(List) Rank Your 10 Best Stephen King Film Adaptations

Rotten Tomatoes Lets You Rank His 10 Best

Stephen King


With Stephen King’s IT setting records at the box office last weekend, the folks over at Rotten Tomatoes is giving you the opportunity to rank your top 10 Stephen King film adaptations of all time. Read the list below and then follow the link below to cast your vote.

1. CARRIE (1976)

Carrie 1976 Film

Repressed sexuality, religious fundamentalism, peer pressure, high school cliques, bullying — Stephen King rolled them all into one tightly wound bundle of supernatural horror with his debut bestseller, and Brian De Palma brought it screaming to the screen with this 1976 adaptation. Starring Sissy Spacek as the miserably put-upon victim of her brutally vindictive peers — not to mention her lunatic mother (Piper Laurie) — Carrie includes some of the most memorable sequences in the genre, as well as what TIME’s Richard Schickel called “An exercise in high style that even the most unredeemably rational among moviegoers should find enormously enjoyable.”


Shawshank Redemption

An artful blend of gut-clenching tragedy, horrific violence, and heartwarming drama, The Shawshank Redemption is arguably the greatest modern prison break movie — which is a little ironic, considering that it didn’t do much at the box office when it was originally released. And it’s true that the movie is a bit of a tough sell, classic status notwithstanding; unlike a lot of prison break films, it isn’t about busting out of the joint so much as it is about learning to cope with life’s injustices, refusing to give up on hope, and — at long last — taking redemption even when it isn’t offered. Is Shawshank overlong and shamelessly sentimental? Perhaps. But it’s also, in the words of Variety’s Leonard Klady, “A testament to the human spirit.”

3. STAND BY ME (1986)

Stand by Me

The little Stephen King movie that could, Stand by Me almost didn’t make it to theaters — after plans for 9 ½ Weeks director Adrian Lyne to helm the feature fell through, Rob Reiner took over, only for the project to end up nearly being canceled after the studio was sold. But after all those bumps in the road, this adaptation of King’s 1982 novella “The Body” ended up turning a tidy profit, earning an Oscar nomination, and offering an early showcase for a young cast of future stars that included River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Kiefer Sutherland — all while turning a nostalgia-tinted period drama about some kids looking for a corpse into a cinematic touchstone for generations of film fans. “It stands, sweet and strong, ribald, outrageous and funny, like its heroes themselves — a bit gamy around the edges, perhaps, but pure and fine clear through,” wrote Sheila Benson for the Los Angeles Times. “It’s one of those treasures absolutely not to be missed.”

4. THE DEAD ZONE (1983)

The Dead Zone

Christopher Walken earned a Saturn Award nomination for his role in David Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone, an adaptation of the King novel about a psychic (played by Walken) who discovers that a presidential candidate (Martin Sheen) will trigger nuclear war if elected — and sets about planning a one-man assassination attempt. Unlike a number of ‘80s King adaptations, The Dead Zone proved successful with audiences as well as critics; Luke Y. Thompson of New Times called this “The classic Walken role, by which all subsequent ones are measured” and argued that it’s “Possibly the best Stephen King adaptation too.”

5. MISERY(1990)


Rob Reiner’s second Stephen King adaptation, 1990’s Misery represented a substantial departure from Stand by Me — instead of a fairly gentle look back at childhood, this critical and commercial hit took audiences on the harrowing journey suffered by an author (James Caan) who’s rescued from a terrible accident by a fan (Kathy Bates), who turns out to be psychotic and outraged to discover he’s just killed off her favorite character. A bad combination for our hero, but one that worked out pretty well for the folks responsible for the film — especially Bates, who won a Best Actress Oscar for her work in the role that launched her film career. As Robert Roten argued for the Laramie Movie Scope, “This is a first rate movie, one of the best of the Stephen King adaptations ever.”

