12. Creepshow (1982)
Director: George A. Romero
Stars: Hal Holbrook, Leslie Nielsen, Adrienne Barbeau, Leslie Nielsen, Carrie Nye, E.G. Marshall, Viveca Lindfors, Ed Harris, Ted Danson, Jon Lormer, Elizabeth Regan
EC Comics, to those who aren‘t aware, was a force to be reckoned with in the 1950s. They had such titles as Crime Illustrated, Weird Fantasy, and Shock Illustrated. What they were best known for though, and ended up getting in trouble for, were such titles as Tales From The Crypt and The Vault Of Horror. It is within these horror comics that thee Stephen King and George Romero found the inspiration for the anthology film Creepshow.
Five tales of terror are presented. The first deals with a demented old man returning from the grave to get the Father’s Day cake his murdering daughter never gave him. The second is about a not-too-bright farmer discovering a meteor that turns everything into plant-life. The third is about a vengeful husband burying his wife and her lover up to their necks on the beach. The fourth is about a creature that resides in a crate under the steps of a college. The final story is about an ultra-rich businessman who gets his comeuppance from cockroaches. Everyone has their favorite moment, what’s yours?
11. Dolores Claiborne (1995)
Director: Taylor Hackford
Stars: Kathy Bates, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Christopher Plummer, Judy Parfitt
Dolores Claiborne works as a maid for a wealthy woman in remote Maine. When she is indicted for the elderly woman’s murder, Dolores’ daughter Selena returns from New York, where she has become a big-shot reporter. In the course of working out the details of what has happened, as well as some shady questions from the past and Selena’s troubled childhood, many difficult truths are revealed about their family’s domestic strife.
No monsters in rubber suits, no supernatural powers. Only a film noir murder mystery with melodramatic overtones, and a mother-daughter relationship to salvage. Dolores is a monster, but the question of the film is whether she’s a noble one. Crass and blunt and brimming with bitter one-liners, she’s deeply unlikable, but is she a murderer? Forget simply being one of the best Stephen King adaptations; it’s one of the best modern crime thrillers, period.
10. The Dead Zone (1983)
Director: David Cronenberg
Stars: Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt, Herbert Lom
On the face of it, David Cronenberg’s decision to take on an adaptation of Stephen King’s 1979 novel The Dead Zone must have seemed a strange one at the time. Having just directed the disturbing and downright brilliant Videodrome, Cronenberg then signed up to direct a relatively mainstream movie, an adaptation of another writer’s work (his first) with a paranormal subject matter – an unusual topic for a cerebral director with little time for the supernatural. But as Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining proved, the pairing of an analytical filmmaker with a pop horror premise can produce movie magic, as though the collision of these two opposing forces somehow creates a unique spark of its own.
The film, of course, follows a man who awakens from a coma to discover he has a psychic ability. Foreseeing the future appears to be a gift at first, but ends up causing problems… naturally.
9. Pet Sematary (1989)
Director: Mary Lambert
Stars: Dale Midkiff, Denise Crosby, Fred Gwynne, Miko Hughes
Pet Sematary hinges on a simple question: If you could, would you bring a loved one back from the dead? By Pet Sematary’s end, the answer should be “HELL NO.” But what if you had a son who’s just learning to walk and gets trampled by a truck – would you risk him becoming a killer zombie if there was even the slightest opportunity of giving him another chance at “life?” Ask any parent: The response to such a question isn’t easy.
A native of Chicago, Louis Creed and his family move to Maine so he can take a job as a doctor for a local university, and perhaps to escape the city life. Upon meeting their new neighbor, the Creeds soon learn of a local pet cemetery in the nearby forest, which leads to an ancient Native American burial ground and its power to raise the dead. After the family cat is killed on the highway, Jud takes Louis to the burial ground… only for the cat to return the next day, acting strangely and smelling even worse. But once Louis’s toddler son Gage is accidentally killed, Louis starts to get some pretty malevolent ideas. And when he acts on them, he soon learns of the consequences of trying to undo death.
8. It (2017)
Director: Andy Muschietti
Stars: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis
Every 27 years it rises again to stalk the countryside and bring terror to children. We are, of course, referring to Pennywise, the diabolical kid-eating clown first made famous in Stephen King’s 1986 horror novel, It. But we’re also referring to It itself, which was last seen as a two-part miniseries in 1990 and came back for an update 27 years to the day.
Ahead of its release, there was a ton of hand-wringing from SK fans but It actually turned out to be one of the best big-budget studio horror films of recent history, a slickly stylish, bracingly intense and superbly acted film that did an admirable job highlighting the real, human terror of the source material. There’s a powerful combination of stellar casting, ghoulish effects, and an enthralling story. Throw in some layered characters, gorgeous cinematography and pops of humor and you have yourself one of the best films to come from the author’s cannon.
7. The Mist (2007)
Director: Frank Darabont
Stars: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher
On a mission to store up on essentials after a violent storm, David Drayton, his son, Billy, and his neighbor, Brent Norton join the throngs of people snatching up supplies at the local supermarket. Within moments, the dense fog approaches, the sirens wails, and a bloodied old man bursts into the market warning that, “There’s something in the mist!”
The presence of monsters on the periphery of the frame keeps the story and the tension airtight, purposely claustrophobic. As the mist encroaches and the doors are locked, trapping the panicked shoppers in their own fishbowl, they begin to form factions, doubting each other’s intentions and unmasking themselves as walking metaphors for the worst aspects of humanity: jealousy, prejudice, ignorance, and plain stupidity. We all remember the monsters of old. We scream their names, re-watch their films and wear T-shirts with their images screen-printed in ghoulish color. In The Mist, we are the monsters and there is truthfully nothing more terrifying.
