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Top 10 Best Stephen King Movies

Top 10 Best Stephen King Movies
He’s the master of horror, but sometimes also the master of drama. Never has the quality of adaptation of an author’s work varied so widely – his books have been turned into truly wretched films (‘Graveyard Shift’, ‘Maximum Overdrive’) and bona fide classics. Here are the top 10 best Stephen King movies ever made.

10. The Running Man

Loosely based on King’s novel, ‘The Running Man’ sees criminals in the near future trying to escape death on Live TV. It’s the ultimate 80s movie with Schwarzenegger caught in a net, stripped of his Hawaiian shirt and thrown into an arena to take on various mad dog wrestlers with lethal ‘powers’ such as deadly ice hockey or the ability to fire electricity bolts and sing opera. Arnie dispatches them with the help of some incredible one-liners – why did those have to go out of fashion? ‘The Running Man’ is also a commentary on voyeuristic TV, which becomes ever more accurate with every passing year.

9. Secret Window

A personal preference, ‘Secret Window’ is essentially a Johnny Depp one man show, and there’s no one more entertaining to spend time with. It’s the perfect movie if you’ve ever sat down to write a screenplay or a novel, it nails what the process is like and presents the lifestyle I’d personally love to live (‘near total isolation’ – check). Maybe without the murders. John Turturro turns up on Depp’s door accusing him of plagiarism and it leads to his life unraveling. The twist at the end is a bit old, but it’s still fun to see it play out.

8. The Green Mile

A great movie that would have stood taller were it not overshadowed by other Stephen King prison drama ‘The Shawshank Redemption’. ‘The Green Mile’ is strong character work mixed with gruesome executions. Never has a sponge looked more sinister. It’s also quite a depressing exercise as it essentially involves a series of nice people being put to death:

7. The Dead Zone

David Cronenberg + Stephen King + Christopher Walken. Now that’s a formula. Walken is at his unpredictable-nervous-tick best in this story of a schoolteacher who awakens from a coma to find he has psychic powers. He can see anyone’s past, present and future with just a touch – so the tormented Walken sets out to assassinate Martin Sheen before he can become a dangerous U.S. President. In the end he only delayed it until ‘The West Wing’.

6. Carrie

While not a particular favourite of mine, ‘Carrie’ was the first Stephen King novel to be published, the first to be adapted into a feature film, and it opened to much critical acclaim. Sissy Spacek plays the socially outcast girl who discovers her telekinetic powers after going through puberty. When the teasing from her peers, including John Travolta, gets too much she snaps and goes on a murderous rampage. Personally if I was the prankster at her prom I wouldn’t have chosen a bucket of blood, it’s low on laughs. A good wedgie would have done it.

5. IT

TV mini-series technically, but the production values are up there with most theatrical releases anyway. Tim Curry may be a cheeseball now but he gives an amazingly dark and haunting performance as Pennywise The Clown, a demon tormenting a set of children. Stephen King’s work often focuses on a group of kids and then jumps those characters into adulthood to have them revisit their roots – ‘It’ proves what a powerful and poignant story telling device that can be.

4. Stand By Me

The ultimate coming of age film, that taps into everything a boy wants a boy’s adventure to be all about. Richard Dreyfuss is the writer recalling the time in his childhood he and his three friends set off to find a body, in the hopes it would make them famous. I myself once found a dead body with my siblings and it set off a day of adventure, that included us hiding from a police boat, ‘Stand By Me’ makes that day seem much more innocent and nostalgic than it might otherwise have appeared.

3. Misery

What makes Kathy Bates so frightening in this movie is that we’ve all met someone who’s kinda like her – a fanatical personality with no sense of humour, no love in her life and an unbreakable moral code that’s not firmly attached to reality – the horror feels quite plausible. Let’s hope Stephanie Meyer never takes a tumble in her car and needs rescuing. Kathy Bates won an Oscar and James Caan gives arguably the best performance of his career too, especially considering he can’t tell her what he’s really thinking and so has to communicate it to us through other nuances.

2. The Shawshank Redemption

Flip a coin between this and the number 1 for the top spot. Comparing the two movies is like chalk and cheese anyway, they are both top of their respective genres. ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ has been voted the best movie ever made on IMDB and it’s hard to argue with that, but I just did. The wiser Morgan Freeman seems, the better the movie, and here’s he is at 100% wisdom. An amazing story of hope and triumph against the system, this feels like it could have been made in 40s, 50s, 60s, it’s timeless cinema at its very best.

