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My Favorite...Stephen King Movies!

Updated: Apr 26



The Following is a Listing of My Favorite Stephen King adaptations.


This list will change. These movies are not listed as favorite to least favorite, or in any order except alphabetically.


But I will say that my qualifications for a favorite Stephen King adaptation is first and foremost this....


It must be as accurate and true the source material as possible as an adaptation of a Stephen King work. That means nothing, or at least very little, has been changed. And none of that horseshit about how a movie is a movie and a book is a book. Anyone who tries to tell me that I simply point out movies and other adaptations like the ones on my list. Perfect or nearly perfect as far as I am concerned. No need to argue with me and tell me Stanley Kubrick's version of The Shining should be on this list. It isn't, and this is my list!


If you are adapting a book, you are adapting a book! If you want to writing something original, write something original. If your ego is so small that you have to change the story to somehow insert your footprint....don't!


I do allow for exceptions if, and only if, the complete spirit of the story is still there. Some stories have suffered from time and when they were finally adapted, some changes needed to be made, unless it was made to take place at an earlier time. And hey, there are a few (rare few) that I like the ending of the movie better, with a great example being Cujo. Why Stephen King killed the little boy I will never know.


Okay! So, with that, here we go...!


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1922


Blurb: A simple yet proud farmer in the year 1922 conspires to murder his wife for financial gain, convincing his teenage son to assist. But their actions have unintended consequences.

Adapted by: Zak Hilditch

Directed by: Zak Hilditch

Starring: Thomas Jane

Dylan Schmid

Molly Parker

Neal McDonough

Kaitlyn Bernard

Brian d'Arcy James

Bob Frazer

Notes: An absolutely amazing adaptation of a story that was hard to read and just as hard to watch as a movie. Zak Hilditch needs to do more Stephen King scripts! He is so faithful and true to the source material! And Mr. King proves once more that what could really happen in real life—how terrible humans can be to each other—and proving that what can really happen is far scarier than any vampire or werewolf or demon clown, quite simply because it could happen. Every bit of it.


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A GOOD MARRIAGE


Blurb: After 25 years of a good marriage, what will Darcy do once she discovers her husband's sinister secret that he is notorious serial killer "Beadie?"

Adapted by: Stephen King

Directed by: Peter Askin

Starring: Joan Allen

Anthony LaPaglia

Kristen Connolly

Stephen Lang

Notes: This is a fabulous adaptation. But then Stephen King wrote the screenplay. It is not a perfect movie. I blame it on the director, although I can't be sure. I only know that Joan Allen and Anthony LaPaglia are terrific actors who have never failed me once, and yet they were all but campy in this movie. If you can look at their less than stellar acting, and I can, this movie really does its job in chillingly showing us what it might be like to find out that the spouse you love and have loved a long time is secretly a serial killer. Recommended.


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BIG DRIVER


Blurb: AA famous mystery writer sets out for revenge after a brutal attack.

Adapted by: Richard Christian Matheson

Directed by: Mikael Salomon

Starring: Maria Bello

Olympia Dukakis

Joan Jett

Notes:












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THE DEAD ZONE


Blurb: A man awakens from a coma to discover he has a psychic ability to foresee future events.

Adapted by: Jeffrey Boam

Directed by: David Cronenberg

Starring: Christopher Walken

Brooke Adams

Tom Skerritt

Herbert Lom

Anthony Zerbe

Colleen Dewhurst

Martin Sheen

Notes: I wrestled with this one, because of the changes. But in the end I had to include this beloved adaptation. Christopher Walken was incredible as John Smith, and the changes weren't too horrible. For instance, in the book, the dead zone refers to words, memories, or abilities he lost because of brain damage from the car accident. In the movie, the dead zone seems to be a blank spot in some of his visions that means he can change the outcome of that vision. The movie ends the same as well, so for any changes, I'm okay. This is a beautiful film. It might be nice though to see what could be done with this book today!


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GERALD'S GAME


Blurb: A couple tries to spice up their marriage in a remote lake house. After the husband dies unexpectedly, the wife is left handcuffed to their bed frame and must fight to survive and break free.

