Gary Collinson selects his Five Essential Stephen King adaptations…
Acclaimed writer Stephen King is one of the best-selling authors of all time and his stories have served as inspiration for countless theatrical features, TV movies and miniseries. While his words may well be his power, adaptations of said words often leave much to be desired. However, among a considerable number of sub-standard, low-budget and poorly-executed titles are a selection of true classics that serve to illustrate King’s unique storytelling ability…
5. The Green Mile (1999, dir. Frank Darabont)
Frank Darabont’s second Stephen King adaptation – based upon the serial novel that King released in six parts through-out 1996 – The Green Mile stars Tom Hanks as Paul Edgecomb, supervisor of the death row wing of Cold Mountain Penitentiary during the early 1930’s. Told through flashbacks with the elderly Edgecomb serving as narrator, the film recounts the tale of John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), a convicted (albeit innocent) child-killer and ‘gentle-giant’, who also happens to possess a supernatural healing ability. Despite a runtime in excess of three hours, The Green Mile is a captivating and highly moving film that includes superb performances from its cast and masterful direction from Darabont.
4. Misery (1990, dir. Rob Reiner)
James Caan star as Paul Sheldon, famous author and creator of the Misery Chastain series, who is nursed back to health after a car accident by ‘number one fan’ Annie Wilkes (Kathy Burke, in an Academy Award and Golden Globe winning performance). After learning that Paul plans to kill off the Misery character in his latest book, Annie snaps and keeps the novelist captive while forcing him to burn the manuscript and start anew. Rob Reiner’s second foray into King territory is much darker than his first and builds to a thrilling and horrific climax, while both Bates and Caan are exceptional in their roles.
3. Stand By Me (1986, dir. Rob Reiner)
With King firmly established as a horror writer by the early 80s, the 1982 collection Different Seasons showcased his ability to shift from the genre and Rob Reiner’s 1986 adaptation of The Body delivered one of the most memorable movies of the decade. Narrated by writer Gordie LaChance (Richard Dreyfuss), Stand By Me recounts a life-changing experience from his childhood, where young Gordie (Wil Wheaton) and his friends Chris (River Phoenix), Teddy (Corey Feldman) and Vern (Jerry O’Connell) had set out on an adventure to find the missing body of a local boy. Stand By Me has proven to be a timeless film with its themes of friendship and youthful innocence, and one to which almost everyone can relate.
2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994, dir. Frank Darabont)
The second film on this list to be directed by Frank Darabont (and the second to be adapted from Different Seasons) The Shawshank Redemption stars Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne, a banker who spends almost two decades in Shawshank State Penitentiary after he is wrongly accused of murdering his wife and her lover. Andy becomes acquainted with another inmate Red (Morgan Freeman), and the two strike up a lasting friendship amidst the harsh brutalities of prison life. Dealing with themes of hope, redemption and faith, The Shawshank Redemption is an inspirational film and its popularity has increased immensely over time, with the movie currently sitting atop the IMDb’s 250 Greatest Films of All Time.
1. The Shining (1980, dir. Stanley Kubrick)
Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece initially opened to mixed reviews, Golden Raspberry nominations and criticism towards the changes made to the source novel, while King himself described the film ‘dreadfully upsetting’. As with The Shawshank Redemption, The Shining’s popularity and status have enjoyed spectacular growth in the years following release and it now stands as one of the finest examples of its genre. A gripping and iconic film with Jack Nicholson thoroughly convincing in the role of Jack Torrance, caretaker of the isolated Overlook Hotel, who descends into madness as a result of the hotel’s supernatural inhabitants and is urged to murder his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and psychic son Danny (Danny Lloyd).
Jack Torrance meets Delbert Grady:
Carrie (1976, dir. Brian De Palma)
The Dead Zone (1983, dir. David Cronenberg)
The Running Man (1987, dir. Paul Michael Glaser)
Apt Pupil (1998, dir. Bryan Singer)
The Mist (2007, dir. Frank Darabont)
While on the small-screen, Salem’s Lot (1979) and It (1990) are fine examples that manage to retain much of their impact after all these years.
Agree? Disagree? We’d love to hear your comments on the list…