Five Essential… Stephen King Adaptations

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:

Honourable Mentions…

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…

Gary Collinson

Essentials Archive

Around the Internet…

  • CS

    No love for 1408? :)

  • Dain Binder

    Gary, I completely agree with your top 5!

  • Richard J Moir

    An amazing top 5, but Misery pips the top spot with The Shining close behind in my opinion ;)

  • Anonymous

    Shawshank #1, and where is Pet Semetary? Not even an honourable mention? Weak…

  • flickeringmyth

    Hi there and thanks for the comments.<br /><br />CS – 1408 would probably be my next choice after those listed, I did struggle to decide between that and The Dead Zone for an honourable mention.<br /><br />Anonymous, got to say I prefer The Shining but Shawshank is an amazing film. And Pet Semetary? Weak…

  • Dain Binder

    Gary, I completely agree with your top 5!

  • Jason

    As someone who is only now reading the Misery novel, I must say that the book is so much better. As horrific as the &quot;hobbling&quot; scene is, in the book she cuts off his left foot, later to be followed by his left thumb. Things like that (and a State Trooper Annie runs over with a riding mower) along with the mental instability of Paul Sheldon really sells the story. Too bad it was

  • Pissyflaps

    The Shining film is shit. Can&#39;t believe it&#39;s number 1. They changed so much, simply made Jack Torrance mad ASAP. Shelley Duvall is laughably crap. There is none of the horror or suspense. If something was going to be difficult to do they just didn&#39;t do it. Shockingly bad movie.

  • EyeDigress

    It seems like the list went for brown-nosing the bigger-name directors than highlighting the most interesting films. Where is Needful Things? In my eyes, that film is as frightening a portrayal of a devil as you&#39;ll see.

  • Micah 李 文 Jung

    well I am begining to believe books are so much better then movies just read the Harry potter novels and then watch the films! Potter heads will tear you to shreds saying the films are so much better then the books