Stephen King is considered the Godfather of modern horror and has written some of the most iconic and influential novels of the past thirty years. Not only have we had some incredible novels from the master of suspense, but, we have also had some excellent adaptations as well, for the big screen and the small. And, with the recent adaptation of The Dark Tower, and the remake of IT, it seems King’s work still has massive pedigree in Hollywood.
When looking at all the Stephen King adaptations over the years, it is difficult to narrow them all down and choose a favorite. Some of the best movies from the last 20-30 years have been adaptations of novels or short stories by King. So, let’s take a look at some of the finest screen adaptations of works by this master novelist.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
An Academy Award-winning masterpiece, The Shawshank Redemption was based on a novella penned by King in the early 1980s. Adapted and directed by Frank Darabont, the movie tells the story of banker Andy Dufresne, wrongly imprisoned for his ex-wife’s murder, and his friendship with fellow inmate Ellis “Red” Redding. The movie is one of cinemas greatest tearjerkers and the ultimate feel-good movie at the same time. It also contains a stunning supporting performance by Morgan Freeman and is one of the most quotable films ever.
One of the most genuinely terrifying movies of all time, and one of King’s best books. Misery tells the story of a novelist, played by James Caan, who crashes his car and is rescued by mild-mannered nurse Annie (Kathy Burke). Annie tends to the bedridden novelist but harbors a dark, deranged obsession. The movie is a pulse-pounding exercise in tension and terror, with Burke on Oscar-winning form as an obsessed Annie.
The Shining (1980)
Considered one of the great movies ever made, The Shining must rank as one of the best Stephen King adaptations. Masterfully handled by Stanley Kubrick, the movie follows the slow decline of Jack Torrance as he slips into insanity in the haunted Overlook Hotel. The Shining is a delightfully macabre and terrifying ‘cabin fever’ journey. King famously hated the adaptation and the differences from the novel, but many regard it as his best adaptation.
King’s first published novel set the tone for a career scaring readers, and audiences, witless. The movie adaptation isn’t quite as scary, but it definitely has that disturbing and creepy side to it. The casting is perfect, especially Sissy Spacek in the titular role as the naive and repressed girl with telekinetic powers. Forget the recent remake (it’s very forgettable), and make sure you go back to the start and check out the first Stephen King adaptation – it still holds up.
There are so many great movies we could have listed here, including The Green Mile, Stand By Me, The Running Man, and Salem’s Lot, but we feel this selection is the best. These are the movies, indeed, the stories, that have defined King’s career, and made him such a household name to audiences everywhere.