After a month spent in celebration of the most prolific and celebrated horror author and his contributions to literature and cinema, how much more could we have to say? We’ve gone from hope to despair, teenage dreams to child abuse, nostalgia  to power, books that should be adapted and the problems with adapting them.

But in truth, we’ve barely scratched the surface. There are a LOT of Stephen King films. And in our month long celebration of his 70th birthday, we thought it only fitting that we recap the full filmography.

So today, we’re ranking all of the full length direct adaptations of King’s work. Every film and TV mini-series derived directly from the imagination of Stephen King (that means we’re excluding the sequels in which he played no part and the dreadful The Lawnmower Man). While not every film is a masterpiece, we hope this list gives perspective on the canon, effort, and discipline of an unimpeachable master.

And as always, the hidden reason for lists of this magnitude is to inspire discussion, so feel free to correct us where you feel we’re wrong!

Let the nightmares begin.

 

Saban Films

61. Children of the Corn (2009)

Children of the Corn has a superbly creepy premise and (too many) movies have been made in its honor. One of these is the made for TV adaptation from 2009 starring Kandyse McClure (Battlestar Galactica) as Vicky, and David Anders (Alias, Heroes, The Vampire Diaries) as Burt, maybe the most annoying couple to ever travel through Nebraska. It’s 1975. Burt is a Vietnam vet with PTSD and Vicky is a raging nag; their entire trip is insufferable bickering. Lost on abandoned back roads, they run into some trouble when Burt runs over a young boy as the cherry on top of their miserably failing marriage. As is the case with the infants of maize, they’re out of their tiny minds managing a fairly successful cult that follows ‘He who walks behind the rows’ and murders adults for being sinners. It’s hard to say why this entry was added to the franchise, but it seems all franchises share the same fate of one or two asinine additions to a respectable idea. This one is another with hilariously bad performances all around and some of the worst writing I’ve had to witness this year. – Becky Belzile (BB)

60. Quicksilver Highway

Quicksilver Highway is a modest little made for TV movie by Mick Garris, known for adapting several short stories by Stephen King. This one features a strange travelling collector Aaron Quicksilver (played by Christopher Lloyd who acts his goddamn heart out) who tells one story by King – The Chattering Teeth, and one by Clive Barker – The Body Politic. Both stories compliment each other in their somewhat lighthearted nature, one about a sinister set of snapping teeth that save a salesman’s life, and one about a revolution started by human hands with a distinctly Idle Hands premonition. Though the tie-in with Mr. Quicksilver seems obtuse, the stories themselves are entertaining enough to be told and had to be connected, somehow. Quicksilver Highway is the kind of treat you might have been grateful to stumble upon as a child, but has no real lasting impact or value. This was television in 1997, after all. -BB

59. Big Driver

Based on the novella of the same name, Big Driver features Maria Bello as a crime author who is raped by a truck driver and subsequently hunts him down with the help of her fictional senior ladies’ detective club, who only exist in her head. While the title and plot is reminiscent of the exploitation and rape-revenge films of the 70s, Big Driver is strictly Lifetime movie fare (the network on which this TV movie originally premiered.) Poorly shot and edited and over-acted beyond the point of minimum entertainment, Big Driver is bottom of the barrel with nothing unique to say. And to top it off, Bello’s character has full-on conversations with her GPS. Big Driver is a prime example of the psychological depth of King’s writing not being transferred successfully to film. Not even a pointless extended cameo from Joan Jett can save this one. -Richard Newby (RN)

58. Sleepwalkers

Sleepwalkers tries. No one can fault it for not trying. The 1992 Mick Garris film, scripted by Stephen King, attempts to invent a whole new vampire mythology in which the antagonist species is somehow mixed with and at war with cats while feeding on the lifeforce of virgin girls. If anything, Sleepwalkers fails because it gives too much effort, a mess of an erotic fantasy film that devolves into strange campy B-movie spectacle. -David Shreve (DS)

57. Trucks

Maximum Overdrive didn’t need a remake, but alas, here we have Trucks. The point of the film remains the same, motorized vehicles become self-aware and take out their aggression on human beings in a small American town, but this time there’s no AC/DC, no Emilio Estevez, and no sense of tension in the slightest. The highpoint of the film comes when a toy tonka truck absolutely destroys a mailman in a scene that’s so over-the-top with gore in an otherwise tame film, that it feels like it came from a different movie entirely. Not crazy enough to get a buzz from, and not sane enough to grab your attention, Trucks just rolls along on flat tires. -RN

56. Mercy

Centering on a pair of brothers (The Walking Dead‘s Chandler Riggs and Super 8‘s Joel Courtney) who have to take care of his ailing grandmother, and in turn discover that she has supernatural powers, Mercy has an intriguing enough premise. But the entire film feels tonally flat, neither achieving the primal horror the narrative’s backstory necessitates, nor the black humor the character’s attempt to grasp at. While Mark Duplass and Frances O’Connor are bright spots in the film, Mercy never takes full advantage of their sibling relationship or family history. There’s nothing overtly bad about Mercy, but it’s so flat that it quickly becomes easy to forget. -RN

55. Cell

Despite re-teaming John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson from 1408, Cell is a pretty dire journey. When cellular phones send out a signal that turns the vast majority of the world’s populations into rage monsters, Cusack’s Clay ventures to find his son, despite everyone telling him the kid is most likely dead. Plagued by dreams of a red hooded character from his graphic novel, Clay and his companions are swept up into a nonsensical plot that becomes increasingly complicated as its motivations unnecessarily muddled. While Tod Williams, who directed Paranormal Activiti 2, directs competently, Cell is a chore to sit through despite the talented actors at its center. -RN

