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The 10 Best & Worst Stephen King Movie Adaptations

01 July 2013 | Features, Film Lists | by David Zou

stephen king movies

Mention “Stephen King movie” and most people think of a horror fest in which a) there’s a monster out there and it’s slowly gobbling us up, or b) a machine has come to life and it’s slowly gobbling us up. But King’s films are wide and varied, we decided to compile a list of the best and worst his fertile imagination has given Hollywood.


The Best


10. The Stand


The Movie: A remake’s planned for 2013, but this first stab at King’s most famously chilling tome stars Gary Sinise and Molly Ringwald, whose town is on the brink of destruction-by-Biblical-apocalypse.

What It Got Right: Rob Lowe has a go at something different by playing a deaf mute, the special effects (glowy eyes!) make us nostalgic for the ‘90s, and the weaving all numerous characters’ plot strands is admirable.


9. The Dead Zone


The Movie: When he wakes up from a coma, Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) discovers that he’s developed psychic abilities.

What It Got Right: Telekinesis as body horror? With director David Cronenberg on hand, that’s what we get here – though the gore and violence is notably more restrained than Cronenberg’s other work. There’s also Christopher Walken playing manic like only he can. Delicious.


8. The Mist


The Movie: David Drayton (Thomas Jane) holes up in a supermarket when a freak storm descends on his town, bringing with it godforsaken nasties.

What It Got Right: Director Frank Darabont’s third stab at a King text resulted in this rip-your-own-eyes-out-because-it’s-just-that-depressing mood-killer. The atmosphere is palpable, Marcia Gay Harden gleefully cuts everybody around her down with poisonous barbs, and Thomas Jane’s final, agonised scream will haunt you for days.


7. Dolores Claiborne


The Movie: When she’s accused of killing her old employer, Dolores Claiborne’s (Kathy Bates) estranged daughter Selena (Jennifer Jason Leigh) returns home to help. But the case only serves to stir up long-buried secrets.

What It Got Right: Five years after she blew our minds as Annie in Misery, Kathy Bates lucked out again with a King property, bringing her A-game as the titular Dolores. Convincing as both the old and young woman, Bates wraps her tongue around some fantastic lines and manages to earn genuine empathy. An oft over-looked classic.

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  • vangpo

    Your totally wrong about Graveyard Shift. Otherwise, cool lists.

  • Tali Meirav

    So basically, all the sequels to the King films suck

  • Dave Anderson

    To call the sequels “Stephen King movies” makes this list pointless, because they are not based on anything by the author. They do suck, however.

  • Kalvin

    Please….can someone tell me how I can ‘unsee’ “The Langoliers”!!!!
    A four hour version of a 1/2 hour episode of the Twilight Zone.