scariest King creations ever brought to life – the terrifying Zelda, who still has the power to give everyone the creeps.

How faithful to the source material is it? King wrote the script himself, but the book is much more sprawling in scope.

Does Stephen King Have a cameo? Yes, he makes a brief appearance as a minister.

8. IT (2017)

Based On: The novel It, published in 1986.

Here’s a pleasant surprise: the latest Stephen King adaptation is also one of the best. Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of King’s horror epic is like a carnival funhouse: loud, funny and scary. It also manages to capture the book’s emotional core, devoting plenty of time to developing the young members of the Losers’ Club as they confront Pennywise the Clown. What makes It so great isn’t the scary moments, but rather the scenes that let the kids just be kids, hanging out on summer afternoons, talking shit and growing closer in the process. What a treat it is to have a new Stephen King film that’s also pretty damn great.

How faithful to the source material is it? The new It changes a lot yet also remains very faithful to the spirit of the book.

Does Stephen King Have a cameo? No. Perhaps the time of Stephen King cameos has ended.

7. THE DEAD ZONE

Based On: The novel The Dead Zone, published in 1979.

The Dead Zone is not your typical David Cronenberg film – there’s none of the chilly body horror he usually creates. Yet this is one of Cronenberg’s best, featuring Christopher Walken as a man who wakes up from a coma with psychic abilities. Much like The Running Man, The Dead Zone gave us a glimpse of the hell that would be 2017 in the form of an unhinged political candidate, played here by Martin Sheen. Walken is the real draw here though, giving one of his best performances as the troubled psychic.

How faithful to the source material is it? Pretty faithful.

Does Stephen King Have a cameo? He doesn’t.

6. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION

Based On: The novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, published in 1982 in the collection Different Seasons.

What do you know, here’s another Frank Darabont/Stephen King team-up. Look, TNT reruns and dads everywhere have kind of tarnished The Shawshank Redemption a bit, but if you remove years of oversaturation, you can’t deny that this is one of the very best King adaptations. An emotional drama with one stellar performance courtesy of Morgan Freeman, incredible cinematography from Roger Deakins and one gorgeous score composed by Thomas Newman. You can be sick of this movie, but don’t pretend it’s not good.

How faithful to the source material is it? This is a fairly faithful adaptation, but I’d say it’s actually better than the story it sprang from.

Does Stephen King Have a cameo? No.

5. CARRIE (1976)

Based On: The novel Carrie, published in 1974.

Brian De Palma takes King’s debut novel and turns it into a stylish, scary film. Sissy Spacek is incredible as the troubled main character, dealing with cruel classmates and her own telekinetic powers. De Palma directs the hell out of this thing, employing split-screens and split diopter shots galore, creating a scary, funny and ultimately tragic horror melodrama. Also featuring one of the best jump scares of all time at the very end.

How faithful to the source material is it? Pretty faithful, although it leaves out a lot of elements, including a moment when rocks rain down on Carrie’s house as a child.

Does Stephen King Have a cameo? Nope.

4. STAND BY ME

Based On: The novella The Body, published in 1982 in the collection Different Seasons.

Rob Reiner turns King’s novella The Body into this emotional coming-of-age tale about four friends who set off to find a dead body. King’s story is good, but Reiner’s film is truly wonderful, filled with great, natural performances from the four young leads – Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell.

How faithful to the source material is it? King’s story has an even more downbeat ending than the film.

Does Stephen King Have a cameo? No.

3. MISERY

Based On: The novel Misery, published in 1987.

Look, I didn’t plan to have two back-to-back Rob Reiner Stephen King adaptations on here, but that’s how it worked out. King’s take on toxic fandom is given robust life courtesy of director Reiner and screenwriter William Goldman in Misery. Of course, the real draw here is Kathy Bates, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of the fan from hell – a psychotic nurse who keeps her favorite romance novelist (James Caan) hostage. This is a tightly plotted, highly entertaining film filled with jaw-dropping moments – people are still talking about the infamous ankle-breaking scene all these years later.

How faithful to the source material is it? As violent and nasty as this film can be, King’s book is actually a little nastier.

Does Stephen King Have a cameo? No.

2. DOLORES CLAIBORNE

Based On: The novel Dolores Claiborne, published in 1992.

Achingly sad, poetically performed, Dolores Claiborne is a stone-cold masterpiece; a film of loss and longing that somehow has slipped into obscurity and should be rescued post-haste. If you thought Kathy Bates’ performance in Misery was something, wait till you see her spellbinding work here, playing a weary woman who may or may not have committed two murders spaced over 30 years. Bates is joined by a dynamite cast that includes Jennifer Jason Leigh, David Strathairn, Judy Parfitt, Christopher Plummer and a baby-faced John C. Reilly. This is a haunted, haunting film that should be celebrated far more often than it is.

How faithful to the source material is it? Very faithful.

Does Stephen King Have a cameo? No.

1. THE SHINING

Based On: The novel The Shining, published in 1977.

You probably could’ve guessed this would end up as number one. Obvious though this pick may be, it’s hard to deny that Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is a masterpiece of modern horror, a hypnotic film that people have been deconstructing and studying for as long as it has existed. Yes, the film plays fast and loose with King’s source novel. Yes, Jack Nicholson seems kind of crazy even before he takes the job as the caretaker of the haunted hotel. Yes, the themes the novel explored are virtually ignored here. It doesn’t matter. This is still an incredible adaptation, one that takes the framework King created and builds a stunning, unexpected structure on top of it. King may hate this adaptation, but that’s okay. The rest of us can revel in its fearful symmetry.

How faithful to the source material is it? Not very faithful at all. But that’s okay.

Does Stephen King Have a cameo? No.

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