54. A Good Marriage

Strange that of all the films included on our list, A Good Marriage was the one I had the most trouble remembering. Strange because I just saw the movie for the first time less than three years ago when it was released. A revisit refreshed my memory and explained my selective amnesia. With a King-penned screenplay, Peter Askin directs the story of a wife (Darcy Anderson) who discovers a dark secret about her husband (Anthony LaPaglia). The movie isn’t doomed by its overly-familiar story, but rather, its dull and uninspired plotting of that story, which you can almost see mapped on the chemistry-less screen from the viewer position. – DS

53. Dreamcatcher

Dreamcatcher had a cast, one that included Thomas Jane, Damian Lewis, Timothy Olyphant, Morgan Freeman, and Jason Lee. It had a solid horror budget at 68 million It had a good premise (“parasitic aliens” is always a great starting point). It just did not have good execution or restraint. If such a distinction is fair to be made, the novel upon which the film is based almost certainly falls into the category of Minor King. Recycling old familiar bits from greater King works and mashing them together just made for something of a disaster that got exponentially more messy and less interesting with each act. – DS

52. Carrie (2013)

Carrie, like many films of its era, did not need to be remade. Nevertheless, director Kimberly Peirce did her best at bringing a fresh lens to the iconic horror story. Chloë Grace Moretz stars as the eponymous would-be prom queen who wreaks havoc on her schoolmates, and Julianne Moore does a bangup job of bringing Margaret White back to life. Still, 2013’s Carrie is just another mediocre remake doomed to be forgotten by all but those youngsters who had never heard of the original. – BB

51. The Mangler

Tobe Hooper’s The Mangler is pure, unfiltered madness that has to be seen to be believed. Based on one of King’s earliest stories, The Mangler finds horror in a laundry press machine inhabited by a demon. It’s the kind of madcap idea that King, inspired by Richard Matheson, makes surprisingly effective in his short story. In Hooper’s film, the plot is stretched to the breaking point as a cop, played by Ted Levine, investigates the laundry’s devil-worshipping owner, portrayed by a heavily made-up Robert Englund. Levine and Englund do the absolute most in their roles, chewing scenery, shouting lines, (“Hell’s bells!”) and throwing themselves completely into the sweaty, deranged filth of the film. The film may not be good, and Hooper didn’t finish the entire film before being replaced, but there’s such a deliberate style, use of gore, and control of tone, that it really speaks to just how entertaining a poor King adaptation can be in the hands of a skilled filmmaker. -RN

Columbia Pictures

50. Bag of Bones

This two part 2011 A&E mini-series kind of came and went unnoticed, another Mick Garris adaptation of a less popular King property. The problem with Bag of Bones is its lack of control in tone and pacing, a story that never finds the right rhythm, always pushes a bit too hard, and can’t put a cap on its main star, the typically boring Pierce Brosnan. -DS

49. The Shining (1997)

One can’t help but wonder how the miniseries might have been perceived were it not for Kubrick’s masterful 1980 vision of the same material. Maybe it would have been seen as something more successful, perhaps eerie, an applaud-able attempt at bringing to life the scariest of King’s novels, one of the scariest novels of all time, whose use of narrative and power of language, one might have imagined without evidence to the contrary, was itself unfilmable. The shame here is that Kubrick’s film does exist (to King’s dismay), and the author’s willingness to team once again with frequent collaborator Mick Garris in an effort to correct the cinematic record became an exercise in second-hand embarrassment, with every element of this three part TV event– acting, pacing, effects, etc.– registering as a violent downgrade from its classic predecessor. -DS

48. Graveyard Shift

Graveyard Shift, a somewhat forgotten 1990 film from Director Ralph S. Singleton and based on the Stephen King short story of the same name, plays out like one of those horror movies you see playing in the background of horror movies. It’s a hybrid B film, combining a subterranean creature feature with the mechanics of a second rate slasher film, and I can not honestly say it’s without its sub-standard charms. -DS

47. Salem’s Lot (2004)

Mikael Salomon’s 2004 miniseries marked the second attempt to make a television version of King’s 1975 novel. Updating the setting of the town to a more modern 2000s time period and its lead to a faux edgy Rob Lowe (pre-2010s Parks & Rec, “it’s okay that I did that weird sex thing” Rob Lowe) doesn’t do enough to justify the existence of yet another second effort at a film exercise that largely succeeded the first time around. -DS

46. Dolan’s Cadillac

I’ve been saying for years that the story Dolan’s Cadillac offers a great opportunity to make a film out of the untouched edges of horror in which Stephen King sometimes travels, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that the film had already been made in 2009. There’s a reason this one went under the radar. It just doesn’t have the same seething energy atop the text, in spite of Christian Slater’s best effort. -DS

45. Secret Window

There are many who will go to bat for the substance of Secret Window. It is, after all, a wide release thriller with A-list power, perhaps the last cartoon free performance from one-time seat-fill Johnny Depp. And as much as it pains me to say this, he isn’t bad in it. But stories that write themselves exclusively to arrive at twist endings already limit their own value, and if they’re adaptations of source material with a similar twist, the value is diminished all that much more for those already familiar with the earlier work. -DS

