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Hail To The King: A Look Back at Every Damn Stephen King Feature Film Adaptation

After the adaptation of long-awaited The Dark Tower landing with a thud, we still have the chilling remake of Stephen King’s It arriving to cineplexes in just a few weeks.

This one-two punch from the Master of Horror has every blogger in town pulling together lists of all sorts counting down the best, the worst, the scariest, the goriest and the weirdest of King’s adaptations.

In truth, King’s work can be very hit or miss, and those are are hits, are very much a matter of opinion as to which is the best. Can the genius of Stanley Kubrick compare with Brian De Palma’s masterful camerawork in a Shining vs. Carrie showdown? Is 1408 really better that The Green Mile? (Hint: Yeah, it’s not. I’m looking at you, Vulture.)

But in all honesty, it all depends on the reader and that person’s relationship to the material. It’s really not for anyone else to say.

So, rather than squabble on the internet the merits of the cocaine-fuel joyride that is Maximum Overdrive, let’s just take a look back at all the full-length feature film adaptations of Kings work, trailer by trailer.

(To keep my sanity, this list will not include made-for-TV movies, miniseries, sequels to movies that were not originally King novels, anything written exclusively for the screen or any of King’s Dollar Babies.)

Carrie (1976)
Take Carrie to the prom. I dare you!
Director: Brian De Palma
Starring: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, William Katt, John Travolta, Nancy Allen
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: The character of Margaret White was based on a woman King once worked with.

The Shining (1980)
Tagline: Stanley Kubrick’s epic nightmare of horror
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers, Danny Lloyd, Danny Lloyd’s finger
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: King got the title from John Lennon‘s “Instant Karma” and the lyric “We all shine on.”

Creepshow (1982)
(NOTE: Two of the stories, Weeds and The Crate, are based on King stories. The others were written for the screen.)
Tagline: The Most Fun You’ll Ever Have… BEING SCARED!
George A. Romero
Starring: Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Leslie Nielsen, Ed Harris, Ted Danson, Stephen King
Small, Random Bit of Trivia:  In “The Lonesome Death Of Jordy Verrill,” you can spot a sign post that points to the infamous Castle Rock and to King’s hometown of Portland.

Cujo (1983)
Tagline: Unleash the terror.
Director: Lewis Teague
Starring: Dee Wallace, Danny Pintauro, five big friggin’ dogs
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: Former alcoholic King admitted that he has no memory of writing Cujo

The Dead Zone (1983)
Tagline: He can see the future. But can he escape it?
Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: Christopher Walken, Tom Skerritt, Martin Sheen, Brooke Adams
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: Helmer Cronenberg originally filmed a scene in which Walken’s Johnny suffers a head injury while ice-skating as a young boy, showing the origins of his powers.

Christine (1983)
Tagline: Hell hath no Fury…like a 1958 Plymouth.
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Harry Dean Stanton, Alexandra Paul
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: Kevin Bacon was offered the lead role of Arnie, but opted to star in Footloose.

Children of the Corn (1984)
Tagline: And a child shall lead them…
Director: Fritz Kiersch
Starring: Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, a bunch of creepy, ass kids
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: The story originally appeared in King’s short story collection Night Shift, which appears in the film on the dashboard of Vicki and Burt’s car in the beginning of the film.

Firestarter (1984)
Tagline: She has the power . . . an evil destructive force.
Director: Mark L. Lester
Starring: Drew Barrymore, David Keith, Martin Sheen, George C. Scott
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: Barrymore beat out Jennifer Connelly for the role of Charlie.

Cat’s Eye (1985)
(NOTE: Only “Quitters, Inc.“ and “The Ledge,“ both from Night Shift, are adapted from King stories. The third segment was written for the screen.)
Tagline: Follow the newest cat-and-creature game as played through
Director: Lewis Teague
Starring: Drew Barrymore, James Woods, Robert Hays, probably several cats
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: In the movie, James Woods watches The Dead Zone and makes the snide remark, “Who writes this crap?”

Silver Bullet  (1985)
Based on the novella: Cycle of the Werewolf
Tagline: Part human. Part wolf. Total terror.
Director: Daniel Attias
Starring: Corey Haim, Megan Follows, Gary Busey, Everett McGill
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: Steven Segal killed both Busey and McGill in the Under Siege franchise.

