Best Stephen King adaptations: the 21 best TV shows and films based on Stephen King books

Posted by for Life

From Carrie to Gerald’s Game, these TV shows and films – all adapted from the works of horror writer Stephen King – are guaranteed to send shivers down your spine.

Stephen King – aka the greatest horror writer of all time (we’re big fans, OK?) – is having a moment. A big moment. Hot on the heels of It 2 and Doctor Sleep, three chilling novellas from the author’s most recent book, If It Bleeds, are being adapted for the screen.

Ben Stiller is planning to write, direct and star in Rat, a horrific tale about an author who rediscovers his inspiration after what may or may not be a hallucination of (you guessed it) a rat. Darren Aronofsky, meanwhile, is taking on The Life of Chuck, which is set to take us backwards through the life of a middle-aged accountant (and teach us a thing or two about music, mortality, and acceptance in the process). And Ryan Murphy is teaming up with Netflix once again to adapt Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, a dark little tale about a teenager who finds his dead friend’s mobile phone (buried with the body, of course) can still communicate from beyond the grave. 

As if that weren’t enough, an adaptation of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is currently in pre-production, too. Phew.

In the meantime, of course, there are plenty of brilliant King TV and film adaptations to stream on Netflix and Amazon Prime

These are our absolute favourites…

Gerald’s Game

Starring Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood, this Netflix Original film begins tamely enough as a married couple head out to a remote holiday home for a spot of romance.

Gerald, though, soon reveals he has an ulterior motive: he wants to reinvigorate their sex life by introducing a little BDSM to the bedroom. It’s not long before the aggressive lawyer is handcuffing Jessie to the bed – but his wife suddenly realises that she’s not into this twisted take on Fifty Shades Of Grey. At all.

When Gerald refuses to stop, though, it all begins to go terribly, terribly wrong.

Gerald’s Game is streaming on Netflix now.

1922

Based on the gothic novella of the same name (first published in the 2010 collection Full Dark, No Stars), Netflix Original 1922 tells the story of Wilfred James, a farmer grimly clinging to his family land in 1920s Nebraska.

When his free-spirited wife Arlette (Molly Parker) inherits a significant plot of farmland, Wilfred (Thomas Jane) assumes that she’ll hand the money over to him so that he can keep the farm he’s worked on all his life. Arlette, though, has dreams of her own: she wants to sell so the family can move to Omaha, “or even St. Louis!”

Wilf, however, is disgusted by the idea of city living. In his eyes, Arlette’s plan to sell her acreage to a hog-farming combine would pollute his land, and giving in would mean either living in the city or divorcing her – and probably losing their 14-year-old son, Henry (Dylan Schmid), to her custody.

So Wilf quietly plans to murder his wife, and to bring Henry in on the act to assure the boy’s silence and lock him to the land. As you do.

1922 is streaming on Netflix now.

The Shawshank Redemption

A lot of people don’t know that the critically-acclaimed movie The Shawshank Redemption is based on one of King’s lesser-known novellas. In the film, upstanding banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is forced to begin a new life at the Shawshank prison after being framed for his wife’s murder. Over time, he gradually forms a close bond with older inmate Red (Morgan Freeman), and a beautiful friendship is born.

The Shawshank Redemption is available to rent on Amazon Prime now.

Misery

A nurse takes her favourite romance novelist hostage in this beloved adaptation of King’s novel. And, while Kathy Bates is sweet-as-a-button at first, things soon take a turn for the terrifying when she learns he’s planning on killing off her favourite character.

Misery is available to stream on Netflix now.

Carrie (1976)

On the day of her prom night, 17-year-old Carrie (Sissy Spacek) discovers that she possesses telekinetic powers. And we all know what happens next, don’t we?

Carrie is available to rent on Amazon Prime now.

The Shining 

For anyone feeling trapped in their homes at the moment (hey, it’s still a lockdown for now!), this classic King horror will definitely send shivers up and down your spine. As anyone who’s read the book will already know, struggling writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is the caretaker of a very remote, very haunted hotel. At first, he falls in love with his job and all the extra time it grants him to work on his next book. However, it soon transpires that ‘all work and no play’ makes Jack go off the deep end and start terrorising his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and their son, Danny (Danny Lloyd).  With an axe.

The Shining is available to stream on Amazon Prime now.

The Mist (2007)

In this 2007 movie, David Drayton (Thomas Jane) and his young son pop to the local supermarket. While they’re picking up groceries, though, an otherwordly mist settles outside, trapping them and a large group of terrified townspeople inside. Survival depends on everybody in the store pulling together, but is that possible? Especially with Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) doing her best to convince everyone that the mist has been sent down by God to punish everyone for their sins? Probably not. And so, as reason crumbles in the face of fear and panic, David is forced to consider what terrifies him more: the monsters in the mist, or the ones with human faces sitting beside him inside the store?

The Mist is streaming on Amazon Prime now.

