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The Best and Worst of Stephen King TV & Film Adaptations

It’s going to be a busy few weeks for fans of Stephen King.

Today, August 4, the long-awaited big screen adaptation of The Dark Tower is finally unleashed to the cinematic masses, and of course in mere weeks IT will be haunting theaters near you.

In preparation for both Tommy Tracy and Ann Hale decided to share their…

Top 5 Best and Worst of Stephen King film adaptations…

so you can binge appropriately.


1. Carrie

While the 2013 version may have been a closer adaptation of the novel, there will never be a Carrie that is played better than Sissy Spacek. Her ability to go from sweet to sour at the dump of a bucket is perfection. Piper Laurie sets up Carrie’s sheltered, abusive religious home life perfectly, Amy Irving is the perfect guilt ridden schoolmate, William Katt couldn’t have been a more charming Tommy Ross and John Travolta and Nancy Allen are the perfect villains. All together they create, in my opinion, one of the greatest horror films ever made.


2. The Shining

If there was ever a director who knew how to set the tone of suspense through even the most innocent of scenes, it was Stanley Kubrick. A boy riding a big wheels through an empty hotel, a man sitting on his bed, a woman reading her husbands manuscript. These all seem like innocent and harmless situations until the boy rides his bike down a hallway and into the ghosts of dead identical twins, the man on the bed reveals a facial expression of insanity and the woman discovers the book her husband has been writing is really just ten words repeated over and over for hundreds of pages. Without the talents of Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall, the film would’ve only been half as frightening.

3. Pet Sematary

In terms of book to film conversion, Pet Sematary may not be the greatest King film, but it is absolutely one of my favorites. Little Gage has to be the cutest film child ever, which makes it heartbreaking when he dies and even more terrifying when he rises. The acting isn’t superb but, for me, that’s part of the charm. In the end, you realize just how powerful the combination of love and grief can be.

4. IT (the first half)

The TV movie IT is split into two parts- the first half showing how the members of The Losers’ Club came together to fight the likes of Pennywise the Clown, a monster who has been devouring children in the town of Derry, Maine. Tim Curry’s Pennywise is the thing nightmares are made of, making it even more amazing that a group of children were brave enough to take him on.


5. The Shawshank Redemption

The original story, entitled “Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption”, was only 91 pages long, making it amazing that a two and a half hour long movie was spawned from it. That being said, those two and a half hours will be some of your life’s best spent, as the film is easily one of the greatest ever made. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, and shockingly never winning one, The Shawshank Redemption is one of innocence and guilt, crime and corruption, on both ends of the jail bars.


1. Stand By Me

Surprisingly, a horror film is not topping this list. I chose Stand By Me (based off the story The Body) is the quintessential coming of age story. Four friends, acted superbly by child actors, spend Labor Day weekend of 1959 looking for a dead body, all the while encountering many roadblocks along their way. To me, this film is perfect. It is acted incredibly, shot beautifully and shows us top notch direction from Rob Reiner. The film shows us the heartbreak of eventually growing up, as we lose the people we love every day. There’s a reason so many 80’s inspired works pay homage to Stand By Me, and it’s because people can connect to it every time.

2. The Shining

Stanley Kubrick and Jack Nicholson. Need I say more? Though King HATES this adaptation of his work, most do not. Kubrick takes a very boring book and makes it a two-hour psychological ride. Nicholson is perfect as the deranged Jack Torrance, terrifying the audience and keeping them on their toes. Everything from Nicholson’s facial expressions to his body movements have petrified audiences for almost forty years and Kubrick’s haunting imagery will live on in cinematic history forever.

3. The Shawshank Redemption

Taking a break from horror for a minute, what is there to not love about The Shawshank Redemption? We follow Andy Dufrense (Tim Robbins) and Red Redding (Morgan Freeman) through their lives in prison for nearly twenty years. Extortion, rape, violent beatings and money laundering haunt Andy, as well as the supposed murder of his wife. The real fist in the air moment comes when Andy escapes through a tunnel he has spent the past twenty years building, granting his well-deserved freedom.

4. Misery

Believe it or not, this was the very first horror movie I ever remember seeing as a child. The image of Kathy Bates breaking James Caan’s leg with a sledgehammer as it rests gently against a wooden plank is the stuff nightmares are made of. However, it’s Bates’ Annie Wilkes who shines here, playing the sweetly diabolical “biggest fan”, intent on getting her way when it comes to Caan’s novels and future. It’s one of the few rare horror films that claimed a (much deserved) Academy Award.

