Happy Birthday Stephen King – Top Ten of his best Movies

There have been a LOT of Stephen King adaptations over the years, and a many of them are good movies.  A lot of the genre standards for a good horror movie were defined by Stephen King.  There’s no doubt he’s a good writer, and I have his book on the writing process.  Does it show?  lol.  Anyway, I think Stephen King has a good range and most of his movies feel unique.  Classics like Carrie and Christine are genre defining, and will probably be remembered for many, many years. But how about these ten?  Are these ten the best Stephen King movies?  They are some of my favorites:

c210.  Cujo (1983) – This story is based on our pure, visceral fear of dogs.  We all know dogs can bite and Stephen King stretches that fear to new levels.  This isn’t any dog though, this is a real killer, and the part where he jumps on the car, barking his head off, makes the movie.  No one even remembers the acting, because the whole focus is on the dog the whole time.  Quite a feat.

9.  The Dark Half (1993) – This is actually the first Stephen King novel I ever read, which makes me biased toward the story, but the movie doesn’t live up to it, unfortunately.  It’s okay, I suppose, but Timothy Hutton just didn’t fit my image of the main character, Thad.  That’s really the problem with a lot of book to movie translations; the things on-screen often fail to live up to audience expectations.  

8.  Creepshow (1982) – On the other hand, this one lives up to expectations because it is a good set of short stories that have the right feel.  I think it is the only movie of the short story format that captured the number one spot at the box office.  It’s creepy, has a lot of horror comedy, and feels like a Hammer movie in spots, ready to shock you with the macabre and horrible.  Pretty good.

7.  Pet Cemetary (1983) – As far as horror movies go, this one has one of the better stories.  It is only marred by a lot of slasher film elements.  There are a LOT of stabbings, betrayals and twists in the movie; maybe too many.  Somebody stabs somebody else then ten minute later, another person turns around and gets to stabbing too.  Talk about knife action.  Also, the ending confuses me and doesn’t resolve anything, which is probably why this one has a sequel.

6. Misery (1990) – This is really how to do a claustrophobic drama, and the suspense is near-perfect.  The story isn’t really all that remarkable, but it’s the performance of Kathy Bates that makes this movie worthwhile.  She is the perfect killer.  Really believable.  She won an academy award for her performance. 

5. The Running Man (1982) – Some people forget this Arnold Schwarzenegger movie is based on a Stephen King novel.  Like The Stand, it’s a good novel, but the movie is way better, in my opinion.  It has just enough schlock and action and stupid dialogue thrown in together to make it fun.  Richard Dawson as the villain also works pretty well.  It’s a solid movie.  I just wonder why nobody likes it or why it didn’t make that much at the box office.

4.  Carrie (1976) – Carrie has a deeper story and character development.  Maybe that’s why The Running Man isn’t as good.  Even Stephen King thought it was a good movie.  I don’t want to jump off the deep end though, because I can’t get that excited about a teen girl revenge movie.  The genre isn’t my favorite, I guess.  Maybe it needs more action or Arnold shooting people.  Or angry cars?  Transition! Zing!

christine13.  Christine (1983) – Christine is a car revenge movie, which works, for some reason.  There isn’t much exposition to explain why the car kills, but who cares about that.  The effects, the music, and the crazy lights all work really well.  It’s so popular, the movie has entered our horror lexicon for all time.  Even Roger Ebert liked this one, so you’ve got to respect it for that.

2.  The Shawshank Redemption (1994) – This movie is on television every week.  EVERY WEEK.  It certainly has longevity, if nothing else.  It works as a period drama and as an underdog movie.  The performances are spectacular.  It won countless awards.  This is another one that didn’t make squat at the box office, and only became popular on video and TV.  Warner Bros must make a killing off the television rights alone.  

  1.  The Shining (1980) – This is one of the best (and strangest) Kubrick movies ever made.  It doesn’t pander to the source material though, which is probably why Stephen King made his own version on TV.  It’s just not as good.  Sorry Stephen.  But remember, there wouldn’t even be a Kubrick version or a TV version without the book, as written by Stephen King.  I think the music, the scenery, and the atmosphere make the movie what it is.  It’s scary.  Sorry to say it, but on a list of adaptations of Stephen King’s works, this is the worse offender, but it’s the best movie.  As far as making sense, I will say it probably makes more sense than 2001: A Space Odyssey, but not by much.  The atmosphere makes the movie.  It has some plot elements than we can thank Stephen King for, but I keep coming back to it because of the atmosphere.  Kubrick would have you believe the story is about madness, but King wants a story about ghosts.  I guess it depends on your preference, but the 1980 version works for me as written.