Stephen King’s books have had a huge impact on pop culture for decades now. He’s not only one of the most successful authors of all time, but he’s probably the novelist who’s had the most films made based on his work. That’s no coincidence: the man is a great writer, and his books tend to be easily adaptable.

While he’s mostly known as a horror writer, he’s written plenty of non-horror work. Dolores Claiborne and The Shawshank Redemption, for instance, are great non-horror King movies. But I’m here to talk about the horror, so without further ado, here’s my list of the greatest horror movies based on King’s novels.

5. Salem’s Lot

salems lot
Tobe Hooper’s 1979 adaptation of Salem’s Lot is one of those horror movies that traumatized / initiated a generation of young horror fans. Technically this is a miniseries or made-for-TV movie, but who’s keeping track? Whatever it is, it’s legendary for its depiction of the inevitable spread of evil, almost like an outbreak of intelligent zombies. The most memorable scene, of course, is of Danny Glick knocking at his brother’s window before turning him, but the fear comes from how unstoppable the vampire invasion is.

4. The Dead Zone

dead zone
Any movie directed by David Cronenberg and starring Christopher Walken is at least worth considering, and this certainly lives up to expectations. Walken plays Johnny Smith, a man who wakes up from a 5-year coma with the ability to get visions of a person’s future on touch. The visions haunt him, but he eventually realizes he has the ability to change what he sees, creating a “dead zone”. It’s creepy and ominous, and ultimately tragic as well.

3. Misery

Misery, starring James Caan as the Stephen King insert and Kathy Bates as his psychotic fan who keeps him captive in her isolated cabin in the woods, happens to be the only King movie to have won an Oscar (though it by no means is the only one to deserve one). Kathy Bates sells the creepiness through a healthy dose of comic acting, bringing both subtlety and dementedness that really make the movie unforgettable. And the majority of scenes just have the two characters, so their performances are especially important.

2. Carrie (1976)

This was King’s first novel as well as the first movie adapted from his work. About a bullied teenage girl with an abusive, repressive mother, most of the movie is setup for the iconic, explosive prom scene, when Carrie is drenched in pig’s blood after being elected prom queen. Some might complain about the slow pacing, but the prom scene alone, not to mention the film’s denouement, makes everything worth it.

1. The Shining

This had to be #1. There could not have been another choice. It’s not just the greatest Stephen King adaptation, not even one of the greatest horror movies – it’s one of the greatest movies of all time, period. It’s up there with Citizen Kane and The Godfather (as well as many of Stanley Kubrick’s other films).

Why is The Shining such a great movie? If you have to ask, you haven’t seen it yet. Suffice it to say, it’s a perfect pairing of story and Kubrick’s visual style. Stephen King didn’t actually approve of the movie because of the changes Kubrick made, but Kubrick’s stamp on the story are exactly what puts the film a cut above the rest. That’s something great directors like Kubrick can do.



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About The Author

I saw 'Mars Attacks!' in theaters when I was five. I still think it's the greatest horror movie for five year olds ever made.