Stephen King’s 10 scariest movies ranked -

Stephen King’s 10 scariest movies ranked

Stephen King turns 72 today. The legendary author and “King of Horror” has won countless awards for his prolific output of supernatural fiction, many of which have translated perfectly (and disturbingly) to the big screen.

To wish the Maine-born writer a happy birthday (and to buckle down for Halloween season), we’ll share our 10 favorite films adapted from his truly spooky written material.

Read our picks (and honorable mentions) below:

10. It (2017)

I have a soft spot in my heart (or a dark, hollowed-out hole in my head) for the 1990 miniseries featuring Tim Curry’s chilling take on King’s murderous clown Pennywise, but we’ll stick to the big screen works for this list. Director Andy Muschietti switches the setting to summer 1989, when a group of bullied kids band together to destroy the shape-shifting monster that preys on the children of Derry, Maine. It doesn’t quite gel enough to tell a compelling story, though Muschietti delivers an impressive sizzle reel of horror set pieces, particularly one slide projector moment giving the film it’s biggest scare.

9. Pet Sematary (1989)

A grieving father discovers an ancient burial ground behind his home with the power to raise the dead. Director Mary Lambert’s adaptation of this spooky supernatural King thriller has some truly shocking elements that might stick with you for decades (I’d personally love to never see or envision Victor Pascow in my head ever again, but oh well). A little silly? Sure, but who cares when you’re petrified?

8. Dolores Claiborne (1995)

A big-city reporter (Jennifer Jason Leigh) travels to the small town where her mother (Kathy Bates) has been arrested for the murder of an elderly woman that she works for as a maid. Five years after her Oscar win for “Misery,” Bates returns to King’s universe to turn in another impressive effort as a woman hiding unsettling secrets to protect herself and loved ones. Wonderful supporting work from David Strathairn, Christopher Plummer and Judy Parfitt. And how about those Maine accents?

7. The Mist (2007)

A freak storm unleashes a species of blood-thirsty creatures on a small town, where a small band of citizens hole up in a supermarket and fight for their lives in this adaptation from Frank Darabont, starring Thomas Jane and, in a delightfully whacked-out performance, Marcia Gay Harden as a religious zealot. The ending packs a wallop, folks.

6. Stand by Me (1986)

After the death of one of his friends, a writer recounts a childhood journey with his friends to find the body of a missing boy. Based on King’s novella “The Body,” this quickly became a favorite coming-of-age tale, thanks to director Rob Reiner’s careful handling and the young cast’s remarkable chemistry and maturity. Perhaps even more troubling for parents knowing our children will often feel the need to learn about this sad and beautiful world on their own terms.

5. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency. Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novella “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” stars Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman and remains an American classic. Is it technically “scary” by King’s standards? Do you consider being wrongfully convicted, receiving two consecutive life sentences, being assaulted daily and remaining imprisoned for decades under a corrupt warden scary? Then I guess not.

4. Carrie (1976)

Let’s tip-toe back into traditional horror territory, shall we? Sissy Spacek stars as Carrie White, a shy, friendless 17-year-old girl who is sheltered by her domineering, religious mother (Piper Laurie), as she unleashes her telekinetic powers after being humiliated by her classmates at her senior prom. Brian De Palma directed this haunting King adaptation that most definitely holds up, thanks mostly to Spacek and Laurie’s performances.

3. Misery (1990)

After a famous author (James Caan) is rescued from a car crash by a fan of his novels (Kathy Bates), he comes to realize that the care he is receiving is only the beginning of a nightmare of captivity and abuse. Kathy Bates won an Oscar in this adaptation, perfectly directed by Rob Reiner, who makes his case for best handle on King’s material.

2. The Dead Zone (1983)

We should have known David Cronenberg would be a perfect match for the author with this adaptation of King’s “The Dead Zone,” in which a man (Christopher Walken) awakens from a coma to discover he has a psychic detective ability. Plenty of creepiness permeates through his supernatural thriller, starting with Walken’s piercing eyes. But the most frightening aspect comes as Walken shakes the hand of U.S. Senatorial candidate Greg Stillson (a wild Martin Sheen), during which he has a vision of him becoming president and ordering a nuclear strike against Russia that leads to a nuclear holocaust. In his maniacal words, “The missiles are flying. Hallelujah, hallelujah.” Sheen also happens to use a child as a human shield.

1. The Shining (1980)

Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s horror classic is arguably the scariest movie ever made. A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil and spiritual presence influences the father (Jack Nicholson) into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future. Famously disliked by the author, who signed off on a TV adaptation in 1997, we dug the marriage of these timeless artists and still can’t shake its most terrifying moments (or that Penderecki music).

Honorable Mentions: Cujo (1983), Christine (1983), Firestarter (1984), Children of the Corn (1984), The Running Man (1987), Needful Things (1993), The Green Mile (1999), 1408 (2007), Gerald’s Game (2017)


Tom Hanks' 10 best movies

Charlize Theron’s 10 best movies

Harrison Ford’s 10 best movies

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 10 best movies

Bill Murray’s 10 best movies

Clint Eastwood’s 10 best movies

Tom Cruise’s 10 best movies

Sandra Bullock’s 10 best movies

Sylvester Stallone’s 10 best movies