2017 is basically the year of Stephen King adaptations – King fans can expect to see Idris Elba as Roland in The Dark Tower in July and It: Part One – Losers’ Club hits cinemas in September. I’ve had Stephen King on the brain lately, so now is as good a time as any to count down the 5 best screen adaptations of King’s novels. This list is entirely subjective and personal and does not claim to be definitive!
5. It (1990)
Number 5 on the list is the TV adaptation of It. It tells the story of 6 members of The Losers’ Club, both in childhood and adulthood, as they attempt to outsmart Pennywise the Dancing Clown, a terrifying entity who murders children in the small town of Derry in Maine. Although It is far from my favourite Stephen King novel, it actually works really well as an adaptation. The atmosphere is eerie, the characters are well-developed and there are standout performances from John Ritter as the lovable Ben Hanscom and Tim Curry as the creepy clown who will haunt your dreams – possibly forever. Oh, and Seth Green (Oz from Buffy) is in it so we all win! Check out one of the creepiest scenes below:
4. The Shining (1980)
The Shining, directed by Stanley Kubrick, is considered a masterpiece of horror cinema, and it is easy to see why. The film uses Freudian allegory and striking visuals to create an ambiguous and disconcerting cinematic experience. Although a great film, The Shining is not a very faithful adaptation. Kubrick completely changed the ending of the story, made the character of Wendy intolerable and added the maze that is so crucial to the movie. King himself feels that the main difference between the novel and the film is the novel’s warmth as opposed to the cold detachment of the movie. This is interesting when considering the endings of both the book and the film. The novel has the Overlook Hotel burn to the ground, whereas the movie has Jack Torrence freeze to death! You can hear King discuss his thoughts on the movie HERE.
3. Stand by Me (1986)
Stephen King is perhaps best known for his horror stories. However, Stand by Me, the ultimate coming of age story, is based on King’s 1982 novella entitled The Body. The movie is set in 1959 (1960 in King’s tale) in Oregon (Maine in the novella). Despite these minor changes, both the short story and the movie focus on one summer in the life of 4 friends on the cusp of adulthood in small town America as they go on a journey to find the missing body of a teenage boy. There is a sense of nostalgia surrounding the film and the cast list reads like a who’s who of up and coming young talent from the 1980s; including Corey Feldman, Wil Wheaton, Jerry O’Connell, Kiefer Sutherland and River Phoenix. Heads Up: You will shed tears at the end. You can watch the trailer below:
2. Misery (1990)
Number 2 on our list goes to Misery, based on King’s novel of the same name. Starring James Caan as author Paul Sheldon alongside a scary good Kathy Bates as crazed fan Annie Wilkes. The plot revolves around an author who is held captive and terrorised by a super fan due to his decision to kill off her favourite character Misery. The film is a hugely enjoyable white knuckle thriller that will chill your bones. Also, I’m a huuuuuuuge Lauren Bacall fan, so any movie with Bacall is a keeper in my opinion!
Kathy Bates was so convincing as the psychotic Annie that she even picked up an Oscar for Best Actress at the 63rd Academy Awards. Check out Annie in action in the scene below:
1. Carrie (1976)
Number 1 goes to one of my favourite novels AND films of all time. Carrie tells the story of a telekinetic teenage girl who is bullied by her classmates and emotionally suffocated by her religious and overbearing mother. The story is poignantly horrific and relatable. While there are obvious supernatural elements in both the novel and the movie, Carrie is, at its core, a story about the cruel bullying of an unusual girl. The reason it is number 1 on my list is due to its strength as an adaptation. The novel tells Carrie’s story through the use of newspaper clippings, psychology papers, letters, and extracts from books. Despite these complications, Brian De Palma’s film transforms the novel into a linear narrative. Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie give perfect performances as outcast Carrie and her fanatical mother Margaret. Both actresses even scored Oscar nominations for their work in the film, a feat that is highly unusual for a genre film. Spacek, in particular, gives a heartbreakingly realistic portrayal of a sensitive person pushed one step too far. As relevant today as it was in 1976, Carrie is a tragic horror and modern classic. Check out the infamous prom scene below:
Carrie. Dir. Brian De Palma. Perf. Sissy Spacek. United Artists, 1976. DVD.
It. Dir. Tommy Lee Wallace. Perf. Tim Curry. Warner Bros. Television, 1990. DVD.
Misery. Dir. Rob Reiner. Perf. Kathy Bates. Columbia Pictures, 1990. DVD.
Stand by Me. Dir. Rob Reiner. Perf. Wil Wheaton. Columbia Pictures, 1986. DVD.
The Shining. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. Perf. Jack Nicholson. Warner Bros., 1980. DVD.
King, Stephen. Carrie. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2013. Print.
—. It. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2011. Print.
—. Misery. London: Hodder Paperbacks, 2011. Print.
—. The Body. London: Longman, 1999. Print.
—. The Shining. London: Hodder Paperbacks, 2011. Print.