The Best Stephen King Adaptations
In 11.22.63, James Franco plays a recently divorced high school teacher, tasked with going back in time and preventing the assassination of JFK.
Based on a recent novel of Stephen King, this eight part TV series sees this teacher – Jake Epping – find his mission harder than anticipated. He makes a life for himself in the 1960s and besides, the past doesn’t want to be changed…
Currently airing on Fox in the UK, this show is pulling in positive reviews from critics and audiences alike. And we’re not surprised. Stephen King – one of the most prolific authors alive today – writes rich, imaginative, unforgettable stories, the majority of which translate beautifully to the screen.
Check out (in no particular order) our favourite adaptations of his books:
Stephen King’s wife found the manuscript for Carrie – her husband’s first novel – in the bin. She fished it out, read it, and forced him to publish it. And thank god she did. It has become one of his most beloved books, and inspired two film adaptations. The first – starring Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie – has become a hallmark of popular culture.
In it, a tormented teenage girl slowly discovers she has telekinetic powers – much to the disadvantage of her deeply religious, borderline abusive mother, and the classmates that plan a cruel prank to humiliate her at prom…
It’s a classic, and a cult favourite. If you haven’t seen the original Carrie, check it out.
Writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) accepts a job as the winter caretaker of an isolated hotel, and – ignoring warnings that the last man to hold the job got cabin fever and killed his family – he takes with him his wife, and his son Danny.
Upon arrival at the hotel, the Torrances are quickly snowed in, and – influenced by the ghosts that haunt the corridors – Jack slowly starts to descend into madness…
The Shawshank Redemption
People argue that The Shawshank Redemption is one of the few examples of a film being better than the book that inspired it. Although Stephen King’s novella (titled Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption) is excellent, the film adaptation is some kind of wonderful.
Starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Roth as two prison inmates who, over the years they spend incarcerated together, bond over acts of decency and kindness, this film probably isn’t an accurate representation of life inside prison, but it is life-affirming, inspiring and very entertaining.
After popular author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) crashes his car during a blizzard, he is rescued by a woman who turns out to be his biggest fan (Kathy Bates). Great, right?! Well actually, not so much. This woman – Annie – takes Paul back to her remote house in the mountains (without telling anyone he’s alive), and keeps him there.
It turns out she’s not exactly what you’d call sane, and so when she finds out that in Paul’s most recent novel, he killed off her favourite character, well, she decides to make things difficult for her incapacitated prisoner, until he sets things right…
Stand by Me
A beloved coming-of-age story, Stand by Me sees four friends walk for two days to see a dead body. They have various adventures on the way and – inevitably – learn valuable lessons about themselves, and the meaning of friendship.
It might not sound like much, but starring Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix and Corey Feldman, this film is joyful. Watch it.
The titular “mist” in this 2007 adaptation has something sinister lurking within… It’s not a good idea to get too close to it, and so a small group of people hole up in a local supermarket. As tensions rise these survivors split into two groups: one hoping to escape, but the other led by a religious fanatic, who quickly becomes dangerous.
This horror/ sci-fi hasn’t quite reached the same “cult” status as other Stephen King adaptations, but it’s well worth watching. It’s terrifying, and it has one of the darkest endings that you’ll ever see…
The Green Mile
In The Green Mile, Tom Hanks plays a prison guard who believes that one of the death row inmates under his charge – gentle giant John Coffey – is innocent. He knows a violent man when he sees one and Coffey, what with his fear of the dark and love of small animals, just doesn’t strike him as violent.
At over three hours long, this film is a commitment, but it’s a beloved one. Moving, powerful and thought-provoking, you can check it out on YouTube here.
The Dead Zone
Johnny Smith wakes up from a coma to realise that, when he touches people, he gets visions from their past, present or future. This at first seems like a gift (especially when he realises that he has the power to prevent whatever future he sees in his visions), but eventually, when Johnny finds himself in a tricky – if you could kill baby Hitler, would you? – type of moral situation, it proves problematic.
The Dead Zone is an enjoyable psychological thriller that will get you thinking…
The Running Man
In The Running Man, (written by King under the pseudonym Richard Bachman) America has become a police state, and instead of being put in prison, criminals are forced to fight to the death on TV shows. In the unlikely event that they survive, they’re pardoned.
In the film adaptation, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a wrongly accused prisoner, forced to participate in one of these shows: The Running Man.
Sort of a cross between Gladiator and The Hunger Games, this cult favourite is definitely one to look out for…
Which is your favourite Stephen King adaptation? Let us know in the comments!