Until Thanksgiving in two months, it’s high time to update your Netflix queue. To assist with this, I present for your consideration the top five film adaptations of Stephen King stories, not all of which are of the horror variety that you might expect.
5. The Mist
Adapted from the novella of the same name included in the anthology Skeleton Crew, this movie takes us to a small town in Maine that has suddenly been enshrouded in a deep, otherworldly mist. Initially the townspeople aren’t concerned, but the real surprises occur when supernatural beasts begin to emerge from the mist to devour people.
The film takes place almost entirely in a small grocery store and is as much about the people in the store as it is about the monsters outside. The director, longtime King collaborator Frank Darabont, does a great job of showing the slow meltdown of the people in the store as they start to turn on each other and give in to their growing sense of dread and cabin fever.
The ending is of a sort you rarely see in major motion pictures and will absolutely surprise you. The special edition DVD also comes with a black-and-white version that’s even creepier.
4. The Shining
Stanley Kubrick brought this book to the screen in 1980 to great critical acclaim, but disdain from Stephen King and fans of the book. It was, in many ways, more a re-imagining of King’s work than a carbon copy style adaptation, with changes to key plot points and character motivation.
In fact, the movie’s most memorable moments, from the twins in the hallway, to the blood in the elevator, to even the “Here’s Johnny!” line, weren’t even in the book! However, that doesn’t change the fact that this is a really good movie and an absolutely terrific horror film. Jack Nicholson is amazing as always, and this is also one of my favorite Stanley Kubrick films.
When a movie is written by Stephen King and directed by George Romero, you know it’s going to be cool, and this film does not disappoint.
The film is an homage to old fifties comic book horror movies like Tales from the Crypt and contains five “jolting tales of horror” for the price of one. Though it’s technically not an adaptation, we’ll let this one slide because King wrote the screenplay and two of the stories were old short stories he had published.
At its core this is just a really fun movie, and great for anybody that loves cult horror films like Evil Dead and Night of the Living Dead - or pretty much any movie with the word dead in it.
2. The Green Mile
Nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture, The Green Mile tells the story of Paul Edgecomb, a prison guard overseeing
a death row unit in 1935 when a very
unusual prisoner arrives.
It is told as a flashback by the main character as he relates the story of his life to a friend in a nursing home. This allows both Tom Hanks and Dabbs Greer, in his final movie role, to act as the main character. It is not a horror movie by any means, but it will certainly keep you on the edge of your seat, and may even make you cry.
Tom Hanks was great and Michael Clarke Duncan blew everyone away with an unexpected breakthrough performance. Frank Darabont directed this film as well, so you know for the future that if you see his name attached to a Stephen King movie, it’s going to be good.
1. The Shawshank Redemption
Frank Darabont (surprise!) takes us back to prison for the best of all Stephen King movies, The Shawshank Redemption.
This one was nominated for seven Academy Awards, though managed not to win any, as it was running against the juggernaut Forrest Gump. It is also probably the least Stephen King-ish movie of all the Stephen King movies, and I’d bet a lot of people don’t even realize this was based on one of his stories.
The film follows the life of Andy Dufresne, a man who is given a life sentence for a crime of which he claims to be innocent. It starts with his trial and arrival at Shawshank State Prison.
The film also delves deeply into the lives of the other inmates as well, such as Red, played by Morgan Freeman, and Brooks, sublimely portrayed by James Whitmore.
There are no sci-fi elements or anything really weird or out of this world, but that only stands to show that King is no one trick pony. For a while this was my number one favorite movie of all time, and it still ranks in the rotating lineup of twenty or so movies that I call my top five.