44. Nightmares and Dreamscapes

This anthology miniseries, primarily adapts from King’s short story collection of the same name, to bring mid-2000s TV stars. Most of the adaptations are pretty lackluster, devoid of style, and restrained by budget. What’s most fascinating is how much this miniseries reflects pre-2008 television. In 8 episodes, there’s not a single a character who isn’t white, and that may be the nightmarish thing of the whole series. There are a couple bright spots though. “Umney’s Last Case”, starring William H. Macy is a good riff on Chandler detective stories, and “The End of the Whole Mess,” contains really strong performances by Ron Livingston and Henry Thomas. But the series never tops the dialogue-less, first episode “Battleground’ in which a hitman played by William Hurt faces off against toy soldiers in a tense and black-humored war. If there’s any episode to watch, it’s that one. -RN

43. Carrie (2002)

The 2002 TV adaptation of Carrie, written by Bryan Fuller, was meant to serve as a lead-in to a TV show that featured Carrie traveling the country and helping other people with psychic powers. That of course meant, that the final tragedy of Carrie’s story was removed, and thus so much of the impact and intent of King’s story went with it. Angela Bettis gives a solid portrayal of Carrie, even if she is a bit too out there to be believable as a high-school student who hasn’t alerted child services yet. The adaptation still feels unnecessary and resides in the shadow of the 77 version. Of the three Carrie adaptations, it’s second best, but it still never forms its own identity outside of DePalma and Spacek’s legacy. -BB

42. The Langoliers

The Langoliers is an odd duck of a movie with a high concept and very poor special effects. Originally aired in two ninety-minute installments, it is a three-hour movie about a group of travellers trapped in an empty airport searching for a way home before the eponymous monsters arrive to…eat time. It has some King greatest hits with characters including a writer, a psychic child, and a man driven crazy by past trauma who puts everyone else at risk/is really annoying. Look out for King’s Hitchcockian cameo and let the madness wash over you. – Sean Fallon (SF)

41. Creepshow 2

It’s necessary to point out that while anthologies traditionally make for a great time for horror fans, the shorter format of the stories sort of rob viewers of the substance of King’s best work (almost all of his seminal contributions earn their appreciation by having the reader/viewer spend time with developing characters and/or epic showdowns), but even this clarification does little to exclude Creepshow 2, which is a collection of stories that fall flat and generic at best (The Raft) or register as headscratchingly stupid and offensive at worst (Old Chief Wood’nHead). -DS

The Dark Tower

Columbia Pictures

40. Desperation

Like the mini-series IT, Desperation, in being limited by a basic cable targeted release, set itself upon an uphill climb. The novel upon which the movie is based is filled with the rotten stench of existential horror, this time going to war directly with faith through a dark survival tale about one family’s encounter with a small town Nevada sheriff possessed by an ancient evil. The things this family endures stand as the the sort of mindless cruelty upon which the strongest elements of the text is supported and yet the sort of things that basic cable isn’t going to show in any interesting way during prime time. Ron Perlman stands in as a menacing version of his brooding self but can’t do enough to pull this one up from the purgatory of undaring television cinema. -DS

39. The Dark Tower

Many of King’s constant readers waited years to see the story of Roland, The Gunslinger brought to the big-screen, but the film never seemed to gain enough traction in the right hands (I still lament the fact that the Abrams/Lindelof version never panned out). Instead fans were left with, a neutered version of the epic, that is actually a decent Dark Tower story in terms of the property’s multiverse but it’s not the adaptation we wanted. Idris Elba, Tom Taylor, and Matthew McConaughey are all good in their respective roles, but the film never finds the right tone or scope in which to tell its story. All in all, there are some cool moments, and promising glimmers of franchise potential, but The Dark Tower feels like a version that King’s Roland would see an advertisement for upon his journey through our world and scoff at. -RN

38. Cat’s Eye

What separates Cat’s Eye from earlier, lower scoring anthologies on the list (even if just by a bit) is its sense of brash and daring. When our list was first compiled, this is the only anthology whose included features I remembered without investigation (thanks in large part to the showdown between General and a breath stealing troll. Again, anthologies have proven to be perhaps the worst format for King’s imagination, but if you have to choose one, you could do worse than this weird collection. -DS

37. Thinner

Tom Holland’s thinner commits unblinkingly to the premise of Stephen King’s 1984 Bachman novel, but unfortunately, that means the film avoids any useful moral application of its central body horror (a gypsy curse that causes its recipient to shed weight at a dangerous pace) but also pulls it nihilist punches in relation to the other Bachman stories, devolving instead into a strange game of curse tag and toying with cinematic self-deprecation that fumbles its black satire. -DS

36. Firestarter

What’s most impressive about Firestarter, perhaps, isn’t anything observable through watching the movie in a vacuum (it’s really not a great or maybe even good movie), but the way that it’s carved itself as an accompaniment piece with othersuperior 1980s fantasy and sci-fi adventure films (E.T., The Goonies) and as a reference point and inspiration for better future movies (Midnight Special, for instance, seems both indebted to and corrective of all of Firestarter’s mis-steps). Despite an exceptional element of government paranoia, and in spite of starting with a great concept and a more impressive cast (including George C. Scott, David Keith, Martin Sheen, and a somehow already proven Drew Barrymore) Firestarter equals less than its parts. -DS

35. It (1990)

The 1990 miniseries IT, directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, as much as any film in horror history, fucked up a generation of children. While the cultural prevalence of coulrophobia (fear of clowns) can be attributed in large part to the former popularity of this film, a contemporary revisit deflates fright quite a bit. While the first chapter, focusing on the genesis of the Losers Club in the youth of the now famous seven Derry teens, is filled with images that still register as eerie or haunting, the second chapter loses steam to melodramatic writing and acting, undercooked casting, and conclusions that are just goofy with nonsense.  -DS

