It seems as though adapting Stephen King’s properties is in vogue again with The Dark Tower and a remake of IT due for release soon. Considering how prolific King has been over several decades, there’s a lot of incredibly interesting material available for film or television productions.
We’re going to have a look at the top five film adaptations of King’s work so far. And of course, we’re going to stay away from spoilers or too much exploration of the various plots for those who haven’t seen some of these iconic movies.
1. The Shining
Although King is famously not a fan of the liberties the film took with his material, it didn’t stop The Shining from becoming a cult classic in the thriller/horror genre. The slow burn nature of the film’s plot creates tension brilliantly for the viewer, aided and abetted by the extremely eerie setting of the completely empty Overlook Hotel. Some of the scenes and dialogue in this movie have become so iconic that they’re essentially pop culture memes; if you say “the twins in the hallway”, or “Here’s Johnny!” – chances are almost everyone will know precisely what you’re referring to. While it may be a cliché at this point, The Shining really is quite the iconic horror title and deserves to be watched at least once; it gives one excellent example of how to do the genre properly.
2. The Green Mile
Despite King’s infamy for his intricate and original exploration of the horror genre, some of best books deal less with terrifying and more with supernatural themes. The film’s two main characters are Paul Edgecombe, played by Tom Hanks and John Coffey, played by the late Michael Clark Duncan. The story follows Edgecombe’s time in a prison as a supervisor and his interactions with John Coffey, who exhibits supernatural powers during his time behind bars. The movie explores more existential and human themes in its extremely long three hour runtime, but the fantastic dynamic between Edgecombe and Coffey, along with Duncan’s emotive performance, makes it a very rewarding movie to watch. Although remakes are popular at the moment, The Green Mile features such unique performances from two actors held in such high regard, that it’s unlikely this specific property of King’s will see another attempt any time soon.
The term Coulrophobia refers to the irrational fear of clowns – a term, and a fear, I think we can almost exclusively thank Stephen King for. IT was originally a two-part movie released in 1990 and based on the 1986 novel of the same name. It follows “The Losers Club”, a group of young friends, as they try to navigate encounters with deranged and murderous clown Pennywise and try to discover not only how to end the clown’s reign of terror in their small town, but also what motivation he has for torturing the kids. One of the criticisms of the duology released in the 90s was the use of special effects and how the technological limitations at the time didn’t necessarily do all the concepts justice. With the 2017 release coming up, and looking spectacularly terrifying, I think we can expect Pennywise to return in a far more sinister iteration that the original attempted to be.
This book is effectively a fusion of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine and Groundhog Day, and is another one of King’s forays into the supernatural rather than horror. 11/22/63, or November 22nd 1963, is the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and the series, like the novel, follows Jake Epping, an English teacher, who is given the opportunity to travel back in time and attempt to prevent JFK’s assassination. The bizarre nature of the portal means that each time it is used it adds complications to the timeline, and Epping needs to battle not only these obstacles but also his own developing affinity for the life he’s creating in the past. The series is produced by Stephen King as well as J.J Abrams, famous for Alias and Lost, and features James Franco in the lead role. Anyone that is interested in historical fiction as a genre is like to enjoy 11/22/63 immensely.
5. The Shawshank Redemption
Adapted from King’s novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, this is arguably the best film on the list. The 1994 drama is frequently mentioned in rundowns of the greatest movies ever made, and was selected by the US’s Library of Congress’ National Film Registry for films deemed to be “historically, culturally or aesthetically significant. While the plot is engaging and enjoyable, it is primarily the acting ability of Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins, playing Ellis Redding and Andy Dufresne respectively, that gets the viewer and the audience to buy into the plight of the two imprisoned men. The friendship they develop, and the trajectory of the overall movie, provide a thoughtful and heartwarming experience that explores the theme of freedom and different ways of approaching it.
These are our Top 5 Stephen King adaptations, which are yours and would you remake any of the older films if you could? Let us know in the comments below and tweet us at @MenStuffZA!