Maximum Overdrive (1986)
Based on the short story “Trucks”
Tagline: Stephen King’s masterpiece of terror directed by the master himself.
Director: Stephen King
Starring: Emilio Estevez, Pat Hingle, Yeardley Smith
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: During the time of filming, King’s body was actually 80% cocaine. Including his clothes.

Stand by Me (1986)
Based on the novella The Body
Tagline: For some, it’s the last real taste of innocence, and the first real taste of life. But for everyone, it’s the time that memories are made of.
Director: Rob Reiner
Starring: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, Kiefer Sutherland
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: To get into the character of bully Ace, Kiefer Sutherland often picked on Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell. Also, Kiefer Sutherland is a dick.

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Creepshow 2 (1987)
(NOTE: Only “The Raft” from Skeleton Crew is an adapted King story. The other two were written specifically for the film)
Tagline: 3 bloodcurdling tales of horror!
Director: Michael Gornick
Starring: Tom Savini, George Kennedy
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: In “The Raft”, one of the characters is wearing a shirt from ‘Horlicks University’, the same university stenciled on the crate from the original Creepshow.

The Running Man (1987)
Tagline: A game nobody survives. But Schwarzenegger has yet to play.
Director: Paul Michael Glaser
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Richard Dawson, Jesse Ventura, Mick Fleetwood, Maria Conchita Alonso, Dweezil Zappa
(NOTE: This casting director is the my spirit animal)
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: Paula Abdul choreographed the dance scenes in the film

Pet Sematary (1989)
Tagline: Iconic terror from the No 1 bestselling writer.
Director: Mary Lambert
Starring: Dale Midkiff, Fred Gwynne, Denise Crosby
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: Prior to Lambert taking the helm, George A. Romero and FX guru Tom Savini were approached to direct.

Graveyard Shift (1990)
Tagline: Stephen King took you to the edge with The Shining and Pet Sematary. This time……he pushes you over.
Director: Ralph S. Singleton
Starring: Brad Dourif, David Andrews, David Andrews
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: The name of the mill in the pic is Bachman Mills, which is a clever little shout out to King’s pseudonym

Misery (1990)
Tagline: Paul Sheldon used to write for a living. Now, he’s writing to stay alive.
Director: Rob Reiner
Starring: James Caan, Kathy Bates, Richard Farnsworth, Lauren Bacall, a sledgehammer
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: The only Stephen King adaptation to win an Oscar…so far.

The Lawnmower Man (1992)
NOTE: This is not King’s short story. New Line owned the rights to King’s original short story, but just used the title and the author’s name on this lesser, shitty sci-fi script an a desperate money-grab. King was none-to-pleased about the turn of events and sued the studio. Successfully.
Tagline: God made him simple. Science made him a god.
Director: James Gonis
Starring: Andy Clark, Helen Hanft, E.D. Phillips
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: Story features Big Brother-esque baddies The Shop, the outfit from Firestarter.

The Dark Half (1993)
Tagline: Serious writer or serial killer? George is in two minds.
Director: George A. Romero
Starring: Timothy Hutton, Amy Madigan, Michael Rooker, Julie Harris
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: Release was delayed for two years due to the bankruptcy of Orion Pictures

Needful Things (1993)
Tagline: Buy now. Pay later.
Director: Fraser C. Heston
Starring: Max von Sydow, Ed Harris, Amanda Plummer, JT Walsh
Small, Random Bit of Trivia:  Set in Castle Rock, Maine, same as The Dead Zone, Cujo, Stand By Me and The Dark Half.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Tagline: Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.
Director: Frank Darabont
Starring: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Clancy Brown, Bob Gunton
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: Helmer Darabont was once one of King’s Dollar Babies with his adaptation of “The Woman in the Room” in 1979.

The Mangler (1995)
Tagline: Escape is not an option.
Director: Tobe Hooper
Starring: Robert Englund
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: Despite a dismal box office, it’s got two sequels.

Dolores Claiborne (1995)
Tagline:  They were separated by a death…and reunited by a murder.
Director: Taylor Hackford
Starring: Kathy Bates, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Christopher Plummer, David Strathairn, John C. Reilly
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: Kathy Bates has stated that this is her favorite performance

Thinner (1996)
Tagline: More terror. Less filling
Director: Tom Holland
Starring: Robert John Burke, Joe Mantegna, Lucinda Jenney
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: During filming, King gave Burke one note on how to play Billy: “Eat.”

