Scream Horror Magazine

The 15 Best Movies and TV Series Based on Stephen King’s Books

Posted on: February 11th, 2022

After a terrible accident in 1999, Stephen King announced that he was retiring from literature and has since published only 15 novels, one documentary book, 13 short stories, three comic book series, and has written over a hundred films and short films, three TV series and five mini-series.

We are all different people and have different attitudes to King’s work: someone enjoys reading his books, someone plays blackjack online, and someone can not imagine his life without a series based on his works. Therefore, we decided to look back at 15 of King’s “must-see” adaptations.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Let’s start with perhaps Stephen’s most famous film adaptation, the story of Andy Dufresne, undeservedly accused of his wife’s death. Instead of giving up and putting up with brutality and lawlessness, the seemingly mild-mannered lout devises and executes a daring escape plan. What’s interesting is that the picture, which has been ranked in the top 250 best movies for years and has received seven Oscar nominations, is based on a story of 120 pages.

The Green Mile (1999)
An equally popular drama (like Frank Darabont’s “The Shawshank Redemption”) about the daily routine of the American prison wing where suicide prisoners serve their last days. The main character, the innocent John Coffey (whose initials, of course, are not accidental), who seeks only good in everyone and is able to heal the sick and forgive the worst of the miscreants, dies in the end for other people’s sins. The film received nine assorted nominations and three Saturn statuettes.

The Shining (1980)
The idea for the novel about writer Jack Torrance, who goes mad within the walls of the Overlook Hotel, came to King during…a family vacation at the scenic Stanley Mountain Hotel. Perhaps only Stephen could have been inspired by the massive doors, blood-red carpets, and hedges, to create one of the most iconic films (not without Kubrick’s help), scenes and footage from which every third director uses and every second viewer recognises.

Misery (1990)
A film about an inadequate fan of a romance novelist that earned Kathy Bates an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and worldwide fame. There are practically no “creepy” moments and “screams” in the film – the episode of “breaking” the legs did not show the viewer, and the heroine’s hysterical fits occur in complete silence. The action takes place for the most part within the walls of a room, but in spite of the “domestic” setting, the picture is saturated with an enveloping fear.

Dolores Claiborne (1995)
Another King adaptation starring Kathy Bates. “Dolores” has neither mysticism nor horror – it is a classic American drama, in which the huge literary potential of King was shown in all its beauty. The story of an elderly housekeeper accused of murdering her mistress was turned into a minor thriller with a bunch of skeletons in her closet that is still fascinating to watch to this day.

1408 (2007)
One of the most lucrative and recognisable pictures based on King’s work is about writer Mike Enslin writing his novels while in America’s “scariest” hotels. “1408” is one of the few screen adaptations that King likes.

“It’s claustrophobic perfection, clearly reflecting the tone of the story,” says the author himself.

The Mist (2007)
A dense fog covers a small town, cutting people off from the outside world. A group of people find themselves in a supermarket and have to put up an unequal fight against the monsters in the fog. All the same, Darabont had been dreaming of a film adaptation of King’s The Fog since 1980, when he first read it. And when Frank finally got his hands on the adaptation, he declared that he wanted to make a completely different movie from what he had been doing, and he was the one who came up with the heartbreaking ending that King himself approved of.

Under the Dome (2013 – 2016)
An unremarkable little town finds itself cut off from the outside world at one point by a huge transparent dome through which not even sound or radio signals pass. In 1979, Stephen began writing the novel Cannibals (originally titled Under the Dome), about people trapped in an apartment building who would eventually have to eat each other. Even though the author himself thought the book was uninteresting and drawn out and the Showtime channel thought the idea of the series was a failure, thanks to Nina Tessler, director of CBS Television, the series was approved and budgeted for 13 episodes

The Dead Zone (1983)
In his memoir, How to Write Books, King writes, “I am very proud of this book. It tells about serious things–the political structure and the mood of America.”

The story of a man who, after an accident and a coma, discovers his unique psychophysical abilities, resulted in a Saturn Award for Best Horror Film, two films and a TV series.

Carrie (1976)
King’s first novel and first film adaptation. And immediately a breakthrough. In the leading roles in the story about a battered religious teenage girl with superpowers, viewers saw Sissy Spacek and a very young John Travolta. The author later spoke gratefully of the way Travolta recreated his ambiguous character on screen; according to the writer, this had a lot to do with the film’s success.

Cat’s Eye (1985)
The film is a combination of three novellas in which the main connection is a stray cat who witnesses and takes part in the events. Since the stories are based on short stories, retelling them is pointless and fraught with spoilers. Let’s just note that the story “Quit Smoking Corporation” is one of King’s best.

The Langoliers (1995)
A low-budget production, but one of King’s most accurate adaptations. While flying over the northern lights, an airplane enters an unusual time-space portal, leaving on board only a few passengers who had slept on the flight. The film is based on the story “Langoliers” from the collection “Four After Midnight.” Thanks to that same anthology, we later saw “Secret Window” with Johnny Depp, which, unfortunately, King disliked.

Apt Pupil (1997)
Another screen story from the Four Seasons collection (along with “The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Body,” and “The Breathing Method”) tells the story of an unusual high school student. Brian is the best student in his class, a caring son, and a responsible employee. When a history class at school talks about the Holocaust, he becomes seriously fascinated by the topic and accidentally discovers that his elderly neighbour is a Nazi war criminal. The film stars a young Brad Renfro and Sir Ian McKellen, who at the time of filming was not yet a regular guest on all sorts of blockbusters, but was walking in the English acting elite.

It (1990)
A really scary book and a really scary movie. In the two-part TV adaptation of King’s novel of the same name, the clown Pennywise, who personifies the childhood fears of the main characters, commits monstrous murders. By rallying, the boys cope with the evil monster, but many years later, events begin to repeat themselves. Tim Curry’s character, the killer clown, has a real-life prototype, serial maniac John Wayne Gacy, who lured his victims to children’s parties as Pogo the Clown.

The Running Man (1987)
If you’ve ever wondered what the authors of The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner were inspired by, you can say without a doubt, 1987’s The Running Man, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The narrative centres on a television reality show whose participants are hunted live on air. The fate of the film is sad – the picture failed at the box office, the filmmakers were sued for plagiarism (the film is similar to “The Prize of Peril” in 1983), and King was so embarrassed by this tape that the credits were listed under his pseudonym “Richard Bachman”.

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