34. Children of the Corn

“They want you too, Malachi!” Children of the Corn is strange enough as a short story, and it’s even stranger as a film. This tale of kids who have killed all the adults and taken control of a small-town is imbued with unintentional humor that’s highly entertaining, if not deserving of its seven (!) sequels and TV movie reboot. While Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton are just fine as couple who become stranded in this nightmare town, it’s John Franklin’s portrayal of Isaac that steals the show, as the leader and prophet of child cult that worships “He who walks behind the rows.” Filled with odd menace, terrible CGI, and laughable moments of low-budget horror, Children of the Corn holds a special place in the hearts of many horror lovers. -RN

33. The Tommyknockers

There are a handful of wasted world-building attempts in Stephen King’s film adaptations (see the earlier segment about Sleepwalkers’ failed mythology for an example), but somehow, The Tommyknockers is a bit more memorable than other efforts. Maybe it’s the creepy nursery rhyme that drives it into the subconscious (Late last night, and the night before) or maybe it’s the luminescent aesthetic, glowing with the other-worldly neon green as the town morphs into an obsessive horde of digging, mindless machines, but something about The Tommyknockers is a bit more haunting than a 1993 TV film has any right to be. -DS

32. Sometimes They Come Back

King’s short story, originally conceived as a segment in Cat’s Eye, before being expanded into a feature film, centers on a high school teacher whose eerily familiar students just happen to be the resurrected greasers who killed his brother years before. While the movie catches glimmers of the black humor that make King’s story so memorable, there’s a fair bit of cheese as well, resulting in an entertaining and occasionally tense experience overall, but not a frightening one. The film, thankfully also features Brooke Adams, of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Dead Zone, who adds some genuine emotion to the proceedings.   Sometimes they come back, and sometimes an anthology segment is better left as an anthology segment. -RN

31. Riding the Bullet

Directed by frequent King adapter, Mick Garris, Riding the Bullet actually contains some surprising depth about the nature of death, depression, and loss. After attempting suicide on his birthday, Alan (Jonathan Jackson) hitchhikes his way home to visit his hospitalized mother (Barbara Hershey). Encountering mysterious strangers along the ride, each with their own considerations on death, Alan begins coming to terms with his life and his complicated relationship with his mother. The film is a bit too long for its own good, and while it earned a limited theatrical release, Garris can’t fully outstep his TV movie aesthetics, but like most of Garris’ adaptations, there is a sense of personal connection and a desire to stay as close to the source as possible. The coolest aspect of the film is its use of Christine, driven by David Arquette’s enigmatic George Staub. While the make of the Plymouth Fury isn’t exactly the same, it’s a cool addition that highlights the connectivity of King’s world and makes Riding the Bullet a satisfying watch. -RN

Columbia Pictures

30. Maximum Overdrive

Maximum Overdrive was written and directed by Stephen King during the height of his addiction issues, and it shows. This movie is a wild ride of insane characters, violent set-pieces, and the enslavement of man by a truck with the face of the Green Goblin. I’m not saying you need to be in a state of severe intoxication to enjoy it but I’m not not saying it either. Real talk though, it is a vivid peek into King’s mind and a fun movie to watch with friends if you’re looking to see something a bit goofy, consistently weird, and occasionally gross. – SF

29. Storm of the Century

Storm of the Century marks one of the most under-discussed but effectively successful of all of King’s TV contributions. Hosted by a white-out version of snowy New England that uses weather more effectively than nearly all of King’s work and chasing a surprisingly chilled performance from Colm Feore as evil incarnate Andre Linoge, this 1999 ABC miniseries was a strange episode of King’s subtler strengths: small town politics, invasive inter-dimensional entities, and cold claustrophobia. Storm of the Century might land on a less-than-fulfilling conclusion, but the trip along the way is arresting and frigid. -DS

28. Needful Things

Needful Things is a piece of work with all of King’s trademarks: small town, eccentric characters, supernatural influence, a few good people standing up the dark, a compelling villain, trickery, romance, and scenes of subtle but unrelenting horror. The movie’s not perfect but Max von Sydow playing the Devil is worth the tie spent watching. -SF

27. Christine

John Carpenter’s Christine may not get the timing of King’s book right, and it’s surprisingly soft when it comes to the car kills, but it wholly succeeds in its portrayal of Arnie Cunningham. Keith Gordon’s performance as Arnie is one of the best efforts to bring a King character from the page to the screen and we feel for his adolescent struggle, while also understanding the pathetic nature that makes him so off-putting to his peers. On top of that, Christine may feature some of Carpenter’s sharpest filmmaking. It may not be his most stylish, but there’s a certain texture to the images that points to an alternate reality where we could have seen Carpenter granted the larger budgets of his peers. And the film’s score may be one of Carpenter’s most deserving of a revisit. While the film feels in a need of a longer cut, Carpenter’s Christine provides relevant commentary and about the fear of adulthood and the forced ideas of masculinity.