Adapted by: Mike Flanagan and Jeff Howard

Directed by: Mike Flanagan

Starring: Carla Gugino

Bruce Greenwood

Carel Struycken

Henry Thomas

Kate Siegel

Notes: Wow! I thought this one was pretty much unfilmable, if for nothing else but the terrifying famous ending—famous if you read the book that is. Also, how could you make a movie about a character who is pretty much handcuffed to a bed for the whole movie. But Mike Flanagan did it, not only making it riveting, but accomplishing the impossible—filming the ending just like the book. Oh, so hard to watch, and if you are prepared for the ending, then do not miss this Stephen King film. One of the best adaptations I have ever seen!


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THE GREEN MILE


Blurb: A tale set on death row, where gentle giant John Coffey possesses the mysterious power to heal people's ailments. When the lead guard, Paul Edgecombe, recognizes John's gift, he tries to help stave off the condemned man's execution.

Adapted by: Frank Darabont

Directed by: Frank Darabont

Starring: Tom Hanks

David Morse

Bonnie Hunt

Michael Clarke Duncan

James Cromwell

Michael Jeter

Graham Greene

Doug Hutchison

Sam Rockwell

Barry Pepper

Jeffrey DeMunn

Patricia Clarkson

Harry Dean Stanton

Notes: One of the stupidest things I have ever heard in my life were the jackass critics that said what ruined this movie was that John Coffey ("...like the drink only not spelled the same way") shouldn't have had healing powers. What would this movie had been without that story plot? Frank Darabont changed almost nothing in this adaptation, and what he did change made it easier to get all that was going on since we don't have the insights we do when reading a book. I love this movie so much and it is on my list of all-time favorites period, let alone adaptations, let alone Stephen King adaptations. A nearly perfect movie!


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IT ~ Chapters One & Two (2017 & 2019)


Blurb Chapter One: In the summer of 1989, a group of bullied kids band together to destroy a shape-shifting monster, which disguises itself as a clown and preys on the children of Derry, their small Maine town.

Blurb Chapter Two: Twenty-seven years after their first encounter with the terrifying Pennywise, the Losers Club have grown up and moved away, until a devastating phone call brings them back.

Chapter One Adapted by: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman

Chapter Two Adapted by: Gary Dauberman

Directed by: Andy Muschietti

Starring: Bill Skarsgård

Sophia Lillis

Finn Wolfhard

Jaeden Lieberher

Chosen Jacobs

Jack Dylan Grazer

Jeremy Ray Taylor

Jessica Chastain

Bill Hader

James McAvoy

Isaiah Mustafa

James Ransone

Jay Ryan

Notes: Unlike many people, I do not think the original television miniseries version is a classic. While Tim Curry did an amazing job—for 1990—and the series worked—for 1990—it is extremely dated. I remember the series being pretty scary, but on trying again, I couldn't even get through Part One. And I'm willing to bet that anyone who tells me that I wrong hasn't seen it since the 90s either. We remember it being good, and for it's time (no pun intended), but it just doesn't hold up.


The new version though is just about perfect, especially Chapter One. I think it was brilliant to split the book in two, with the first part being the sections of the novel that take place in the past, and the second part the sections that take place in the past. Chapter Two isn't quite as perfectly adapted, but was so intensly true to the spirti of the story that even Stephen King loves it.


All the actors were wonderfully cast, and the movies are scary! Tim Curry was great in his campy approach to the ancient creature who calls itself Pennywise. But Bill Skarsgård? He was terrifying. And he was almost about to make the interstellar creature sympathetic. This is a set of movies I will watch forever. If you haven't seen this, make it a priority!


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MISERY


Blurb: After a famous author is rescued from a car crash by a fan of his novels, he comes to realize that the care he is receiving is only the beginning of a nightmare of captivity and abuse.

Adapted by: William Goldman

Directed by: Rob Reiner

Starring: James Caan

Kathy Bates

Frances Sternhagen

Richard Farnsworth

Lauren Bacall

Notes: What a perfect movie. Even with the changes made, which were few and far between (especially the dreaded and near impossible to watch hobbling scene), this movies really is nigh on perfect. Kathy Bates, who won as Oscar for her role of the "number one fan," and she deserved it. I imagine Stephen King must have been ecstatic. A hard to watch movie, the suspense is at times almost unbearable, but this is a true to the source movie if there ever was one!


