The Completely, Absolutely, Undefinitive Guide to Stephen King Adaptations


Hi. My name is Bill, and I am a reformed Stephen King fan.

Hi, Bill.

It’s been 18 years since I was a fan. In truth, I was a King fan during the tail end of my horror-fan phase, which lasted from age six through age approximately 30, when my change from being mostly cynical to mostly positive made horror flicks and books just ugly. I suppose the end started in the 1970s, when the Friday the 13th series changed the horror genre to slasher films. I never found any redemption in slasher flicks and never saw anything remotely scary in them. That’s probably why I initially became a King fan in the first place. I saw Carrie in early 1977, on my college campus. I sat in the front row with a couple of good friends, and we were … in a good mood. Fuck that. We were high and a little drunk. Carrie was a good movie, but it was the ending that got me. When Carrie’s hand shot up from the grave, my friend and I jumped, landing on the floor. The whole audience laughed, us most of all. But I was hooked. In contrast, I saw Friday the 13th around the same time and I fell asleep on it. (Of course, I thought The Exorcist was hilarious, so don’t go by me.)

I read all the King I could, one book after another. I got to It! and started wondering if he wrote the thing drunk and had no editor. (Turns out, well, yeah, maybe.) I finished it, but thought it could have had far fewer instances of “They Float. They all float,” and maybe a couple hundred fewer pages. But okay, we’re not perfect. I went to grad school shortly after that, but grabbed Pet Sematary on the way. I. HATED. IT. HATED HATED HATED IT. Didn’t find it scary; I only found myself disgusted with it. It was the first King book I didn’t finish–indeed, the first any kind of book I’d ever bought and not finished. It started me on my current path in a way, because now I judge works on their merit and not fame, and I’ll walk out on a book or a movie in a NY heartbeat.

But it got me to thinking, there have been a LOT of King adaptations. A lot. Myriad. Muchos. I’ve not seen them all, but most of them. Sadly, many, many of his adaptations seem to suck. I have a theory, of course, why that is. First, many adaptations come from novellas and short stories. Novellas seem to be around the perfect length for a movie adaptation. They are robust, movie-length stories that don’t need filler or drastic cutting to fit in the time constraints. They are usually one strong plot with little or no sub-plot. (Think Shawshank Redemption or The Green Mile). Short Story adaptations, on the other hand, are sometimes a bit thin for a movie, and as a result, the plots are simplified, often relying on one theme. (Think Children of the Corn.) It’s hard to turn a short story into movie greatness without some marvelous screen adaptation work. Second, he wrote a lot of horror and frankly, most modern horror directors suck. Great directors tended to want to tweak his books (understandably) and those who didn’t sometimes weren’t talented or lacked a decent budget. Third, some of his novels needed radical shortening or adaptation to make an understandable movie. Remember that The Stand, The Shining, Salem’s Lot, The Langoliers, Tommyknockers, and It all ended up being TV miniseries. Finally, let’s face it: a demonic car; a demonic laundry press; a comet that turns machinery to demons … some of these plots were kind of silly. Books can and should be silly and fun. Movies can be silly and schlocky and fun. Unfortunately, bad directors take their ‘craft’ seriously and make pretentious bollocks from schlocky fun books. And sometimes writers who are super popular churn out shit that gets turned into bad movies, because there’s money in it.

I ain’t hating. I’d do it in a heartbeat for the right cash.

With all this in mind (since I just completed writing a novella/short novel) I stumbled across an article that claimed to rank all of King’s movies, but 1) I didn’t agree with their ranking AT ALL; and, 2) they missed some, so they aren’t experts and fuck their opinions. So here’s my ranking, in categories that make sense to me. Do with it what you will. OBEY IT. (Okay, I meant do with it what I will).

M and I have not seen either It (2017) or The Dark Night (2017) so they aren’t included. I heard the former is good and the latter isn’t.


  • Crap (Burn It)
    • Creepshow 2 (1987)
    • Pet Sematary (1989) Burn the book too.
    • The Mangler (1995)
    • Thinner (1996)
    • Carrie (2002)
    • Dreamcatcher (2003)
    • Riding the Bullet (2004)
    • Dolan’s Cadillac (2009)
    • A Good Marriage (2014)
    • Cell (2016)
  • Schlock
    • Christine (1983)
    • Silver Bullet (1985)
    • Cat’s Eye (1985)
    • The Night Flier (1997)
    • Graveyard Shift (1990)
    • Sometimes They Come Back (1991)
    • Sleepwalkers (1992)
    • The Dark Half (1993)
    • Storm of the Century (1999) Mini-series
  • Just Plain Boring
    • Salem’s Lot (1979)
    • It (1986)
    • Needful Things (1993)
    • The Stand (1994)
  • Decent
    • Firestarter (1984)
    • Misery (1990)
    • The Tommyknockers (1993)
    • Delores Claiborne (1993)
    • The Shining (1997)
    • Apt Pupil (1998)
    • No Smoking (2007)
    • Carrie (2013)
  • Drive-In Movie (Good Schlock)
    • The Mist (1980)
    • Creepshow (1982)
    • Cujo (1983)
    • Children of the Corn (1984)
    • Maximum Overdrive (1986)
    • The Running Man (1987)
    • The Langoliers (1995)
    • The Mist (2007)
  • Liked Bits, Don’t Didn’t Watch the Whole Thing (TL;DR)
    • Shawshank Redemption (1994)
    • Secret Window (2004)
    • 1408 (2007)
  • See It
    • Carrie (1976)
    • The Shining (1980)
    • The Dead Zone (1983)
    • Stand By Me (1986)
    • The Green Mile (1999)


One thought on “The Completely, Absolutely, Undefinitive Guide to Stephen King Adaptations

  1. Pingback: The Completely, Absolutely, Undefinitive Guide to Stephen King Adaptations — Raw, Naked Art – horrorwriter

Type it. You know you want to.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s