We’re taking on a huge task here at Wicked Horror that nobody asked us to do. It’s massive to the point that you don’t even realize how huge until you’re right in the thick of it. That’s right, we’ve decided to rank every single Stephen King film for no reason other than your pleasure. Of course, it’s easier said than done considering that at this point King takes up about half of the genre.
Being the living author with the most adapted works, plus writing a few original things himself, there’s a lot of material to mine through. You won’t be getting it all in one piece, either, which is probably best for both of us. When an author has that many movies being made based on his work, there’s bound to be a lot of good and a lot of bad. But hey, that’s what keeps things interesting, right?
Before we start, let’s set our parameters. We’re only counting film and television movie/miniseries adaptations. No shorts, no TV series, no miniseries that are basically an entire season of a show, i.e. 11.22.63. We won’t be counting sequels unless they were specifically based on a Stephen King novel or story, but we will be counting remakes as they are also adaptations of a specific work. Click here for part one. Click here for part two.
Directed by Tom Holland, Thinner is a more mean-spirited King chiller about an obese man who accidentally kills an old Romani man’s daughter when he’s not paying attention to the road. The curse placed on him causes him to lose weight rapidly, which is scarier than it sounds. Despite the lower budget, this one works for its darkly humorous tone and impressive effects.
While it is regarded as something of a classic, Children of the Corn has a lot of issues, too. The so-called good kids are an irritating addition and everything falls apart when He Who Walks Behind the Rows is actually revealed. But it’s saved by some effective scares, a great score, and solid performances by John Franklin and Courtney Gains as Isaac and Malachi.
22. Bag of Bones
The latest of Mick Garris’s miniseries, Bag of Bones isn’t really bad, but it doesn’t have the punch of some of his others, and it isn’t ultimately as memorable as The Stand or Riding the Bullet. Still, it boasts a strong lead performance from Pierce Brosnan, somewhat making up for his earlier starring role in The Lawnmower Man.
21. The Shining (1997)
The Mick Garris version of The Shining is actually very strong. It’s a much more faithful adaptation of the source material and gets that material right, but it suffers from budgetary constraints when people are so used to the lavish cinematography and sheer filmmaking prowess of the Kubrick version. The kid who plays Danny Torrance is also really annoying, but Steven Weber is excellent as Jack Torrance.
20. Silver Bullet
As sentimental as anything you’d expect from King, Silver Bullet still manages to be a really well made horror film until you see the werewolf. But there’s a lot to love, from the relationships between the central characters to the werewolf’s unique motivation, to some great horror movie kills and a fantastic performance from Gary Busey. Silver Bullet deserves more credit than it gets.
I’m sure a lot of people had no doubt they’d see It in the top ten, but I can’t pretend it doesn’t have its issues. This was one of my favorites growing up. And I still find all of the scenes featuring the children are fantastic. Part one of the miniseries is pretty excellent, but that’s only half the story. And part two completely drops the ball, from focusing all of the attention on the adults to the climactic showdown with a giant rubber spider.
18. Creepshow 2
Most Stephen King sequels absolutely suck, but Creepshow 2 wins for still having the involvement of George Romero and the master himself, although directing duties were passed to Michael Gornick. This is an anthology whose only fault is that it’s not as spectacular as the first. But in places it comes damn close. The balance of tone and style between the three stories is great. While the effects are strong, they’re sort of a mixed bag, and it could have used the awesome Tom Savini visuals of the first.
17. Riding the Bullet
Riding the Bullet is extremely underrated and is probably my favorite of the Mick Garris Stephen King adaptations. It’s a deeply personal story about a young, death-obsessed man trying to hitch hike to see his mother who is in the hospital and might be dying. He’s picked up by a ghost—because it’s a Stephen King story—who forces him to choose who is going to die: the young man’s mother, or the young man himself.
Cujo is a surprisingly well made film and gets bonus points for not killing the child that the entire narrative is based around protecting. You wouldn’t think a whole horror picture devoted to a rabid St. Bernard would work, but even if it’s not as effective as it is on the page, it gets the job done. Dee Wallace’s performance is easily the most underrated aspect of this feature, considering most of the picture centers around her in a car with her unconscious son.
I was really surprised how strong this one turned out to be. Even with a cast including John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson, I wasn’t sure how good it would end up being. However, it was one of my favorite horror flicks of 2007. I really like King’s confined thrillers, like this, Cujo and Misery, that have limited space to work with but tell a great story at the same time.
14. The Mist
The director of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile finally tackles one of King’s horror stories with The Mist, and the results are great. It’s about people trapped in supermarket, surrounded by a mist they can’t even see through, with creatures inside that they can’t even begin to explain. The outward horror is actually less interesting than what happens to them internally as a group once they’re all stuck together. The author has actually said that he prefers the film’s bleak ending to his own.
13. The Stand
This Emmy winning production is extremely faithful to the source material, and tells an epic story. By the end of it, you feel like you’ve watched through a whole season of a TV show. It’s incredibly long but plays to its length in an important way. It feels epic and that’s where it really wins. There’s also room for great character development and even if the budget shows itself in places—especially at the end—some casting choices work much better than they should, especially Molly Ringwald.
12. Storm of the Century
Easily the best Stephen King miniseries, Storm of the Century works better solely for the fact that it is gripping from beginning to end. It doesn’t drag in the way that even the greats like The Stand do. The author refers to his original miniseries scripts as “novels for television” and I totally understand what he’s talking about when it comes to Storm of the Century. Even though it’s an original script, it’s among the very best at recapturing on the screen what he is known to do on the page.
11. Apt Pupil
Bryan Singer’s Apt Pupil is an extremely underrated film. When you look at pure horror in the works of Stephen King, both this and the novella on which it is based are easily among the author’s most horrific offerings. The premise alone—a young man obsessed with Nazis finds out an old man in his neighborhood was one of them and forces him to relive his past—is so damn disturbing. The late Brad Renfro gives a chilling performance, as does the always great Ian McKellan.