We’re only a few days away from ‘It: Chapter 2’, the highly anticipated sequel to 2017’s ‘It,‘ the surprise hit adaptation of the Stephen King’s novel of the same name. For more than 40 years, King’s works have been translated to both the big and small screen with admittedly varied levels of success. Some, like ‘It,’ have been home runs, both critical and financial successes that brought King’s visions to life while others… let’s just say that power hitters have a tendency to strike out when they aren’t sending balls over the fence.
With that in mind, what better way to celebrate the master of the macabre (hopefully) having another work shine on the big screen spotlight than to list my favorite big screen Stephen King adaptations (in no particular order).
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
For many, this is the seminal King adaptation. Directed by Frank Darabont—whose name you’ll see mentioned several times on this list—Shawshank follows Andy Dufrense, a man imprisoned for the murder of his wife and the trial and tribulations he faces in the infamous Shawshank Penitentiary. Like the novella that birthed it, Shawshank is a departure from the reputation King had made with his forays into the supernatural. Though his signature character development is there, Shawshank is much more than a great King adaptation. It’s a great movie, period. From the acting (Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins perfectly complement one another), pacing, and uplifting end, The Shawshank Redemption is a beautiful study on the human condition
The Green Mile (1999)
Based on King’s experiment with the serial novel, The Green Mile is another prison tale but this time the supernatural elements typical of King are ever present. Michael Clarke Duncan (RIP) is John Coffey, a mentally disabled man convicted for the rape and murder of two young girls. Coffey finds himself on Death Row and under the watch of Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) whose time as supervisor of this section of Cold Mountain Penitentiary puts him in charge of a menagerie of guards and inmates, with some of the former being much worse than those sentenced to die. Another Darabont work, The Green Mile’s star power—including Sam Rockwell, David Morse, James Cromwell, Barry Pepper, and several others—surpasses that of Shawshank. But like its sister movie, The Green Mile is a wonderful tale of good and evil, reminding us that, sometimes the truth we’re presented isn’t actually the truth.
Stand By Me (1986)
This is one of those films, like The Outsiders that, even as a pre-teen, left an indelible impact on me and my appreciation for films. With an impressive cast of up-and-coming teen stars—Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Kiefer Sutherland, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, and Casey Siemaszko—Stand By Me is based off the King novella, The Body, where a group of friends go on a trek to find the body of a missing boy. As a kid growing up in the 80s, there was something about the camaraderie between these boys, each one dealing with problems of his own, that made me aspire to formulate that kind of connection with others. In addition to the friendship portrayed in the movie, Stand By Me also tackles the uncertainty of growing up and how scary and senseless life can be.
The Mist (2007)
Another King novella adapted by Darabont, The Mist follows a group of people trapped inside a supermarket due to an ominous mist originating from the mountain. With an ensemble cast that includes, among others, Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Sam Witwer, and Toby Jones, The Mist fully embraces King’s roots of exploring the unknown. Yet, as much as it wades through the familiar territory of horror and science fiction, The Mist is as much as a story about the strength and endurance of the human spirit as anything else. Even with an ending that completely changes the message of the original novella (from one where, despite the circumstances, the main character clings to the sliver of hope to one where he accepts the hopelessness of his situation)—a change that, on first viewing, nearly ruined the movie for me— The Mist is still delivers with a wonderful blend of character study mixed with King’s familiar portrait of horror.
IT-Chapter One (2017)
Considering the nature of this list, was there any doubt this movie made the cut? After the thoroughly disappointing experience a month earlier with The Dark Tower, my expectations were a bit low for this film. Within the first five minutes, IT had my curiosity and, by the time the kids see Pennywise for the first time, it had captured every ounce of my attention. The horror aspect of the movie is so strong, not just from that damn smiling clown, but from the lives of our protagonists. From Beverly’s shiver-inducing interactions with her father, Bill’s pain of losing his brother, and Mike and Ben’s violent encounter with the town bullies, the movie’s theme that monsters aren’t just the things that hide in the sewer, is a staple of King’s work.
There you have it, a list of my favorite Stephen King adaptations. For those wondering what movies just missed the cut, my honorable mentions include: Misery, Christine, and The Shining. Others, like The Running Man and Silver Bullet, are extremely entertaining to me but not what I’d call good films.
But enough about what I think, what do you think? Are there movies not on my list (or honorable mentions) that you’d add? What movies on this list do you think undeserving of a spot? Drop us a list of your favorite Stephen King movies in the comments section below.