The Night Flier (1997)
Tagline: Never believe what you publish…Never publish what you believe.
Director: Mark Pavia
Starring: Miguel Ferrer
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: Reporter Richard Dees also appears in The Dead Zone.

Apt Pupil (1998)
Tagline: If you don’t believe in the existence of evil, you’ve got a lot to learn.
Director: Bryan Singer
Starring: Brad Renfro, Ian McKellen, Joshua Jackson
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: McKellan’s perf in Cold Comfort Farm convinced Singer to cast the 57-year-old as the 75-year-old former Nazi.

The Green Mile (1999)
Tagline: This is a story about a miracle where I work… The Green Mile.
Director: Frank Darabont
Starring: Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, James Cromwell, David Morse, Sam Rockwell, Harry Dean Stanton
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: On the DVD, Stephen King stated that this film with the single most faithful adaptation of his work yet.

Hearts in Atlantis (2001)
Tagline: What if one of life’s great mysteries moved in upstairs?
Director: Scott Hicks
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Anton Yelchin, Hope Davis, David Morse
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: Hope Davis and Anton Yelchin (RIP) also play mother and son in the movie Charlie Bartlett

Dreamcatcher (2003)
Tagline: Catch The Nightmare.
Director: Lawrence Kasdan
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Damian Lewis, Timothy Olyphant, Tom Sizemore
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: Stephen King wrote the novel while recovering from a near-fatal accident in which he was hit by a van while walking.

Secret Window (2004)
Tagline: Some windows should never be opened.
Director: David Koepp
Starring: Johnny Depp, Maria Bello, John Turturro, Timothy Hutton
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: Movie’s debut was moved up to cash in on the success of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

Riding the Bullet (2004)
Tagline: The dead travel fast
Director: Mick Garris
Starring: David Arquette, Jonathan Jackson, Barbara Hershey
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: The nurse that cares for Mrs. Parker is named Annie Wilkes.

1408 (2007)
The Dolphin Hotel invites you to stay in any of its stunning rooms. Except one.
Director: Mikael Håfström
Starring: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Mary McCormack
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: DVD runtime:  104 minutes, 8 seconds

The Mist (2007)
Tagline: Belief divides them, mystery surrounds Them, but fear changes everything
Director: Frank Darabont
Starring: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Toby Jones
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: Pic features Jeffrey DeMunn, Melissa McBride, Laurie Holden, Juan Gabriel Pareja, Cheri Dvorak, Sam Witwer, and Tiffany Morgan, who would go on to work with Darabont on The Walking Dead.

No Smoking (2007)
Director: Anurag Kashyap
Starring: John Abraham, Ayesha Takia, Paresh Rawal
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: A Bollywood adaptation of a King short story

Dolan’s Cadillac (2009)
Director: Jeff Beesley
Starring: Christian Slater, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Wes Bentley
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: Slater replaced Sylvester Stallone in the production

Carrie (2013)
Tagline: Know her name. Fear her power.
Director: Kimberly Peirce
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: First time the character of Carrie White was played by an actual teenager.

A Good Marriage (2014)
Tagline: Two can keep a secret, if one of them is dead.
Director: Peter Askin
Starring: Joan Allen, Anthony LaPaglia
Small, Random Bit of Trivia:  King’s first self-adapted screenplay since Pet Sematary.

Mercy (2014)
Director: Peter Cornwell
Starring: Frances O’Connor, Dylan McDermott, Mark Duplass, Shirley Knight, Chandler Riggs
Small, Random Bit of Trivia:  R L Flag Home for the Aged is a reference to Randall Flagg, an often used big bad from King work (The Stand, Eyes of the Dragon)

Cell (2016)
Tagline:  When everyone is connected no one is safe
Director: Tod Williams
Starring: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Isabelle Fuhrman, Stacy Keach
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: Movie travels with a curse. Anyone who attempt to program it for a festival or market it will never be heard of again. True story.

The Dark Tower (2017)
Tagline: There are other worlds than these
Director: Nikolaj Arcel
Starring: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor
Small, Random Bit of Trivia: Actor in consideration for the Gunslinger included Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Christian Bale and Viggo Mortensen.

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