There have been a ton of movies made based off of the incredibly prolific author Stephen King. Some of them are good, some are pure shit. It’s a pretty wide range. I’ve ranked them from best to worst using the scientific method of using my opinion. I’m positive there will be no comments because everyone will agree! I’m only listing theatrically released movies, not TV movies. I’m also not counting sequels to movies where he had nothing to do with them at all like Pet Semetery Two or the Children of the Corn sequels. I’ve also cut out anything that was released direct to video or video on demand.
1) The Shining (1980)
King himself isn’t happy with this adaptation but I don’t care. It’s a really scary movie, with gorgeous cinematography and great performances.
2) The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
I mean, you may have seen it on cable one too many times but it’s pretty much pitch-perfect. I hope I never have to go to prison. Y-y-y-yikes!
3) Carrie (1976)
This one kicked off Hollywood’s interest in whatever King wrote. And it helped lock in the careers of director Brian DePalma and actress Sissy Spacek. This movie works because it’s about something real and recognizable and the cast nails it. The whole thing is eerie but the finale is just batshit terrifying. Great final scare, too.
4) The Dead Zone (1983)
At this point, my biases are creeping in. What can I say, I like the awkwardness and body horror of director Cronenberg. And this is kind of peak Christopher Walken. Awesome premise of seeing into someone’s future to how they die.
5) The Running Man (1987)
It’s radically different from the source material. This is a Schwarzenneger action movie first and foremost. But it’s full of awesome one-liners and Arnold in his prime. Oh, it supposedly takes place this year. Semi-plausible!
6) Stand by Me (1986)
Just a really fantastic drama with actors who hit the right notes. Must have been thanks to director Rob Reiner because it’s not like Wil Wheaton and Jerry O’Connell went on to be A-listers.
7) Misery (1990)
Kind of pulpy and over-the-top at times but damn if Kathy Bates doesn’t absolutely nail the dichotomy of being both a fan and a psycho of writer James Caan. Moves really fast, actually.
8) Delores Claiborne (1995)
This is more of a psychological thriller and a mystery as to whether or not someone was killed or it was an accident. It’s all about exploring the past. Anyway, it’s another fantastic Kathy Bates performance.
9) The Mist (2007)
Some people don’t like this one, I’ve heard, but I love it. The monsters in the mist outside are ostensibly the threat but really, it just serves as pressure on the microcosm of society that hide in a grocery store and we watch the factions that form. It’s so disturbing with an incredibly tragic ending. One that King himself has said he wishes he had written in the original story. Bonus: Frank Darabont made this just before making The Walking Dead so there’s something like 4 cast members that appear in it.
10) The Green Mile (1999)
Another solid prison movie. A Tom Hanks vehicle. Slightly more of a drama but with some disturbing stuff in it. And it’s by Frank Darabont so along with Shawhank and Mist, he gets 3 movies in my Stephen King top 10. Wow.
11) Creepshow (1982)
This collaboration between King and George Romero is just FUN. All the stories in the anthology are really good.
12) Creepshow 2 (1987)
Almost as good as the first. The Raft is my favorite. But the first had more character actors and that raises it a level.
13) 1408 (2007)
This one flew under a lot of people’s radar. Modest budget but it works really well. It’s a psychological thriller about an evil hotel room that makes people commit suicide. John Cusack plays a writer who writes about supposedly real supernatural stuff but doesn’t believe in it. Anyway, it’s pretty good.
14) The Dark Tower (2017)
It’s… it’s fine. It’s a pretty good quick adventure movie in and of itself. But it doesn’t do any justice to the epic book series by King. It takes a few elements and just speeds everything up to ridiculous levels.
15) Firestarter (1984)
Decent thriller about the government coming for little Drew Barrymore who has pyrokinesis. It’s more mundane than I’d have expected for a movie about people with powers. Not bad, but that’s mostly thanks to some good character actors like Martin Sheen and George C. Scott.
16) Cat’s Eye (1985)
An anthology with three stories and a really forced element of a cat sort of being around and witnessing some of each one. I liked the second story where a guy is forced to walk all the way around a skyscraper’s ledge. The rest… meh.
17) Apt Pupil (1998)
It has some interesting ideas and creepy imagery. Ian McKellan is really good in it. But it doesn’t add up to much. And the stuff that went on behind the scenes might make you just not want to watch it.
18) Christine (1983)
It’s watchable if it’s on TV but I didn’t care for this one too much because I didn’t find any of the characters all that likable. A nerd gets a possessed car to be cool but it just turns him into an asshole.
