Stephen King movies are lauded by many people due to the creative genius executed in their stories. Indeed, a lot of King’s novels made it to the big screen for their remarkable tales and striking appeal to their audience.
Many people recognized King as the master of horror, mystery, and thriller stories. Most of King’s works can be found in any list of the best Halloween movies to watch. Although he’s popularly known for his works that involve things that go bump in the night, King also proved his talent in other writing genres. These include dramas, musicals, and comedies, just to name a few.
There’s a Stephen King film for you, whether you’re looking to scream, cry, or wonder. Read on to know the best Stephen King book to film adaptations that you can watch today.
Best Stephen King Movies
A lot of Stephen King’s works became various films over the years. While it is quite difficult to rank all the Stephen King films due to their great dissonance, each film is enjoyable in its own way. Of course, some truly stand out thanks to their widespread appeal and critical acclaim.
From timeless classics to newfound favorites, here are the top Stephen King movies that you should include in your must-watch list:
This 1980 film is based on one of the best Stephen King books. The Shining movie is more than a film — it is a work of art that will amaze your eyes and haunt your thoughts as you watch. The Shining cast includes renowned actors such as Jack Nicholson, Shelly Duvall, Scatman Crothers, and Danny Lloyd.
If you have read The Shining book, you might initially notice the various plot deviations in the film. However, the same element of surprise and horror in the novel is still very much evident in the film. If you watch the film, you can expect countless jump scares and confusing scenes. Without a doubt, The Shining’s iconic scenes — two creepy twins and an attractive woman slowly rotting — will lurk in your mind for days.
This horror-thriller film is one of the best horror movies on Netflix that you can stream today. Gerald’s Game is a Stephen King Netflix movie released in 2017. The plot starts with a woman, Jessie, engaging in some kinky sex play — involving handcuffs — with her husband Gerald. However, tragedy ensues when Gerald suddenly dies of a heart attack in the middle of their festivities. Cuffed to the bed with the lifeless body of her husband just a few feet away, Jessie must find a way to escape — all while battling the hellish nightmares that lie ahead.
Many would agree that books turned into movies tend to stray too much from the original plot. Doing so usually turns off fans because of the great overhaul of the story’s elements and overall essence. However, the director of Gerald’s Game, Mike Flanagan, proved his talents in preserving and capturing Stephen King’s original plot. Indeed, this adaptation movie perfectly depicted the book’s tragic story and horrendous visuals.
After the release of the infamous 1990 television adaptation of the It Stephen King novel, Warner Bros. Pictures crafted yet another version in 2017. Compared to the earlier miniseries, the Stephen King It movie took a much more sinister and evil approach to the book’s original plot. The film’s cast includes Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise, Jaeden Lieberher as Bill Denbrough, and Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh. Finn Wolfhard from the Stranger Things cast also starred in It as Richie Tozier.
The It movie’s Pennywise The Dancing Clown is one of the most iconic Stephen King characters. Pennywise inspired a lot of Halloween costumes and without a doubt, haunted many people’s dreams. Starting strong with Pennywise’s violent attack on an innocent child at the beginning, the It Stephen King film struck its menacing appeal.
As the story progresses, more horrors and tragedies unfold. Eventually, the terror brought upon by Pennywise was reinvented in the sequel, IT Chapter Two. Chapter Two’s cast includes the likes of Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, and Bill Hader as the adult counterparts to Beverly, Bill, and Richie, respectively. Skarsgård reprised his role as Pennywise in the franchise’s second movie, as well. Aside from It Chapter Two’s intense drama and haunting twists, the film also perfectly captures the horrors of past trauma and the consequences of unrelenting guilt.
Without a doubt, Carrie is one of the best Stephen King movies worth watching. As his first published novel, the Carrie Stephen King story served as a vessel that conveyed King’s transcending aptitude and talents in horror-writing. The book and movie’s plot revolves around Carrie, a young woman who has telekinesis. This skill allows her to move things around without physically touching them. While it was fascinating at first, things eventually start to get darker by the second. Due to its rich, unique plot and unexpected twist of an ending, Carrie garnered recognition as one of the best movies based on books.
