Stephen King is one of the most successful authors to ever live. Currently, he has sold over 350 million copies of his 61 published novels. He has been called the “King of Horror”. His first novel to get published was Carrie in 1973. Carrie was actually King’s fourth novel and he famously threw the first draft away only to have it pulled from the garbage by his wife who promised to help him write it. Over the years King has been a major inspiration to keep pushing and never take no for an answer. When he was younger, he would submit short stories to hundreds of magazines only to get rejected over and over again. He tacked a nail up in his room and every rejection letter he received he would pin to the nail. After he got so many the nail fell out of the wall he could have easily given up, but instead he just got a bigger nail. It is encouraging to hear that one of the most successful writers ever had to jump hurdles and force himself into success.
Once his books were published, it wasn’t long before they were made into films. Some of Stephen King’s movies and television shows have been solidified in horror hall of fame while others are best to be forgotten. King has had at least 84 movies made based on his stories, and not all of them are winners. It is hard to carve away all of the films to be left with a top ten, but after a lot of research and hours watching the films, here is a top ten list of Stephen Kings movies, worst to best.
The Dead Zone (1983)
The Dead Zone was released in 1983 and made $20.8 million in the box office. The film was based on the book of the same name published in 1979. Director David Cronenberg (The Fly) brought to life the screenplay written by Jeffrey Boam (The Lost Boys). It stars Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt, and Martin Sheen. This is actually one of my favorite King novels and the movie is a great adaptation. In the early 2000’s there was also a mini-series based on the novel that stared Anthony Michael Hall.
The Green Mile (1999)
The Green Mile was released in 1999 and made $286.8 million in the box office. The film was based on King’s book of the same name that was published in 1996. It was written and directed by Frank Darabont (Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors writer) and stared Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Morse, Bonnie hunt and Sam Rockwell. The movie has so much heart and deep meanings that many consider this to be the go-to film when speaking about Stephen King.
Doctor Sleep (2019)
Doctor Sleep was released in 2019 and made $72.3 million in the box office. The film was based on the 2013 novel of the same name. It was written and directed by Mike Flanagan (Hush) and continues the story of Danny from The Shining. It stars Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, and Cliff Curtis. It’s not always easy to write a sequel to a book/movie that was released a few decades prior, but both the film and novel Doctor Sleep shows the right way to do this.
Pet Sematary (1989)
Pet Sematary was released in 1989 and made $57.5 million in the box office. It was based on the 1983 King novel of the same name. Directed by Mary Lambert (Siesta) and was written by Stephen King himself. The film stared Dale Midkiff, Fred Gwynne, Denise Crosby, and Miko Hughes. I watched this film as a kid and it certainly had some scary moments in it, but years later after I had my own children, I watched it again. The second viewing was terrifying! The entire time all I could think of was one of my kids becoming a homicidal zombie kid intent on killing me.
Misery was released in 1990 and made $20 million in the box office. It was based on the 1987 novel of the same name. It was written by William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and was directed by legendary Rob Reiner (This is Spinal Tap). The film stars James Caan and Kathy Bates. My first viewing of this movie did not amount to much in all honesty. But when I re-watched it was a young adult I fell in love with the suspense and attention to detail that the story provides.
Christine was released in 1983 and made $21 million in the box office. It was written by Bill Phillips and directed by horror god John Carpenter (Halloween). The film was based on the 1983 novel of the same name. It stared Keith Gordon John Stockwell, and Alexandra Paul. Christine was the first Stephen King film I watched, and I instantly fell in love with his story telling.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
The Shawshank Redemption was released in 1994 and made $58.3 million in the box office. It was based on the King novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. The film stars Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Clancy Brown and Bob Gunton. It was written and directed by the same man as The Green Mile, Frank Darabont. When you ask most people what their favorite movie is, this movie will be brought up more than any other. Not your typical King story, The Shawshank Redemption is a became a cult classic once it started running on TNT.
The Shining (1980)
The Shining opened in 1980 and earned $47 million in the box office. It was based on the 1977 King novel of the same name. Directed by Stanley Kubrick (A Clockwork Orange) and co-written with novelist Diane Johnson. The film stars Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers and Danny Lloyd. This was a movie I was supposed to wait to watch until I was older but snuck a peak anyway. It had a profound effect on me, not just being scary but caused me to seek out the feeling one gets from scary movies.
Carrie was released in 1976 and made $33.8 million in the box office, and this was off of just a $1.8 million budget! It was based on King’s first published novel based on the same name and was directed by Brian De Palma (Scarface) and written by Lawrence D. Cohen (Ghost Story). It stared Sissy Spacek, Amy Irving, and John Travolta. This was not just King’s first novel, but also his first story to see the screen. After this film, King would have over 100 adaptations of his stories hit the screen as a film or television show. There is a reason he is the King.
Stand by Me (1986)
Stand by Me was released in 1986 and made $52.3 million in the box office. It was based off the 1982 novella, The Body. Director Rob Reiner also headed up this film. Stand by Me stared Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, Keifer Sutherland, and was narrated by Richard Dreyfuss. Stand by Me did a fantastic job of showing the internal struggles of boys who are coming into their teenage years. When I think of Stephen King films, this is the first one that always comes to mind, simply for the effect it had on me when I watched it as a 13-year-old boy. It caused me to confront certain issues I was dealing with in my family (my father mostly) and what I was feeling about growing up.
Written exclusively for TheLastPicture.Show by Jacob Ruble
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