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Five Stephen King film adaptations you need to see

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Stephen King has become one of the great authors of modern time and film studios have tried to capitalise on that success by adapting his best-selling books into feature films.

Not all attempts at this have been successful with 1992’s atrocious Sleepwalkers being a prime example and The Shining, whilst being a great movie in its own right, failing to keep to its source material, even according to King himself.

Luckily there are a bunch of great Stephen King adaptations out there, and with The Dark Tower and IT quickly approaching, now is a great time to look back at some of them. Here, then, are five of the best Stephen King adaptations.

1) Stand By Me (1986)

Based on King’s novel The Body which released in 1986, Stand By Me remains one of the best Stephen King Movies out there. A heartfelt story that mainly follows four boys on a journey to recover the body of a dead peer, the film successfully tells a much deeper story of friendship and growth.

The film is so relatable in how it presents its characters; four young people who are all crossing into adolescence and come from different, troubled backgrounds. The way the movie depicts each of the leads and follows them through an important point in their lives, can be quite emotional at times.

The theme present throughout is the value of friendship and the young actors, Will Wheaton as Gordie, River Phoenix as Chris, Corey Feldman as Teddy and Jerry O’Connell as Vern, all do a fantastic job of making their camaraderie believable and meaningful. Whilst this is probably one of the most grounded Stephen King adaptations, it is undoubtedly one of the best.

2) Misery (1990)

1990’s Misery is arguably one of the scariest Stephen King films. Telling the intense story of author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) who, after a car crash in the mountains, is rescued then held hostage by the dangerously obsessed Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates).

Kathy Bates put in a chilling performance, deservedly winning an Oscar for her efforts. Every time she is on screen she brings a sense of dread that makes the audience uneasy as to what her character will do next. She rightfully steals the show despite Caan also being excellent as the helpless Sheldon.

The film masterfully builds tension by having Sheldon fight small battles with Annie throughout. This makes it all the more satisfying when everything occasionally boils over and Annie descends further into madness in a couple of explosive scenes that have since become iconic.

Misery, surprisingly, remains the only Stephen King adaptation to win an academy award.

3) The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Often hailed as one of the greatest films ever made, The Shawshank Redemption is based off of King’s 1982 short story Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. Following Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) who is sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife and her lover, the film is an epic tale of friendship and justice.

The film does a fantastic job at creating a believable bond between Dufresne and his fellow inmates, so much so that even with the more minor characters such as Brooks (James Whitmore), we care what happens to them.

This makes it all the more devastating when the film confronts the realities of prison life, which at times are depicted brutally. This however makes it all the more satisfying when we get the massively satisfying ending, which is flawlessly put together.

Morgan Freeman gives one of his most iconic performances here as Red whilst Tim Robbins is fantastic as what is a great protagonist in Andy. The Shawshank Redemption, is not only the best Stephen King film out there, it is also one of the greatest films of all time.

4) The Green Mile (1999)

Often compared unfairly to The Shawshank Redemption, Stephen King’s other prison film directed by Frank Darabont is in its own right a great movie. The film is told from the perspective of prison guard Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) as he re-tells the supernatural events that occurred on death row whilst the prisoner John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) was awaiting execution for the murder of two girls.

The Green Mile is quite possibly the saddest Stephen King film and is certainly one that shows off more of the author’s supernatural storytelling. The movie showcases many iconic characters with Doug Hutchinson’s cruel prison guard Percy, Michael Jeter’s sympathetic Eduard being memorable and of course Michael Clarke Duncan's excellent performance as the simple yet sweet John Coffey.

The film is incredibly dark in its themes, more so even than Shawshank before it, but despite all this it still manages to tell a touching story that, whilst being incredibly sad, is still worth definitely worth seeing.

5) The Mist (2007)

Now for Frank Darabont’s third Stephen King movie and one of the most criminally underrated of the entire author’s adapted works, The Mist. After strange mist rolls into the small town of Bridgton hiding deadly creatures, David Drayton (Thomas Jane) and his son Billy (Nathan Gamble) become trapped in a supermarket as society begins to break down around them. 

Filmed and written more in the style of a B-Movie, The Mist is not for the faint hearted as beneath its cheesy surface, it tackles themes that questions society’s ability to hold itself together in the event of a crisis. The tension mounts throughout as people quickly turn on one another, with the supermarket David and his son are trapped in, acting as a microcosm for society as a whole. 

The film should be watched in black and white as it was intended by Darabont as it adds to its B-Movie feel whilst covering over some of the lower budget CGI. This movie is given far less credit than it deserves and is most certainly one of King’s more disturbing stories.

These are just a handful of the many Stephen King adaptations out there. With The Dark Tower being the first in a planned series, and with IT Part 2 lined up for next year, we can hope that many more directors will take note of the author’s huge collection of works and keep putting his enthralling stories on the big screen.

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