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THE SHINING (1997 miniseries)


Blurb: A recovering alcoholic must wrestle with demons within and without when he and his family move into a haunted hotel as caretakers

Adapted by: Stephen King

Directed by: Mick Garris

Starring: Rebecca De Mornay

Steven Weber

Wil Horneff

Melvin Van Peebles

Courtland Mead

Notes: Never heard of it? Then you should. Find it! Look for it! Buy it on DVD through eBay. This miniseries is perfect adaptation of the book, and it was adapted by King himself because he so hated the Kubrick adaptation. I love this movie and it was made with love by Mr. King for all the fans who love the novel and didn't like why Stanley Kubrick did with the beloved book.


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THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION


Blurb: Over the course of several years, two convicts form a friendship, seeking consolation and, eventually, redemption through basic compassion.

Adapted by: Frank Darabont

Directed by: Frank Darabont

Starring: Tim Robbins

Morgan Freeman

Bob Gunton

William Sadler

Clancy Brown

Gil Bellows

James Whitmore

Notes: Frank Darabont blew me away with this movie and made me happy with this other Stephen King adaptations. He paid a mind-boggling amount of respect for the source material. He changed almost nothing, and what he did was appropriate (in the book, we don't see Red and Andy Dufresne, the hero, meet up at the end for instance). This movie was perfect and even created a standard directorial trick, the shot with the camera rising up over the main character and looking down on him. I love this movie in so many ways. Outstanding. It didn't even bother me that Red, an Irishman, was played by Morgan Freeman. They even made a joke about it, and that joke forgave all, even though it is never explained why he has that nickname! This was also a very early role for Gil Bellows, perfectly cast.


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STAND BY ME


Blurb: A writer recounts a childhood journey with his friends to find the body of a missing boy.

Adapted by: Raynold Gideon and Bruce A. Evans

Directed by: Rob Reiner

Starring: Wil Wheaton

River Phoenix

Corey Feldman

Jerry O'Connell

Kiefer Sutherland

Richard Dreyfuss

Notes: "'Stand by Me' was a Stephen King movie?! I didn't know that? I thought all he wrote was horror!!" I've heard it a million times, along with "The Green Mile" and "The Shawshank" Redemption. It was definitely a King story and this adaptation was pure gold. There are scenes where you can follow along with the book and run your finger down the page. This movie was nigh on perfect, with perfect casting. I think the only thing that could have possibly worked better is if Stephen King himself played the writer, but of course, that would have meant no Richard Dreyfuss and that would be a shame.


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So.... These movies I am including because in so many ways I just loved them, but then they made a big change that upset me. I understand a change might need to be made. But other times, I just can't accept it or simply don't understand.... I totally get changing the end of Cujo, but the change of the ending of The Mist hurts so bad, and takes away the hope that I felt the original had. And yet, maybe not.... I really like these movies, so I had to list them. Things that make you go, "Hmmm..."


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APT PUPIL


Blurb: A boy fascinated with World War II Nazi Germany blackmails a neighborhood man after suspecting him to be a notorious concentration camp commandant.

Adapted by: Brandon Boyce

Directed by: Bryan Singer

Starring: Ian McKellen

Brad Renfro

David Schwimmer

Elias Koteas

Bruce Davison

Joshua Jackson

Michael Byrne

Notes: I absolutely love this movie. What a hard movie to film, but then so are a lot of Stephen King stories. But the ending of this story simply couldn't be done. SPOILER ALERT: The story ends with the boy, having gone nuts, becomes a shooter and kills students on a campus. With everything that had already started, no audience would be able to deal with that ending. So they changed it. And while it is a change, it's a chilling one. And Brad Renfro and Ian McKellan were perfect.


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NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPES: From the Stories of Stephen King


Blurb: A television mini-series adaptation of Nightmares and Dreamscapes, Stephen King's collection of short horror stories, although a couple stories were from different anthologies.

Adapted by: See Below

Directed by: See Below

Starring: See Below

Notes: This gets listed here under honorable mentions because some of the adaptations were fantastic and some pretty damned poor. I argued and debated with myself how to list this one since it was a miniseries/anthology. Should I list the episodes separately, or under the series title? I finally decided on the latter and then will include a quick list....


Battleground: An assassin is besieged in his apartment by an Army of toy soldiers after killing their maker.

[Adapted by Richard Christian Matheson, Directed by Brian Henson, starring William Hurt ~ Perfect! All but perfect!]

Crouch End: An American couple in London gets lost in an abandoned part of the city where a terrifying Lovecraftian dimension seeps into our own.

