Stephen King’s Best Films: A Top Ten List

I have a general rule I try to follow: for every list I post, I have one review/something of merit. This has not been the case as of late. This blog, for better or worse, has become rather list-centric. Today’s post is no different. However, the top ten Stephen King movies list is surprisingly difficult to write. I tried to weigh whether the movie was any good against whether the movie was a good adaptation of King’s story. What did I learn? I’ve watched a lot of truly shitty movies. Movies that are so spectacularly bad, they’re good – Maximum Overdrive, Christine, Lawnmower Man.

(Possibly the best cheesy B movie ever made.)
(Possibly the best cheesy B movie ever made.)

Okay, that’s last one is bad no matter how you look at it. But if nothing else, Stephen King is prolific*. And he does have a few good films to his name. Please note that the list excludes made-for-TV and is primarily ranked by personal preference (as I am most certainly not a film critic).

10. Pet Sematary. Easily the scariest King book and the film is sufficiently creepy too. That kid gave me nightmares. And Zelda… I still can’t figure out the point of Zelda, but she’s very scary.

09. Dolores Claiborne. Kathy Bates does Stephen King films well. This is a good one.

08. Apt Pupil. This is another where quite a bit was changed between story and movie, but the acting – especially McKellan – is very good.

07. The Dead Zone. Christopher Walken AND David Cronenberg.

06. The Mist. 98% very good and 2% so bad that it makes the rest of the film unforgivable, it’s been several years and I’m still mad about it. The first thing I did was run to my copy of the book to make sure my memory was correct. Some people like the new ending; I’m not one of them.

05. The Shining. Although it’s one of the best films on this list, it is not a particularly good adaptation of the book. I think I’m the only person who actually likes King’s version.

04. The Shawshank Redemption. The film is very good. It’s also the most overplayed movie in America.

03. Misery. Kathy Bates is delightfully creepy in this excellent adaptation. I was glad she won the Oscar (once I was old enough to see the movie).

02. Stand By Me. A lovely coming of age story and one of my favorite ‘80s movies…

01. Carrie. Although I didn’t care for Carrie the novel, I did like the movie (and a great adaptation). It was one of the first horror films I ever saw (The Lawnmower Man was the actual first) and I must have jumped halfway across the room at the end.

This list is neither definitive nor exact. If you ask me which films are my favorites tomorrow, I might have a different list for you. One thing’s for certain, Riding the Bullet is the absolute worst one I’ve seen. I’ve never seen Hearts in Atlantis or 1408, which is why they are not on this list (even though they often appear on others). What’s your favorite Stephen King film? Does anyone else wish they would remake The Stand?

*These were the films I came up with off the top of my head: The Dead Zone, Children of the Corn, Cujo, Firestarter, 1408, Secret Window, The Shining, Carrie (x2), The Shawshank Redemption, Apt Pupil, Stand by Me, Hearts in Atlantis, Maximum Overdrive, Silver Bullet, Christine, Pet Semetary, The Dark Half, Running Man, Dolores Claiborne, Misery, The Mist, Graveyard Shift, Thinner, Needful Things, The Lawnmower Man, The Green Mile, Riding the Bullet, Sleepwalkers (original screenplay), Cat’s Eye

Miniseries/Made for TV: The Langoliers, The Stand, The Shining, Bag of Bones, Under the Dome, Carrie, The Tommyknockers, IT, Haven (series), The Dead Zone (series), Storm of the Century, ‘Salem’s Lot, Desperation

19 thoughts on “Stephen King’s Best Films: A Top Ten List

  1. I remember the first (it’s on tv in Australia fairly often as well) time I saw Shawshank Redemption and how much I loved it. Memorably good.

    Love Stand By Me as well.

    Carrie one of the first horror movies I saw as well. Memorable for different reasons.

    Have you seen the new Carrie yet?


    1. I did see the new Carrie (this week actually). I didn’t think it was awful, but it wasn’t memorable either. I have Running Man at home right now too. It looks promising in the cheesy movie department (Arnold usually delivers in that regard).

      Was Carrie memorable for just being scary? Bad? Boys? I find movies I went on dates to to be particularly memorable (i.e. Titanic and the boy who accidentally spit on me, 10 Things I Hate About You and the boy with the poor vocabulary, Clueless and the boy who thought Alicia Silverstone was fat).

      And see, there is some hope for you and SK – Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption could work for you.


  2. Carrie memorable because I was scared.

    I remember movies and dates as well – notably The Silence of the Lambs with a guy that tried the textbook (rookie) move of yawning and putting his arm around me. I was thinking ‘seriously?!’ (that was as far as he got); Mannequin was memorable because I was on a double date and I got on really, really well with my friend’s date (and not mine) and lastly (and most happily), the first date I went on with one guy – Four Weddings and a Funeral (and I married that guy).


    1. I was at the circus once on a double date. I met a guy (not one of our group) who was there with his girlfriend. I got on with him really well, much to his girlfriend’s dismay (she pitched a very public fit). He’s been my best friend for over a decade now. I never did see the guy I was with at the time again. Awkward on many, many levels.

      Four Weddings is a great first date-ends in marriage movie!


  3. Stand by Me is probably my favorite.

    I hated the movie adaptation of The Shining after reading the book. Kubrick screwed it all up. The book is a billion times better.


    1. I hat the adaptation, but the movie itself is not so bad. Did you ever see the new version of The Shining? It stuck pretty close to the book. Kubrick really missed out with the hedge animals.

      And Stand by Me is one of my all time favorite movies ever. Oddly enough, it used to make me wish I had been a boy. It seemed like they had way more fun than I did with my group of girl-friends. Sleepovers and the mall we pretty much the height of our existence. It wasn’t fun, even when I was 12.


  4. Shawshank, thought totally overplayed, is one of my favorite movies ever. And I liked book version of The Shining SOOO much better than the movie, which I do like. I still can’t get over The Greatest American Hero being the bad guy in Carrie- or are you too young to know that show?


  5. I haven’t seen a lot of King film adaptations. I have seen The Stand miniseries which was….meh. I liked Stephen King’s cameo, though. 😛

    I love The Shining film, but as its own entity, because it certainly is not a good representation of the novel.


  6. I’m with you on The Shining. I saw the movie long before I read the book, so I’d be curious to see it again now. But at least from what I remember, I definitely like the book version better (and not just because I prefer reading horror to watching it).


  7. I still haven’t seen Dolores Claiborne and Apt Pupil from your list, but I love all of those movies. Firestarter is still my favourite adaptation even with the cheesey special effects.


  8. Firstly, I just stumbled across your blog today and imagine my joy when realising you were a fellow King fan! I’m looking forward to following you and reading your backlog soon 🙂

    As for the movies, I actually think the first one I ever saw was “IT”, which happens to be one of my very favourite King books, and while it’s mostly terrible, Tim Curry as Pennywise is to my mind absolutely BRILLIANT! As in, he was more scary that Pennywise in the book and I can still (as a 30-something woman) have nightmares now over those yellow eyes…


  9. I watched Carrie a thoushand of years ago and well, I was so scared I couldn’t sleep for days, so I think that it was kind of “good” 😉
    Since I’m a chickend, I haven’t watched the rest of your film list, but I recently watched Bag of bones and I didn’t like it; too ¿stupid? ¿disappointing? 😉


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