The FlixList: Five BEST and WORST Stephen King’s film adaptations

With second part of Stephen King’s IT (It Chapter Two – check out our review) just hit theaters this past weekend and DOCTOR SLEEP later in November, I thought I should list my 5 best and worst films based on his novels. Now, I haven’t seen all of the films that were based on his books, so I don’t have any opinion on these films: CAT’S EYE, THE NIGHT FLIER, RIDING THE BULLET, 1408, DOLAN’S CADILLAC & CELL. The list contains ONLY films that were based on his novels and short stories, I’m not listing the TV movies or shows that were also based on his books.

Here are my top 5 BEST films based on King’s work:

  1. MISERY (1990)
    A perfect casting of the main leads, Kathy Bates was so frightening as the obsessed fan of James Cann’s Paul Sheldon. This is one of the few films that I thought was better than the book. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the book was excellent, but I did not want to see some of the things that King wrote on the pages appear on the screen, anyone who read book knows what I’m talking about. I’m also glad they changed the infamous leg scene in the film, in the book it’s much worse than what was filmed.
  2. THE GREEN MILE (1999)
    One of the few films that actually made me cry when I first saw it. The late Michael Clarke Duncan was perfectly cast as the gentle giant John Coffey, the wrongly accused killer. Of course, Tom Hanks was perfect as Paul Edgecomb and Sam Rockwell was stellar as Wild Bill Howell. Not as good as the novel but one of the best films of 1999.

  3. THE DEAD ZONE (1983)
    I remember reading this book when I was in 8
    th or 9th grade, it took me a while to finish but I loved it. I was hesitant to watch the film version but I’m glad I did. Great performances by Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen. I think the film version was a pretty faithful adaptation.

  4. THE MIST (2007)
    Minus the terrible visual effects, this was a great film about what fear can do to everyday people. I thought Marcia Gay Harden should’ve received Oscar nomination for her role as Mrs. Carmody, one of the best villain roles I’ve ever seen. I think the film’s more well known for its bleak ending. The film deserves to be talked about more as one of King’s best adaptations.

  5. THE SHINING (1980)
    The film wasn’t a faithful adaptation of the source novel but it’s a film by Stanley Kubrick, so you know he’s going to do it his way. According to King, Kubrick would constantly call him late at night to go over the script during the shoot, ironically when the film was released, King has stated that he didn’t like it. Apparently, Kubrick wanted to make a film that would be appealing to general audiences and he needed a box office hit since many of his films weren’t making any money. The film did okay box office wise but it’s now considered one of the best horror films ever made.

Now, the top 5 WORST films based on King’s work:

  1. THE DARK TOWER (2017)
    Ron Howard spent many years trying to get this film to the big screen but studio executives at Universal Studios were nervous about spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a film that has mixed genres of western, sci-fi, horror and action/adventure. The rights went to Sony and they decided to give writer/director Nikolaj Arcel a chance to adapt this story based on King’s opus novels to the big screen and the results was disastrous.
    Like many people, I skipped seeing it at a theater but decided to rent it. I was pretty pissed when I finally saw it, I’ve been waiting to see The Dark Tower hitting the big screen for so long and what I saw was something that looked like it’s made by an amateur filmmaker. I wasn’t fan of the cast either, I think Idris Elba is a great actor but he’s not the right choice to play Roland. Mathew McConaughey as Roland’s nemesis Walter aka The Man in Black was a joke. Everything about this film was a disaster and it’s one of the worst films of the decade in my opinion. Now that Amazon has the rights to the novels, hopefully they can finally do a faithful adaptation.

  2. THE RUNNING MAN (1987)

    Besides the title and concept, the film has little to do with King’s novel. If you look as just another silly Arnold’s action film in the 80s, it’s a decent film. But it’s based on one of my favorite King’s novels and I thought it’s pretty bad. With our current political climate, I think this film deserves a remake that stays true to the book. I would love it if a filmmaker like Chris Nolan or Ridley Scott adapts it for the big screen.

  3. CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1987)
    I remember I was pretty freaked out when I read this short story and was excited to see the film version. But the film was so boring and not scary at all. It’s one of the few films based on King’s story that I don’t remember much about.

  4. MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986)
    The only film that Stephen King himself directed (he also wrote the screenplay) based on his own story and it’s pretty terrible. According to King himself, he’s so high on cocaine while making this film that he didn’t know what he’s doing and it shows on the screen. The film was pretty incoherent, and the cast looked like they had no idea what they were supposed to do.