6. THE SHINING(1980)

The Shining

 Like a lot of King’s books, The Shining operates on multiple levels: in addition to telling the deeply creepy story of a family holed up for the winter in a haunted hotel, it probes the even darker horror of alcoholism, and the havoc it can wreak on the bond between parent and child. And like a lot of King-derived movies, Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation forsakes some of that subtext in favor of serving up visceral scares — an approach that famously annoyed the author, but added up to one of the horror genre’s all-time classics. Blessed with a devilishly simple premise, led by powerful work from Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall, and rounded out by deeply disquieting imagery from a brilliant director, the film version of The Shining deviates from the source in some key respects, yet stands on its own as an experience People’s Ralph Novak compared to a “near-miss auto accident” and warned, “You don’t know how scared you really were until you start shaking a few hours later.”


Dolores Claiborne

Give Kathy Bates credit for chutzpah: after earning an Oscar for her career-launching work in Misery, she returned to the King oeuvre just five years later for Dolores Claiborne, starring opposite Jennifer Jason Leigh in a dark thriller about a young woman returning home after her mother’s accused of murdering the elderly patient in her care. While not the box office sensation Misery had been, Claiborne earned the admiration of critics — and King himself, who’s counted it among his favorite adaptations. “There are no chain saws, prosthetic hooks, apparitions or dead pets here,” wrote the Washington Post’s Desson Howe, “but you’re kept at the edge of your seat almost to the end.”


The Green Mile

When Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont decided to adapt another of King’s works — and settled on another prison-set redemption story — diminishing returns were perhaps inevitable. Yet even if it’s familiar in certain superficial respects, The Green Mile is very much its own film, a magic-tinged period drama about a mysterious Death Row prisoner (Michael Clarke Duncan) whose presence impacts everyone on the cell block — perhaps the head guard (Tom Hanks) most of all. The only conclusion, as Lisa Schwarzbaum argued for Entertainment Weekly, is that “In its own old-fashioned way, Frank Darabont’s style of picture making is well matched to King-size yarn spinning.”

9. 1408(2007)

Room 1408

In Stephen King’s world, if a story starts out with a skeptic of the supernatural determined to prove ghosts and boogeymen aren’t real, you can pretty much guarantee he’ll be screaming for his life long before the final chapter. In other words, none of the fun of 1408 — starring John Cusack as a jaded writer who books a night in an allegedly haunted hotel room in order to debunk its myths, opposite Samuel L. Jackson as the hotel manager whose warnings he refuses to heed — stems from trying to figure out what’ll happen next. We know the main character’s going to get his comeuppance, it’s just up to director Mikael Håfström to chart the course — and most critics agreed he did a solid job, bolstered by strong performances from his well-matched leading men. The end result, wrote Scott Weinberg for the Horror Show, was “Definitely one of the best King adaptations in years … and I’ve seen ’em all.”

10. THE MIST(2007)

The Mist Movie

One among a number of King stories that use harrowing supernatural phenomena to explore what groups of people will do when pressed to the limits of their safety and sanity, The Mist imagines what might happen if a supermarket were shrouded in an otherworldly fog — out of which terrifying creatures emerged, forcing the market’s customers to forge a team out of strangers and somehow figure out a way to survive. It isn’t the most breathtakingly original premise, but in the hands of writer-director Frank Darabont (who’d already hit critical paydirt with the King-inspired The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile), this ensemble creature feature offered up plenty of nasty creepy-crawlies while persuasively suggesting that the worst monsters might always be human. As Tasha Robinson wrote for the A.V. Club, “By catching his protagonists between equally oppressive horrors, Darabont successfully finds the squelchy heart of King’s story, and keeps it pumping until the ugly end.”

Remember these are ranked by the votes cast over at Rotten Tomatoes and you can vote each of these up or down as you so choose. Obviously, IT isn’t included since this was published before the film released last week, but let us know in the comments section where you would rank the newest entry into Stephen King’s film adaptation library,

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