6. The Green Mile (1999)
Director: Frank Darabont
Stars: Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Morse, Bonnie Hunt
Frank Darabont truly finds himself as a director whenever he adapts anything by Stephen King set in a prison, and The Green Mile was his second attempt at doing so (more on the other one in a moment, mkay?). The story follows the lives of a group of guards on death row, whose duty it is to execute a fellow unfairly convicted of the rape and murder of two children. Even in the face of his apparent innocence and his supernatural ability to spirit-heal, the guards are powerless to change his fate.
TGM is a great story which makes for a great film. It is long at over three hours – which reflects the slow passing of time in a prison, but it is never boring. It is definitely more character than action driven, and the acting is astounding. We are talking flawless here. The setting of the movie could have been quite claustrophobic – death row is not exactly spacious – but Darabont uses interesting and unusual filmic techniques to flesh out the setting. Indeed, the resonant characterization, expansive plotting, and judicious use of exterior locations and flashbacks turn the prison walls into windows.
5. Stand by Me (1986)
Director: Rob Reiner
Stars: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell
“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?” An older man’s observations on the virtues of young friendship set the tone for the timeless story (based on Stephen King’s The Body) that follows a ragtag crew of kids on a quest to become local heroes by finding the dead body of missing boy.
Stand By Me is a sentimental film that works because of its unsentimental moments – in particular, its sometimes embarrassingly honest portrayal of what interests boys and how they talk about it. The story isn’t so much in the boys quest to find evidence of death as the plot implies, but more in their cathartic discovery of what it means to be alive along the way. Its more powerful substance from King and a phenomenal to-screen adaptation by Raynold Gideon & Bruce A. Evans.
4. Misery (1990)
Director: Rob Reiner
Stars: James Caan, Kathy Bates, Richard Farnsworth, Frances Sternhagen
In Rob Reiner’s film adaptation of the Stephen King story, Annie Wilkes is a loner, a former maternity nurse and an obsessed fan of the popular writer Paul Sheldon. At the beginning of the flick, she “rescues” him from a car wreck and forces him to bring his most famous character back from the dead – with the threat of increasingly painful forms of bodily mutilation if he refuses.
For pure, teeth-gritted, fist-clenched intensity, it doesn’t get more perfect than Misery. It’s impossible to relax at any point in this film, and once things hit the proverbial fan, the tension meter goes through the roof. It’s like the opposite of a home-invasion flick, because the protagonist is trapped inside someone else’s house. Nearly the entire film takes place inside said house, and that’s what makes it so claustrophobic and unpleasant. And the less we talk about “hobbling” the better, okay?
3. Carrie (1976)
Director: Brian De Palma
Stars: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, William Katt, John Travolta
Brian De Palma’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s gothic melodrama Carrie — which concerns a downtrodden girl’s telekinetic revenge on her high school classmates after a few of them viciously have her elected prom queen so they can crown her with pig blood in front of everybody — is so entertainingly perverse, such a triumphant mixture of style and sleaze, comedy and terror, it’s become one of the great American horror classics pretty much behind the back of established critical reception.
Over the years, it seems Carrie’s official reputation has crumbled away to that of a cheap, exploitative, derivative teen-shlocker. Which is sad, and not deserved. This is a movie that rewards careful viewing. By paying close attention to performance, narrative structure, dramatic use of montage, and mise en scène, subtle layered depths and complexities of perspective emerge. A perfect mix of pop parody, visceral disgust, and sizzling social satire, the movie plays the audience like a cheap fiddle, setting it up and knocking it down with tactical precision, working it over at such a deep level of sensation viewers may find themselves thoroughly immersed in the story’s emotional stakes despite the silliness of the subject; and the shock of that bloody hand coming out of the ground to grab our survivor’s hand at the end leaves the audience with something disturbing to mull over afterwards.
2. The Shining (1980)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Stars: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” – or, rather, a homicidal boy. Yup, Stephen King may have hated it but Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of King’s novel is still essential viewing for anyone who even considers themselves a mild horror fan. The premise remains just as creepy as it did in 1980: Writer and recovering alcoholic Jack Torrance accepts a job as the winter caretaker of a massive hotel in Colorado, and moves his family there just as the cold sets in among the mountains. But the hotel is the source of great evil.
The iconic and freaky moments in the film are endless. Whether we’re talking about the rivers of blood pouring out of the elevator, Jack taking an ax to the door as he does his best Johnny Carson impersonation, the twin ghost girls who want you to come play with them, the naked woman in the bathtub, the list goes on. Frankly, Kubrick’s film is a work of art that will continue to be broken down and explored for decades to come.
1. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Director: Frank Darabont
Stars: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler
Based on the 1982 Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, TSR chronicles the experiences of a formerly successful banker as a prisoner in the gloomy jailhouse of Shawshank after being found guilty of murdering his wife and her lover. The film portrays the man’s unique way of dealing with his new, torturous life; along the way he befriends a number of fellow prisoners, most notably a wise long-term inmate named Red.
Indeed, Shawshank doesn’t question whether or not any of the inmates at Shawshank Prison are rightly imprisoned because they are more concerned with how they deal with the situation once they are sentenced for life. This heartwarming film teaches audiences that they should “get busy living, or get busy dying.” If you haven’t seen the movie, you should get busy watching (there’s a reason it’s IMDb’s highest rated film of all time).
Let us know your favorite Stephen King film in the comment section below.