The 2007 film, The Mist, is yet another Stephen King novel to film masterpiece that people came to love. The Mist’s story starts with a seemingly normal day. As people go about their normal lives, panic and fear unfurl as a strange mist surrounds their whole town. Eventually, the characters learned that there is more to the mist than they know. Audiences can only watch helplessly as some unrevealed creatures terrorize survivors who fight for their lives.
The film adaptation of The Mist Stephen King closely followed the novella’s troubling finale. While the unnerving twist shocked everyone, it helped pave the way for The Mist to be recognized as one of the best Stephen King short stories. Indeed, the novella’s story came to life in the form of the movie’s visual nightmares and gore scenes. More than the fictional horrors in the story, The Mist also depicts the troubling truth of what people could do in the face of fear and for the hope of survival.
Stephen King wrote the Doctor Sleep novel as a continuation to his other best-selling book, The Shining. In 2019, Doctor Sleep garnered an adaptation film directed by Mike Flanagan. The Doctor Sleep cast includes Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, and Kyliegh Curran.
By merely watching the Doctor Sleep trailer, you can already tell that the film promises dread and horror. Seeing re-lived iconic scenes and creatures from The Shining is eerie enough to have you sitting on the edge of your seat. Doctor Sleep perfectly captured the impression that The Shining film unveiled while trying to merge it with King’s original idea for the novel. It’s evident that Flanagan did an extraordinary job in ensuring King’s ideas remained intact while perfectly translating them into visual nightmares.
Although it is generally taken as a horror movie, it is also worth noting that the Doctor Sleep film leans more on spiritual haunting. Immortal, sinister beings represented people’s ghosts from fear and trauma in Doctor Sleep. Such creatures feed off and thrive over people’s desolation and agony. More than the jump scares and eerie scenes, the underlying message of recovery and acceptance also remains prevalent. It is truly a masterpiece that combines fictional horror with people’s actual struggles, making it stand out from other scary movies.
Stand By Me
Taking a break from Stephen King horror movies, Stand By Me is yet another addition to the best King movies based on books. Rob Reiner directed this 1986 film. Furthermore, King’s novella, The Body, is the inspiration behind the film’s storyline. This piece proved that King possesses remarkable writing talents beyond the horror-thriller genre that people know him for.
Stand By Me is a story of growth, misery, and friendship. It is a moving film about young boys who come of age as they take on a great adventure together. A touch of dread found in most Stephen King films is very much present in this movie, as its characters face various challenges and encounter difficult problems. However, the movie still doesn’t stray away from its primary focus on warm friendship and personal development.
If you’re looking for a movie that depicts people’s greatest fears, Creepshow is the film for you. George Romero directed this 1982 Stephen King movie. What sets Creepshow apart from other Stephen King adaptations is that it is an anthology of five different stories that were visually rendered in the form of vintage horror comic strips.
Each story starts with a few panels that properly introduce the characters and set the eerie feeling unique to that specific part. Creepshow did a great job in putting together some chilling scenes, gruesome happenings, and even a dose of humor. Some unnerving scenes include being stuck in an old grave, being attacked by disgusting cockroaches, and remaining buried neck-deep in the sand while the tides slowly rise by the minute.
If those descriptions aren’t appealing enough, it’s also worth noting that the cast of Creepshow remarkably depicts their corresponding roles well. You will truly feel the fear and haunting that Creepshow intends to deliver through the excellent acting of Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Ted Danson, and E.G. Marshall. If you’re a big fan of Stephen King movies and books, you would be happy to know that King himself stars in Creepshow. You will find him in The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill which was based on his short story entitled Weeds. Here, King portrays the role of Jordy Verrill who found and heedlessly touched a meteor that landed in his yard.
The Green Mile
A great addition to the must-watch list of Stephen King movies is The Green Mile. King’s novel of the same title was the inspiration behind the 1999 fantasy drama film, which was directed by Frank Darabont. The Green Mile has a running time of over three hours, which was utilized well through the film’s thorough depiction of its plot and its characters’ own struggles.
In The Green Mile, Tom Hanks portrays Paul Edgecomb, a Louisiana Death Row guard. More humane compared to other guards, Edgecomb retains a kinder nature while upholding his competency in his work. He believes that his duty is to ensure that their prison stays peaceful and orderly. This way, it could be a decent place where men who are about to die could peacefully accept their fate.
