From the classic 1976 film Carrie to the upcoming Pet Sematary prequel (via Reuters), Hollywood hasn’t been shy about adapting the works of Stephen King. The “King of Horror” is known for creating novels and short stories that send shivers down the reader’s spine, whether it’s from the disturbing acts of a psychopath or a very gruesome and vivid portrayal of a monster.
It’s hard to say which projects are the best King adaptations, given that some have been helmed by notable directors and show organizers. That said, Reddit users have been very candid about which King adaptation they think is the best.
Kathy Bates and James Caan star in the 1990 psychological thriller Misery. Much like King’s novel, the film is about an obsessed fan who kidnaps his favorite author and tricks him into rewriting the latest book in his famous novel series.
In a Reddit thread, user spencermiddleton notes that Misery is always the “right answer” when asked what the best King adaptation is. In addition to capturing the tone and narrative of King’s novel, Misery also features Bates’ outstanding performance as disturbing fan Annie Wilkes.
The Mist (2007)
King’s The Mist has been adapted for both the big screen and television. However, the film adaptation seems to be more popular with King fans than the one that aired on TV. The film’s plot revolves around a city engulfed in a mist that effectively traps all inhabitants and contains inexplicable anomalies that kill those who try to escape.
Redditor notashark1 notes that what makes the film a superior adaptation is the director’s “good decision to change the ending”, which made the film more poignant and impactful. The show’s depiction of the mist is also incredibly chilling, as it’s paired with effective camerawork and cinematography.
King is well known for being able to amplify and elevate the horror of already terrifying situations. This is the case with the 1983 film Cujo, which tells the story of a mother and her son who try to get away from a mad dog by getting trapped in a car.
A comment from ComprehensiveNet6398 on Reddit highlights how Cujo is an overlooked King adaptation, though it’s genuinely terrifying as it features an extremely disturbing “attack scene” where the dog gets into the car and “bites the mother.” on my leg “. Cujo is a remarkable film because it is still able to scare viewers without featuring supernatural monsters and obscene blood.
Apt Pupil (1998)
Apt Pupil is a King adaptation that doesn’t rely on the supernatural to horrify viewers. Instead, the film explores the cruelty some humans are willing to commit for a cause they believe in. In the film, a high school student played by Brad Renfro blackmails a hidden Nazi war criminal played by Ian McKellen into telling him stories of the Holocaust. .
Reddit user OffKira notes that they “love the menace at the end of the film” where Renfro’s character shows how deeply in love with evil he is. But despite the incredible performances from the main cast, some fans feel that Apt Pupil deserves another chance at an adaptation because it didn’t live up to its potential.
Brian De Palma adapted King’s beloved novel Carrie for the big screen in 1976. The source material is one of King’s few works to have been adapted numerous times, but fans consider De Palma’s film as the top adaptation.
Along with De Palma’s masterful direction and the film’s polished script where teenage angst and supernatural powers unfolded, lead actresses Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie were also praised for their performances. Redditor gf120581 notes that they “both got Oscar nominations,” which was an incredible feat since the Academy has a reputation for ignoring horror movies, no matter how good they are.
Secret Window (2004)
The filmmakers also drew on King’s short stories for inspiration. Such is the case with the 2004 psychological thriller Secret Window, which was taken from King Four’s short story collection Past Midnight. The film is about a newly divorced writer who is trapped in a secluded lakeside home by a vengeful stalker.
Secret Window primarily earned praise due to its lead actors — with Redditor pukelennock agreeing and noting that Johnny Depp played the “Death” character very well. The film is also beautifully paced and keeps viewers guessing what happens next, especially since the Secret Window killer was hidden in plain sight.
Many King fans will argue endlessly about what makes a good adaptation, but what’s really needed for a good adaptation is fidelity to the source material. This is exactly why some of King’s loyal readers note that the 2003 film Dreamcatcher is a good adaptation, even if it was not well received by critics and audiences at the time of its release.
The horror film follows a group of friends with powers who must thwart an alien invasion of earth. Reddit user Bevilthompson points out that Dreamcatcher “doesn’t get enough love” even though it’s “faithful to the source material”. Critics’ main criticisms of Dreamcatcher are its inconsistent narrative, excessive runtime, and haphazard subplots.
Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Not many people know that the critically acclaimed drama film Shawshank Redemption is an adaptation of one of King’s novels. The film chronicles the experience of banker Andy Dufresne at Shawshank State Penitentiary where he is serving a life sentence for killing his wife and her lover.
Shawshank Redemption is an inspirational drama that features worthless screen presences, especially by veteran Hollywood icon Morgan Freeman. On Reddit, BookishDrummer notes that the decision to “add scenes” that “are not in the short story” amplifies the film’s dramatic impact. The film is loved by moviegoers, especially since Shawshank Redemption contains many insightful quotes about life, freedom, and hope.
Support Me (1986)
Along with moving dramas and hair-raising horror novels, Stephen King has also penned a coming-of-age short story. The 1982 novel The Body was adapted for film by Rob Reiner and took the title Stand by Me. It is about how a group of four young boys navigate their lives in Oregon after finding a corpse.
In a Reddit post on the best Stephen King adaptations, RickProfits comments that “King is at his best when playing with human emotion.” Reiner does a great job of translating the source material —and even King praised him, saying it’s the best film of anything he’s ever written at the time (via Chicago Tribune).
Doctor Sleep (2019)
The long-awaited sequel to King’s glorious horror novella The Shining was titled Doctor Sleep. While Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining was not well received by King fans due to its deviations from the source material, Doctor Sleep received praise from King readers for being a successful adaptation and faithful.
Redditor sanddkisd adds that Doctor Sleep was “the only film adaptation” that they said “fitted almost perfectly with the book.” A direct sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep stars Danny Torrance, the young boy who experienced the horrors of the Overlook Hotel in the first film.