5. Christine

The reason Christine is so great lies within the campiness of it all. John Carpenter takes very strange source material of a killer Plymouth Fury and makes a very fun, if not overly scary, film. The real gem is told through expert filmmaking and storytelling, as we connect with Arnie’s (Keith Gordon) journey from complete nerd to psychosocially damaged. Again, a killer car is not the scariest thing on the planet, but there is something charming about Christine, it was impossible to keep it off this list.


1. IT (second half)

Once the film switches to the adult versions of The Losers’ Club, things down a turn for the worst. Pennywise is less frightening, the adult actors are less than great and that ending….that ending is just atrocious. The second half is so bad, it gave the film the honor of making both lists.


2. Dreamcatcher

You could ask me what Dreamcatcher is about and I couldn’t tell you. There were aliens and a guy named Duddits kept being brought up. The cast is superb, with Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Damien Lewis and Timothy Olyphant, but even they couldn’t save this movie.

3. The Shining (mini-series)

I will never understand why anyone thought it was a good idea to make The Shining into a miniseries. You might think Rebecca De Mornay and Steven Weber could help the situation, but they unfortunately didn’t. When you have a film as perfect as Kubrick’s, there’s nothing you can improve on and, therefore, the miniseries makes the list.

4. Pet Sematary 2

While technically not a Stephen King story, Pet Sematary 2 takes place in the same location as its predecessor and steals from the original plot, therefore giving it a spot on the list. Once again, family members and pets are taken to the ancient Indian burial ground to resurrect them from their graves and absurdity ensues. Though director Mary Lambert scored with the original, she majorly failed with this one.

5. Sleepwalkers

A mother and son duo of cat-like creatures, who are strangely enemies of cats themselves, come to a town to steal the life force of a virgin. While I do enjoy the film, it’s mostly because it’s one of those “so terrible it’s fun” kind of movies. The cat creatures are impenetrable to bullets yet can only die by the hands of basic house cats. It’s absurd, really. Quirky? Yes. Fun? Yes. A good movie? Absolutely not.


1. Maximum Overdrive

I saw Maximum Overdrive when I was 6 years old, an age where everything from Halloween to Jason Takes Manhattan scared me. And yet, here I was, watching this thinking, “Is this supposed to be scary?” Inanimate objects spring to life, an ATM calls a guy an “asshole” and The Green Goblin makes his first onscreen appearance. What makes this travesty even worse is, it’s directed by King himself. If I can give this film one bright spot that I can’t give the others listed here, it’s quite entertaining to watch while playing a late night drinking game and trying hard not to laugh like a child. To add to this, this remained my least favorite film until Fifty Shades of Grey was released. That’s very low company.


2. Thinner

This film is about a douchebag lawyer who in super fat. He pisses off a gypsy, who places a curse on him and he begins to rapidly lose weight. I wish I was kidding. What started out as a very creepy body-horror novel by King quickly turns into one of the stupidest movies I’ve ever seen. Instead of being scared, it’s hard not to laugh uncontrollably while watching Thinner.

3. Cell

I absolutely hate it when an all-star cast cannot deliver like they’re supposed to. That’s the case with 2016’s Cell, based on a very interesting story by King. The film, sadly, is a trial to get through. I never stop watching a film but this one took me three tries. THREE TRIES! That is unacceptable and, until researching for this list, I hadn’t even remembered the film.


4. It (mini-series)

I expect to get crap for this but hear me out; we need to take off the nostalgia glasses sometimes. Stephen King’s It is my favorite book ever written and, yes, as a child I loved this. Tim Curry is GREAT (not scary) and the kids are incredible. Look back at my Stand By Me thoughts to see just how much I love coming of age stories. But the second half is abysmal; there are no scares, no heart and the ending is miserable. But you heard it here first, 2017’s It will wash this bad taste out of my mouth.


5. The Shining (Mini-Series)

Well hey, at least King loves this one! Unfortunately for him, no one else does. The mini-series, released in 1997, maybe more faithful to King’s adaptation but does the complete opposite of what Stanley Kubrick did. It’s not scary, there’s no heart behind it and the last fifteen minutes or so may possible be some of the most unintentional comedy every put-on screen. Don’t watch it. Please.

Pop-Break Staff
Pop-Break Staffhttps://thepopbreak.com
Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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