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The best film adaptations of Stephen King's works

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Legendary author Stephen King is mostly associated with horror, but in fact he has a wide range of over 50 novels and 200 short stories, many of which have been adapted into either a movie or TV show. While not all have been a success, there are plenty that have become unforgettable cinematic classics. We take a look at some of the best movie adaptations of his works, and what makes them so iconic. 

7. Carrie (1976)

Carrie was King’s first published novel, released in 1974 and, rare for an author, he has not been out of print since. It was also the first movie adaptation, famous for the climactic prom scene. Carrie is a bullied teenager who also happens to have telekinesis, but never learned how to deal with it thanks to an oppressive, overtly religious mother that believes her to be evil. Not much else happens in the movie, since everything is leading up to the this last moment where the intensity of her power is finally revealed. There have been a few remakes - most recently with Chloë Grace Moretz in the leading role - but of course nothing beats the original, even if it is now dated.

Famous for: When Carrie gets hit by the pig’s blood at prom.

6. The Green Mile (1999)

Set on death row, The Green Mile stars Tom Hanks as prison guard Paul Edgecomb, who recalls his mysterious encounter with inmate John Coffey, who has been sentenced to death for the murder and implied rape of two young girls. However, while Coffey looks large and intimidating, he is strangely child-like, gentle and kind, and it is soon revealed that the case is a lot more complicated than it seemed. Coffey possesses the power to heal people, which creates a bit of a dilemma for the religious Paul, who believes John has been touched by God.

Famous for: There are a few memorable scenes and monologues, and a particularly emotional ending. However, the film is probably most famous for an execution scene where a malicious guard purposefully ‘forgets’ to wet the sponge before the electrocution, causing a horribly brutal death.

 

5. Stand by Me (1986)

Stand by Me is different to King’s other works. Even though it revolves around the discovery of a dead body, it’s a strangely innocent depiction of child friendship. There are no monsters, no special powers, and no murder. It stars a young Wil Wheaton (who later achieved fame in Star Trek), River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Jerry O’Connell as the group of friends, and also a teenage Kiefer Sutherland playing the bully. The boys hear about the location of the body and set out looking for it, but really the story is about how their friendships grow along the way.

Famous for: The boys are stuck on a railroad bridge as a train comes hurtling towards them, with barely any time to escape. 

4. Misery (1990)

King often writes about writing, and Misery is one of the best examples of this: Author Paul Sheldon gets into a car crash and is “rescued” by Annie Wilkes, his “number one fan”, who then keeps him under house arrest and forces him to write a sequel to her favourite book. Most of the film is set in one room, but there is no lack of suspense. There’s good use of sound and music contrast - upbeat music turns to silence after the crash - and interesting camera angles to keep the audience intrigued. Annie became a renowned villain, an example of a superfan who goes too far. She was the original Stan.

Famous for: Creating the concept of 'hobbling'.

 

3. IT (2017)

The novel IT is so long that the film had to split into two parts; in fact the 1990 adaptation is labeled as a “mini-series”, a total of three hours long. The recent 2017 remake, which was highly anticipated and has King’s stamp of approval, will also have a second part which is still in production. Since the first part was two hours long, it can be assumed that overall this version will include a lot more of the book; indeed the film already has details that the mini-series missed. Both versions are good, but thanks to modern special effects the 2017 version is a lot scarier. The story itself is one of King’s creepiest: an evil entity that disguises itself as a clown - amongst other things - to lure children to their deaths. The book is terrifying, with some elements that are simply too disturbing to be transferred into film, so if you’re a fan of horror I definitely recommend reading the book too.

Famour for: King's book is what started the modern 'killer clown' craze. Specifically the movie is famous for the first scene, where young Georgie gets luried into the sewer by Pennywise, getting his arm ripped off in the process. 

2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

For many years The Shawshank Redemption has held IMDb’s number one spot for best movie of all time. It’s often forgotten that Stephen King wrote the original short story, titled Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. The film is narrated by Morgan Freeman’s character Red, and tells the story of the friendship he formed in prison with Andy Dufresne, a man accused of murdering his wife. It's a profound example of human behaviour and the power of hope.

Famous for: Andy's unconventional escape, where he "crawls through a river of shit and comes out clean on the other side". 

1. The Shining (1980)

King would hate me for putting The Shining as number one, as he was not a fan of the movie adaptation; he disagreed with the casting of Jack Nicholson and the omission of many aspects present in the book, believing the film was not at all scary. The book is indeed very different, so it’s understandable an author would be upset by this. However, when taken as a separate entity, the film is a masterpiece. Jack Nicholson is one of the best actors of our time, and Stanley Kubrick one of the most unique directors. The Shining has an abundance of memorable scenes and quotable moments. The fear builds up throughout the movie with the use of suspenseful music and teasing visuals, and it’s considered one of the best horror movies of all time.

Famous for: "Heeeeeere's Johnny!"

 

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