Dolores Claiborne

In a small New England town, Dolores Claiborne (Kathy Bates) works as a housekeeper for the rich but heartless Vera Donovan (Judy Parfitt). When Vera is found dead, Dolores is accused of killing her elderly employer – which makes sense, we suppose, if the police had seen Bates’ chilling performance in Misery. Regardless, the accusations prompt Dolores’ estranged daughter, Selena (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a well-respected journalist, to investigate the matter for herself. But, as she digs deeper into the case, she soon uncovers shocking truths about the murder and her own childhood.

Dolores Claiborne is available to rent on Amazon Prime now.

Green Mile

In this devastating movie, Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks), the head guard of a prison, meets an inmate, John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), a black man who is accused of murdering two girls. His life changes drastically when he discovers that John has an extraordinarily special gift.

Green Mile is streaming on Netflix now.

It (2017)

As kids vanish throughout town, a group of outcasts must face their biggest fears… as well as a murderous, terrifying, and seemingly invincible clown.

It is streaming on Netflix now.

It 2 (2019)

It’s been 27 years, but the clown is back to terrorise the children of Derry, Maine, once again. Now adults, the ‘Losers Club’ we met in the first film must reunite to conquer their deepest fears and destroy the shape-shifting Pennywise… but can they hope to match his powers? 

11.22.63

In this hugely underrated miniseries, divorced teacher Jake Epping (James Franco) gets a chance to travel back in time to avert the death of John F. Kennedy. However, history’s aversion to alteration – and his newfound friendship with Sadie (Sarah Gadon) – put his mission, and the fate of the world, in terrible danger.

11.22.63 is available to rent on Amazon Prime now.

Christine

When Leigh (Alexandra Paul) becomes suspicious of her boyfriend’s growing attachment to his 1958 Plymouth Fury, she decides to investigate. It soon becomes apparent, though, that the car – lovingly dubbed ‘Christine – has been possessed by an evil presence. And she’s not about to let anyone come between her and her owner.

Christine is streaming on Netflix now.

Stand By Me

In this coming-of-age tale, Gordie (Will Wheaton), Chris (River Phoenix), Teddy (Corey Feldman), and Vern (Jerry O’Connell) decide to hike to find the corpse of Ray Brower, a local teenager, who was hit by a train while plucking blueberries in the wild.

Stand By Me is available to buy on Amazon Prime now.

Castle Rock

The first season of Castle Rock opens as lawyer Henry Deaver (André Holland) is lured back to his eponymous hometown via an anonymous phone call. There, he reconnects with his mother Ruth (Sissy Spacek) and Sheriff Alan Pangborn (Scott Glenn), who saved his life as a child. His main focus, though, is the mostly mute man found caged underneath Shawshank Prison, apparently having been kept captive by the former warden Dale Lacy (Terry O’Quinn). It’s up to Henry to figure out who the imprisoned man really is – but, as the missing pieces of the puzzle slot into place, Henry unwittingly unearths terrible secrets about him, the warden, and the entire town.

Castle Rock is available to watch on Amazon Prime’s Starzplay.

The Outsider

Cynthia Erivo, Ben Mendelsohn, and Jason Bateman star in this adaptation of King’s The Outsider, which sees a seasoned detective pick up a murder case after the mutilated corpse of a young boy is found covered in saliva and human bite marks. When an insidious supernatural force edges its way into the case, though, it forces him to question everything he believes in.

The Outsider is available to rent on Amazon Prime now.

Haven

Based on King’s The Colorado Kid, Haven sees FBI Agent Audrey Parker (Emily Rose) arrives in Haven, Maine, on what she believes is a routine assignment. But the longer she stays, the more curious she becomes – about the townspeople, who seem to be beset by a range of supernatural afflictions; about the town itself, which contains many secrets; and about her own surprising connection to this strange place. 

Haven is available to rent on Amazon Prime now.

1408

Mike Enslin (John Cusack) specialises in debunking paranormal occurrences. But, when he checks into the fabled room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel, he confronts genuine terror for the very first time.

1408 is currently not streaming anywhere. However, you can buy the DVD on Amazon here.

The Dead Zone

When Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) awakens from a coma caused by a car accident after five years, he is forced to contend with his newfound unsettling powers, which allow him to see a person’s future with a mere touch. After shaking the hand of aspiring politician Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen), Johnny sees the danger presented by the candidate’s rise and resolves to kill him.

The Dead Zone is streaming on Amazon Prime now.

Cujo

As in, yes, the very same film that terrified Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) and Joey (Matt Le Blanc) in Friends. In Cujo, Donna (Dee Wallace) breaks down at the remote home of an enormous St Bernard. Usually gentle, though, the dog is now driven insane by rabies, and it’s up to Donna to save herself and her young son from its brutal attack.

Cujo is streaming on Amazon Prime now.

Doctor Sleep

In this sequel to The Shining, Dan Torrance  (Ewan McGregor) is all grown up and struggling to deal with the sinister events that occurred at the Overlook Hotel when he was a child. His hope for a peaceful existence soon becomes shattered when he meets Abra (Kyliegh Curran), a teen who shares his extrasensory gift of the “shine.” Together, they form an unlikely alliance to battle the True Knot, a cult whose members try to feed off the shine of innocents to become immortal.

Doctor Sleep is available to rent on Amazon Prime now.

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Images: Netflix

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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