Stephen King is the king (no pun intended) of horror and terrifying stories. His books, short stories, and movies have spanned decades and have scared generations.
He may look like your best friend’s dad but there is some seriously sinister thoughts going on inside that man’s head. An accomplished author, Stephen King has adapted many of his books and short stories into feature films that guarantee to scare the bejeezus out of you.
These movies are all terrifying in their own ways. Some are gory, others are pure horror, and then there are the psychological thrillers that will mess with your mind for years after you watch.
The following movies the best of the best of Stephen King’s film adaptations and these are the movies that define him as the most accomplished horror writer of our lifetime. Don’t watch alone. Grab your girls and scream together for the ultimate scary movie night.
1. The Dead Zone (1983)
An early adaptation, this 1983 film was a huge success both financially and critically. A young (and surprisingly handsome) Christopher Walken stars as a teacher who awakens from a long coma to discover that he has psychic abilities. These abilities appear as him being able to see certain deaths, futures, and horrible outcomes.
This is both a blessing and a curse. While this isn’t a gory horror film, it is a psychological thriller that is highly entertaining, has its scares and fits perfectly in the month of October.
2. 1408 (2007)
Starring John Cusack as a tortured author who writes about supernatural events even though he is a non-believer, 1408 is based on a Stephen King short story. This psychological horror story takes place in a haunted hotel room (typical…) where it is rumored that no one survives for more than hour. The scares are real and this movie will totally mess with your mind. It’s a must watch if you’re looking to scare yourself so badly you won’t want to go to bed. Trust, you won’t sleep for weeks.
3. Graveyard Shift (1990)
An old textile mill reopens and almost immediately employees start dying. Instead of just closing the mill again (because that would make sense), more deaths occur but they only happen during the hours of 11:00 PM and 7:00 AM AKA the graveyard shift. The horror is finding out who the killer is… and stopping him. Or her. Or it. You have to watch to find out.
4. Children of the Corn (1984)
Tall corn crops can be scary. Children are creepy. Bringing these two things together launched a whole horror series that spawned nine movies. The 1984 version is the original and the best film. Adapted from a Stephen King short story, Children of the Corn tells the tale of some freaky farm kids who love to kill and live in a rural town with no adults. It is better and scarier than it sounds. It’s a bit campy, too. These kids are intense. Watch this cult classic tonight… with the lights off. Dare you.
5. The Shining (1980)
When you think of Stephen King, this is probably the movie that comes to mind. The Shining is the epitome of a scary movie. Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, The Shining follows a young family as the father takes on a new job as an off-season caretaker at a secluded Colorado hotel. The sinister presence of the hotel haunts the young son and causes the father, a young Jack Nicholson, to go insane. This movie is a must watch during Halloween time.
6. Secret Window (2004)
Johnny Depp stars in this psychological horror film as a soon-to-be divorced author who is being threatened by a stranger for plagiarism. Staying in a cabin, Johnny Depp’s character tries to prove his innocence and delay his impending divorce. This movie is creepy because you never really know what’s actually going on and who really is causing all of the mayhem. It isn’t as critically acclaimed as other Stephen King films, but it is entertaining and will make you nervous… in a good way.
7. Cujo (1981)
This classic Stephen King movie tells the story of a rabid dog and is based on a novel. Cujo starts out as a sweet St. Bernard who turns rabid after a bat bite. The dog is infected with a virus and starts killing people in the town of Castle Rock, Maine (a Stephen King mainstay).
Poor dog, seriously, such a sweet little victim. It’s scary because any giant dog attacking people is simply disturbing. It’s well done with great acting to add more tension and suspense. It’s a must-see for any horror fan.
8. Christine (1983)
This cult classic is about a killer car. You read that right, a car. Christine follows the story of an awkward teenager in the 1950s who buys a red Plymouth Fury that happens to be possesed by the evil spirit of her previous owner. It has scares, death, and it’s a visually appealing movie with charm. You’ll love it.
9. It (1990) and (2017)
It is the notoriously terrifying story about that damn scary clown. This movie really preys on your innermost fears since clowns are without a doubt horrifying, but this particular clown disguises itself as your greatest fear. It’s really messed up and you may never sleep again.
Based on the novel, both the 1990 TV miniseries and recently released 2017 adaptation have been well-received. The 2017 version is in theatres now.
10. The Mist (2007)
This science fiction horror movie depicts a small town suddenly enveloped in a thick fog that brings killer creatures… and sends the town residents into a panic (obvi). Survivors of initial attacks hunker down in a grocery store. From there, they try to survive whatever the hell is in this mist and each other. With some gore and true scares, a twist ending will also disturb you for months.
11. Firestarter (1984)
Starring a very young Drew Barrymore, she plays Charlie, a young girl who has a pyrokinetic ability to start fires with her mind and see into the near future. Pretty freaky. Charlie, whose abilities are the result of a government experiment (Stranger Things, anyone?), is kidnapped by the government because, well, they would. That’s when she really starts to burn everything down. This movie deserves a watch from any Stephen King fan.
12. Pet Sematary (1989)
A man moves with his family to small-town Maine (again) for a new job as a doctor. Beyond the family’s new home is a pet cemetery that is built on an ancient Indian burial ground. As a result, anything (or anyone) buried there comes back to life. Though, they don’t usually come back exactly how they were before. They come back a bit more lethal.
13. Thinner (1996)
The story of an overweight lawyer, Billy, is cursed after running over and killing a gypsy woman. Being a lawyer, Billy asks for a few favors from a judge and recieves no charges. Pretty shady. The woman’s father seeks his revenge by putting an ancient curse on Billy and the crooked judge. Needless to say, things do not go well for the men. Billy starts to get thinner very rapidly, among other creepy happenings.
14. Needful Things (1991)
Needful Things is a new antique shop that was just opened in Castle Rock, Maine by the mysterious Leland Gaunt. He sells older items that come with a certain price. His presence has an effect on the town… for the worst. Spooky. This movie has mystery and intrigue and is perfect for a scary movie night with your gal pals or your bae. And I know you’ve never seen this one, so give a unique film a shot.
15. The Mangler (1995)
Everything is going well in a laundry service shop until someone accidentally gets a small cut and spatters some blood on the folding machine. The blood seems to set off the The Mangler, which is also the nickname for the laundry press machine. Laundry really is the worst and this movie is all the proof you need. A demon inside the machine needs to be expelled, but not before a death toll rises.
16. Misery (1990)
This movie always tops lists of the best scary films of all time. It isn’t necessarily horror movie scary or gory, but it’s a psychological thriller that scares in a real-life type of way. Sometimes humans are the scariest people of all.
Kathy Bates stars as an unhinged woman who takes her favorite author hostage after finding him injured in a car accident. After caring for him, she turns on him because she is disgusted by his new book. Poor guy. If you haven’t seen this movie, watch it this month and understand all the hype.
17. Carrie (1976)
Based on the book by the same name, this movie follows a shy, unpopular high school student named Carrie. After being bullied by both her peers and her mother, Carrie develops telekinteic powers and eventually gets her revenge. They may have deserved it, but it’s hard to watch. It’s full of religious undertones and the treatment of Carrie is truly cruel. This version stars Sissy Spacek as the tormented Carrie. The infamous pigs blood prom scene make this movie not only memorable, but horrifying. There was a remake in 2012 starring Chloe-Grace Moretz that was also well done, but the 1976 version holds up today. And is better.