[Adapted by Kim LeMasters, Directed by Mark Haber, starring Claire Forlani and Eion Bailey ~ Incredibly disappointing ~ one of my all-time favorite King short stories and it was very badly done, downright corny instead of chilling]

Umney's Last Case: After the death of his son, writer Sam Landry is so desperate to lead another life, he writes himself into his own book, forcing his long-time character to change places with him and live in the modern day.

[Adapted by April Smith, Directed by Rob Bowman, Starring William H Macy ~ I liked this although I must be honest, it has been decades since I read it and I can barely remember the short story and can't accurately say whether it is a good adaptation or not.]

The End of the Whole Mess: The world had changed. Violence, war and hatred have been eliminated and replaced with kindness, peace and love. But at what price?

[Adapted by Lawrence D Cohen, Directed by Mikael Salomon, Starring Ron Livingston and Henry Thomas ~ Pretty good. Not perfect. It gets a little "feel good" for me and I am not crazy about the director's technique—I think he was obsessed with Forest Gump—and I hated the music (a lot), but it is a very loyal adaptation, so I give it a thumbs up.]

The Road Virus Heads North: A popular but terminally ill horror author returning to his old stomping grounds with an eerie painting in tow is greeted by agitated dogs at every stop and death follows in his wake.

[Adapted by Peter Filardi, Directed by Sergio Mimica-Gezzan, Starring Tom Berenger and Marsha Mason ~ Well, they had to add stuff again and in 45 minutes, who needs to add anything? It's hard enough to get the whole story in there with only 45 minutes! But other than that, this one was quite acceptable.]

The Fifth Quarter: Willie, a just-released convict, learns from his dying friend of a map in four parts that reveals the location of $3.5 million from a robbery.

[Adapted by Alan Sharp, Directed by Rob Bowman, Starring Jeremy Sisto and Christopher Morris ~ Once again they changed things and there was no reason for it, none at all. But it was well done and I can forgive the changes they made. This was one of the better stories in the series, although the mood was taken away by changing it from the sort of detective noir type story that was written by King.]

Autopsy Room Four: Howard Cottrell is on vacation playing golf. Chasing the ball into the undergrowth, he's bitten by a snake and completely paralyzed, showing no sign of life. At the hospital, unable to communicate, he is the key witness to his own autopsy.

[Adapted by April Smith, Directed by Mikael Salomon, Starring Richard Thomas ~ Excellent! Very good adaptation and quite scary, in a very different way! I will say that the soundtrack is horrible. Played very jokey and silly and ruins the suspense.]

You Know They Got a Hell of a Band: A husband and wife are road tripping and take a wrong turn on the highway only to end up in a town where it's both Heaven and Hell all at once and everything is both what it seems like and not what it seems like at the same time.

[Adapted by Mike Robe, Directed by Mike Robe, Starring Kim Delaney and Steven Weber ~ Another incredible disappointment. I have read this short story at least a half dozen times, I love it so much. And this doesn't work, on any level. Not only is a terrible adaptation, but it is poorly executed. I think it was a wrong choice to include unless that were going to commit 100% and maybe it should have been a movie? They certainly added stuff that wasn't needed in the least, was badly done, and took away from the actual story. So disappointing!]


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THE SHINING


Blurb: A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where a sinister presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from both past and future.

Adapted by: Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson

Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

Starring: Jack Nicholson

Shelley Duvall

Scatman Crothers

Danny Lloyd

Barry Nelson

Philip Stone

Joe Turkel

Billie Gibson

Notes: Yup! Only an honorable mention! Because while this might be a masterpiece in many ways, it is not a good adaptation of the book. What is intrinsic to the book is the sad tale of the fall of the father, a true hero in the story, and the haunted hotel drives him insane. The movie plays Jack as nutso from the minute we meet him. There is no seduction, no fall. He was capable of craziness without any help from ghosts. And Shelley Duvall was absolutely terrible, cringe worthy through the entire film. Rumors are that Stanley Kubrick mistreated her horribly and she was in therapy for years afterward. So while this is a truly amazing film, anyone who claims it's the best Stephen King movie has obviously not read the book.


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I know little about Nightmares and Dreams capes. Beyond that I pretty much agree. I don't know how they would do it justice, but I wqs so disappointed in Needful Things.

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I was incredibly disappointed in Needful Things as well.

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