Top 10 Stephen King Stories Adapted To Film

Neal Damiano takes a look at his favourite Stephen King stories to have been blessed with the big screen treatment.

10. Pet Semetary

Pet Sematary

The dead awaken in Stephen King’s best seller about an old Indian burial ground with powers of resurrection. After the graveyard brings the Creed’s cat back to life the father hopes it will do the same for his recently deceased son. But when the child returns as an evil murderer, he must stop the boy’s killing reign. Pet Semetary is truly terrifying because it poses the threat of a child as a cold blooded killer.

9. The Running Man

The Running Man, television, film, Arnold Schwarzenegger,

The Running Man is the most successful TV show in the future, where criminals fight for survival. Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as a military pilot wrongly accused of killing civilians, who finds himself the latest contestant. Will he defeat a series of adversaries and clear his name or just be another victim of the game. The Running Man is such an engaging film, we find ourselves rooting for him the whole way. As he battles each new gladiator, it brings him one step closer to the sleazy host played brilliantly by Richard Dawson.

8. Creepshow

George Romero and Stephen King pay homage to the old EC Comics with this entertaining anthology. Filled with five terrifying stories including a family patriarch coming back from the dead to seek revenge and have his cake. We find a farmer with bad luck turn into a huge plant after a meteor hits. Two lovers return from a watery grave to exact revenge. A monster named fluffy is released from a crate. And a reclusive old man is terrorised by cockroaches. Brilliant writing and amazing visuals with the set pieces.

7. Silver Bullet

Based on the King novel Cycle of the Werewolf this very intense thriller is set in a small town with a viscous problem. When the residents in the community become stalked by a werewolf, a wheelchair bound boy and his quirky uncle must stop the beast ravaging the whole town. I really liked Silver Bullet, it’s filmed brilliantly with a very cohesive story. Corey Haim is amazing as the troubled paralyzsd boy, who knows everything that’s going on. When the priest finally reveals his true nature in the garage it sends shivers down your spine.

6. Carrie

Brian De Palma’s masterpiece brings King’s novel to the screen with this classic horror film. Sissy Spacek stars as the eponymous Carrie, an introverted high school student who is relentlessly tormented by her classmates. But when she learns she has a special gift, Carrie unleashes complete wrath on her peers. I’ve said it before, Carrie is one of the most frightening horror films ever made.

5. Stand By Me

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Rob Reiner’s sleeper hit based on King’s novel The Body follows four friends in 1959, Oregon who embark on a Labor Day camping trip to see a dead body one of them accidentally found. Along the way they discover things about themselves on the road to maturity. Stand By Me is a film you can relate to with themes and experiences that are timeless.

4. Christine

“Christine” Stuck In Low Gear

A 1958 Plymouth Fury with jealous and evil tendencies tries to take total control over its owner. Arnie Cunningham, a nerdy teenager is unaware of his new car’s demonic qualities when he buys and restores it and names her Christine. Artie somehow gains confidence with his new shiny ride and starts to become an arrogant jerk. When he scores a hot girlfriend and is spending a lot of time with her, Christine grows violently possessive of its new owner. Keith Gordon nails this role perfectly, a character whose psychosis he wonderfully conveys on the way to madness. He’s such an underrated actor. Christine is just a brilliant story.

3. Misery

Stephen King’s best selling novel is a nail biting thriller. Paul Sheldon, a successful author is rescued after his car hits an embankment. Little does he know he is saved by his number one fan Annie Wilkes. When the rest of the world wonders where Paul disappeared to he’s resting in the house of crazed Annie where she takes idol worship to new heights. Misery truly is a master in suspense, because you do not know what plans she has for her captive. The scene where she takes the sledgehammer to his feet is one of the most gasping moments in film. Fantastic performances from both James Caan and Kathy Bates.

2. Sometimes They Come Back

Jim Norman is an out of work teacher who takes a job back in his hometown. This move ignites memories of 20 years ago, where his brother was tragically murdered by a gang of delinquents. It turns out it’s not just the memories that won’t die as the greaser kids who met their fate in the accident return to exact a viscous revenge. The gang relentlessly slays psychological torture on the teacher. A truly well written story, that’s just so damn creepy. An exceptional performance by Tim Matheson.