26. Silver Bullet

Adapted from the novella Cycle of the Werewolf, (with art by the late master Bernie Wrightson!) Silver Bullet contains the classic spirt of the 80s, complete with Corey Haim. Haim stars as the wheelchair bound Marty, who becomes convinced that the string of murders plaguing his small-town are the work of a werewolf. With the help of his sister, and Uncle Red (arguably a career best performance from Gary Busey), Marty becomes determined to stop the beast. Silver Bullet, while R-rated, has that charming, kid-friendly quality in the vein of The Lost Boys and The Goonies, that make it a joy to watch. While it’s light fare, and its central werewolf doesn’t come within a hair of An American Werewolf in London or The Howling, it definitely scratches that werewolf movie itch and is a great introduction to horror movies. -RN

25. Creepshow

As far as anthologies goes, the first Creepshow film has a little bit of everything: body horror, zombies, monsters, alien life, and a really bold supernatural revenge framing device. But it is impossible to sell and summarize the true separative value of Creepshow without starting and ending with Stephen King’s role in the production. King has a Hitchcock-like resume of cameo appearances in films based on his work or screenplays, but The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill represents his most involved and demanding acting effort, and while it may not be the best short film of the bunch (I’m very partial to The Crate), it’s certainly the most memorable for this reason. – DS

24. Apt Pupil

Bryan Singer’s third feature adapted King’s most horrifying work, Apt Pupil. Todd Bowen (the late Brad Renfro) is obsessed with Nazis, and when he happens to find one living in seclusion in the suburban neighborhood near him, he manipulates him into teaching him everything he knows. Ian McKellen plays former Nazi Kurt Dussander like a sleeping tiger, a docile danger that increases as the story progresses. And Renfro portrays Todd as a budding serial killer, whose obsession with Nazi practices is only a means to an end, a tool for him to explore the budding evil inside of him. The film is too short to completely reflect these characters’ transformations in a way that feels like a dissection in a way the novella achieves, but it remains mostly accurate in its intent. While Singer doesn’t quite capture the darkness of the book, or the twisted sexuality that Todd gets from his studies in evil, Apt Pupil is a solid and still relevant exploration into ideals as an excuse for sociopathy. -RN

23. The Stand

Don’t fear the reaper. Mick Garris’ six-hour TV miniseries adaptation, shouldn’t work as well as it does, considering the scope and spectacle of what many consider to be King’s magnum opus. But somehow, with a screenplay from King himself, The Stand manages to capture the final battle between good and evil in what remains a highpoint of TV miniseries and 90s television. The miniseries casting remains its greatest strengths, well apart from the cameo from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. With a cast of characters led by Gary Sinese and Molly Ringwald, and whole host of familiar faces, The Stand manages to capture the key character moments of the book, while also creating a believable supernatural threat in the form of Jamey Sheridan’s portrayal of Randall Flagg. While cuts were made to the overall story and certain characters were removed or combined, it’s a pretty accurate adaptation of the massive novel. The Stand is still dying for a big-budget, modern adaptation, but Garris’ take on the work still holds up quite well as a small-screen epic. M-O-O-N, that spells satisfying adaptation. -RN

22. Rose Red

Though the premise of Rose Red has been done to death and brought back to life again countless times, in a decade filled with torture porn it was a welcome return to paranormal horror. This TV miniseries is not a strict adaptation per se, as King penned the script himself. Rose Red is a mansion in Seattle with a rich history of death, and a group of psychics visit to investigate its impact. Told in three parts, we watch the unwelcome houseguests be toyed around like puppets by the evil presence that resides. Rose Red borrows ideas from Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and the real life Winchester Mystery House and was a true sleepover favourite in its time. -BB

21. The Green Mile

The Green Mile is a tough one. This movie cheats. Openly manipulative (they kill the goddamn mouse!), somewhat racist (with its magic black man trope, at least, and it has to be pointed out), and just genuinely sad as hell, the whole thing works like a sucker punch followed by a flurry of masochistic warm slaps. But it’s still so… affecting. The Green Mile gathered four Academy nominations (including one for Best Picture), largely because its sentimental pleasures are so easy to succumb to. For example, no one who read King’s serialized novel imagined that prison guard Paul would be played by Tom Hanks, but of course a movie this nakedly manipulative would assign America’s Sweetheart to the leading role. Tiptoeing dangerously along the lines of delusional fantasy and heartwarming drama, The Green Mile is Stephen King at his softest and most emotional. -DS

Dimension Films/Metro Goldwyn Mayer

20. Cujo

Cujo is fucking scary. Not the movie. Well, the movie is scary, too. But it’s titular monster, a rabid dog, is as scary as any monster King’s imagination has ever lent to the screen, big or small. Have you ever met a Saint Bernard? They’re the kindest, softest dogs in the world. And yet, because of Cujo, I have a subconscious fearful reaction any time I see one of the gentle giants. It’s not just the creature design that sees the maddened K-9 become increasingly disturbing in its matted hair and saliva and blood slickened pelt, it’s also the committed backseat performances of a desperate Dee Wallace and Danny Pintauro. Cujo might have been the first Stephen King movie to out-and-out terrify me and it’s one of the few that still manages to make me uneasy upon rewatch. -DS

19. Hearts in Atlantis

Hearts in Atlantis marks one of the riskier propositions for filmic translation in Stephen King’s entire library. Not only does the novella and short story collection present different lengths, themes, and genre types, it also serves as something of a narrative hub in the Stephen King extended universe. Director Scott Hicks and writer William Goldman elect to really trim the material, pursuing a more bare narrative that maintains measured doses of the dramatic and the horrific at the cost of some of the more fan-friendly material in the novel. So while it may cause a few disappointed expressions for die-hard King fans, it’s a surprisingly serviceable standalone. – DS.

