If you’re a fan of classic horror films, or maybe prison stories, chances are you’ve seen some of Stephen King’s work immortalized on the big screen.
While 11 films aren’t nearly enough to showcase his extensive work, we’re picking the creme de la creme, the cream of the crop, the best of the best. Here they are, in ascending order.
11. It (1990)
Technically not a movie, it was a TV miniseries, in two parts. However, film enthusiasts regard it as one of the best horror films ever made, and rightly so.
If you’re familiar with the concept of the Boggart in the Harry Potter world, you can now see where author JK Rowling got her inspiration from–”It” refers to a shape-shifting being from another dimension, who takes the shape of your worst fears. Usually, though, It appears as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, who targets a bunch of outcast children, called The Losers Club.
Tim Curry’s performance as Pennywise remains bone-chilling even now, 23 years after it was first released.
10. The Shining (1980)
Jack Nicholson stars are Jack Torrance, a novelist who’s hired to look after the Overlook Hotel in Aspen, Colorado, after the previous caretaker developed cabin fever and killed his family, and then himself.
Things go downhill right from the start when Jack’s son, Danny, starts seeing visions of previous horrors at the Overlook, including, but not limited to, a wave of blood flowing through the elevators, a pair of ghost twin girls, and the word REDRUM, not to mention his ‘imaginary’ friend Tony. Revealing any more will be revealing too much.
9. Stand By Me (1986)
A coming-of-age story like no other, the film version was directed by Rob Reiner (When Harry Met Sally, A Few Good Men), based on King’s book, The Body.
Simply put, the film revolves around a group of children who set out to find a boy presumed dead by everyone, by relentlessly following train tracks. In the process, they analyze and discover the truth about each other, and about themselves.
8. 1408 (2007)
Directed by Swedish filmmaker Michael Hafstrom, 1408 is based on a short story by Stephen King. Starring John Cusack as an overstressed novelist who, after the death of his daughter, takes to gushing about so-called horror stories he doesn’t believe in. When he gets a postcard about The Dolphin Hotel, specifically stating not to enter Room 1408, he can’t resist the challenge.
The film completely reworks the concept of the supernatural. Whereas most movies incorporate a ghost or something slightly humanoid to scare you senseless, 1408 makes the entire room sentient…..and unbelievably scary.
7. Children of the Corn (1984)
This one’s a bit more pulpy horror than classic horror, but is nevertheless one of King’s best works. He rarely misses the opportunity to transform kids from innocent beings into frightening serial killers. Rarely.
Children of the Corn is about an unassuming young couple driving cross-country, getting mixed up in a town ruled by a psychotic entity from another world.
Known only as “He Who Walks Behind The Rows”, the entity entices children into killing all the adults in the town, to ensure a decent corn harvest. Spine-tingling.
6. No Smoking (2007)
Not many people know that Anurag Kashyap’s neo-noir film, starring a pre-stardom John Abraham, is based on King’s remarkable short story, Quitters, Inc.
Filmed around a man known only as ‘K’ (Abraham), it discusses the unhealthy effects chain smoking can have on a healthy relationship, while simultaneously tapping into the difficulty of going cold turkey on cigarettes.
No Smoking defies convention, mixing elements of surrealism, fantasy, horror and fiction, into a convoluted but satisfying film. It was about a decade before its time, however, and was, therefore, not very well received in India. It won many accolades abroad, and is a masterful film in all aspects.
5. The Dead Zone (1983)
Without a doubt, David Cronenberg is one of the masters of cinema, and Stephen King is, admittedly, the master of horror. Joining forces, they become a single, powerful entity.
Cronenberg directed The Dead Zone, about a schoolteacher (played by Christopher Walken), who awakens from a five-year long, distressing coma, to find out that not only has his girlfriend married someone else, she also has a child. Oh, and he has psychic powers capable of finding out anyone’s past, present and future.
The title refers to his singular ability to literally change the future by way of his premonitions and visions. The whole film is a cinematic gem, but the ending is specially poignant, morose and triumphant, all at the same time.
4. Dolores Claiborne (1995)
One of Stephen King’s most detailed works, this one deviates from his horror fixation, but manages to stay creepy throughout. Directed by Taylor Hackford, it stars Oscar-winner Kathy Bates as the titular character and Jennifer Jason Leigh as her daughter Selena.
Through the use of hidden murders, secrets bonds, familial ties, and startling revelations, the film captures Dolores’ heartbreaking story.
Peppered with subtle foreshadowing throughout, it’s a tale you’ll find yourself digging for clues in, matching wits with the authorities. The film is as much a mystery as it is the opposite of a mystery–everything is revealed, but slowly, away from the suspense of it all.
3. Apt Pupil (1998)
Considered one of Bryan Singer’s best works, Apt Pupil is a psychological thriller centered around Nazism and neo-Nazism, but is, more importantly, a deep analysis on everyone’s inherent capacity for evil.
While the film itself isn’t one of Singer’s best, the novella it stems from is an absolute gem. Even then, Sir Ian McKellen and Brad Renfro’s performances elevate the film greatly.
2. The Green Mile (1999)
There was a time when Tom Hanks’ presence in a movie guaranteed its success and acclaim. The Green Mile falls into that category, for sure, but the true credit lies with Stephen King.
When John Coffey first comes to Cold Mountain Penitentiary, his reputation precedes him; arrested for the rape and murder of two innocent twin girls, Coffey’s hulking size and childlike mentality mark him guilty as charged.
However, all is not what is seems, and the prison guards soon realize Coffey’s true nature. What they find, changes them forever. Frank Darabont’s masterful direction guides The Green Mile into superiority, far above the reaches of mere mortals.
1. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Of the millions of films in existence today, there is only one film which deserves the honour of being called ‘the best’. Frank Darabont’s interpretation of King’s short story, “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption“, is that film.
Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is imprisoned for the double murder of his wife and her lover, and spends 27 years trying to prove his innocence. In all that while, he retains the biggest part of himself, and also his mental faculties, rising to the top of the prisoner hierarchy, and becoming the right hand man to the Warden himself. His trials and travails seem to leave no clear impact on him or his psyche, and he seems entirely unaffected by his new life.
But his one plan in life brews throughout, hidden from view, and is the source of his strength. Andy forms a special friendship with Red (Morgan Freeman), another inmate charged with murder–it’s a friendship like no other, with no give and take involved. The film’s tagline, “fear can hold you prisoner, hope can set you free” is probably the ultimate axiom, and is reflected in every frame of Darabont’s film.