Happy Birthday, Stephen King! The Best Movie Adaptations of Stephen King Novels


By Niall McArdle

Stephen King turns 66 today and shows no sign of slowing down. Since 1974 he has published over 50 novels, scores of short stories and several pieces of non-fiction, including one, On Writing, that anyone serious about the craft of fiction should read. The merits of some of his novels are debatable, and many feel he would be more consistent if he published a book every two years instead of three a year.

It was inevitable that Hollywood would come calling on him. To mark his birthday, her are some movie adaptations worth checking out.

The Shining


King famously did not like Stanley Kubrick’s take on his haunted hotel novel. In the book even the shrubbery goes loopy; Kubrick ditched that and decided to focus on the psychological aspects instead.

King preferred the 1997 TV remake:

By the way, young Danny Torrance still has ‘the shining’: The long-awaited sequel is released next week.

The Shawshank Redemption


Not a box-office success on its release (some say because the title was confusing: Tim Robbins still gets people who ask him about “The Scrimshaw Rebellion”), Frank Darabont’s film has grown a cult audience and is regarded as one of the best King adaptations. King’s novella, “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”, is, in my humble opinion, one of the best things he’s ever written.



Perhaps one of King’s best novels, and one of his most personal: a best-selling author of gothic romances is held captive by his “number one fan”, who is less than impressed that he is going to kill off her favourite literary character so that he can write something more “literary”.

Screenwriter William Goldman and director Rob Reiner took King’s novel and made a genuinely terrifying – an terrific – movie. Be honest, Kathy Bates scared the crap out of you.

Hearts in Atlantis


King’s take on the 1960s is made up of five connected stories on psychics, Vietnam, peaceniks and the titular card game. Hopefully some day it will be adapted properly for the screen. As it is, only one of the five stories was adapted as this coming-of-age tale:

The Dark Half

"Richard Bachman"
“Richard Bachman”

Once upon a time Stephen King had a pseudonym, Richard Bachman, who wrote novels very unlike King’s. After the pen-name was revealed, King, disappointed, killed him off. King explored the horror possibilities of a literary doppelganger in The Dark Half

The Green Mile


After The Shawshank Redemption, Frank Darabont took another King prison-set story. For some this is just too sentimental, what with a little mouse, a gentle giant and the electric chair. It has an enduring fan-base



There is a new version of King’s debut novel starring Julianne Moore. It remains to be seen how it compares with Brian de Palma’s take on the story of the schoolgirl with telekinetic powers who wreaks revenge on the high-schol kids who torment her.

The Mist


Another Darabont adaptation; less successful at the box-office, perhaps because it’s remarkably faithful to the downbeat ending of King’s novella.

Stand by Me

Rob Reiner directed this adaptation of King’s short story “The Body”. King was shown this in an empty screening room. Twenty minutes after the film ended, King hadn’t left the room. The producers were convinced he must have hated it. The went in and found him crying because he had just watched his childhood and his childhood friends on screen.

8 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Stephen King! The Best Movie Adaptations of Stephen King Novels

    1. It’s worth watching again just to listen to Darabont’s commentary. He chose to film it very fast, much faster than the schedule for, say, The Shawshank Redemption. Plus there’s a little easter egg for King fans. Thomas Jane plays a guy who does movie posters (modelled on the great artist Drew Struzan), and at the beginning he’s painting a movie poster of what looks like a film of one of The Dark Tower books. For info on Struzan’s work, click here: http://filmforecaster.com/film-figure-spotlight-drew-struzan/


      1. I can see what King means. Still, it’s an amazing film. I thought the same as Burgess on Clockwork Orange though – the book makes much more philosophical sense. Thanks for posting this link – interesting article!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s