18. 1408

Is there anything more delightful than watching a naysayer be proven wrong about the supernatural? Somehow that premise never seems to get old, but we all have ideas we’d like other people to take more seriously, don’t we? 1408 stars John Cusack being terrorized by deeply personal ghosts in a hotel room he’s rented to disprove the presence of an otherworldly force. Thinking back to this one always gives a slight chill, as Cusack ends up living a terrible nightmare, the worst fate that could be imagined. This is a solid paranormal horror based on the short story of the same name by King, one that moves and scares in equal measure as King’s best work is wont to do. Three alternate endings make 1408 fun to revisit, and one that can still be cast as a solid recommendation to newcomers to King and the genre. -BB

17. Dolores Claiborne

Another adaptation starring Kathy Bates, Dolores Claiborne is a surprisingly deft handling of female issues, a woman-led film about deep personal aches and reconciliation. Based on the title of the same name, it features a woman twice accused of murder, an outcast to everyone including her own daughter who struggles with her own demons. Told partly in flashbacks, it confronts the ideas of domestic abuse, incest, and murder, becoming part melodrama and part crime thriller and is generally accepted as one of the best King adaptations of its time. Both Kathy Bates and Jennifer Jason Leigh give standout performances, ones that they look back on as fondly as those who were fans of the film in 1995. -BB

16. The Night Flier

In what may one of the greatest hidden gems of King adaptations, the late Miguel Ferrer starts as tabloid reporter, Richard Dees, who competes for a story about a serial killer who travels by plane, with young ace reporter with computer skills (Julie Entwisle). The Night Flier is a fantastic turn on the vampire story, that also touches down on King’s affinity for small-town pulp. The idea of the tabloid industry being a cut-throat business is hilarious but Ferrer sells the idea. While Dees, and every character in this film is an unlikable, self-interested prick, director Mark Pavia makes it work by keeping a tight control on tension and rewarding our tolerance of these characters with buckets of practical gore effects and a stylish, twist-filled finale. Also, I’m not sure any vampire movie of the last twenty years has had an image as profound as vampire pissing blood into a urinal. – RN

15. Tales from the Darkside: The Movie

The horror anthology film, based on the George A. Romero created anthology series of the 80s, only contains one King adaptation in its three segments. The tale, “Cat from Hell”, directed by Romero, was originally supposed to be a segment in Creepshow 2, but was scrapped for budgetary reasons. The story centers on a wealthy, wheelchair bound man, who hires a hitman to hire a black cat that has created brought bad luck to himself and his family. The segment’s brevity and madcap nature makes it a wholly enjoyable short, and we only wish that Romero had continued to adapt King short stories. Considered by Tom Savini and many fans to be the true Creepshow 3, the rest of Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, while having nothing to do with King, is well worth your time and has the pulp energy and timing of the original Creepshow. -RN

14. The Running Man

It’s hard to judge this as a King adaptation as, other than the main idea and some characters’ names, a lot has been changed. However, as a movie, The Running Man is a very fun ’80s Arnie actioner with some incredible prescience of the current state of reality television and the world in general (the movie is set in a dystopian 2017 in which I assume America has been made great again). The King book is a lot bleaker and less flashy, so the two versions work well as companion pieces: if you want brash ’80s excess you watch the movie and if you want something scary and grim read the book. – SF

13. The Dark Half

Stephen King loves writing about writers. Take a shot about every movie on this list that has an author as a main character and you likely wouldn’t make it through our list. While Misery accounts for his expression of the most logical fear for a writer, The Dark Half is King’s most vulnerable expression of perhaps a more prevalent anxiety: the notion that one’s own dark creative side could destroy the self. But this symbolic reading never gets in the way of the more straight thriller exercise, tinged with a supernatural element, with just the right balance of camp and creepiness to make this under-celebrated entry one of the most successful, even if it packs the punch necessary to fight its way in our top ten. – DS

12. Salem’s Lot (1979)

Tobe Hooper’s Salem’s Lot is so good that it’s almost easy to forget it’s a made for TV movie. Almost. The actors don’t really do much to bring their characters to life, and David Soul’s Ben Mears is pretty bland as lead performance, and yet Hooper’s style goes a hell of a long way in terms of making Salem’s Lot one of the more memorable King adaptations. In terms of pure scares, it’s hard to believe that Hooper got away with a PG rating for the film. Whether it’s Danny Glick showing up at the window, Kurt Barlow’s Nosferatu-esque visage, Hooper did a significant amount of work in terms of making horror’s most explored monsters, vampires, frightening and effective again. With a strong Gothic style, and efforts to capture the atmosphere of King’s book, Salem’s Lot isn’t without its flaws, but when it succeeds, it excels at delivering a strong vision of undying terror. -RN

11. 11.22.63

Hulu’s 11.22.63 might mark the boldest attempt at a Stephen King adaptation to date. This eight-episode mini-series is the longest adaptation on the list for a singular storyline that doesn’t seek to stray too far from or embellish too boldly from its source material, a novel which already stands against some of King’s most ambitious, if it not in imaginative scope then in high-minded concept. What’s crazy is, even though many people missed the boat on the mini-series because of its only mildly popular host platform, the show largely succeeds at both its own goals and the novel’s, with few missteps. Largely, 11.22.63 is an exploration of fate and human value, explored through personal politics pushing to change history by manipulating a string theory model of the universe. Time, in a bold expression of King’s typically deep-seeded fears, is the monster of 11.22.63. This all works to great effect in large part to the performances of James Franco (who stumbles a bit in the beginning episodes, I’ll concede), Chris Cooper, and Sarah Gadon. 11.22.63 attempts to do more than almost every work on the list and because of that, it accomplishes more than most of them and earns a spot just outside of our top ten. -DS

The Shining

Warner Bros.