  5. NEEDFUL THINGS (1993)
    Not one of my favorites of King’s novels but it’s still a good read. I thought it could never translate well into film and I was right. Despite its excellent castings of Max Von Sydow, Ed Harris, Bonnie Bedelia and JT Walsh, the film has nothing going on for it. The long runtime didn’t help either, I was so bored when I rented it on home video and almost turned it off halfway through.

So those are my 5 best and worst films based on King’s novels. I know I left out some of the more popular films like CARRIE, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, CUJO, FIRESTARTER and CREEPSHOW. I liked those films, but I didn’t think they were the best or worst. 


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How about you? Feel free to list your top films based on King’s novels.

FlixChatter Review – IT Chapter Two (2019)

Directed by: Andy Muschietti
Written by: Gary Dauberman

It Chapter 2 takes place 27 years after the first film. When children again start mysteriously dying in Derry, Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) calls his childhood friends (James McAvoy as Bill Denbrough, Jessica Chastain as Beverly Marsh, Bill Hader as Richie Tozier, Jay Ryan as Ben Hanscom, James Ransone as Eddie Kaspbrak, and Andy Bean as Stanley Uris), to return to their hometown and finally defeat the fear-hungry entity that terrorized them in the form of Pennywise the clown (Bill Skarsgard) all those years ago.

The highlight of this movie is absolutely its stellar cast. Everyone has excellent chemistry and genuinely feel like lifelong friends, especially Bill Hader and James Ransone. The actors clearly studied their younger counterparts thoroughly, because past just looking similar to them, their mannerisms mirror those of their younger counterparts incredibly well; my cousin pointed out that James McAvoy is slightly duck-footed when he walks, the same way young Bill (Jaeden Martell) is. All of the actors give impressive performances, but Bill Hader is the stand-out; while he’s as hilarious in this movie as anyone who has seen him on SNL would expect, he also gives an absolutely heartbreaking performance toward the end.

(L-R) Isaiah Mustafa, Bill Hader, James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Jay Ryan

My main complaint with this movie has to do with its length. It’s nearly three hours long, and while the first one was pretty long too-about two and a half hours-this one felt much more padded. There were several flashbacks to the kids having additional encounters with It, and while the scenes were mostly well-done, and it was nice having more screen time with the talented young actors, it felt like the filmmakers were just trying to squeeze in more scares. This is especially frustrating when the time focused on unnecessary flashbacks could have been used to flesh out parts that were mostly glazed over-Bill’s relationship with his actor wife Audra (Jess Weixler), Bev’s struggles with her abusive husband Tom (Will Beinbrink), and pretty much all of Mike’s background.

One of my main problems with the first movie was how little development they gave to Mike, and I had hoped that would change in the sequel, since he’s the only member of the friend group who stayed in Derry and is responsible for bringing them back, but he’s once again sidelined; I’m pretty sure we go nearly an hour without seeing him onscreen after the group’s reunion. Even his big scene from the book with former school bully/current psychiatric hospital escapee Henry Bowers (Teach Grant) is cut very short.

That last bit brings me to my other big complaint about the movie: there are several parts played for laughs that shouldn’t have been, especially most of the scenes with Bowers. His brief attack on Mike is handled more seriously, but the majority of his scenes, as bloody as they are, have this weird comedic tone that doesn’t mesh with this character that has been established as a genuinely intimidating figure. It’s not like this movie lacks for comedy-as scary as it is, there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments-so I’m not sure why the filmmakers felt the need to inject humor into non-humorous situations.

While I have my issues with trying to pack in extra scares in this movie, I did still enjoy them. There are plenty of slow burning, suspenseful scenes, jump-out-of-your-seat moments, and creative and unsettling imagery. The famous fortune cookie scene is frenetic and terrifying, Bev’s unnerving encounter with the strange old woman (Joan Gregson) in her old apartment is exquisitely tense, and there’s a moment toward the end involving young Stanley Uris (Wyatt Oleff) that really made me shudder.

Despite my complaints, I still really enjoyed It Chapter 2. It’s scary, funny, heartfelt, and well-acted. While I think the first movie is a little better (or at least more succinct), the second movie is a satisfying follow-up and a wonderful conclusion to a great horror story.

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Have you seen IT Chapter Two? Let us know what you think!