Stephen King is one of the most recognized and celebrated writers of the last 50 years and his movies have been adapted into some of the most recognized and celebrated films of the last 50 years. King has a seminal voice in the pantheon of modern horror and supernatural fiction, yet he has also proven he can write some incredible tales in a multitude of genres.
His stories have become increasingly popular as his career has expanded, which has caused some of the most major filmmakers working from 1975 all the way to the present day to have a desire to adapt his stories. Not only are King’s books widely recognized by the masses, but the films that bear his name have also become pop culture touchstones in their own right.
With this list, I present to you the 5 greatest movies based on Stephen King stories…
5. Stand By Me (The Body) (1986)
Stand By Me is a relatively simple story about a group of young boys who have been lifelong friends that find a dead body. The premise sounds more like one of King’s horror films, yet it is one of the best coming of age dramas ever committed to film. The interaction between the cast and the richness of the story benefit the film immensely. You can almost smell the woods (the cinematography is that rich) and Reiner’s direction presents an achingly honest portrayal of young friendship that makes this film very rewarding.
4. The Green Mile (1999)
There are very few films in history that can completely justify a run time of over 3 hours, and The Green Mile is one of them. The film completely justifies its run time by allowing the length to show just how excruciating it can be to work on the mile. All of the events in the film are totally necessary to create an atmosphere of suspicion and mystery that couldn’t have been achieved if the film was cut shorter.
The Green Mile is a brilliant story about the consequences of being someone who has to put people to death as well as the meaning of death itself. Pretty heavy stuff for any movie to present in a compelling way, but The Green Mile pulls it off extremely well. Frank Darabont’s direction allows the story to take center stage and the performances to shine making the film more enjoyable than its subject matter lets on.
3. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
IMDB’s #1 movie and a movie that many people consider the best of the ’90s, The Shawshank Redemption is another film that benefits from its immense run time, since it allows you to have a feeling that you’ve been in jail as long as Andy (even if it’s only been 2 and a half hours).
Although I think Pulp Fiction should have won the Oscar for Best Picture when it was nominated (instead of Forrest Gump), The Shawshank Redemption was still snubbed. Morgan Freeman’s Red is one of the most sympathetic characters in all of film and it’s his relationship with Andy that makes the experience so uplifting. The Shawshank Redemption proved that Stephen King’s stories could be adapted to gripping drama as well as horror.
2. Carrie (1976)
Brian De Palma is a master of suspenseful filmmaking and Carrie is the best example of this. De Palma also presents one of his most sympathetic characters with the story of Carrie. King almost didn’t even finish writing Carrie and actually threw it away at one point until his wife told him to finish the novel. This is a great moment for not only literature, but also film.
Carrie was King’s first major success and without it it would have been a while before he gained the recognition that Carrie gave him. De Palma was also able to craft one of the most well-made horror films of all time, with some very iconic moments for the genre itself. Carrie covered in blood at the prom is one of the most recognizable images of ’70s cinema, and an unforgettable moment for any viewer.
1. The Shining (1980)
The single greatest horror movie ever made. Stanley Kubrick has made multiple masterpieces, but The Shining is his crowning achievement (alongside sci-fi masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey and war comedy Dr. Strangelove).
The Shining is one of the most intricate films ever made and it lends itself to dozens of re-watches and hours of analysis. The Shining is immensely terrifying due to the unrelenting atmosphere that Kubrick gives it the element of mystery that pervades the whole film and stays with the audience long after the movie is actually over. The film is filled with one iconic moment after another and features some of the most quotable lines in all of horror.
Even if you haven’t seen the film (watch it now if you haven’t!), I guarantee that you’ve heard “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” and the infamous “here’s Johnny” by Jack Nicholson’s deranged ax-murderer. This film is a somewhat of a technicality, since it’s more of Kubrick’s vision than King’s, with King even declaring it one of his least favorite adaptations of his own work.
Still, it’s a movie based on a story by Stephen King, and remains one of the best movies ever made.