10. Gerald’s Game

The newest film on the list, Netflix’s latest original release from meteoric horror newcomer Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Hush) presents a terrifying balance of literal and symbolic storytelling, a brand of horror distinct from the bulk of King’s catalog in ways that only the best adaptations have managed. Gerald’s Game is an abrasive tale of trauma and survivalism, unflinching in its honesty, driven by grueling performances from its two leads, Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood. The horror that stranded wife Jessie (Gugino) faces only begins with being stuck handcuffed to a bed in a remote getaway home after her husband Gerald (Greenwood) has a heart attack. From there, she is forced to recount past traumas, a bloodthirsty dog, and an intruder who may or may not be death. Flanagan balances all of these varying conflicts and antagonists with an astonishing narrative grace, never slipping on the razor-thin boundary that allows this story to stay Jessie’s story, one which is perfectly suited in its honesty for the current age of a locker room president and cinema house assault scandals. Gerald’s Game is already an instant classic, and might find itself climbing higher on the least in upcoming years.

9. It (2017)

Andy Muschietti’s IT became the horror sensation of 2017, and certainly helped put King adaptations back in a positive spotlight again. Expensive looking, and containing detailed production designs, IT certainly has all the aesthetics of careful craft, but even more importantly, it has a beating heart by way of character emotions that are just as detailed.  While the film deviates from the book, sometimes necessarily so, IT captures the spirit of King’s novel (well, half of it) while managing to also own its own voice within the narrative’s 80s setting. With engaging child performances and a gleefully sinister take on Pennywise by Bill Skarsgard, IT examines the loss of innocence with sincerity and frightening intensity. In our culture of digesting and cannibalizing the 80s, IT manages to make a statement about our nostalgia and recognizes the power held in letting go of time, growing up, and recognizing the failures of adulthood that are ours to inheret. -RN

8. The Dead Zone

Stephen King and David Cronenberg make for a cold match in what may remain one of the most prescient of King’s works. When an accident leaves Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) with the psychic ability to glimpse the future, he’s forced to retreat from his life and the public eye. But his seclusion is broken by the emergence of Presidential candidate, Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen), whose fervent fanbase and quick temper promise nuclear annihilation. It’s impossible not to watch The Dead Zone now and not think of Donald Trump whenever Stillson’s presence is felt, and King’s novel and Cronenberg’s film serves as our own kind of glimpse into a dead zone and at a President we didn’t stop from coming to power. Cronenberg’s film already feels dark enough with the weight of the story it has to tell, and our modern perceptions of the film make it darker still. There’s little warmth to be found among the frozen breaths and snowy New England townships, but for all of its violence and bleakness, The Dead Zone is ultimately a story of optimism. Smith, surrounded by this darkness, is a career-best performance from Walken. As our brooding and heartbroken protagonist comes to accept his responsibility, it becomes increasingly clear that his greatest power isn’t his psychic abilities but his immense empathy. -RN

7. The Mist

Though it will probably be more remembered for its bleak, unforgiving ending, Frank Darabont’s The Mist is an incredible piece of haunted house storytelling. It is the story of a group of townspeople who travel to the supermarket after a storm to gather supplies only to find themselves trapped there by an encroaching mist full of Lovecraftian horrors. Divisions quickly form between the shoppers as Thomas Jane tries to pull them together and Marcia Gay Harden begins preaching that the end times are upon them, gradually developing a cult following as people search for any means to survive the swirling, impenetrable mist. The Mist feels like an old-school horror movie with a lot of the monsters implied more than they’re shown. Thomas Jane has the look of a matinee idol while embodying the classic King hero of the normal person trapped in an abnormal situation, while Marcia Gay Harden embodies that other classic King character: the zealot. With these characters trapped together with nothing outside but death, Darabont dials up the tension and lets the tea kettle boil until it’s overflowing. A claustrophobic, well-made thriller, The Mist is definitely one of the best King adaptations ever put on the big screen. – SF

6. Stand By Me

Perhaps what King does better than any other is create charmingly imperfect children who experience trauma and grow up to be – more or less – normal adults (often with at least one writer) who reflect back on the lessons they learned during a significant event in their childhood. Stand By Me is no exception to this rule, a coming of age story that forces its mismatched crew to come to terms with their own mortality and reach beyond their personal fears and shortcomings upon discovering the body of a missing child. Starring the late River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell, it’s based on King’s novella The Body, a book beloved by writer Raynold Gideon who patiently awaited production after several bumps in the road ultimately giving the director’s role to Rob Reiner who put a personal touch on the focus of the film. An entire generation seemed to identify with Stand By Me, and King himself was reportedly so impressed with the film he called it “…the best film ever made out of anything I’ve written.” Especially noteworthy is its soundtrack featuring ‘50s and ‘60s sunshine oldies which set the tone for this unforgettable drama that lives on in the hearts of those lucky enough to view it as children, and in the town of Brownsville (Castle Rock) which has celebrated an annual “Stand By Me Day” since 2007. -BB