1. The Shining

Ok, so Kubrick did alter it a great deal from the book (so much so that King himself hated the film) but the core elements remained. Arguably the most frightening horror movie ever made, ‘The Shining’ remains just as powerful today because of how unique it is. Kubrick’s visual style is so distinctive that other horror directors don’t seem to want to go near it and the incredibly effective techniques have rarely, if ever, been imitated. It was as if Kubrick invented a whole new, brilliant language for horror cinema that no one picked up on. That’s what leaves ‘The Shining’ a cut above every other film here.

Honourable Mentions
The Mist, 1408, Salem’s Lot, Pet Sematary, The Stand, Children Of The Corn, Storm Of The Century

Which do you think are the best Stephen King movies? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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61 Comments »

  • gd smith said

    No love for the Mangler! That movie takes one of King’s most ridiculous stories and runs with it as a mixture of whacked out social commentary and gore! Yes it’s silly, but its silly in the full knowledge of its absurdities.

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  • Joker said

    Language, Heather Language!

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  • gd smith said

    The Mangler is easily the best film featuring Robert Englund killed by a cloth folding machine and a vaguely Marxist subtext! I like it a lot.
    The Shining is great but its more Kubrick than King, which is why he remade the thing for TV.
    Carrie, is still my favourite Stephen King movie. I love the split screen stuff which looks great on a big TV. On a small TV it looks like two postage stamps competing for space.

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  • Joker said

    Language,Heather,Language!

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  • gd smith said

    I always liked the use of music in Christine. Especially the way the original score segues into Harlem Nocturne in the “show me” scene.

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  • spidey_zombie said

    OK, I like your list for the most part, only a couple of comments:

    1. The Running Man should not be on any top 10 except maybe for top ten worst uses of Stephen King’s name. The Running Man novella part of the Bachman books, is a dark, moody depressing piece of fiction that is so compelling it almost stalks you. It is almost like a modern Jude the Obscure, an intelligent man trapped in a society where his place and standing is pre-determined.

    2. I have to take exception with The Shining as Kubrick’s version, does capture the mood of the book, I felt Jack did not capture the good man being possessed. I also liked the ending of the book better and felt the mini-series done later was truer to the book.

    I was pleased to see Storm of the Century as this has always been a favorite having lived in small communities, know the concept of keeping a secret. I liked the tie in to Roanoke and the Jamestown colony.

    Great list and a great site.

    spidey_zombie

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  • jacob said

    what about the remake of the shining.

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  • christopher said

    i have not seen the shining but that clip up their was also on family guy

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  • Thomas said

    Personally, I think one would be hard pressed to find a King movie (or book) scarier than Pet Sematary. I’ve heard it said Pet Sematary is a zombie movie. Not as far as I’m concerned. Zombie’s don’t scare me. “night of the living Dead” didn’t scare me. I am not going by special effects, here but scare factor. Pet sematary scared the crap out of me.
    It was about grief, and something most are afraid of and can’t escape: Death. Furthermore, the idea of an evil (perhaps demonic) force out in the woods behind the house causing pets and eventually loved ones to die, Using grief so it can inhabit their bodies is quite terrifying. That Zelda, and Ghost Pascow still give me the creeps. lol

    (Gage is Scarier in the Book)

    As a kid, the clown in IT. was pretty scary, but now not so much.

    I guess it all depends on what scares the individual.

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  • Rajeev said

    Shawshank redimption n night flier is my memorable movie of stephen kings series.brillient acting by tim robbins.

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  • Warchild said

    Ive seen “The Shinning”, “IT”, “Stand by me”, “The Shawshank Redemption” and i gotta say, those are one of the best movies ever seen.

    However im a bit disapointed that “Cujo” was not selected to be presented i this page.

    Anyways, Stepehn King and the movies adapted from his books, are the ones that drag my attention for a horror/Drama films.
    Why? becouse nowadays directors and writters rather create films based on gore.

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  • Vince Cascone said

    I totally disagree with this list the TRUE list should be top 5..
    1 Stand By me
    2 The Shining
    3 Shawshank Redemption
    4 SILVER BULLET – how the hell did that not make the list and Running man did???
    5 Pet Semetary – Cmon man do ur research before you put out such a garbage list

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    • Sheridan Passell said
      Sheridan Passell

      Thanks for your good natured comment Vince. Obviously putting Carrie, It and The Dead Zone above Silver Bullet was way off.

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  • j venard said

    Rose red

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  • Melissa said

    Would have loved to see Thinner on this list and 1408 ranked instead of honourable mention, but otherwise I really love this one. Good job (:

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  • Jordyn said

    ‘Pet Sematary’ is the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. yes, I have seen Carrie. It was really stupid. I laughed.

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