1. The Dead Zone

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David Cronenberg directs a masterpiece suspense thriller of Stephen King’s novel about a school teacher, who awakens from a five year coma to discover he has a special ability to see a person’s future simply by coming in contact with them. When the police recruit him to help solve a string of murders he ponders if the abilities are a gift or a curse. The psychic visions he experiences are horrifying and he figures out a political masterplan that isn’t for the people. What makes The Dead Zone so fascinating is the suspense build up. Cronenberg never gives you too much, it’s a slow bleed to a shattering conclusion. Christopher Walken’s performance is nothing short of brilliant.

Written and compiled by Neal Damiano

Your turn: what are your favourite Stephen King stories to have been adapted for film?

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About the Author
Neal Damiano calls himself “an unhip film geek” who mixes his passion for movies with an enthusiasm for travel, music and journalism.

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    ArchE Reply

    No room for Cujo, The Shining or The Dark Half, all of which I’d have ahead of your top 2.

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      Neal Damiano Reply

      I was expecting this, The Shining is a fantastic Stanley Kubrick film , not so much a “King” adaptation.
      I considered Cujo.
      Thanks for the read Arch

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    CineGirl Reply

    Love Stephen King. Think Carrie is still my favourite novel of his and De Palma did such a great job with the movie.

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    Jonathan Shaw Reply

    King has done some good things and some not-so good things. He’s hit and miss for me and his stories don’t always make good movies. Sometimes They Come Back and The Dead Zone are both decent stories that made decent films but the best book-film combo has to be Misery.

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    Andy L Reply

    A bit surprised you didn’t include The Shining.

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    Mark Fraser Reply

    Not a fan of The Shining, huh? Neither was I for a long time (like decades), primarily because I felt it wasn’t faithful to the book. In recent years, though, I’ve overcome this prejudice – it’s pretty damn interesting. Not being a King reader (the last book of his I tried was The Tommyknockers back in 1990, but after the first 80 pages I gave up and haven’t returned to him since), I’ve got nothing useful to suggest except: (1) Misery would have been my number one, with The Dead Zone the second (and Carrie at three), and; (2) it’s unfortunate Tobe Hooper’s Salem’s Lot was made for TV because it could have been a serious contender. A theatrical version did come out for non-US people (I went to it), but it was inferior to the small screen mini series.

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    Rory Fish Reply

    Definitely right to omit The Shining; a great, great film that is far better than the book. I struggled with the novel, hated parts of it but, and it is a big “but”, I was a fan of the film reading the book after seeing its screen adaptation. Did that affect my opinion of the book – yes. Did it make me less interested in some of the novel’s twists and turns – probably.

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      Neal Damiano Reply

      You know it’s funny, all my friends that I know have studied film or went to film school got that. The other friends questioned why The Shining didn’t make it.
      Thanks for the read & feedback, as always. Rory.

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    Paul Reply

    There was that awful TV movie of The Shining that was faithful to the source novel, it was rubbish, says it all really.

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    Callum Reply

    I haven’t read much of King but The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile must surely have been some of his most impressive prose.

  9. Dan
    Dan Reply

    Good pick with Misery, Neal. For me, that’s the book that was always going to make a great film and Rob Reiner did a great job with it (in many ways thanks to the brilliance of Kathy Bates).

    Carrie is the other that I think has a great film and book.

    The Shining actually falls in the category of film being better than the book for me.

    My favourite out and out novel by King is It, and both the TV movie and new adaptation are great versions of it.

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      Neal Damiano Reply

      Dan, Misery is an almost flawless movie to the tee with novel. Kathy Bates is phenomenal. I almost put it at #2 but Just fell in love with Sometimes They Come Back. It’s such. Creepy engaging film. It doesn’t come up on King’s radar often.

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    Davis Childs Reply

    Good read. Nice to see a couple of King’s lesser known novellas and short stories get mentioned as they’ve made great movies.

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    Roger Keen Reply

    I liked The Tommyknockers a lot, Gerald’s Game and Needful Things but Misery is my favourite.

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    Pauline Reply

    My favorite – It and the TV movie adaptation.

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    Franz Reply

    The Running Man is a bit of a stretch!

