Home Features The best Stephen King book to film adaptations……

The best Stephen King book to film adaptations……


With the release of director Rob Savage’s, ‘The Boogeyman’ we’re taking a look at the best Stephen King book to  film adaptations and with such a prolific author and Hollywood only too keen to option every new title he publishes there’s a wealth to choose from….. and we’re going to pass on the TV adaptations so sorry to fans of Salems Lot and It. So in order of best to absolute bestest we start with….


  1. The Mist (2007)

With a story of a small town engulfed in a supernatural  mist that hides marauding aliens it found a number of the townspeople trapped in a supermarket where paranoia and hysteria takes over. For the third time it was a King adaptation written and directed by Frank Darabont so the film was in good hands having proved himself with previous works. It’s the end of the film that really makes this stand out. With a script that had developed the characters led by Thomas Jane it would see him in the final traumatic and deeply upsetting last scene that ensured the film lingered long in the mind long after the film has finished.


  1. The Green Mile (1999)

The second Stephen King that Frank Darabont would adapt and direct and as usual he did a magnificent job with its epic story set on Death Row in a prison unit headed up by Tom Hanks as the gaoler sympathetic to his detainees but all find their lives irrevocably changed by the presence of a giant prisoner with a mysterious gift yet despite having been accused of child murder. With a cast led by Tom Hanks as the prison guard he was joined by a uniformly great troupe of actors that included an unbalanced Sam Rockwell, the sadistic new guard played by Doug Hutchinson but best of all was Michael Clarke Duncan as John Coffey who was rightly nominated as Best Supporting Actor.  And yet despite its genre there is something ultimately uplifting and positive in its story of seeing good in people and ultimately the power of redemption


  1. Carrie (1976)

Starting right from his early novels the first choice is Carrie and was the novel that bought him to the attention of horror fans and was further reinforced by the 1976 film adaptation that was helmed by director Brian De Palma which would also put him on the map amongst his contemporaries that included George Lucas, Spielberg and Scorsese. Full of DePalma stylized set pieces and, like Spielberg squeezing every last scare out of Jaws with Quint’s head pooping out of the sunken bow, DePalma added his own last jump scare to the films very end scene that had audiences leaping out of their seats. With Sissy Spacek on point in a career defining title role which would earn both her and Piper Laurie as her mother Oscar nominations it would be the film that had studios scrabbling for more novels from the author.


  1. Misery (1990)

The second film from director Rob Reiner as director of a King novel and a film with an author at its centre. Here it was the late James Caan as writer of pulp romantic novels and keen to escape the genre and write something else. But whilst delivering the final manuscript he has a car accident and finds himself rescued and ultimately kidnapped and imprisoned by the highly unstable Annie, a nurse brilliantly played by Kathy Bates. A self-contained film within a bedroom where Caan finds himself locked in and desperate to escape as Bates because increasingly violent towards him insisting that he rewrites the novel.  It all culminates in the ankle hobbling scene, a scene that still understandably has audiences cringing at the sight of Annie and her sledgehammer. The film was a big hit and earned Bates a Best Actress oscar.


  1. Stand By Me (1986)

This was something of a determined move away from the horror genre that King with which he had made his name. It still had a dark centre and perhaps had a slight autobiographical hint to it with Richard Dreyfuss as a successful author writing a story recounting a childhood journey with his friends to find the body of a missing boy. Despite its macabre storyline it was really a story of friendship and its cast of young actors that included Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman & Jerry O’Connell were never better than they were here as the four friends. Directed by Rob Reiner who had only two years previously made the classic comedy This is Spinal Tap but here saw him handle the material sensitively with a number of moments that were in turn funny, moving and outrageous most notably the pie eating contest. But as with several of King’s adapted films it was the final scene that contained its best moment , of which there were many, where, as Dreyfuss winds ups the film says, ‘I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve, Does anyone?’ It a truism that tugs at the heart with successive viewings especially as you get older. For King it was rumoured that on seeing the film it reduced him to tears saying that it was the closest adaptation he’d ever seen of one of his novels.


  1. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Like Stand By Me this was another short story taken from a collection of short stories and expanded by writer- director Frank Darabont to epic length and brilliantly so. Having changed certain aspects of the story (in the book Morgan Freeman’s character was a red headed Irishman) the film’s cast was led by Tim Robbins pitted against an unjust prison warden played by Bob Gunton on top form. Famously flopping on its initial release it found its mark on home video where it found an appreciative and huge audience. Nominated for seven Oscars it won none but its impact was huge with audiences rooting for Robbins character and symbolic image of him emerging from a sewer pipe into freedom with the heavy rain washing away the mess he’s been through remains iconic. It was an ending that didn’t meet with the approval of all and perhaps rightly so but nonetheless the film remains the best loved of all of Kings film adaptations


  1. The Shining (1980)

Wildly regarded as THE best adaptation of a King novel it was not without controversy. Finding that Stanley Kubrick was to make a film of his novel would be most authors dream as it was for King but he soon found that Kubrick would move away from many aspects that King regarded as integral to the story. So gone is the domestic abuse backstory that’s only hinted at in the film, the topiary that comes alive is gone too as is the boiler room scenes. Instead Kubrick introduced the elevator of blood, the appearance of the murdered twins, Jack hacking down a bathroom door shouting, ‘Here’s Johnny!’ and that famous last shot of the black and white photograph amongst a plethora of iconic moments all underscored by Jack Nicholson on barn storming form in a role that he would forever be associated with. This combined with pioneering steadicam work made it one of Kubrick’s most popular films but King was unimpressed that his book had been gutted in his opinion to make the film famously comparing it to a luxury car without an engine. That King himself decided to make a TV version of his own novel that paled in comparison to the film only underlined the fact that on this occasion King was wrong. Nonetheless the film is often and rightly in Top Ten horror films of all time.

related feature:  How The Shining’s maze scenes would be illegal to shoot today

Related feature: Director Rob Savage talks about the madness of filming ‘Dashcam’

related feature; The story behind the shot : Carrie



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