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Top 10 Stephen King Adaptations

VO: Rebecca Brayton
He sure can tell a story. Whether it’s terrifying, nostalgic, or something in between, Stephen King is a prolific author who’s dazzled countless fans across the globe with his imaginative tales – that translate fantastically well to the screen (sometimes). In this video, WatchMojo.com counts down our picks for the top 10 adaptations of Stephen King’s work. For this list, we’ve chosen big screen films or made-for-TV movies and series based on the writings of Stephen King, that we felt did the most justice to their source material. Special thanks to our users derekallen, Chris Ashton, MovieGuy45, Daniel McDonald, Daniel John, Rocky Miano, Neil Oscar, TheLolman3433, Jason Lundgren, Eoghan Christie and Jaybloodscorpion for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Stephen King Adaptations


He sure can tell a story. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 Stephen King adaptations.

For this list, we’ve chosen big screen films or made-for-TV movies and series based on the writings of Stephen King, that we felt did the most justice to their source material.

#10 – “The Dead Zone” (1983)

This David Cronenberg-directed King flick tracks Johnny Smith, who awakens from a coma with psychic powers – y’know the kind where touching someone helps you solve murders, predict nuclear holocausts, or foresee the demise of a young hockey team. With Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen lending credibility to the adaptation, the story transcends its status as a supernatural thriller and becomes just believable enough to be terrifying.

#9 – “The Stand” (1994)

Described by King as his own “Lord of the Rings” set in modern-day America, “The Stand” is so long, it was transformed into a TV miniseries rather than a movie. When a supervirus eradicates humankind, a group of survivors must choose between good and evil in a post-apocalyptic world. Despite notable changes from page-to-screen, the ensemble cast did a valiant job bringing this multi-storyline epic to life.

#8 – “It” (1990)

Pennywise is why you’re afraid of clowns. With Tim Curry in the lead role, this two-part TV miniseries makes all too real the story of a group of small-town friends that’s terrorized by an evil, shape-shifting being. Featuring many indispensable Stephen King story elements, this adaptation earned mixed reviews; but Curry and the child actors were praised for their parts in the most terrifying thing ever on network TV.

#7 – “The Mist” (2007)

Adapted from a novella in King’s “Dark Forces” anthology, this is both a monster movie and a survival story, brought to the screen by longtime King collaborator Frank Darabont. A fog rolls into a small Maine town, bringing with it inhuman creatures that prey on townsfolk. With rich characters and dialogue, and an ending that strays drastically from King’s original, “The Mist” will definitely stay with you for a while.

#6 – “Carrie” (1976)

Though King’s first novel’s been adapted in multiple media, it’s Brian de Palma’s version that’s considered a seminal horror flick. The shy, introverted Carrie is ostracized at school and bullied at home by her religious zealot mother; but soon she realizes she possesses psychic gifts. With Sissy Spacek in the Oscar-nominated title role, the tension steadily mounts, culminating in one of the most horrifying prom scenes imaginable.

#5 – “Stand By Me” (1986)

With his novella “The Body” from the “Different Seasons” collection, King highlighted his talent for writing kids. That story was then adapted by Rob Reiner as a coming-of-age tale, featuring a wealth of talented young actors. Though the plot follows the group as they search for a missing boy’s corpse, it focuses less on death than on life and childhood friendships. And you thought Stephen King only wrote horror.

#4 – “Misery” (1990)

Reiner’s next stab at King’s work was less sentimental. After crashing his car, a novelist is rescued by his biggest fan, who takes him to her isolated home. But Annie Wilkes – played by Oscar winner Kathy Bates – is frightfully unbalanced, and when she discovers he’s killed off her favorite character, things go from bad to worse. Though the movie softens the book’s grisliest scenes, it’s still a chilling adaptation.

#3 – “The Green Mile” (1999)

Mystical rather than paranormal, this emotional King prison story was made real by Frank Darabont. With Tom Hanks as a prison guard, and Michael Clarke Duncan as a giant, kindly, simpleminded death row inmate, the film is a study in great casting and acting. Often considered a not-so-veiled retelling of the story of Jesus Christ, it’s a spiritual tale about a man who’s more than what he seems.

#2 – “The Shining” (1980)

Citing omitted themes and plot points; King famously denounced Stanley Kubrick’s interpretation of his horror novel as a loose adaptation rather than a faithful retelling. Even so, “The Shining” is one of cinema’s most unsettling films. Anchored by an unnerving Jack Nicholson performance, it ambiguously recounts Jack Torrance’s downward spiral over a winter spent holed up with his family at an inaccessible hotel – proving cabin fever is no laughing matter.

#1 – “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994)

Though it was far from a box-office hit, this critically-acclaimed Frank Darabont film – based on the novella “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” from King’s “Different Seasons” collection – is undeniably a cinematic masterwork. As convicted killer Andy Dufresne’s prison life is narrated expertly by his buddy Red, played by Morgan Freeman; themes at play include friendship, self-worth and hope when confronted with adversity – demonstrating Stephen King is far from a one-trick-pony.

Do you agree with our list? Which Stephen King adaptations make you forget the book? For more entertaining top 10s, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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