The 69-year American writer from Portland, Maine is one of the world’s most prolific and best loved authors. His stories have been adapted to screen numerous times and many of the films have become classics in their own right. There is no shortage of Stephen King adaptations to cinema, with It being just the tip of the iceberg. This year alone, there are four films: It, Dark Tower (Nikolaj Arcel), Gerald’s Game (Mike Flanagan) and 1922 (Zaqk Hilditch). Plus several more are in the oven, including another adaptation of the horrific 1983 book Pet Sematary.
In this article we look at the five dirtiest Stephen King adaptations to the silver screen. Oh, and before we forget: Stephen King turns 70 next week on September 21st – just in case you needed yet another reason to remember and to discover some of his work!
1. The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994):
Often considered the best film adaptation of Stephen King, The Shawshank Redemption is a modern classic. Adapted from the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Frank Darabont, the film is a thought-provoking look at integrity, friendship and belief. The two central performances from Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman provide the core of the film. There are few scenes more satisfying in cinema than the slow reveal of Andy Dufresne’s escape. Speaking about the effect the story had on people, King told an amusing story to fellow novelist Neil Gaiman. King recounted how an old woman, who clearly recognised him, asked why he couldn’t write things “like that Shawshank Redemption.” When King replied that he had in fact written the original story, she refused to believe him.
2. Stand By Me (Rob Reiner, 1986):
Stand By Me is not only one of the dirtiest films based on King’s work, it is also a story that many wouldn’t automatically associate with the horror writer. Directed by Rob Reiner the film tells the story of a group of friends who go on an adventure to find the body of a local boy who went missing. The film is a beautiful exploration of childhood friendship that captures the strong bond children have during certain moments of their lives. Stephen King praised the film and called it “the best film out of anything I’ve written.”
3. The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980):
The Shining holds an interesting position in the canon of Stephen King adaptations. On the one hand it is considered to be a cinematic classic and one of the most revered films in the horror genre, on the other Stephen King hated it. King has publicly spoken out against The Shining, criticising the casting of Jack Nicholson and Stanley Kubrick’s interpretation of the story (particularly the lack of one of the novel’s key themes – alcoholism).
While King may not be overly pleased with the film there is no argument that it is one of the most influential horror films in film history. Kubrick’s slow build up of dread and suspense along with some of the most iconic horror scenes in cinema make it a masterpiece. Like all pop culture greats the film’s success can be measured by how often it is parodied. The sinister twins scene in particular has been the subject of much imitation with Uproxx noting that everyone from Family Guy to the British cult classic Space have done a version of the scene. Family Guy in particular is famous for lampooning pop culture and has achieved worldwide acclaim for its satirical edge. The Family Guy game on Slingo who also reference a lot of pop culture in their slot games demonstrates how far the show is engrained into the public conscious. When players play the Family Guy game there is a strong chance that they will recall the famous scenes the show parodies especially if they are as iconic as the scene from The Shining. Other horror games on the site that have the ‘ghost’ of King hovering above them including Dracula (Salem’s Lot), Frankenstein (Revival), and Lost Vegas (The Stand). The genius of King is that no matter what scares you he will have likely written his own horrifying version.
4. The Green Mile (Frank Darabont, 1999):
Thus is the second of three Frank Darabont films on this list and one of the most memorable Stephen King adaptations. Leading the film is Tom Hanks as a prison officer in charge of death row. His slow turn from cynicism to belief is a masterful performance. The film combines the best of Stephen King’s tropes, realism and the supernatural, in a deeply moving film. The standout performance of the film is Michael Clark Duncan’s gentle giant whose abilities question not only the characters belief but also ask the audience to question their own faith.
5. The Mist (Frank Darabont, 2007):
The best King books are about normal people caught in extraordinary circumstances. The Mist was once again directed by Stephen King regular Frank Darabont and follows the story of a group of people trapped in a supermarket following a supernatural thunderstorm. The film follows one of King’s most enduring and important themes: people are real monsters. Despite the horror outside of the supermarket the real terror is happening inside as the humans struggle to survive and start to turn on each other. By looking at the unreal, the film explores the very real consequences of people under pressure.
The image at the top of this article is taken from The Mist‘s alternative version in black and white.