19) Cujo (1983)
The book is better than the movie. It’s a scary idea but too slow. I got bored with this movie.
20) The Dark Half (1993)
This is a movie about a writer in Maine whose pen name becomes real and he’s evil. What a weird idea. I’d say Timothy Hutton does a pretty good job as the main character(s) but it’s just too disjointed to work properly.
21) Hearts in Atlantis (2001)
A middle-aged dude recollects about befriending a weird old man when he was 11 years old and the craaaazy summer he had. Cuz the old man was psychic and was being hunted by Low Men. And eventually they get him. In the book, that’s because Low Men work for the Crimson King and kidnap psychics to help destroy the Dark Tower. None of that gets addressed in the movie.
22) Secret Window (2004)
Johnny Depp is a writer who is trying to get some peace and quiet to write, dammit! Like in the Shining but worse. I am tempted to spoil the BIG TWIST but… whatever. It’s just slow and not great.
23) Maximum Overdrive (1986)
We’re past the boring ones that still have a good actor in them and into the more weird misfires. I’d call this movie about cars and trucks that come alive entertainingly bad. The tone veers wildly between slapstick sometimes and darkly serious others. King directed this while super high on cocaine.
24) Silver Bullet (1985)
It’s about werewolves and it has Gary Busey as a kooky uncle who helps paraplegic Corey Haim fight them. It’s kind of a mess!
25) Pet Semetary (1989)
The idea of a cemetery that brings things back to life but not quite right is a cool idea. And Fred Gwynne as the friendly neighbor with the thick Maine accent is entertaining. But it’s kind of dumb and not well done so I didn’t find it very scary.
26) Needful Things (1993)
I’d call this one a disappointment. It’s full of awesome character actors like Max von Sydow, J.T. Walsh and Ed Harris. But it’s got one move. Von Sydow opens an antique store and all the objects in it lead to people having bad luck and hating their neighbors. There’s no real twist or anything. Just a mixerable town. Kinda dull.
27) Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990)
So this is an anthology movie and one of the stories is adapted from a Stephen King short story about a killer house cat. But you really only hear about what it’s done and see the aftermath of it killing a hitman. The rest of the anthology movie kinda sucks, too. And this was by King and Romero who did such great work on Creepshow 1 and 2. Ugh, skip it.
28) The Lawnmower Man (1992)
It bears no resemblance to King’s short story at all. King sued to have his name removed from the movie because of how far it strayed. It’s a real piece of shit movie about a retarded guy that becomes a genius and is trapped in the Internet. I can’t make it sound any more sensible than that. The last few minutes with the most dated special effects ever might be entertaining but you can find that on YouTube. Don’t bother with the dull movie.
29) Dreamcatcher (2003)
It’s terrible in every way and that hurts because it’s full of good actors and a massive budget. Look, just read Matty’s amazing review. The only reason this isn’t lower is because it’s so bad it can be kind of funny.
30) Thinner (1996)
A fat lawyer drives over a gypsy while his wife blows him. The gypsy family curses him to keep getting thinner. Ultimately, he blames his wife for things and he gives her a magic pie that transfers the curse. Offensively bad.
31) The Mangler (1995)
This is about an evil machine. It’s not mobile so I’d recommend just leaving it alone but instead people keep acting exceptionally dumb and getting smushed up by it. Wow.
32) Children of the Corn (1984)
A couple on a road trip stop in a midwest town where the kids have formed a religious cult that kills all adults. Kids rule! In the end, it isn’t THAT hard for the couple to beat these kids because… they’re little kids. Okay, so the kids worship a demon that lives in the cornfield and that is a cool idea but not enough time is spent on it. Truthfully, this movie might not be as bad as a few of the ones above it BUT it led to 10 much worse sequels so fuck it.
33) The Night Flier (1997)
A reporter investigates people that look like they were killed by a vampire. He finds out they were killed by a vampire. It isn’t very scary and the final act is boring.
34) Graveyard Shift (1990)
It’s about a drifter that gets work at a mine. A mine where there’s a giant bat that eats the miners. Get bent.
35) Sleepwalkers (1992)
So convoluted. A guy and his mom are energy vampires that suck the lifeforce of virgins. They also have telekenetic powers and illusion-making powers. And they transform into werecats. But their one weakness is cats. And it culminates in them being attacked by house cats. It’s a real shitshow.