Given his long and incredibly prolific career, it seems a pretty safe bet to call Stephen King the most successful popular writer of his generation. Since storming the literary world in 1974 with his self-assured debut novel Carrie, King’s books have been adored by a worldwide legion of fans. As a writer, King has demonstrated keen skill with comedy, action, drama, and (of course) horror. His stories are littered with memorable characters, haunting locations, and instances of stark brutality.
King's writing has so impacted the public imagination that Hollywood has long turned to his work for inspiration. Seriously, even if you’ve never read a Stephen King novel, odds are you’re familiar with his writing through one of his numerous big (and small) screen adaptations. His work has inspired some of the best movies in history.
And since you’ve heard of most of them — Shawshank Redemption, Misery, The Shining, Stand By Me — there's no need to belabor the point by talking about them further. Stephen Kings books have been adapted frequently enough that there are tons of pretty good Stephen King adaptations to fawn over (even barring his most famous work).
Okay, fair warning, if you’re allergic to cheese or movies from the '80s, you might want to look elsewhere for your King film fix. That shouldn’t be too hard, because the Master of Horror has a lot of legitimately exceptional adaptations of his work bouncing around.
However, if you’re willing to simply enjoy yourself and watch a movie with a decent story and some moment-to-moment excellence, then here are some fun flicks based on the works of the world’s most popular writer.
Also, mild spoilers ahead. You know, if you care about that kind of stuff.
If you’ve never committed yourself to the tear-fest that is Frank Darabont’s The Green Mile, grab a hankie and get on it. The three-hour epic is worth watching if only to absorb Michael Clarke Duncan’s incredible performance as gentle giant John Coffey.
Sure, the film is melodramatic, but Darabont’s direction and Tom Hank’s subdued turn as prison guard Paul Edgecomb makes the whole thing work surprisingly well. Darabont direction creates a celluloid storybook that’s magical and haunting. Honestly, thought the movie drags at times, it really doesn’t feel like it lasts three hours.
#49 on The Most Rewatchable Movies
#41 on The Best Movies of All Time
Stand by Me is lauded by critics and audiences alike as one of the greatest coming of age films since its 1986 release. The movie is an adaptation of King's novella The Body, and it follows the journey of four boys trying to find a missing kid their age who is presumed dead.
The boys – Gordie Lanchance (Wil Wheaton), Vern Tessio (Jerry O'Connell), Chris Chambers (River Phoenix), and Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman) – encounter trials and tribulations on their adventure, learning more about themselves and each other than they could have ever anticipated. The timeless film's ensemble cast perfectly straddles the nebulous and often arduous time between childhood and adulthood, something that doesn't seem to change no matter the decade.
Frank Darabont (who also directed The Shawshank Redemption) does a solid job adapting The Mist, a story in which a bunch of people find themselves stuck in a small town grocery store after a strange mist rolls in. Anyone who tries to go outside is devoured by fearsome monsters. Inside, the people begin to split into factions and the whole plot breaks down into an allegory about the warring personalities at play in modern society.
Buoyed by a really kickass cast including Thomas Jane (doing good work), Marcia Gay Harden, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, and William Sadler, The Mist is tense, thought-provoking, and… sort of ruined by an inscrutable and depressing ending. If you commit yourself to enjoying the journey rather than waiting for the destination, though, The Mist will absolutely reward your time.
There’s just something about the 1983 adaptation of Cujo that’s consistently heart-breaking. Is it all the sad dog stuff? Yeah, probably the sad dog stuff. And, sure, the dog spends most of the movie as a rabid bastard, but the whole thing is the fault of Cujo’s owners. Who doesn’t notice fresh bite marks on their dog? Monsters, that's who.
Cujo is the story of a St. Bernard driven mad by a rabies infection. He subsequently terrorizes (and murders) his abusive owner as well as several members of the community. Also, the family drama framing the dog’s terror is actually fairly well-handled. This is mostly thanks to a good performance from Dee Wallace. She really nails being a mother trapped in a hot car that’s being assaulted by a rabid St. Bernard. Hey, it's a specific skill but it comes in handy.
#29 on The Best Movies of 1983