5. Pet Sematary

“I don’t want to be buried, in a pet semetary. I don’t want to live my life again,” The Ramones sing at the end of Mary Lambert’s Pet Semetary. Despite the inherent catchiness of the song (a hit at any Halloween party), Lambert’s film is far more than a vehicle for a pop rock song. Pet Semetary is King’s scariest novel, not only for its unflinching look at death, but also for its oft-repeated manta that “sometimes, dead is bettah.” While Lambert’s film may be slightly dated in terms of performance and aesthetics, it remains a convincing look at a family’s grief in the face of the loss of their child, and a father’s willingness to do anything to reclaim him. Fred Gwynne steals the show as neighbor Jud Crandall, whose old Maine wisdom can’t stop the terrible fate awaiting the Creed family. Rife with frightening moments that formed the nightmares of many children and adults (Pascow, Gage, Zelda!), Pet Semetary provides the all the necessary gore and jump scares to entice viewers, but it’s lasting impact is achieved by Lambert’s adherence to King’s novel and follow-through with the downward spiral that awaits every living thing in the film. -RN

4. The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption on the page is not at all like King’s other works. There is no supernatural threat, world-ending cataclysm, or eldritch monster hiding in the dark. The horror is a down to Earth one as we see a man go to prison for a crime he didn’t commit and fall prey to predators both in the cells and outside of them. Tim Robbins plays Andy Dufresne, a milquetoast accountant accused of killing his wife and sent to Shawshank Prison for life. While there he befriends Red (Morgan Freeman), a man who knows how to get you things, and their friendship spans decades as they navigate life behind bars. While it bombed in theatres The Shawshank Redemption found a second life on video and TV and is now known as one of the greatest movies of all time. Though not the most accurate of rubrics, it has topped the IMDB top 250 list since 2008 after it overtook The Godfather. It is a wonderful movie full of fantastic vignettes that fit together to create an uplifting tale about the power of friendship, hope, patience, and perseverance. The cast is a wonderful mix of stars and very familiar character actors, and the combination of Frank Darabont’s script, Thomas Newman’s stirring score, and Roger Deakins’ cinematography all create something truly delightful. -SF

3. Carrie

The first Stephen King adaptation of them all, and my personal favorite, Brian De Palma’s Carrie is a heartbreaking look at a girl’s rejection by her peers and mother, and the collapse of her future possibilities. It’s almost easy to forget that Carrie has psychic powers, because De Palma is far more interested in Carrie’s emotional state, and her high school and home experience, than he is in the supernatural. Stylish, and inventive in its use of camera angles, Carrie stands as proof that King works best in the hands of directors with visions that aren’t beholden to the source material, but understand their impact regardless. Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie both deliver two of the greatest female performances of all time in their roles as Carrie and Margaret White, and while many films have tried to remake or borrow from Carrie, none have been able to harness the same emotional power that exists within this film. In the moment immediately after, Carrie is baptized by pig’s blood, Spacek’s facial expression, one of mixed, shock, horror, and anger is one of the cinema’s most powerful moments. No matter how many times the movie is revisited, that moments sucks all the wind out of the room and makes a powerful statement on teenage trauma. Carrie may be regarded as a movie monster, but she’s treated with such empathy that we can’t help but see her as a martyr for so many girls whose lives were ended by bullying. Maybe it was the freedom in having no other King adaptations to measure up to, and maybe it was because Stephen King was not Stephen King as we know him today, but De Palma’s Carrie feels untethered in terms of horror movie rules, and reconstituted the supernatural villain and created the first jump scare ending for a film that feels like the turning point in horror history. -RN

2. The Shining

We understand why The Shining doesn’t work for Stephen King. There’s no build to Jack’s madness, no sense of a good man inside him, and the film skirts over some of the character aspects that made King’s novel a deeply personal conversation about his own alcoholism. All of that being said, Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation is a masterwork of filmmaking that stands apart from King’s novel. Kubrick uses the book as a launching pad to explore the American ghosts, and the plague of the white man’s burden, that he dedicated a large part of his filmography to. While King’s novel focused on the history and future of self, Kubrick’s film is focused on the collective history of the American experience, with a future that is inseparable from the past. Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance is an utter madman, magnetic in his intensity, and frightening in his brutality as his deep seated illness takes hold of him while he and his family serve as caretakers of the Overlook Hotel during a particularly snowy winter. He’s impersonal, and his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), are equally so. They exist as the essence of extreme emotions, of anger, desperation, and fear, all of which America was founded on. Oh sure, the ghosts are there too. But the ghosts that inhabit the living are far more powerful that the specters that roam the halls. While Kubrick is often accused of being a cold filmmaker, he’s anything but. The Shining is all passion and while the film ends with frozen wastelands rather than fire, the heat is staggering. -RN

1. Misery

Rob Reiner’s Misery is the best Stephen King adaptation to date, not only because of manages to capture the inherent horror of the source material, but the humor at the heart of it as well. Writer Paul Sheldon’s (James Caan) captivity, is undoubtedly an alarming situation, made even more alarming by the fact that Reiner takes one of Hollywood’s most masculine actors and makes him weak and largely ineffectual. And as grotesque as Kathy’s Bates exquisite performance as Annie Wilkes is, it’s also punctuated by the kind of folksy, religious fervor that shines across King’s works. Misery succeeds largely because of Reiner, and screenwriter William Goldman’s interest in character study. These are sad, broken individuals, in spite of their ability to illicit fear and laughter, and they speak to the misery of failed and misunderstood connections. While Annie’s quick-tempered rants, Sheldon’s sweat-soaked attempts to escape, and the iconic hobbling scenes may be what’s entrenched Misery in our memories, what makes it a classic is that it’s an unflinching look at a man and a woman, existing in two different realities, trapped in a snowy wasteland together. What’s interesting is that the two most successful King adaptations focus on the isolation of the body and mind within the cold, while both flirting with a larger subtext of addiction and hidden history. -RN