Despite its soft tone and plot, The Green Mile still has gruesome details of disturbing crimes and killings. True enough, such elements stayed true to Stephen King’s widely-recognized writing approach and style.
The Dead Zone
A Stephen King movies list can’t be complete without the sci-fi thriller film The Dead Zone. The Dead Zone follows the story of a man named Johnny Smith who fell under a coma due to a terrible accident. After over five years, Smith came to consciousness with a surprising gift of learning about a person’s future by merely touching them.
Many would argue that most books that are movies are disappointing due to bad casting or visuals. However, The Dead Zone reached people’s standards in both elements. The film has melancholic shots that beautifully portray the story’s important scenes. Moreover, the cast depicted their roles remarkably. The public praised Academy Award winner Christopher Walken for his rich performance as the story’s protagonist, Johnny Smith. Walken’s portrayal greatly helped convince audiences that Smith and his gift are beyond just fictional elements of a story.
In contrast to its novel counterpart, The Dead Zone film features the plot in a much more realistic and probable approach. Things that go bump in the night may be scary, but events in The Dead Zone that could happen to you in real life can be even more terrifying.
This Stephen King Christine movie is another must-watch piece based on his horror novel of the same title. For the uninitiated, Christine pertains to a stunning and classic 1958 Plymouth Fury. More than its striking appearance, Christine also has a mind of its own. This Stephen King car movie cultivated iconic stunts and scenes with Christine in fury as it drives down a country highway. As the story unfolds, Christine promises both enjoyment and thrill from its gruesome scenes, plot twists, and occasional amusing quips.
The 1990 film, Misery, is one of the Stephen King best books turned movies. The Misery film is based on King’s novel of the same name. Through this piece, King proved that he can turn almost any situation or setting into a terrifying one. True enough, the Misery movie exhibited macabre scenes involving an obsessed fan who seizes her favorite author as her prisoner. After learning that the novelist killed off her favorite character, the fan turns aggressive. She violently controls and forces him to alter the story according to her own liking.
Misery perfectly captured the original novel’s storyline and characters. Although King set the story in a much more mystical and setting, the Misery film ventured towards a more realistic approach. True enough, the true-to-life style makes the movie even more convincing and unnerving.
Among the best Stephen King novels is Dolores Claiborne. In 1995, an adaptation film of the same title was released. It was directed by Academy award winner Taylor Hackford. The psychological thriller film stars notable actors such as Kathy Bates, Jennifer Jason Leigh, David Strathairn, and Christopher Plummer.
What makes Dolores Claiborne stand out from other top Stephen King books is its more realistic horrors. In the story, Dolores Claiborne is a housekeeper suspected of murdering the old lady she’s taking care of. As the story progresses, some dark events and unearthed pain from the past are unfolded. The film shows how much pain and fear can be felt from non-supernatural struggles such as domestic abuse, addiction, and other issues.
Another excellent example of Stephen King movies based on books is the 1983 horror thriller, Cujo. The film’s story unfolds with a mother and her child trapped in their car due to an unfortunate incident. Their St. Bernard dog, Cujo, turns rabid after a bat bites him. In turn, the once-friendly pet changes into a violent killer.
When you watch Cujo, you should expect some occasional gore scenes, such as killings and dead bodies. Moreover, the film also promises horror and suspense that will have you sitting at the edge of your seat.
The 2004 psychological thriller film, Secret Window, is one of the best of Stephen King pieces. King’s novella entitled Secret Window, Secret Garden was the inspiration behind this movie. The film follows the story of Mort Rainey, who was portrayed by none other than Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp. An author with a penchant for crime novels, Rainey is accused of stealing someone else’s story. The man who reproached Rainey later begins to stalk him. As the story unfolds, strange and horrendous acts transpire, giving audiences a deeper look into Rainey’s psyche. With Depp’s outstanding acting and King’s creative genius, Secret Window is certainly a must-watch for all Stephen King fans out there.
From timeless classics to newfound favorites, Stephen King movies are a superb showcase of the author’s talents in writing and creation. Over the years, King proved himself as an author beyond horror novels. His published pieces of other genres have the same element of surprise that is unique to his style. For sure, many simply can’t wait for the release of a new Stephen King movie that is expected to surely bring goosebumps either through fear, amazement, or even both.