Based on the book "Misery" (1987), the 1990 film introduced the world to the talents of Kathy Bates who, as obsessed fan Annie Wilkes, rides the balance between sycophancy and unsettling obsession with ease. Bates won an Oscar for her portrayal, making "Misery" the only Stephen King adaptation to earn an Academy Award. Another King adaptation to be directed by Rob Reiner, who was also at the helm of "Stand By Me".
Stephen King’s 1986 novel about a group of kids terrorized by a demonic sewer-dwelling clown got a very scary big screen update in 2017. Making the original made-for-TV miniseries look quaint in comparison, 2017’s “It” smashed box office records, banking over $700 million to become the highest-grossing horror movie of all-time. “It: Chapter 2” will shift the focus to the now-adult characters when it arrives in theatres for more scares in 2019.
It didn't take long to adapt Stephen King's first novel about a lonely teenager with telekinetic powers, released a mere two years before the film was released. The image of a blood-soaked Sissy Spacek would forever represent the film, much in the same manner Jack Nicholson's head peeking through a chopped door denotes "The Shining".
It would be remade in 2013 with Chloe Grace Moretz in Spacek's iconic role.
'Pet Sematary' (1989)
King himself would write the screenplay (and make a cameo), adapting his novel from seven years earlier. Less a story about a pet cemetery and more about the Micmac burial ground, which could raise the dead, beyond it, "Pet Sematary" would be met with mixed reviews and be outshone by the Ramones song written for the film.
The 2019 version of "Pet Sematary" proved cats and dead toddlers are still as scary as ever.
'Stand By Me' (1986)
Based on the short story "The Body" from the "Different Seasons" collection (1982). Perhaps the greatest adaptation of King's work, "Stand By Me" is a rite of passage tale of a group of friends in search of a dead body. Dissimilar in tone to much of the King adaptations coming out at the time, "Stand By Me" is neither frightening nor gory, but rather subtle and enduringly touching.
'The Shawshank Redemption' (1994)
Based on the short story "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" (1982), the film benefited from the involvement of heavyweights Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, and writer/director Frank Darabont, who would go on to write and direct other King adaptations, "The Mist" and "The Green Mile". Another of King's works (and interestingly, another short story) that eschews the horror and paranormal for friendship and emotion and spawns a critically acclaimed film.
'The Green Mile' (1999)
Based on "The Green Mile" novel (1996), the film is another Frank Darabont adaptation and, along with "The Shawshank Redemption", focuses on the relationship between two men (a guard and an inmate) within a prison. Carried on the broad shoulders of newcomer Michael Clarke Duncan, the film would be nominated for four Oscars, including Best Adapted Screenplay.
'The Dead Zone' (1983)
Adapted from the book of the same name (1979), "The Dead Zone" sees Christopher Walken at his most Walken-esque. Shot in director David Cronenberg's home province of Ontario, "The Dead Zone" has Walken play a man who awakens from a coma with psychic abilities. Several screenwriters would be called upon to adapt the novel, including King himself, whose screenplay was deemed "needlessly brutal" by Cronenberg. Nevertheless King would ultimately approve of the final product, saying the film's changes "improved and intensified the power of the narrative."
'The Running Man' (1987)
Loosely based on the novel by Richard Bachman (an early Stephen King pseudonym), "The Running Man" could now be seen as a progenitor to "The Hunger Games", with both featuring "fight to the death" game shows set in a dystopian future (though the 'future' in the first film is 2017). Arnold Schwarzenegger, on his way to becoming one of the era's most bankable stars, is in fine form with some great one-liners delivered in his unmistakable Austrian accent.
'The Shining' (1980)
Based on the novel of the same name (1976), "The Shining" is perhaps best known for King's vehement opposition to director Stanley Kubrick's adaptation. Prior to this film, King gave little regard for the adaptations of his work but the film's casting, tone, and themes were so at odds with what King wrote, he pledged to play a greater role in subsequent works. Of note is the 1997 TV mini-series starring Steven Weber, whose official title, "Stephen King's The Shining", indicates an adaptation more loyal to the book than Kubrick's film.