Stephen King is known as the master of horror, yet some of his most successful stories are ones that venture outside of the horror genre. His literary works have sold millions of copies and have been adapted for the big and small screen to varying degrees of quality. The most recent film adapted from King’s writings is The Boogeyman, in theaters June 2nd. FandomWire’s Matt Hambidge said of that movie, “It grips you from the opening scene and never lets go.” You can read his full review here.
And while many of his adaptations have been… weak, a large number of his films have earned their place on the Mount Rushmore of book to film adaptations. So, to celebrate The Boogeyman’s upcoming theatrical release, we’re taking a look at five of Stephen King’s best movies. Keep in mind, I’m not saying these the top five King movies; however, I feel these fiver are the top end of the list. With that said, let’s pop the red balloon, and dive in.
The killer clown (or space creature in the form of a clown) known as Pennywise is perhaps one of the most iconic villains in horror movie history. The child-eating creature was first portrayed by Tim Curry in the the beloved 1990 television mini-series. While that two part made-for-tv movie is held in fairly high regard, there is no denying how severely it’s aged over the past several decades. And the limitations set by 90’s cable television prevented that adaptation from exploring the true depths of depravity described in the novel.
The 2017 adaptation of It brought the killer clown creature to new heights with a terrifying portrayal by Bill Skarsgård and a cast of superb child actors rounding out the “losers club.” Sure, it’s not perfect. The CGI is questionable and it never quite makes sense why Pennywise is so quick to kill other children, while letting the main cast run free after every attack. Still, the movie marked a return to the winning world of Stephen King’s horror roots.
Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes is perhaps the most perfect bit of casting in any Stephen King adaptation. She perfectly delivered every line, and brought to life a character that was laughably silly and maniacally deranged at the same time. She’s a super-fan, so obsessed with the Misery books that she’ll do whatever it takes to hold on to the character.
Hollywood icon James Caan plays an author injured and at the mercy of his biggest fan. It’s a simple concept that perfectly weaves tension and delivers real chills. Director Rob Reiner isn’t known for thrillers, but he proved with Misery that he was a filmmaker with wide range of genres he could perfect. And who could forget the hobbling scene? I know I sure can’t.
The Shawshank Redemption
The Shawshank Redemption is arguably the most beloved film adapted from a Stephen King story. While it didn’t make a huge wave at the box office upon its initial release, it’s since went on to earn a cult status like no other. Often referred to as a “perfect movie” the film tells the story of one innocent man’s journey through a corrupt prison system.
Despite a timid reception during its theatrical run, the film was nominated for a slew of Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It went on to lose to Forrest Gump, although many feel it was robbed of the golden statue and still hold a grudge to this day. This also marked the first King film directed by Frank Darabont, who would go on to direct The Green Mile and The Mist.
The Shining film is notorious for being hated by King. Despite being directed by Stanley Kubrick — who is widely considered to be one of the greatest filmmakers of all time — King was very vocal about his distain for the Jack Nicholson starring horror adaptation. One of the authors largest complaints was that Jack’s decent into madness felt too sudden, and that’s an understandable complaint. Although a filmmaker is limited by the hurtles of runtime.
While King himself may not love the film, it is adored by horror fans and hailed as a truly terrifying film From its depiction of ghostly figures, bloody elevators and a father’s deranged attempt to murder his own family, the film checks a lot of horror movie boxes as well as delivered some of the most iconic pieces of film dialogue from any genre. Heeeeere’s Johnny!
Stand By Me
This one isn’t a horror or science fiction masterpiece. It’s not a grand, epic tale of salvation. It doesn’t feature a rabid dog or telekinetic teenager. Stand By Me is an incredibly intimate story of four young friend’s on a journey to find a dead body. This is another King adaptation from director Rob Reiner, but unlike Misery, this one is a heartfelt tale of friendship and acceptance.
Utilizing a narration from Richard Dreyfuss as the adult version of one of the young boys, the story is told with a fond remembrance of the simpler times of childhood and the hurtles that all kids face. Based on a short story titled The Body, this is a film that benefits from the extending the story and using the extra time to explore the intimate nature of this core group of friends, and what the loss of innocence means.
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