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      Neal Damiano Reply

      It is! you’re absolutely right, I just really love that movie. Nothing like the story in the book, I cheated a bit no argument here. Thanks for the read, Sir

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    Rachel King Reply

    Of the books that I’ve read, Carrie and Misery have made the most impressive movies while remaining fairly faithful to their sources. The Dead Zone’s a great film but I haven’t read the book. Sometimes They Come Back is another I haven’t seen nor read the book. The two-part IT TV movie made a good fist of turning the book into film but like the latest effort, there’s so much of the novel that either doesn’t equate well to film or is left out altogether. Kubrick’s decision to take the bones of The Shining and make his own story is what impressed me with that film even though I love the book also.

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    James Reply

    It’s nice to see the focus on King rather than the film. good picks.

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      Neal Damiano Reply

      Thank you!

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    NP Daws Reply

    Creepshow is a great pick – great collab between King and Romero.

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    Greg Anderson Reply

    Nice catch with Pet Semetary, I did like the book and although the film isn’t as good as The Dead Zone, The Shining, Misery and Carrie, it’s worthy of the book and a good one for King fans. I still don’t think I’ve read Silver Bullet, nor Sometimes They Come Back. Was Creepshow based on a short story?

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    Brandon Reply

    5. The Shawshank Redemption
    4. The Shining
    3. Carrie
    2. Misery
    1. Dead Zone

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    CineGirl Reply

    What King books that haven’t been made into films yet would you like to see given the big screen treatment, Neal?

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      Joyce Reply

      Wizard and Glass would make a good standalone movie. His new stuff with the Bill Hodges character would be good too. But perhaps some of his work would be better suited to long-form drama like 11.22.63.

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      Lucy D Reply

      Although already adapted, I’m looking forward to the rumoured Salem’s Lot film from the writer of It and It: Chapter Two.

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      Daniel Parker Reply

      I’d love to see The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.

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        Rory Fish Reply

        You’re in luck Daniel. A film version of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is in the works with George A Romero’s son producing along with It producer Roy Lee.

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      Neal Damiano Reply

      I would like to see The Long Walk made into a film. An absolutely intriguing story and concept that would translate well to film.
      Thanks for the read, Cinegirl.

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    Helga Tandorne Reply

    I’m shocked to see The Mist, The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, Delores Claiborne, and The Shining fail to make the list. I’d also have Gerald’s Game and Needful Things ahead of Sometimes They Come Back and Silver Bullet.

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      Neal Damiano Reply

      I dropped the ball on The Mist it completely slipped my mind. Fantastic story & film. The Shining is a great Kubrick film, not so much a great “King” adaptation. Gerald’s Game good story but a bit of a slow burn (my opinion). Thanks for the read, Helga.

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    Lucy D Reply

    Some good choices. Misery is the best book and film adaptation for me. I was very disappointed by Netflix’s Gerald’s Game recently, a film that showed sometimes it’s impossible to translate the page to screen unless you do a “Kubrick”.

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    Daniel Parker Reply

    Good picks. I’ve always liked Delores Claiborne.

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    Dan Grant Reply

    Ive been away for a while. I come back and Neal has a doozy!

    I like the inclusion of some of the films on your list and we all have different opinions, but not seeing Cujo, Shawshank or the Green Mile on here is disappointing. I love the Dead Zone so that’s a great choice at number one. I like that you included Running Man as well. I’d have put Creepshow 2 on here before the original.

    Great write ups, we just disagree on what films to include.

    FWIW, my list would be:

    1) Shawshank
    2) Stand by Me
    3) Cujo
    4) Dead Zone
    5) Shining
    6) Green Mile
    7) Pet Sematary
    8) Christine
    9) Silver Bullet
    10) IT (Chapter one and two)
    10)

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    Dan Grant Reply

    His latest book, The Outsider, is freaking brilliant. I’d love to see them take a stab at that one and adapt it into a film. I hope Dr. Sleep is good as well.

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    Carrie Talbot-Ashby Reply

    I have to say Firestarter would have to be top 3, then IT, then The Stand. I loved those books/films (both lol) as a kid, and being named after a Stephen King book was also awesome!

    I remember when I was 9 being asked to read a chapter of whatever book I was reading at the time to the class, I was quarter way through Firestarter, and it was at the bit where a woman was having her nails ripped out to torture her, with quite a few expletives, never been more embarrassed lol.

    Drew Barrymore playing Charlie (who I named my own daughter after lol) McGee in Firestarter was fantastic, absolutely nailed it.
    Thinner is another goody! x

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