Stephen King, the Master of Horror From Paper to Scream, Er, Screen
With over 300 million copies of more than 70 books sold, plus dozens of stories adapted for film and television, Stephen King has dominated American storytelling for the last 40-plus years. While King writes in a wide variety of genres, from the coming-of-age short story “The Body” (1982) to the psychological thriller Misery (1987), King is most well known for his often-supernatural horror and fantasy novels. A great storyteller with an eye for detail and an accessible narrative tone, King always grounded his fantastic elements in recognizable environments, while his demons often highlighted the rocky emotional dynamics of families and the ravages of dysfunction and addiction. Among the best King-based feature films were Brian De Palma‘s Carrie (1976), David Cronenberg‘s The Dead Zone (1983) and Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining (1980), which took more liberties than King was happy with. The prolific writer’s output diminished somewhat following serious injuries he sustained in a 1999 roadside accident, but new novels like Under the Dome (2009), speculative alt-historical drama 11.22.63 (2011) and End of Watch (2016) were highly anticipated, topped the bestseller lists, and usually found their way to theaters or television. Several TV series have been inspired by his novels as well, such as Castle Rock, The Dead Zone, Haven, Mr. Mercedes, The Outsider and Lisey’s Story.
Coming this October is the backstory from the original novel Pet Semetary called Pet Sematary: Bloodlines, which premieres Friday, Oct. 6, on Paramount+. Also coming out: From a 1973 short story “The Boogeyman,” the 2023 film of the same name about two girls being haunted by an evil presence makes its debut on Hulu as part of Huluween on Oct. 5.
Here are 15 other King films that are screen-worthy. You may have forgotten about some of these. Plus, fun fact, he has made cameos in almost all of these films, so be on the lookout!
Teenage Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon) falls under the spell of a prophetically named 1958 Plymouth Fury, whose standard equipment includes an indestructible vengeance. As he spends more and more time restoring his prized possession, which he has christened Christine, the car demands Arnie’s complete devotion, destroying anyone who gets in the way. The movie turns 40 this year, and we will be sure to be celebrating it! It also is rumored to be getting a reboot.
Andrew and Vicky McGee met while earning money as guinea pigs for an experiment at college. Shrouded in suspicion and mystery, the experiment seemed to be related to psychic abilities. The two marry and give birth to a girl with the ability to start fires using only the power of her mind. Naturally, the government takes a great interest in Charlie (Drew Barrymore), and operatives from the secret department known as “The Shop” will stop at nothing to capture and study her. Of course there have been many other adaptations of this movie, with various sequels, but we prefer the original.
The Green Mile (1999)
Set on Death Row at Cold Mountain Penitentiary in the Depression-era South in 1935, this big-screen adaptation is about a prison guard who develops a poignant relationship with one inmate who possesses a magical gift that is both mysterious and miraculous, and questions whether the man is truly guilty. Nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. Stars Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Morse, Bonnie Hunt and James Cromwell.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
A mild-mannered New England banker convicted of murder and a seasoned lifer come into contact during their incarceration at Shawshank State Prison. The pair forges an unlikely relationship during a 20-year period, and they learn that hope is the ultimate means of survival. Stars Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman and James Whitmore.
A vignette of short stories directed by another horror master, George A. Romero, tells us the tales of a strange meteor in a farmer’s field, a clean freak’s demise by a hoard of cockroaches, a cheating woman’s fate by her vengeful husband, a strange beast in a crate and a deceased father on Father’s Day wanting his cake. Stars Hal Holbrook, Leslie Nielsen and Adrienne Barbeau.
The Running Man (1987)
The Lawnmower Man (1992)
Jobe (Jeff Fahey) is a gardener who becomes a guinea pig for a well-meaning scientist (Pierce Brosnan). The experiment involves cutting-edge computer technology that allows Jobe to physically explore his imagination without ever leaving his chair. Things soon go haywire as virtual reality becomes a virtual nightmare!
An evil clown is terrorizing the town of Derry, and it is up to a group of seven kids struggling with bullying to rise up and fight back. This terrifying tale of kids going missing was first filmed as a TV miniseries in 1990 with Tim Curry playing the evil clown Pennywise and made its way to the silver screen in a 2017 reboot that had far more success than the original.
A popular novelist is injured in a car crash and “rescued” by his No. 1 fan. Now held hostage in her remote cabin, he must write exclusively for her — if he wants to stay alive. Stars Kathy Bates, who won an Oscar for her performance as Annie Wilkes, and James Caan.
Salem’s Lot (1979)
Veteran horror director Tobe Hooper (Poltergeist, Tales From the Crypt) directed this 1979 made-for-television scare-fest. David Soul plays a successful writer who returns to his small New England hometown to find vampirism running rampant. James Mason is great as a sinister antique dealer, and Reggie Nalder terrifies as the vampire Barlow. It also came back to TV in 2004 starring Rob Lowe, and a reboot by Warner Bros. currently sits on the shelf waiting for a release date.
This psychological horror story in which a wealthy, influential and very overweight attorney finds himself battling a hideous curse after he accidentally kills an old gypsy woman. The toughest opponent attorney Billy Halleck has ever faced is his own appetite. At 300 pounds, Billy can’t even see past his stomach to read the bathroom scale. Then one day he starts shedding those pounds without even trying. It’s his dream come true … until it turns into his worst nightmare. Stars Robert John Burke, Lucinda Jenney, Bethany Joy Lenz and Time Winters.
Pet Sematary (1989)
A doctor becomes obsessed with an ancient Indian burial ground that can bring back the dead after his son is killed in a freak accident. Sometimes dead is better. Stars Dale Midkiff, Fred Gwynne and Denise Crosby. This also came back as a reboot in 2019 with a slightly different spin.
Stand by Me (1986)
Based on the short story “The Body,” this film follows a small group of friends, all 12-year-old boys, who share the joys and hurts, the thrill of discovery, and the sudden changes that accompany growing up when they set out on the greatest adventure of their lives. Stars Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, River Phoenix, Jerry O’Connell and Richard Dreyfuss, as the narrator.
Children of the Corn (1984)
Not to be confused with Village of the Damned, about a different group of murdery children, this classic 1984 horror flick centers around a young couple trapped in a tiny town where a cult believes anyone over the age of 18 should not be allowed to live. Stars Linda Hamilton and Peter Horton. Like Firestarter this has also spawned many sequels and a 2020 reboot, but we suggest you stick with the original.
The Langoliers (1995)
This was a two-part TV miniseries, but it sure scared the crap out of more than a few ’90s children who happened upon it while scrolling through channels. It centers around a handful of passengers on a plane who end up in some sort of alternate dimension where they are the only people left in the world. Stars Patricia Wettig, Dean Stockwell and David Morse.